When talking about search engine rankings many people ask themselves questions like; how many keywords should I put in my anchor text? What is the keyword density that I should have on the page? Should I use short copy or should I use long copy? Can I use flash or not? How many keywords should I put in my "alt" text? Etc...
A general statement to answer the above questions is that "magic numbers do not exist." The most important thing you can understand as a search engine optimization expert is that algorithms change. Just when you think you understand what is going to make you number one for a keyphrase in a search engine, something could easily change, and you might have to spend months or even years trying to figure the new algorithm.
It is better not to try to reverse engineer the algorithm, do something much easier instead... observe your top competitors. All you need to do is to understand what elements your competitors are using to make them rank in the top positions.
The main elements to getting top search engines rankings are:
- Number, quality, and relevance of inbound links pointing to your site
- Fresh, relevant, quality content (needs to be added frequently)
- Keyword density of your home page or any page you want to rank highly
LINKS, LINKS, LINKS
The first thing to observe from your competitor's sites is their inbound links. This means the number of sites that have a link pointing to their website. You can easily measure it by going to Google and typing: "link://www.yourcompetitorssite.com". However do not only do this on Google because they don't show all actual links pointing to a site. Yahoo and MSN tend to show a lot more of the back links to any given website.
Part of the observation should be not only what the links say, but where the links come from. Think about what the category is that those links come from. If you start to see a recurring pattern, you should start actively searching for links coming from that category.
Some marketers use special software for robotic content creation. They generate thousands of pages with links pointing to their sites. This practice can be very dangerous, as Google will penalize unnatural linking or violations of their terms of service. And what happens is that those links do not look natural. One day one site may have 50 links and the following day have 2000 links, which all say the same thing and come from the same IP address.
If you understand how to observe, this will never happen to you. You will learn how to look at your competitors, and observe how they are getting linked to. Then, just do what they do.
FRESH QUALITY CONTENT
The second thing to observe is how much fresh content the top sites have. Search engines love quality relevant content that is added and updated frequently. You will probably notice that the top sites in your niche have many articles and other quality content, and are continuously adding new content to their sites.
People that surf the web are usually searching for information, so content is the "fuel" of internet traffic. If you want to attract many potential customers to your site, then you need to make sure that you provide enough content which is relevant to their interests. Updating it frequently with more quality content will keep visitors coming back to your website over and over again.
The third thing you need to observe is the keyword density of your competitors. How many times should you repeat your main keywords? In which part of the web page should your main keywords be mentioned? Again, there is no magic number, it's all about observing and measuring against the top websites in your market. But what should you measure?
- Meta tags
- Alt tags
- Names of the images on the page
- Heading tags: h1, h2, h3...
- Frequency and position of the keywords in the body text
Each one of these items should be measured independently. There are tools to run keyword density against your competitors. If you run them against the top 3 or 5 sites, you may start to understand the secrets of top rankings.
Again, your keyword density needs to look natural; otherwise you may fail in overall optimization. This is when you use keywords too often or too little. If you look unnatural, your rankings will suffer as a result.
So, what did we learn here? Basically that the key to ranking highly in the search engines is to understand what the top 5 websites in your niche are doing and to apply this to your own website optimization.
What do you do now? Get out there and start getting inbound links for your site. Add quality content to your site daily. And be sure that your on-site optimization, such as keyword density, is similar to that of your top competitors. Continue to do this every day and you will be ranking a the top of the search engines before you know it.