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SEO Website Audit

High Rankings Advisor: Ten Tips to the Top - Issue No. 089

March 10, 2004

*Introductory Comments:
---->   Next Up: Chicago and Toronto

*Search Engine Marketing:
---->   Ten Tips to the Top

*This Week's Sponsors:
---->   IBP Award-winning Software
---->   SEO Copywriting Kit

*Guest Article:
---->   Knowing Your Customers' Buying Process

*Stuff You Might Like:
---->   High Rankings SEM Seminar and Audio CD

*High Rankings Forum Thread of the Week:
---->   Interlinking Sites

*This Week's Sound Advice:
---->   Creating Directory Descriptions

*Advisor Wrap-up:
---->   Any Good Gossip?

~~~Introductory Comments~~~

Had a great time at the SES conference in NYC last week.  (Seems like
it was already 3 weeks ago for some reason.)  At times I definitely
felt out of my element since there were so many people interested in
the PPC/Advertising side of things.  But all in all, it was a good

Next up is our High Rankings seminar in Chicago on April 23rd
</semhra89> so I actually have a little
time to get some work done this month.  Then of course in May there is
the Toronto SES conference on the 11th and 12th
<>.  It will be
nice to meet my Canadian friends at that one.

On to the good stuff! - Jill

~~~Search Engine Marketing Issues~~~


Thank you for giving me the opportunity to ask you a question.  I just
subscribed to your newsletter, and look forward to increasing my
knowledge in SEO.

I found your newsletter when reading the article "Search Engine
Placement Tips" by Danny Sullivan at Search Engine Watch -- he highly
recommends your newsletter.

I have just accepted a marketing position at a company that
traditionally has not put much emphasis into their website or search
engine placement.  I know just enough about this to be dangerous, but
am by no means proficient at it.  What is your suggestion for
improving our web presence?  I am looking for cost effective
(inexpensive) ways to improve our search engine placement.

Thank you.


++Jill's Response++

Welcome to the newsletter, Jeff.

Your question can best be answered by revisiting my "Ten Tips to the
Top of the Search Engines" article, so here it is!

Ten Tips to the Top of the Search Engines
by Jill Whalen

Having a Web site that gets found in Google and the other engines
isn't hard to do, but it can be difficult to know where to begin.
Here are ten tips to get you started:

1. Start out slowly.  If possible, begin with a new site that has
never been submitted to the search engines or directories.  Choose a
domain name that best fits your brand, and start out by optimizing
just the home page.  (Many SEOs recommend purchasing a keyword-rich
domain name; however, I've been optimizing sites successfully since
1995 without using them.)

2. Learn basic HTML.  A lot of search engine optimization techniques
involve editing the behind-the-scenes HTML code.  Your high rankings
can depend on knowing which codes are necessary, and which aren't.
Minimally, you should be able to view the source code of any page and
understand what it all means, as well as be able to slightly edit it
as necessary.

3. Choose keyword phrases wisely.  The phrases you think might be
perfect for your site may not be what people are actually searching
for.  To find the optimal words for your site, use a research tool
such as Wordtracker </wordtracker>.  Decide
on two or three highly targeted phrases for each page of your site.
Never shoot for general keywords such as "travel" or "vacation" as
they are rarely (if ever) indicative of what your site is really

4. Write at least 200-250 words of visible text copy based on your
chosen keywords.  This is a crucial component to high rankings and a
successful Web site.  The search engines need to "read" keyword-rich
copy on your pages so they can understand how to classify your site.
Write the copy based on your keyword phrases, and not the other way
around.  Don't be afraid to use your phrases as many times as it makes
sense to do so.  The optimal number of instances will vary by search
engine, the number of words on your page, and also by how well the
copy actually reads to a person.  Simply sticking keyword phrases at
the top of the page or only in headlines probably won't cut it.
(Purchase and read my "Nitty-gritty of Writing for the Search Engines"
handbook for exact tips on how to do this:

5. Create a killer Title tag.  Title tags are critical because they're
given a lot of weight with all of the search engines. You must put
your keyword phrases into this tag and not waste space with extra
words.  Do not use the Title tag to display only your company name, or
to simply say "Home Page."  Think of this tag more as a "Title Keyword
Tag" and create it accordingly.  It should reflect exactly what your
page is about, using the keyword phrases people might be using at a
search engine to find your company.

6. Make sure your site is "link-worthy."  Other sites linking to yours
is a critical component of a successful search engine optimization
campaign, as all of the major search engines place a good deal of
emphasis on your site's overall link popularity.  You can go out and
request hundreds or thousands of links, but if your site sucks, why
would anyone want to link to it?  On the other hand, if your site is
full of wonderful, useful information -- other sites will naturally
link to it without your even asking.  It's fine to trade links; just
make sure you are providing your site visitors with only the highest
quality of related sites.  When you link to lousy sites, keep in mind
what this says to your site visitors as well as to the search engines.

7. Create meaty Meta tags.  Meta tags have some value, but they are
not a magic bullet.  Create a Meta Description tag that uses your
keywords and also describes your site.  The information in this tag
often appears under your Title in the search engine results pages,
especially if the keyword phrase that was searched upon in the engine
appears in your tag.  The Meta Keyword tag isn't quite as important as
the Meta Description tag.  Contrary to what many people believe, what
you place in the keyword tag will have very little (if any) bearing on
what keywords your site is actually found under, and it's not given
any consideration whatsoever by Google.  Feel free to use this tag for
technical synonyms or common misspellings if you want to, but do NOT
obsess over it; it definitely won't make or break your rankings.

8. Be careful when submitting to directories such as Yahoo, DMOZ,
JoeAnt, Gimpsy and the like.  Having directory listings are a key
component to getting your site spidered and listed by Google and the
other search engines.  Therefore it's important to read each
directory's FAQ and follow it precisely.  Making mistakes in the
submission process could cost you dearly as directory listings are
difficult to change later in the game.  Be cognizant of the fact that
you will be dealing with human editors, and always think about how you
can make their job easier when it comes to listing your site.

9. Don't expect quick results.   Getting high rankings takes time;
there's no getting around that fact (even with paid-inclusion).  Once
your site is added to a search engine its rankings may start out low
and then slowly work its way up the ladder.  All search engines
measure link popularity, and it takes time to really and truly become
one of the most popular sites in your niche.  Be patient and give your
site time to mature.

10.  Don't constantly "tweak" your site for better results.   It's
best not to make changes to your on-the-page optimization for at least
three months after you optimize it.  You certainly don't need to sit
on your hands or twiddle your thumbs during this period, however.  You
should constantly work on adding new stuff to your site to make it
better and better, plus you should always be on the lookout for other
sites that might be interested in making your site available to their
site visitors.

If you've followed these tips and still can't find your site in the
engines, the first place to "tweak" would be your page copy.  If you
added less than 250 words of visible text on your pages, this could be
your culprit.  Also, double-check your keyword density, and make sure
that you only targeted two or three phrases per page.

Eventually, you'll see the fruits of your labor with many top-ten
rankings in Google and the rest of the search engines!



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~~~Guest Article~~~

++Copywriting Makeover++

Today I have another guest article from my copywriting bud, Karon
Thackston.  This is the first part of a copywriting makeover case
study.  Next week we'll have the conclusion for you.   Incidentally,
if you like Karon's information, she'll be presenting at my High
Rankings Chicago seminar, as well as at the Toronto SES Conference
where we'll be on a panel together.  Karon's as good at speaking as
she is at writing, so please come and join us at one (or both!) of
these events. - Jill

Part One: Knowing Your Customers' Buying Process
By Karon Thackston

When you begin to write copy for any product or service, there are a
few things you have to take into consideration.  The first is always
your target audience: who you'll be writing to.  Finding out about the
needs and wants of the audience members, their communication styles,
their lifestyles, and a multitude of other elements are "musts" before
writing one word of copy.

But something most people neglect is giving due attention to the
buying process as a whole and where your target audience is within
their own processes.  Understanding this can oftentimes make or break
the success of your copy.

When AEwebworks (an online-dating software developer) approached me
about rewriting their website copy, it became immediately apparent
that their copy could benefit from paying some due diligence to the
buying processes of their customers.

The Problems

My primary concerns with the copywriting on this site included the
lack of synergy within the copy, the use of testimonials, the lack of
focus on the target customer's buying process, and the inability for
the copy to support the search engine goals of AEwebworks.  In its
present state, the copy contained few mentions of keyphrases.

You can view the old copy in PDF form at this link:

When I first read the copy, it felt as though I was being pitched to
from all sides.  The headline spoke to someone thinking of entering
the online-dating industry.  The body copy did not support that
headline; rather it spoke to someone who had already made the decision
to launch or improve a dating site.

The use of testimonials at the bottom of the home page posed a
challenge for two reasons.  The first was the sheer location.  The
design of the site was such that it appeared nothing fell "below the
fold" (what was first seen when the home page loaded onto a browser).
The second challenge was that many of the testimonials were from
people asking questions or stating they were considering trying the
dating-site software... not actual customers attesting to the benefits
they'd personally experienced.

In addition, while the information included in the body copy was good,
the information given on the home page needed to outline why
AEwebworks was better than the competition.  In its present state, it
did not.  That meant finding those aspects of buying dating-site
software that were most important to the customer and highlighting
them within the copy.

Lastly, I needed to focus the home page copy on only two or three
keyphrases and increase keyword saturation for those phrases.  This
also meant creating a copy strategy that would allow me to use the
keyphrases effectively without making the text sound stiff.

The Solution

As always, I started the project by gaining a good understanding of
who the target customers were, what they wanted, their fears, their
likes, their dislikes, and anything else I could discover.  After a
good bit of research, and after reading the completed target audience
analysis from AEwebworks, I felt I had a good understanding of those I
would be writing to.

In order to combat the lack of synergy within the copy and the lack of
focus on the target customer's buying process, I created a copywriting
plan.  From my research I found that installation, upgrade policies,
and support were the three most common gripes buyers had about dating
software.  I decided to make overcoming those obstacles the focal
point of the copy instead of the actual features and benefits.

That may sound like an odd choice, but that's where recognition of the
buying process comes in.  Considering that the majority of visitors to
the site had already made the decision to launch a new site or had
chosen to upgrade an existing site, they were already well versed in
the features of dating-site software and its associated benefits.
Yes... the benefits did need to be mentioned; however, other issues
proved to be more pressing to this particular group of customers.

The use of testimonials on the home page was easily corrected by
simply deleting the ones that did not directly apply to actual users
of the software.  I chose two for use within the copy and suggested
that as AEwebworks gets more testimonials they create an entire page
that visitors can read.

That left me with overcoming the inability of the current copy to
support the search engine goals of the site.  I suggested AEwebworks
review their keyword choices to be sure they were targeting the ones
most likely to bring in qualified customers.  After a review, they
provided me with a revised list to choose from.

I selected three keyphrases for each page in order to allow an
adequate level of both keyword saturation and natural language.  For
the home page, the terms "dating software," "online dating software,"
and "dating script" were used.

After all the hoopla with Google, AEwebworks was in foul shape as far
as search engine rankings were concerned.  I had to pay particular
attention to creating copy that impressed the search engines AND their
site visitors in order to help them regain ground with their
positioning and sales efforts.

The plan was in place.  Now "all" I had to do was write the copy.  In
the conclusion, you'll get all the details on how I turned "OK" into

Karon Thackston
Copy not getting results?


MarketingSherpa's SEO Copywriting Kit with Jill Whalen

Includes Jill's "Nitty-gritty of Writing for the Search Engines"
handbook, the audio CDs and transcript of Jill's recent teleseminar
Anne Holland, PLUS a bonus copy of Karon Thackston's new "How to
Increase Keyword Saturation Without Destroying the Flow of Your Copy"
ebook.  The teleseminar CD and transcript portion includes Jill's
review of a ton of sites belonging to the seminar participants.

A *steal* at only $99!  </seowritingkit>

~~~Stuff You Might Like~~~

++High Rankings SEM Seminar and Audio CD++

Don't forget to register for the April 23rd all-day High Rankings
seminar in Chicago. Join me, Karon, Scottie, Christine and Debra for a
full day of search engine marketing training, and an all-around good

You can learn more and click to the registration form from here:

**Please note that we are limited to only 50 people at this
seminar, so be sure to register early.**

There's still time to put your site up for review at the seminar.
Three participants will receive a public, 15-minute site analysis from
our panel of SEO experts.  (There is an additional $99 charge if your
site is chosen and reviewed.)  If you're interested in obtaining a
review, make sure you make note of this when you register.

The early price for the seminar is $575, which includes a continental
breakfast, lunch and snacks.

We're also looking for sponsors for the event.  This includes ads on
the seminar page of the High Rankings site and the seminar workbook,
as well as higher-levels of sponsorship where you can actually meet
and greet seminar participants and hand out your promotional "toys"!
Contact me at for more details if you're
interested.  We'd love for someone to sponsor a get-together the night
before the event also, if that's of interest.

And again, if you can't take the time off, or don't like to travel (or
just don't like to go out!) you can order the audio CD from the
previous all-day seminar for only $279 (plus shipping).

Here's where you'll find more info about that:

~~~High Rankings Forum Thread of the Week~~~

++Interlinking Sites++

Same server, different server, will you do it for PageRank?

This forum thread is an interesting one about cross-linking between
sites that you own.  We also had a fun little side conversation about
the old commercial, "It's Not Nice To Fool Mother Nature!" (You'd have
to have been around in the 70s to remember!)

You can read it and post your comments here:

~~~Sound Advice~~~

++Creating Directory Descriptions++


~~~Advisor Wrap-up~~~

That's it for today!  I'm trying to think of some funny or interesting
tidbit from the conference last week, but I'm drawing a blank.
Hmm...there's got to be something.  Craig Silverstein from Google got
a big laugh with his comments about "skanky links" but you've probably
already heard about that.  What else...hmm?

There was of course the big news that Yahoo's new paid-inclusion
program is also a pay-per-click program.  But we really need to wait a
bit to see how that plays out before making too many comments on it.

I'm really trying to think of some interesting gossip or something
like that, but I can't tell you any of the really good stuff because
I've been sworn to secrecy -- and the rest is just...well...boring.
Oh well...I guess I'll just sign off for now then and catch you next
week! - Jill

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