Filmmakers and other creative types who want to make a name for themselves online, or who want to drive significant traffic to their websites, often neglect the single most important factor that will bring more people to their Web outposts: making their sites more attractive to search engines. It’s a practice called ‘search engine optimization.’
Unfortunately search engine optimization is misunderstood by many as being difficult, or something that only very technical people can affect. That’s entirely wrong. Granted, the process by which search engines rank the sites to include in their search results is complex – some experts say Google uses more than 200 different factors in its rankings – but a little insight can go a long way when it comes to attracting traffic.
Because literally billions of individual searches are done on Google and the other major search engines each month, it’s critical that you take advantage of the potential traffic that could come to your site by employing basic search engine optimization techniques, five of which are outlined here.
When you are thinking about how to gain higher listings on the search engines, always remember that the big search engines are in the business of providing solid, authoritative and reliable results for anyone performing a search. They want you to feel like the results they’re providing you with are helpful, and will lead you to become a repeat user. Therefore, it’s important that you work to make your site appear to be relevant, up-to-date and a good resource for users; a site that the search engines will see as worth recommending, because others are using it, too.
Here are some tips to help bring more visitors to your site:
1. Encourage other sites to link to yours. Search engine rankings are determined in large part by link ‘popularity’ derived from having many other websites – especially well-known ones- link to yours. The superiority of these links is key. Encourage links to your site from external high-quality, relevant sites, blogs and message boards.
Obtaining links from highly trafficked, well-regarded sites such as your local newspaper (e.g. Washingtonpost.com, Denverpost.com) and others will boost your site’s ranking. Also, seek links from sites that feature the same kind of subjectmatter as yours.
Another way to encourage linking is to add what’s called a ‘bookmark toolbar’ to your site so users can mark your page/site as relevant to other users.
A recommended resource to learn about this particular tool can be found in ’101 Link Building Tips to Market Your Website’ (www.seobook.com/archives/001792.shtml).
2. Include metadata. (Ed: Literally, information about your data.) This is absolutely critical: include keywords and descriptions in your website’s metadata, and titles, including the title you see on your Web browser when you visit a website. The titles used to describe images can also help with search engine rankings. Use as many keywords and keyword phrases as possible but – and this is important – don’t duplicate. (See ‘Beginner’s Guide’ link following for more details.)
3. Consider text/body content. Think about the words with which you would want your site to be associated. ‘Film?’ ‘Documentary?’ Use those words in the visible text on the page. Include solid textual content, making use of the terms for which you want to be a search result, and think of related keywords, too. In addition, if you want your site to be associated with a unique keyword, be sure to use that word on your site.
4. Titles. Every Web page should have a unique title incorporating the keywords for which you want your site to be a search result.
5. Research keywords. Know what terms your target audience is searching for, and incorporate those in your site’s text.
And one final tip: good, relevant content and easy site navigation will help bring repeat visitors back to the site and lead users to become ‘brand advocates’ who will link to your site, and help drive up its search engine rankings.
If you only have time to review one document that will help your search engine ranking, it should be this helpful, free ‘Beginner’s Guide to Search Engine Optimization’ at www.seomoz.org/article/beginners-guide-to-search-engine-optimization.
Both seomoz.org and searchengineland.com are excellent go-to resources for all search engine-related topics. If you run across a problem or have a search engine question, it’s likely to have been covered on these sites’ message boards.
Kevin Dando is PBS’ director of education and online communications, and oversees the communications, marketing, promotion and media relations for PBS’ new media and online ventures, as well as PBS’ formal education services.