Search Engine Success
Everyone wants a site that is "listed first" (in Google and Bing, etc.). But search engines are businesses in fierce competition for customers - and they won't list you at all unless they believe that those customers are seeking what you have to offer. The Golden Rule of Search Engines is this:
Search Engines want to list the sites that their users want to find.
In order to get listed first, you must to convince the search engines that their users want you the most. Now you could try to fool them. But they are not stupid, and these are far bigger businesses than yours or ours with huge resources targeting just this sort of abuse.
So the only other approach, then, is to find out what the customers do want, and to be it...
Once your site is built, we can submit it to Google, Yahoo and Bing. This will ensure that they know about you, and you will probably start to appear in their listings within 1-3 weeks. Directly or indirectly, they account for the vast majority of searches, and you will soon filter through to other listings too.
But the key - and this is particularly difficult for brand new sites - is where (and that means how high up) you appear in their listings.
There are ways to optimize your position relative to that of your competitors. SEO - Search Engine Optimization, improving your "page rankings" - is an entire industry built on a concept that didn't even exist until about a dozen years ago.
If you want to be "listed higher" for no other reason than you are you and your competitors are not - SEO experts can use insider tricks to fool engines into over-estimating the significance of new sites and ranking them higher. But the engines fight back (even to the extent of punitively de-listing tricksters). Participating in this arms race can be a costly business, beyond most budgets.
But there is another way: do your own SEO. Go back to the Golden Rule and consider how you can work with Search Engines instead of trying to defeat them. Be the site their users are looking for. And make sure the search engines can see it.
Be Relevant and Useful!
Search engines exist to find their users find interesting, relevant sites. So the best way to achieve a high ranking is to be relevant. Be interesting! Be useful! Be the site that your target audience is looking for.
If you're relevant, ensure that this comes across: write about your service and include your unique features (such as skills, location). Mention them, and the key concepts of your product / service etc., as often as possible and on most pages. (But don't over-do it: you'll have failed if your text sounds stilted.)
Also write some articles on related subjects. So if you're a plumber, say - provide some DIY tips. Although this takes time and effort - and gives away some of your good stuff for free - why else should visitors seek out your site above the many others? (Don't you expect to find free stuff on the internet? Like this advice, say?)
Think more widely about your target audience's needs and activities. If you're a plumber: maybe you can target people building extensions, or buying a new home? Perhaps there are sites offering advice to movers, where you can contibute articles offering your top tips on how to check for and prevent plumbing pitfalls. In return for your article, they might let you include a link from it back to your site.
That will earn some traffic directly. But it will also alert passing search engines to how important your site is. For the same reason you should submit your site to any relevant, free online directories; and swap links with friends, suppliers and customers.
Focus on your Niche
When competing online - with the entire world - we all have to specialize. What do you do that no-one else can do as well? Emphasize this in your site, and in your keywords strategies.
It could be as simple as geographic location. Everyone is selling electronic goods these days. But if you've got a little showroom just off the High Street in Royal Wootton Bassett where customers can try the products in action before buying, then make sure that location gets plenty of mentions on your site - and also mention the fact that you're near to Blagrove, Lyneham, Lydiard Millicent, etc., etc., just to ram the point home for the benefit of search engines.
Help Search Engines to Understand!
Bear in mind how search engines work. They use automated processes to read web pages and rate them in relation to the input coming from their users - lists of search terms (or "keywords"). To be understood and rated, ensure that your text includes the sorts of words your audience will be searching on. List them out; then ensure they appear in your text. It is particularly important to include them in headings and in clickable link text.
This consideration is one of the key elements of page design. It's not just about looking good and reading well: you must communicate with search engines as well as people. Search engines are very literal, so you need to spell out everything for them. Don't be too poetic, punning or metaphorical. And wherever possible, add in those keywords.
You might try to vary the keywords in the same way that searchers are likely to. For example, stylistically we use the compound word "website" as standard. In traditional media, one would strive for consistency. But here, we vary it and slip in the occasional two-worded "web site" too. But take care not to over-do it. In any case, as search engines become more clever, finding synomyms, spelling variations, etc., is far less important than it was.
Away from Search Engines...
Don't forget: there's more to the internet than search engines. (Do you use a search engine in order to get to every site you visit?)
Promote your site in traditional advertisements. Make sure it's included on all business cards, etc. And your best visitors are returning visitors so give them a reason to come back: keep updating your content!