DAY 8 Build Free Search Engine Traffic

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It's the tweaky wheel. that gets the traffic!

Goal-of-the-DAY... No tweaking to do, since your pages aren't ranking yet. So start working on link popularity. When your site has reached 10 pages, link with Open Directory (only free directory of the majors) and with one minor directory that is a "theme hub" related to your Site Concept. Remember that links go both ways (IN and OUT).

Ongoing Goal... Add other links (both ways) with major directories and theme-related ones. Trade links with other sites as you discover them.

As your pages start to rank at the engines...

Tweak, Link, Re-submit, Track. Then do it again. When a page hits the Top 10, STOP. Return to DAY 6, create more high-value content and then...

With these goals in mind...

Web site traffic is not like the weather! You can do much more than just watch and talk about it.

Now that you know how your pages rank for your keywords, and since you've experimented (in DAY 6) with a variety of "formulas" while sticking to basic "Search-Engine-sexy" principles, you can start to tweak your pages.

Add an extra keyword to the title. Or increase the amount of content. Or decrease it. The key is to note which pages are doing well and start to reproduce those successes.

So tweak, re-submit, and track. Then repeat. Sooner or later, you'll start to rank well for more and more pages. Soon after that, you'll start ranking well for many of your pages at many of the engines.

Bottom line... Try to get half of your pages in the Top 10 in at least half of the engines. At that point... stop tweaking! Don't try to get into the Top 10 for all pages in all engines. You'll only drive yourself crazy, wasting time. And if you have a spot in the Top 10 for any page, never try to make that page better... you'll go backwards more often than not.

"Why be happy with half and half?"

Hey, who asked that? Great question!

I don't mean to imply that you should be delighted. If some pages are simply off the ranking radar (especially if they don't score well in any engines at all!), review them to make sure that you are not making any gross errors (see DAY 6's information about how to write a high-ranking page). If you've done a good job, and if you've tried a couple of times to improve it without results, you're better off creating more new content.

Another super question!...

Here's what happens when you write 100 good, solid "one-size-fits-all-engines" pages. The engines shuffle their ranking formulas every now and then. So 20 pages may drop down in Excite, for example. But 15 others move up! And two weeks later, pages that were #100 in AltaVista suddenly start scoring on Page 1!

"Why does this happen?"

Whoever is asking these questions, move to the front!

When engines tweak their ranking algorithms, they can't just suddenly say, "OK, the Title does not matter any more." The big picture has to remain the same. It's the details that they change. So...

Don't sweat it -- it all evens out. From here on in, your time is best spent creating new pages, rather than tweaking. You can write a good new page far faster than the repeated tweaking cycles each page requires.

"Why one-size-fits-all? Why not create a different version of the same page for each engine?"

OK, now I know we have a "ringer" in the audience.

Yes, some people do go so far as to create a different version page for every engine. Don't bother. First, it's not a productive way to spend your time -- much better to write brand new pages. And second, if you do this, you are no longer writing for both humans and engines. You are just playing a game. And these kinds of tricks simply do not last for long. This can actually backfire, big-time.

You've heard of K-I-S-S, right? (Keep It Simple, Stupid)

One traffic-building action you should consider at this stage is building your popularity. No, not you! Your site!

Let's get back to thinking like an engine. Pretend you're a Search Engine... what's another way for you to tell whether a site is relevant for a concept?

Let's say that you have a site that is all about porcupines. And further, that you have an excellent page in that site about the mating habits of porcupines (a prickly issue, I agree! Sorry, I couldn't resist.)

Let's use that site to see how link popularity works...

How about if you, the engine, could see that lots of sites, all kinds of sites, link to you? Yes, that's a plus.

What about if many of those sites were from zoos? Better.

What if those sites were about porcupines? Even better!

What if the single most important site in the whole world about porcupines linked to that site? Wow, that's the best.

What if 100 of the best porcupine sites all linked to it? Whoops! No dispute -that's the best.

And your page about porcupine sex would score (geez, sorry about that!) especially well if many of those links came INto this page from other pages about the, uh... reproductive habits of porcupines, and had "porcupine mating habits" in the incoming links!

Bottom line? The more sites that link to a site, and the more important they are, and the closer they are to the theme of that site, even to the topic of individual pages, the more "popularity points" for that site (and page).

Popularity, an "off-page" criterion the engines are using more and more, is still not a dominant weighting factor presently.

Why? Because most sites don't have many links to them at all. If all sites had hundreds of incoming links, link popularity would be a far stronger tool.

Scoring high for link popularity is relatively more useful if you are trying to win for tough words like "e-commerce."

Well, it's kind of like the golf pros on the PGA Tour. They are all so good, that the difference is razor-blade thin. Zillions of sites are trying to rank #1 for e-commerce (a mistake, by the way... the concept is too untargeted -- luckily you know to work the niches, right?).

All those experts are working so hard for a #1 ranking. And even for such an in-demand keyword, link popularity is not the "be all and end all." Try this...

Go to AltaVista and do a search for "e-commerce." As I do this now, I see that "internet.com" is at #1. Now...

Type this into AltaVista's search box, exactly like this... link:internet.com - host:internet.com

What does that mean? The search request is asking AltaVista for all the links that point to internet.com ("link:internet.com") minus those that link to itself ("-host:internet.com"). You can also try it with just...

link:internet.com

Either way, check the link popularity for each of the Top 10 for "e-commerce."

You'll find that most of them have thousands of incoming links (internet.com had over 200,000!). But when I did this little experiment, there was one site in the Top 10 that only had a single link in... yes, just one! So clearly link popularity is not heavily weighted or it would have driven that site out of the Top 10.

Now repeat the linking research, but this time search for something much less in-demand. Check out the Top 10 for this search result. You'll see that the number of links to each of these sites is far less.

Also, if you check out, say, the 100th site in the search results, these deeper sites tend to have fewer links to them. But not by a heck of a lot.

Overall conclusion? Yes, link popularity is a factor. And it is worth building some into your site. But it's not the be-all-and-end-all, especially not for niche sites, which is what you are creating.

However, link popularity is expected to grow in importance. So it is worth adding a little popularity to your site. Here's what to do, and what not to do, to get more popular...

1) List with major directories like Yahoo!, Open Directory, LookSmart -- Since their standards are high, the engines "figure" that your site must contain valuable content.

2) List with directories that are specific to your area of interest. These are niche "hub" sites that offer links for little or no money. For example, take a look at this wonderful directory for all things related to mining...

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