- Old friends are best. John Selden
Google Search My Name & Have at Least 1 Page of Stuff
Five Steps to Being Found on Search Engines
Ensure Your Site Has High-Quality Information
The cornerstone of any optimization strategy — or just a good Web site strategy, for that matter — is a lot of great, relevant information tailored to those you'd like to attract to your site. A large volume of high-quality content helps with a number of the steps listed below — for instance, you're more likely to have information that's useful to any particular person, you're more likely to include the key phrases for which people are searching, and other sites are more likely to link to yours.
Not to mention, of course, that a terrific site is more likely to engage the people who find you through search engines, and encourage them to become not only repeat visitors, but friends of your organization.
Help Search Engines Find Your Site
Search engines read through huge volumes of information on the Web with software programs called "robots" or "spiders" (because they navigate, or "crawl," through the Web). These spiders create an index which contains, essentially, all the pages they've found and the words that are contained on them.
You need to make sure your Web site is included in those indexes. You can easily check to see if your site has been indexed by Google's index by searching "site:www.yourdomain.org" — i.e. site:www.idealware.org. This search will show a list of all the pages from your site that are included in Google's index (ideally, every page on your site).
If you're not included in the indexes — for instance, if you have a new Web site, or one without much traffic — none of the steps below will do much good until you are. How do you get included? You can submit your site to the search engines — to Google, or Yahoo for instance — but experts are divided on how useful this is. It's certainly not a quick way to be included.
A better way is to get other indexed sites to link to yours. You can start this effort with huge, general-interest directories like the DMOZ directory, but you're likely to have as much or more success with directories or listings related to your field. Is there an online directory of children's service organizations? Does your United Way have a listing of local organizations? Do your funders have a list of grantees online? Any of these (or ideally all of them, as per the next section) could provide the link you need to be indexed.
Some online services say they'll submit you to a lot of directories and search engines automatically. These generally aren't worth the money, as indiscriminate listings aren't nearly as useful as ones targeted to your sector.
Encourage Others to Link to You
Links from other sites to yours are a critical aspect of search engine optimization. A couple of links will help the search engines find your sites, but lots of links will show them that your site is a central, important resource for particular topics.
The more incoming links you have from credible organizations (that is to say, organizations that show up high on search engines themselves), the higher you will be listed in search results. To check to see the links that Google has indexed for your site, enter "link:www.yourdomain.org" into the Google search bar. The resulting list doesn't include every link from every site, but is a guide to the approximate quantity of high-quality links.
How do you get people to link to you? As we mentioned above, there are likely a number of organizations that have a list of organizations like yours. Ensuring you're included in all the relevant directories is a good start. See if partner organizations will link to you. Do a search on the phrases for which you'd like to be found and look for ways to get the organizations at the top of the search results to link to you. Think through content you could provide — perhaps reports, articles, toolkits, directories of your own — that would be so useful that organizations would be inspired to link to it.
Identify the Keywords For Which You'd Like to Be Found
We've talked so far about ways for people to find your site as a whole — but people are unlikely to be looking for your site specifically. They're much more likely to be looking for good information or a resource on a particular topic, which they'll identify by entering the first words that come to mind when they think about their topic, known as keywords in search engine optimization lingo.
Identifying the keywords that people are likely to use, and for which you'd like to be found, is a critical step in search engine optimization. You should ideally think through keywords not just for your organization as a whole, but for each content page that might have useful information for your target audience. For instance, "Cincinnati women's shelter" might lead people to your organization, but if you offer meaty content on your site, a search on "signs of domestic abuse" might also lead people to you.
How do you identify your core keywords? It's not a science. First off, try to identify phrases that are reasonably specific to your organization. Trying to show up in the top of the search results for "the environment" is likely to be a losing battle, but "measuring river-water quality" is a more achievable goal. In thinking through your keywords, consider:
What phrases are associated with your organization? Start the keyword process by listing the words and phrases that you're already using in your marketing materials. The name of your organization is an obvious one, as is the name of any well-known people associated with you. Do you have a tagline or short mission statement that concisely and usefully summarizes what you do? What phrases do you use in that? How are people currently finding you? If you have access to a Web site analytics tool, you can likely see the search engine phrases that people are currently using to find you. These can be a useful starting point in understanding how people search for your information. Think about how you can increase the ease with which you can be found for these phrases, and use them to provide inspiration for more important phrases. What search phrases are people using in your domain? Tools like Good Keywords or WordTracker can help you to brainstorm keywords related to the ones you've already identified, and to find the phrasing that searchers are most likely to use. How many keywords should you have? That's up to you. Ideally, you'd have a least a couple keyword phrases for each page on your site. Some organizations optimize for thousands of keywords. However, starting with just a few phrases and a few pages is far better than nothing.
Place Keywords in Prime Locations
Once you've identified your priority keywords, the next step is to integrate them into your Web pages. When someone searches on a key phrase, the search engine looks for pages that include prominent mentions of the phrase: ones that contain it a number of times, show it toward the top of the page, and include it in key locations.
Unfortunately, there's no substitute for the time-consuming task of incorporating your keywords into each content page. For each page, consider how you can incorporate your keywords into:
Headlines and section titles
Text that is formatted prominently (bigger, bolder, higher on the page) is more likely to affect search engine placement than other text, so keywords will hold more weight in headlines.
The words used as a link to your page are prioritized highly when the search engines consider that page. Optimize the links within your own site and especially any external links you have control over, for example in your blog, email signatures, social network profiles, and so on. Encourage others to link to you using your keywords — for instance, by providing keyword-heavy titles and descriptions for resources on your site.
Page title metadata
Each page has what's called a "title metadata field," which controls the text that shows up in header bar at the top of the browser window — and which is also frequently shown as the page title in search engine results. This is one of the most important places to include your keywords. This title field can be edited through the HTML code of the page, or through most methods you might use to update your site — for instance, through Dreamweaver, Contribute, and most content-management systems.
Page description metadata
Each page has a "description" field, a longer description of page content that can be accessed in a similar way to the "title" metadata. The description is another important place to include your keywords, and is also sometimes shown by search engines as the description of your page in search results.
Repeating your keywords a number of times (but not so many times to annoy your readers, of course) throughout the page text is likely to boost your placement.
If you can control the actual filename of the page (e.g. "search_engines.html"), keywords embedded in the URL are also counted as highly relevant. If you are looking for a comparatively quick way to optimize each page, adding keywords in just the title and description metadata can provide substantial results without a wholesale rewrite of your site.
Note that the keywords need to be shown as text. Spiders can't read images, so any page, header, or feature that's displayed as a graphic — regardless of how prominent on the page — is invisible to search engines.