A popular website with a lot of traffic (visitors) is the goal of any serious website. There is no silver bullet or one simple solution unless you wish to fork out a lot of money for advertising. The way to a popular website is quality content, time and most importantly writing for the visitors and not for the search engines.
There are two ways to gain a lot of visitors. The first is by search engine referrals where Google, Bing, Yahoo and the others send traffic your way. The second is the return visitor who is a person who probably found your site via a search engine, liked what he saw, bookmarked it and is now returning to see what is new.
Search Engines like Google are interested in providing quality content to those using them. For this reason they are on the look out for websites that provide just this. They are not interested in sites that cater to computers. They love sites that cater to humans with good content, clean navigation and clear design.
Do yourself a favour and forget search engines and think all about the visitor!
If you do not already have a domain name, you should get one. The domain name should be short, descriptive and to the point. If possible it should be a .com but it is better to get a descriptive domain name with another TLD than a random or very long name with a .com TLD.
Visitors use the domain name as a clue as to the site’s content. For this reason, search engines also like descriptive domain names. The best domain name for a big web FAQ site would be www.bigwebfaq.com. It tells the visitor (and search engine) that it is big, it is about the web and it is an FAQ.
Content is King. That is the saying on the web and it is true, but not just any old content. It has to be quality content. It has to be relevant to your site. It also has to be original and by that is meant that you must not copy other’s content. Not only is content copyright protected, but search engines such as Google frown upon duplicate content. You want to keep Google happy!
Keep it Simple
The design of a website needs to be clean and simple. You need to keep your visitors in mind more than search engines. Your visitors need to see a layout that tells them where they are and where to go next.
Try to structure the site with a homepage and then category pages with each page assigned to a category. Using Bread Crumbs is a good idea and Google even recommend them. Make it easy to navigate through the categories.
Simple also means a website where the backend code does not dwarf the content. Some say that this can harm a page’s ranking with search engines, but I have not found this. However it does not hurt to make the code as simple as possible for the search engine to read.
Do Not Try to Trick the Search Engines
There are many tricks that have been tried on search engines to distort the value of a page’s content. I will not list them but you can rest assured, they have all been tried, and the search engines will penalise you for it. Just write content for your visitors and you will be fine. Never write content for search engines.
There is no hard rule for the number of words on a page. Some say at least a couple of hundred and no more than 1000, but we just get back to the rule of writing for visitors and not search engines. Write as much as is needed to create a bit of quality content.
Having said that, it is a good idea to split up very long pages into shorter pages, with titles that reflect that pages content. Again, this is good for the visitor rather than the search engine.
Keep Keywords in Mind
Each page has to have some kind of subject. You are writing about something, and that something is your Keyword or Keywords. For example, a page all about Fruit Salad would have the keys words Fruit and Salad, and perhaps even food, kitchen, health, diet etc.
Use these keywords in the title tag, description tag, keywords tag, heading and URL. See them in a way that helps the visitor decide whether or not this is the page he is looking for.
If there is an image that goes along with the content, use them in the file name and also in the alt and title tags.
Keywords help the visitor get a quick understanding of what the page is about. The more you help the visitors, the more the search engines will appreciate your efforts.
Keeping the visitor in mind, it is a good idea to highlight in bold some keyword text so that the visitor can quickly scan a page for clues as to its general content. Also use italics in the same way. Search engines like this use of highlighting text in order to help visitors scan a page.
Not only do you need to have a structured navigation system for your site, you need to have deep links.
Deep links are links from one of your pages, to another page. These links need to be relevant and of interest to the visitor. It might be a link to a previous article you have written on a subject you are expanding on in your current article.
Deep links help both the visitor to find what he is looking for, and also help the search engine discover more of your site and work out the relevance of pages.
Use keywords in your links, avoiding words like Click Here or More.
If you have good quality content, people will start to link to your site in the same way that you should link to other good quality content. Incoming links are very important to search engines as they give a strong indication of how popular your site is with other users on the web.
Many have tried to cheat the system by creating lots of fake incoming links, and end up getting banned by search engines. Don’t try this.
The way to attract incoming links is to have good, original content that people will want to refer to.
Linking to other sites can be great if it helps the visitor find out more. Don’t worry about losing them. The service you have provided will pay dividends in the long run.
External links also attract incoming links. Search engines love this!
Submit your Site
Don’t forget to tell the search engines about your site. You should tell as many as you can but start with Google, Bing and Yahoo.
Also submit your site to web directories such as www.dmoz.org . Directories are often run by humans so they can take a while to update but it is worth the wait.
Give it time
Now that you have done all this, keep doing it. Add more content. Improve your current content. It takes time for search engines to get to work, and then it takes time for people to start bookmarking your site.
It can take up to a year before all your hard work really starts paying off.