Nine Steps to Getting Your Website Noticed
If you're running a business in 2011, it's a no-brainer that you need a website. But is your company's site in the fast lane of the information superhighway or stuck in a cyber cul-de-sac?

Put another way, is it doing its job in terms of driving customers to look at and buy your goods and services? Does it appear at, or near, the top of an online search?

No matter how good your site looks, it's wasted if your online audience is too small. As most people know, you can pay to boost your search rankings - Google Ads, for example, will boost your standing, at a price. But there are some free tricks and tools that you, or your Web designer, can use to boost your ranking.

1. Search engines don't just find out site by accident - they need to know you exist. At the very least, submit your site to the "big three": Google, Yahoo! and Bing (owned by Microsoft). Key links include:

www.google.com/addurl/
http://search.yahoo.com/info/submit.html
www.bing.com/webmaster/SubmitSitePage.aspx

2. Another key place to submit your site is www.dmoz.org/help/submit.html . This is an independent, nonprofit Web-monitoring project that links to Google's directory. When you submit your site to dmoz, it will be checked by a real human being - now there's a novelty. The downside is that human beings, especially volunteers, take their time, so it may be a while before you reap the rewards.

3. Does your site have a sitemap? It's an often-neglected file that gives search engines a list of your website's contents. The good news is that you don't even have to know how to make a map. Several sites, such as www.xml-sitemaps.com, will generate one for you. Again, you'll need to submit your sitemap to search engines.

4. Content is king when it comes to making your website visible to users, but put yourself into the minds of your potential customers. Let's say you're a shoe seller in Seattle. What would potential customers type into a search engine in order to find you? They might be looking for someone local to them, for a particular brand, size or type of shoe. Now look at the text of your website. Have you got all these basics covered?

5. Keywords are hidden within the code of your website, but they should cover any search terms that your customers might use. It is worth getting them right. Google's search based keyword tool (search "keyword tool" at www.google.com), can help. Ironically, Google doesn't take any account of keywords. Other search engines do, though.

6. Photos lift your website's appearance - and they can also help search engines if you're canny with naming the files. So "Nike_Seattle_shoes.jpg" will help, while "shoepic47.jpg" will do nothing.

7. Links from other sites to yours can really boost your rankings, so it's worth getting involved in forums and discussion boards and linking back to your site. But beware of asking your best friend to link to your site in exchange for you doing the same. Search engines are wise to this tactic and disregard it.

8. Meta tags are optional HTML coding elements that provide information about a Web Page. Your description meta tag is hidden from view , but it's a vital smoke signal for search engines. It's your chance to describe succinctly what your website is about. So keep it short and sweet but remember that each page of your website can - and should - have a separate description.

9. In contrast, a more visible device is the headings you can use on your website. These are essential reading for search - engine robots. Make them relevant. Better still, make them feature your site's keywords.

Now, armed with this information, go back to your website designer and check that your site is search-engine optimized. There are no guarantees this will result in more business, but it will certainly raise the profile of your site and pit it in front of more potential customers.
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