Lessons learned the hard way - information for webmasters

Use obvious titles on your pages that directly relate to the subject. Search engines don't understand cleverness or jokes. In his excellent book "Ogilvy On Advertising", advertising expert David Ogilvy writes that "Some copywriters write tricky headlines - double meanings, puns and other obscurities. This is counter-productive. In the average newspaper your headline has to compete with 350 others. Readers travel fast through this jungle. Your headline should telegraph what you want to say." Your web page's headline is its title and that headline competes with millions of other pages, not just 350.

Any informative page with the word FAQ in the title will attract 25% more visitors than the same page without the word FAQ. So if you put up a page that answers Frequently Asked Questions then make sure the word FAQ is in the title.

Any page titled "Jobs in (insert name of your city and state here) USA" will get lots of visitors. If you have a personal website and recently hunted for a job then make a page that gives jobhunting tips. Also include links to the job websites and company websites that you found most useful. This costs you nothing and really helps people who are down on their luck. I get 10 to 20 visitors a day that way.

Right now (November of 2002) the Google search engine is by far the most important search engine. People using Google are typically 80 out of every 100 visitors to my website. If your pages have a good ranking in Google then will you will get lots of visitors.

The only way to get a good ranking in Google is to provide useful content so that other websites link to you. As I mentioned in the page Beginner's guide to creating popular websites you can either write the useful information yourself or ask permission to post something that an expert has written. Useful information that is written by an expert will just naturally get a high ranking by the Google search engine. Tricks don't fool Google.

If the Google search engine has already indexed your website as something like http://www.dnaco.net/~tinc/ then it won't also index it under a more proper domain name such as http://www.tincher.to/. So get your domain name before you put up any content on your website.

If the address of your website changes then it will typically take 2 weeks for Google to find any of your pages at the new location, 8 weeks to drop the listings of the pages at the old locations, and months for your pages to get back to the high ranking that they had at the old location.

ISP mergers can kill links to your website. If your pages are hosted at an ISP named DNACO that gets bought by another ISP named SISCOM, then any URL like http://www.dnaco.net/~tinc/ will probably change to something like http://www.siscom.net/~tincher3304/. If other people's websites point to http://www.dnaco.net/~tinc/ then the link won't work anymore. Neither will any search engine listings. 90% of your visitors will disappear immediately. However, if other websites link to a proper domain name such as http://www.tincher.to/ then your new ISP will just set www.tincher.to to point to the new location and all the links will still work.

People will land on your pages while searching for something else. (You can tell this by looking at the results from your website counter or logs.) If that something else is related to the main purpose of your website then put up a page that includes the information that those people are trying to find. I get 50 visitors a day to a simple page that includes the keywords that some visitors were searching for, plus some related information that I already knew (but thought nobody else cared about), plus a link to another website that has far more info on the subject. (That other website doesn't show up in search engine results because that webmaster didn't use the right keywords on his page!)

Other websites will deep-link to pages buried deep within your website There isn't any good way to avoid this. The more popular your website is the more likely this is to happen. Don't remove or change the name of any page if you can possibly avoid it. Put an obvious link back to the home page on every page of your website.

If you post on Usenet to promote your website using the tips in Stealth Marketing in Usenet newsgroups then concentrate your posts on Tuesdays and Wednesdays if possible. Posts made on these days result in the most visits to my website. I don't know why.

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