We all know intuitively that a strong search engine ranking can impact traffic to your website, but just how "make or break" is it? A whopping 75 percent of people don't click past the first page of search results, and the top three results on page one, excluding paid ads, account for 60 percent of the clicks according to Sitepoint.com.
When it comes to leaders in the search space, Google is a behemoth, capturing roughly 65 percent of U.S. searches in 2010.
What can you do to improve your search traffic? The answer is Search Engine Optimization, or SEO -- either organic or paid. With organic SEO, you deploy strategies for improving your search ranking utilizing natural or unpaid methods. In contrast, with paid SEO, you might purchase ads through Google, guaranteeing you a featured position at the top or right of the organic search results.
The best practice is to first optimize your website for strong organic search results before considering the expense of paid placement. Begin by establishing traffic reporting for your website, using a free tool like Google Analytics, to track what's working with your SEO strategies. Google Analytics will provide you with the percentage of traffic generated from search engines and the most popular keyword combinations driving users to your site.
Next up, create great content. When it comes to SEO, original content has tremendous value. The search engines have methods for determining if your content is original or repurposed, with higher value placed on the former.
Utilize free tools such as Google Trends or Google Insights to compare the volume of searches for one keyword combination against another in your region. Then ensure you're utilizing these keywords throughout the copy on your website.
If you're looking for a page to rank highly for a particular search term, use that term in the page title. The page title is coded behind the scenes on your website, and can be different than the header displayed on the actual page.
Include a site map on your website to allow search engines to find all the important pages on your site and help them understand your site's hierarchy.
Ensure all images on your site have descriptions, called "alt tags," that tell the search engines what they portray.
Search engines love blogs with up-to-date content, often rewarding those sites with higher rankings. Regularly post blog content utilizing common search terms. Promote your blog posts through social media channels, which search engines also look favorably upon.
Lastly, don't put all of your eggs in the Google basket. Google changes its search algorithm often. What if the next change drives your website to page five? Just as you diversify your investment portfolio, ensure you're getting traffic from other sources such as your email newsletter, social media profiles, blog, or local online directories.
Lori Turner-Wilson is an award-winning columnist and CEO/Founder of RedRover Sales & Marketing in Memphis, TN, www.redrovercompany.com. You can follow RedRover on Twitter (@redrovercompany and @loriturner) and Facebook (facebook.com/redrovercompany).