Tips for ranking higher in natural search

If you’ve recently launched a web site and have been trying to force it to the top of the search engine results pages, there are a few things you should know before you try to mash that square peg into a round hole.

First, search engines have a way of ranking web pages by trusting older, more established web sites, thus ranking them higher than your 6-month-old toddler of a web site. Naturally, older web sites will have more time to build links and a solid foundation on the most competitive keywords. What this means is you’ll have to try some alternative tactics in order to cut in line to be one of the top results.

One technique to sneak past those high ranking, more established web sites, is to focus on less competitive keywords. Ranking high on less competitive keywords, also known as long tail keywords, will give you more quality visitors compared to ranking low for super competitive keywords. Whereas you’ll get very few visitors from ranking low for short tail keywords, long tail keywords will give your web site the exposure and visibility you need to start building brand awareness and importance. Long tail keywords are also searched for by people who have more knowledge and need to do the search, which oftentimes means the traffic that comes in from these long tail searches is highly qualified. By targeting long-tail keywords at the start, you can and you should see a spike in traffic at a much earlier point than if you only targeted highly competitive, general terms.

Another strategy is to focus on increasing the number of inbound links to your web site. Links to your site should come naturally as you build up great content, however, there are many tactics available for increasing the number of links – some are definitely better than others. Be very wary of purchasing links or participating in excessive link exchange programs because these actions can lead to drastic penalties being bestowed upon your site by the search engines. Stay away from the too-good-to-be-true linking “opportunities” out there, use a bit of common sense, and you should be able to stay clean. Take a proactive approach to creating content that will naturally garner links. Your web site should first be relevant to its target audience and not look too spammy. By being more relevant, your audience will appreciate your web site more and will be more willing to link to it on their blog or from other web sites. Creating mutual relationships with other related websites is also a good idea since search engines, in the context of oversimplification, basically search for the most popular and trusted web sites to rank first. Another way to improve your incoming link status is to make it as easy as possible for your visitors to share your web site. This can be done by adding links to social bookmarking sites such as Digg and StumbleUpon.

Combining these two tactics will have your web site leapfrogging your competitors in due time. Keep in mind that search engine optimization is an ongoing process and not a one-time instant results campaign. And, as hard as it is to remember, square pegs only fit into square holes.