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April 23, 2008

How Does a Site Rank #1 out of 65,000,000? (and do so for years!)

This article is about a client — Fiona Raven. When we started about working on her site about three and a half years ago, we got her to #1 in Google out of about 9 million — for the search ‘book designer’. Since then, we have all gone through several Google updates. Page returns have gone well above 100,000,000 and dropped again; currently they are at 65 million. And through it all, she has sat at #1 with the occasional drop to 2 or 3.

Not surprisingly, I’ve been asked how this works. The essential answer is: do the basics and do them REALLY well.
Usually for a website, one would want to optimize around keyphrases that:
– Have as many searches happening as possible

– With as little competition is possible

– Are as closely focussed on what the company offers as possible.

– Are as close to a possible buying decision as we can get (e. g. black video iPod rather than iPod).
We research all this and try to balance the four factors to go for the best phrases possible. But for Fiona Raven, nothing else really mattered except book designer. So that’s what we focussed on.
You can bet that many (possibly hundreds of thousands, if not millions) of Fiona’s competitors are also optimized (to a greater or lesser extent). And probably a large number of them have much larger budgets than Fiona. So we circle back to the critical question — what is the difference that gives HER the number 1, and has given her #1, 2 or 3 continually for over three and a half years now?
There are no “insider secrets” or “sneaky tricks”. Sneaky tricks, of course, exist, but we don’t use them. They don’t work for long-term success. You’ll know many of these ideas. But have you implemented them yet, and are you implementing them EVERY WEEK?
For high search engine rank AND a powerful, effective website do the following.
1. ADD LOTS of relevant, thematically related content. All else being equal, a 100-page site will greatly outrank a 5-page site. One easy way to do this is to have a library of articles.
2. Don’t just present a bunch of information, craft it as an effective sales process. ARRANGE and EDIT that content to educate, inspire and ethically persuade your readers to do what you want – phone you, sign up for a workshop, whatever that is. To maximize effectiveness, divide the content into CORE and COMPLEMENTARY. For example, on our own site the Core content is just seven pages. This covers the most critical information about what we do and is the primary sales process. Then there are about 150 more pages of Complementary content.
3. Next, HIRE a specialist to optimize your site. This is important. With this Web phenomenon, there’s a prevalent myth of ease — that because the information is accessible means the work is easy. But let’s compare this to some other areas of human endeavor. On the Web, you can easily access all the tax regulations, or every yoga asana, or every mountain-climbing technique. You can have a piano and all the scores of the great composers. But you know that just having any of that information doesn’t mean you can use it at an expert level. It’s actually the same on the Web — please don’t give into that dangerous misconception that knowing a couple of small points about meta-tags will take you to the top of 100,000,000 page returns.
4. KEEP ADDING more content on a regular basis – at least each week. (Most site owners fall down badly on this.)
5. SOLICIT inbound links from thematically related sites – the bigger and more important, the better.
6. KEEP ADDING more links regularly, even if it’s just a few each month.
Fiona Raven did an excellent job of her side of the partnership. She was exceptional in that regard. I provided guidance for what she needed to do, but she did her work – sincerely and thoroughly. Her thorough application to the required work is what did the extra that pushed “very good” into “ridiculously, outrageously good”.
The combination of high ranking plus improved sales effect of the site brought her from having had no contracts for four months to a level of business success where she says, “If he can do for you half of what he did for me, you won’t be able to handle the sales”.
In summary
The “Big Three” factors in gaining search engine ranking are ongoing content addition, ongoing link addition and optimization.
Then edit your site to maximize its effectiveness to educate, inspire and ethically persuade your readers to make that phone call to you or click that “Buy” button.

Author: Michael Linehan has been using the Web since the month it became commercially available, starting with Mosaic 1.0. He combines a love of this technology with an extensive background in marketing and strategic planning to help you focus what you are doing and why, make your site an effective marketing tool and promote it to bring you prospective clients. Michael is the owner of Marketing Alchemy and is based in Victoria, BC, Canada.