Most of what you hear about how to improve web traffic is bogus.
What makes me think I know? Well, you came to this web page from one of my popular websites. Either I have been incredibly lucky multiple times or I actually know how web traffic really works.
There are only two approaches that actually work:
Lets examine the conventional wisdom.
The search engines have their own pace and methods for deciding which websites get listed. The search engines typically watch a new website for six months to a year before adding it to their listings.
While it is possible to electronically submit your website for submission, doing so does not in any way affect your entry into the search engine listings or your ranking in the listings.
If your website has enough traffic to make it worthwhile for the search engines to include you, then the search engines will already find out about your website without you doing any submission of any kind.
All the people who promote this method know that it has no actual value. They are thiefs.
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There are two meanings of the phrase keyword optimiztion. The original meaning dealt with the use of the keyword metatag. An additional newer meaning is the choice of which keywords that your paid ads appear with.
If you pay for ads, it makes sense to have those ads placed on keywords that are most likely to match your website. Thats kind of a no-brainer. And you probably dont need to pay an expert to figure out what that kind of keyword should be.
The other kind, setting your metatags is almost a waste of time.
In the early days of search engines the keyword metatag was intended to let the search engines know which topics best fit your web page, on the assumption that humans would do a better job of figuring this out than machines, particularly for keywords that dont appear in the actual text of the web page or for common misspellings.
In practice, spammers quickly took advantage of the system, overwhelming the most popular keyword searches with completely irrelevant web pages.
As a result, this method became meaningless. No major search engine gives much weight (and usually zero weight) to the keyword metatag. Many of the search engines even count this against your web page, especially if you have a lot of keywords.
Web companies that promise results from key word optimization know that they are lying to their customers.
NOTE: I do know of several honest web designers who offer this service on request simply because it is one of the first things that businesses ask for and it is easier to just go ahead and perform the useless service than to scare away a customer by telling them that are stupid.
Link exchange is actually something that could potentially help you. The search engines do in fact count the number of web sites that have links to your web site.
Not all links are equal. A single link from a highly popular website can be worth more than a thousand linsk from an obscure website.
And there are links that actually hurt you. The search engines do a very good job of identifying link farms (sites that specialize in selling links). If your website starts appearing in multiple link farms then the search engines will consider your site to be spam and will actually downgrade your listing or even ban your site from their search engine.
It does make sense to trade links with others who have compatible websites. Sending out spam e-mails asking for link exchanges are going to be ignored, but you can ask others in person if they might be interested in a link exchange.
Do be careful to avoid setting up a link exchange hoax. There are groups that create websites that link to each other just for the purpose of fooling the search engines into thinking that all of the sites in the group are popular. The search engines can identify this hoax very easily and often ban all of the participating websites from their search engine.
And as strange as it may sound, adding one or two really good out-going links (even if they arent reciprocated) can help your search engine placement. The search engines will realize that you have quality out-going links and assume that the rest of your material is also high quality and give you a slight boost in ranking.
Web designers emphasize fancy web design simply because that is what they do best.
It is true that humans are primarily visual and that a well-designed look can make a good impression on visitors, especially if you have a commercial website.
But even the best design in the world is not going to bring anyone in. The search engines are effectively blind robots. The search engines never can see your design and cant distinguish between the most beautiful artwork in the world and the ugliest, most garish web page oin the planet.
Summarizing: web design can make visitors feel better about spending money at your website, but web design can never create or bring in more web traffic.
While web design cant help build traffic, it can drive traffic away.
The first problem is the classic slow loading web page. Most of the popular techniques for making a web page look really good also have the problem of making the web page very slow loading, especially on older computers using slow conenctions.
The designers tend not to notice the problem because they have very high speed connections and are using the fastest and newest cmputers available. And they often are viewing their own work from their hard drives rather than over the internet.
Some web designers can even get arrogant about driving away traffic for the sake of their artwork. I know one web developer who insists on making his web sites viewable only on computers that are connected to a large plasma display. While his artwork is very impressive, what good does it do to have a web site that less than 1% of the world can even see?
The fact of the matter is that the typical person has no patience for a web site that takes more than a few seconds to load. The old rule of thumb was that most of the web page had to load in less than a minute, but people dont wait a minute anymore. You will be lucky to get more than a few seconds of patience.
The second problem is the ratio of actual human readable text content to total number of characters.
Most web pages with fancy design have 90% or more of the total number of characters in the web page being devoted to invisible commands to the web browser. This buries the real human readable content that the search engines are evaluating, making the search engines think that you have very little to say about the topic (keyword) at hand. So, they greatly downgrade your web page from the ranking a human viewer might give you.
Web designers love Flash because it sets them free to do a lot of very cool art stuff.
Search engines usually ignore Flash pages and most humans actually dislike visiting Flash web pages.
Typically the only two people happy with a Flash presentation are the web designer and the web page owner. The general public tends to almost always shun and avoid Flash-based web sites.
Yes, there are special exceptions.
The Comedy Central television show South Park was originally created in Flash. If you are creating animated entertainment, such as a television show, then Flash may be a very appropriate tool.
Flash is also excellent for training films. In this case, you dont actually want the general public visiting your web site. You might even have electronic barriers that securely keep the general public away from your corporate training site.
There are other specialty cases where Flash is the correct tool, but for the vast majority of web sites all Flash does is keep visitors away from your web site.
The first search engines only catalogued the titles of web pages. So, if your search included topics or keywords contained in an article but missing from the title, the search engines wouldnt actually find the web page you wanted.
While search engines now catalogue entire web pages, the title remains an important part of the search process.
Search engines give more weight to the words in the title of an article than anywhere else on the web page. because of this, it is important that you place the most likely keywords into your title.
But you do need to be careful about overloading your title with too many keywords.
Early search engines noticed that unworthy webpages often overloaded their titles with lots of keywords, often unrelated to the actual web page.
Search engines will donwgrade you for titles that are just long lists of keywords and for titles that include keywords that dont appear anywhere else on your web page.
Also, many search engines will show your title in their results. A good title can help humans pick your web page out of the crowd, while a bad title (especially a keyword filled title) can drive away potential visitors.
Search engines now count every word on your web page. the search engines notice if you have certain words or phrases repeated and will consider those repeated words or phrases to be the main topic of your web page.
Words near the beginning of a web page generally get more credit than words near the end of the page.
Search engines have gotten fairly good at spotting keyword pollution. This is a technique where someone drops a whole lot of words into their web page just to trick search engines. You want to avoid doing anything close to this because even if your web page is honest, if the machine thinks you are using keyword pollution, then they will lower your ranking or even ban you from their search engines.
HTML includes six levels of headers. These were originally intended for use as outline subject titles. In practice, only the first three header levels (H1, H2, and H3) are worth using because of rendering issues.
If you use the well established non-fiction writing approach of creating an outline first, then you will want to translate your outline into HTML headers and preserve them in your final web page.
If the search engine recognizes that you have done real outlining (which is done by comoaring your headers to the text between the headers), then the search engine will give extra positive credit to the words in your headers, increasing your placement on keywords related to your web page.
Of course, if you just create a bunch of misleading headers, the search engines will spot that and assume that you are engaging in header pollution and downgrade or ban your web site.
Note that even if you dont use an outline, you can still make use of headers by using them as headlines and subheads. Go through your web page and every three to five paragraphs create a high quality header that summarizes the topic of those paragraphs.
Modern search engines analyze which web sites are linking to your website.
Not all web site links are equal. One link from a very popular website is more valuable than a hundred links from obscure personal pages (although 100 links from obscure web pages is still a lot better than no incoming links at all).
There are bad incoming links. The search engines are pretty good at spotting link farms (web sites that exist just to give links to other web sites, usually for a fee).
Having a link from a link farm is really bad for your web site. The major search engines will immediately count these links against you and if you have enough links from link farms or even one link from a really notorious link farm you may find that your web site ends up getting banned.
It is a good idea to trade links with other websites that are related to your field. Sending out e-mails to people with popular websites is usually just going to create problems (you might get banned for being a spammer). But as you socialize and do business with other people who are in the same field with you, you can ask them in person if they might be willing to trade links with you.
Web rings arent as useful as they were in the 1990s, but placing yourself on a monitored web ring can be useful. Monitored means that a human actually approves each new web site added to the web ring.
Also, it can be useful to add one or two really good outgoing links to each of your web pages. The search engines will notice that you are linking to web sites that they already know are good websites and will give you a slight boost in ratings for this.
And, of course, make sure that your outgoing links stay current. The search egnines will downgrade you for having links that dont work anymore. A skilled web master can create an automated web bot that can periodically check your outgoing links and let you know if any of them stop working.
Some of the top search engines now keep track of how long someone visits your web site.
If a human clicks on your link from the search engine and then a few seconds later comes back and tries another link, then the search engine will count that against your web site.
On the other hand, if someone clicks on the link to your website and spends several minutes reading before coming back, then the search engine will count that in your favor.
A handful of disappointed or thrilled visitors wont make much of a difference on anything other than the most obscure keywords. The search engines track hundreds, thousands, or sometimes even millions of humans and watches for large scale trends.
This is one reason that actual content is so powerful. If large numbers of humans end up being happy with your website, then the search engines will slowly raise you up in the listings, possibly all the way to the number one listing.
So, what does work?
Almost all of the successful websites get their high search engine placement and high web traffic by providing high quality fact-based text content.
My web sites are successful for exactly this reason. Wikipedia is near the top of the vast majority of searches for the same reason.
It is very boring and time consuming, but the time-proven method for generating lots of web traffic is to hire a skilled professional writer for a period of years.
Content does not have to be written, although that is the most reliable path to success. If you believe that you have something new and unique to present using an unusual method, you may well be right. Chances are you are deluding yourself, but high quality unique content can and does reach the top of the search engines.
I want to emphasize that I am available to help a business out on web traffic.
If you are within reasonable walking distance (one hours walk of Costa Mesa, California), I am willing to be hired for a period of two to three years of full time writing for any business that is legal, safe, and ethical.
If you dont mind my putting materials on one of my existing web sites, I can add a single web page about your business. I will still need to be able to walk to your location and interview you for an hour or two before I start writing. This method takes advantage of the more than a decade of writing Ive already placed on the web.
I can be contacted at e-mail.