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Get Googling

The algorithms that search engines use in order for their spiders to gauge the merit of and subsequently rank websites, evolve over time. The teams behind these quickly cotton on to the tricks used by unsavoury sites to gain higher rankings, and they’re constantly reconfiguring to give each searcher the most relevant results. Here are the current ‘hot’ web features their spiders love, which you should too…

In pulling together research for the second part of Windows Middle East’s ‘Your Website’ feature (check our next issue), I’ve had the chance to speak to several search engine specialists and insiders – from web developers that offer specialised SEO (search engine optimisation) services such as Dubai’s Cactimedia, to a local editor of DMOZ open directory project, the human edited website directory used by Google – and it’s one heck of an interesting topic (and one that just keeps evolving).

Obviously, for businesses that are internet-focused, or look to pick up a lot of leads (and thus subsequent sales) over the web, getting a high ranking on search engines is a key requirement that can lead directly to more successful business performance.

If such firms have the budget available (and if they aren’t making this available, then perhaps they’re not thinking too cleverly), the detailed and extensive services that SEO firms can provide – from ranking boosting techniques such as keyword optimization and coding, right through - in some cases - to conversion tracking systems (who clicked and ended up buying or e-mailing you), can be an essential buy-in, in that these can help you get more visitors to your site, keep them there, and persuade them to use your business.

However, before that stage, there are some useful techniques and considerations that smaller firms with limited budgets, or even users with personal themed websites, can employ, to give them the best chance of search engine success. Here’s your brief starter guide:

* Links - lots and lots of relevant links. Real links to your site from credible industry peers will help persuade Google and its competitors that your business is bonafide and worth ranking. The more major the ‘linker’ (to your site), the better (CNN good, Bob’s Daily Baking News less so). And the better you can integrate these links into your site (a Resource page rather than My Links), the better. This is why many clued up web developers, when they’ve built your site, will e-mail press releases to local, national and vertical industry media, with the aim of gaining coverage and thus links.

* Keywords, as ever, are key - but not necessarily those stuffed into metatags (as these have arguably been ‘done to death’ and thus engines don’t prioritise them as highly as they did in the past). Relevant keywords within readable, on-site body copy are more important, so if you’re a distributor of ‘office desks’ for example, make sure that these two words, and their most used alternatives (such as furniture and business maybe), are mentioned plenty, yet without making your information unreadable.

* Pay for AdWords. If your business is competing in a highly competitive field, such as the UAE’s real estate market to name but one, you might find that competitors with greater net and SEO budgets are outranking you on Google. But if you’re willing to spend a little each month (think into the hundreds of dollars, or often less), you might well manage to place your own ad up there on the right-hand side of relevant search results pages (such as ‘new apartments Dubai’ for instance), through the use of Google’s effective, simple to administer AdWords programme.

Find out more tips to help your site get visited more often in the next issue of Windows.

Just a quickie reminder for all you PC button bashers out there – the Windows Gaming Championship registrations are coming in thick and fast, so be sure you don’t miss out on the chance to gaming cred (and thousands of dollars in hard cash). Head over to www.itp.net/wgc to enter.

(Note: if you’ve already registered, check out the site’s games page as we’ve amended a couple of the maps we’re using on the day.)

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