Ingredients for making a search engine friendly site

If you ever asked my Sicilian grandmother how she made pasta sauce, she could generally tell you that you needed this spice and that seasoning, some tomatoes, some meat, and other ingredients depending on the situation. Exact measurements weren’t mentioned, and of course you could tell the pasta was “done” when you could throw a piece against the wall and have it stick. Unscientific, yet always delicious. Once out on my own, I struggled for years to get my formula right, and now I’d put my sauce up against anyone’s and proudly serve it to grandma Carmella if she were alive today.

Getting your website ranked highly in a search engine is a little like pasta sauce. There are many ingredients, but no exact quantities or formula for success, and even a less than perfect result will be better than nothing in the short term. It’s not as if the web is going away or that fewer people will be looking for appraisal services online in the future. So, let’s talk about what goes into making your website a success when it comes to search engines.

Start with original content. This is the meat of your site. You need to have a message specific to your business, your audience and your geographical area. Search engines are savvy and will detect when you’re reusing the same content found on other sites. The provided content with our XSites is a great cure for a blank page, but if you don’t change it up and make it your own, you could possibly hurt your search engine visibility. Start with an original home page, and over time work to make the rest of your site pages specific to your company.

Keep your content fresh. Website visitors and search engines are like dinner guests in that they’ll eventually stop showing up if you keep setting out the same cold food time after time. Even if you don’t have anything new to say, making subtle changes to your wording on your site pages on a regular basis will make it appear to search engines that your site is indeed updated frequently.

Another way to have fresh, original content is to implement a blog. Appraisers should use blogs to write quick articles about their market and establish themselves as the local expert. A blog is less formal than a web page on your site – it’s more like writing an e-mail. You can also split up articles over several posts, so you do not have to come up with tons of content all at once. Blogs allow readers to subscribe and post comments, and the XSite blog integrates with XSellerate so you can notify everyone when you have a new post. For more information, click here to see a previous AppraisalPress article on blogging.

Include relevant keywords throughout your site. A keyword refers to a phrase that someone might type into Google. It will be something like “Oklahoma City appraiser”. You want to have these sprinkled throughout your site because search engines put all your site text into a database. The more easily popular search phrases match exactly what’s on your site, the more likely your site will come up in the results.

Keywords on your website are like salt in your pasta sauce. You must have some salt to bring out flavors, and most people like things that are rather salty. But too much salt can ruin something. Stuffing keywords into your site text to the point that it sounds unnatural when read aloud means you’ve gone too far. Sometimes a search engine can even tell when you’re trying to pull a fast one like that.

Organize your content wisely. This makes your site attractive to humans as well as the search engine robots. If something is so buried in your site that you have to click 4 times to get to it, it’s probably not going to be seen much. That’s why XSites encourage you to have most of your links in the main navigation with just one level of nest menus. Likewise, don’t put an overwhelming amount of information on one page. Break things up when you can. Something really smart I’ve seen on highly ranked appraisal sites are short, focused pages about each of the cities in their coverage area. Just think: You get the city name people may search on next to the word appraisal. And having details about the area’s real estate adds credibility to the content for real visitors and the search engines.

Get other sites to link to yours. This is as important as having properly cooked pasta on which to put your sauce. In the real world, you’ve probably received business through word of mouth. The web works the same way. When one site has a hyperlink going to yours, it means a lot to a search engine. It says your site was good enough to actually have someone recommend it. If the hyperlink on the other site has the word “appraiser” and something to associate you geographically, then you’ve really scored. So, the task here is to get other people running businesses in your area to link to you. If you can avoid having to include a reciprocal link back to them on your site, that’s a good thing, because search engines pick up on those things and will see it as a way both sites are trying to cheat the system.

Now, here’s something clever: Links back to your site don’t always have to be from other businesses. Include your URL and the word “appraiser” in any signature line you use in online forum posts – there’s a link to your site. Having a profile on social networking sites like ActiveRain.com, Facebook.com and AppraisersWaterCooler.com with a link to your site also helps. It’s just like in the real world – you must get your name out there.

Without a doubt, trying to figure out what to do with your site can be daunting. That’s why I always recommend our XSites Desktop application. It ranks your site on a scale of 0 to 800 and gives you tips and video tutorials for boosting your score. The higher your score, the more search engine friendly and engaging your site is. The XSites Desktop can remind you to post to your blog, update keywords, send out XSellerate campaigns, change up your home page and more. (It’s like having my grandmother there to help you with your pasta sauce.) Many customers have told us XSites Desktop has been the most valuable web tool they’ve ever use. In case you haven’t downloaded it yet, it’s free for XSite customers at http://www.XSitesDesktop.com.