Why can’t Google find my web site?
The basics of getting your Web
site to place higher in search-engine rankings.
by Morgan Chilson
Type the word “florist” into Google, and you’ll likely come up with at
least 20 million hits—thousands of pages of listings. Since research
shows most people look only at the first two or three pages, effectively
marketing your floral business online means getting at or near the top
of that list.
The high-tech term for this practice is “search-engine optimization” (SEO).
But just how do you go about making sure you place high in search-engine
rankings? Here are several tips that we’ve compiled from two authorities
in this field.
how search engines work
Before you can determine how to adapt your Web site to place higher in
search-engine rankings, you must understand a bit about how those
rankings occur. One thing to be aware of is that search engines like
Google and Yahoo automatically and continuously search the Internet for
new Web sites and to update their databases about already identified
sites. The sites are scanned for pertinent information, and each search
engine has complicated formulas for determining what information is
relevant. For instance, if the search word entered is “bonsai,” the
search engine would give a higher ranking to a site with that word in
its title than to one with the word buried deep in the Web site and/or
occurring in only one paragraph.
Because of how search engines look at Web sites, one of the most
critical aspects of designing a Web site is placing keywords
prominently. “There are probably at least 3,000 florists’ Web sites
today that don’t even have the physical addresses of the businesses on
their home pages,” says Cathy Hillen-Rulloda, AAF, AIFD, PFCI, owner of
Avante Gardens—Florals Unique in Anaheim, Calif. She has studied the
Internet and its workings for more than a decade and presents seminars
on how florists can best utilize their Web sites.
Ms. Hillen-Rulloda encourages florists to assess their Web sites
honestly, keeping in mind whom they are trying to serve. For example, a
consumer out of state wanting to send flowers to a funeral might search
for the funeral home’s name. Is that on your Web site?, she asks. Or how
about the names of hospitals in your service area? “If those names are
not on your site, your site will not be relevant to those searches,” she
concentrate on your local service area
Keep in mind that you probably are going to compete primarily on a local
level rather than globally, says Greg Jarboe, president of SEO-PR in
Boston, Mass., a company that helps businesses maximize their Web sites.
“It costs a lot of money and requires a lot of effort to get a top
ranking in a global search like ‘florist’ on Google or one of the other
major search engines,” he says. “Most businesses should concentrate on
coming up high on the list when someone searches for local Internet
There are three important things to think about in designing your Web
site, Mr. Jarboe says:
1. What are the search terms that you want to pull up your Web site?
Terms such as “florist” and “flowers” are general, so reach further than
that when thinking of search terms. Keep in mind the store name;
physical address; telephone number; delivery areas; area hospitals and
funeral homes; weddings, event coordination and other specialties; and
2. Where do you put those terms on your Web site?
Search engines use varying formulas to determine how relevant a Web site
is to a search. Important terms should go in the Web site title and be
in visible headlines on the page, Mr. Jarboe explains. Ms.
Hillen-Rulloda cautions against using only an image of your store logo
that contains the address and telephone number of the store, however,
because search engines do not pull text from images, “so that
information doesn’t show up,” she says.
3. Get links to your Web site to help your search standings.
“Links are the lifeblood of the Web,” Ms. Hillen-Rulloda notes. “The
more inbound links you have on a topic, whether it is based on your city
or your category of florist or flowers, the more relevant you become to
those search terms.”
When a Web site has multiple sites linked to it, it achieves a higher
standing in the search-engine rankings. For instance, being listed on
and linked to a local chamber of commerce Web site as well as a state
floral association’s site help raise a site’s ranking, Ms.
It is important to consider how those links are listed, also. If a
search engine goes to the chamber of commerce site and your Web site is
listed as “Avante Gardens,” that’s OK, she says, but it would be even
better if that link says “Florist,” or better yet, “Florist in Anaheim.”
The more information and key words that can be on the link text, the
more effective the link will be in raising search-engine rankings, she
tips for hiring help
If your eyes glazed over as soon as you read “search-engine
optimization,” you might want to consider hiring someone to optimize
your Web site. But both Mr. Jarboe and Ms. Hillen-Rulloda offer
cautionary notes about SEO companies that promise No. 1 listings.
Some companies have taken advantage of the SEO process, using
questionable tactics that get the Web sites they promote listed for a
short time at the top of search-engine lists. But Google, Yahoo and
others have gotten better at identifying the “dodgy” tactics, and they
have started banning offending Web sites from their search engines for
specific periods of time. BMW Germany, for instance, was banned from
Google for a few days in early February 2006 for employing “doorway
pages,” a search-engine marketing technique used by so-called
“black-hat” SEOs that is against Google’s regulations.
A ban from a search engine can do tremendous harm to online sales, so be
careful in choosing a company to optimize your Web site. Mr. Jarboe
recommends that people look for local companies that specialize in SEO.
Check references by talking to other clients, and, generally, you can
have confidence in knowing that a local presence means the person wants
to do business in the community in the future.
Search-engine optimization can be expensive, ranging from $500 in
smaller areas to as much as $5,000 in large cities where there is more
competition for the coveted rankings. “If you want to position yourself
locally in a smaller market, say a town of 50,000 to 100,000 people,”
Ms. Hillen-Rulloda explains, “you probably can get your site cleaned up
well enough and get the proper signals for the search engines to place
well for $1,000 to $1,500. But in a major metropolitan area, it would be
what’s the value?
So, is it worth those kinds of dollars to pursue a top placing?
Absolutely, Ms. Hillen-Rulloda says. “I was told by an SEO expert—and I
completely believe him—that being No. 1 in a major search engine like
Google for your city, versus being farther down the page or on another
page, can make a difference of $30,000 to $45,000 a year in sales.”
for more information
An excellent site containing basic information on how search engines
work, how to design Web pages for search engines, how to select the
right keywords and phrases, how to link effectively and much more is
Morgan Chilson is a freelance business writer residing in Topeka, Kan.
You may contact her by
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