Optimizing Your Website: Becoming Search Engine Ready

There were 75,202 searches on Yahoo in February for "Energy"... 35,375 for Solar Energy; 22,604 for Alternative Energy; 12,346 for Wind Energy; 38,675 for Solar Power; 20,517 for Wind Power; and 21,176 for Austin Powers. How many times did your website come up as a result?

The most important part of the search engine optimization process is deciding what keywords to use in order to establish the best possible page ranking on Google, or other search engines.
Search engine optimization is the process of making your website clear and readable to search engines such as Google, as well as the visitors that come to your site. The goal of the search engine is to give the very best answer to the questions it is asked. If you are the best answer; have the most content, more people link to you, you are organized and deep, then Google with present you as the best answer.

In this article we'll explore practical tips for understanding what a search engine sees when it looks at your renewable energy website and what it takes to improve your Google page ranking by examining the optimization process with the help of the recently redesigned SolarPowerConference.com website:

Solar Power 2007 - Long Beach

Page Listings
When you type site:www.solarpowerconference.com in Google, the search engine is aware of 161 pages associated with this website (the number will fluctuate daily). An example, with titles and descriptions listed, is shown below:

Solar Power Conference 2007 - Long Beach, California
Welcome to the website for America's largest solar energy event! In just 4 years of existence, the Solar Power Conference and Expo has grown into the only ...
www.SolarPowerConference.com - 16k - Cached - Similar pages

This is significant because it illustrates that each page has a descriptive title and clear explanation. These HTML elements, coded into the website, are called 'meta tags'.

Like a book without a title, a page without descriptive meta tags is pretty useless, so make sure your site contains relevant words and phrases to describe the content of your pages.

Home - Page 1
Home Page
www.samplesite.com - 15k - Cached - Similar pages

Google Page Rank
Google provides a downloadable toolbar that has several useful features as well as an indication of page rank. This "ranking" refers to a number between 1 and 10 that evaluates how important each site is, which although the search engine's logic is secret, typically means that sites with the larger number of incoming links get higher rankings.

Rankings of 5 and better are good. YouTube, Wikipedia and Myspace have a ranking of 8. MSN, Ebay and Yahoo have a ranking of 9. Google and Microsoft have a ranking of 10. SolarPowerConference.com has a page rank of 7, which is excellent.

Incoming Links
If you type link:www.solarpowerconference.com into Google, the search engine shows 119 incoming links to the page. This isn't as impressive when compared to link:www.renewableenergyaccess.com per say, which reports 1,950 incoming links.

But the fact that SolarPowerConference.com is referred to by many of the top-ranked energy websites speaks very highly for the site since incoming links tell Google that other site owners "think" the Solar Power 2007 website is important.

This also further illustrates the mystery of how Google comes up with its page rankings. For example, if SolarPowerConference.com is one of a hundred links on a page, Google interprets this to be less valuable than if it shares the page with only 10 other links.

Link farms, which indiscriminately link with any and all websites, are worthless. An upcoming article will discuss ways that people try to trick search engines -- and what happens to them as a result.

Site Navigation
SolarPowerConference.com features an orange and blue navigation bar that begins with the words Conference, Expo, Sponsors & Partners. These are not words however; they're graphics -- pictures of words. But as far as a search engine is concerned, they're blank.

This is a very common "mistake" in web design. Graphic buttons look good, but search engines can't read images. Fortunately, the web designer understood this concept and added another text navigation menu at the bottom of the page so that search engines are able to easily navigate through the website.

Graphics & Alt Tags
Depending on your browser, when you hold your mouse over a graphic for a moment without clicking, the "Alt Text" associated with the graphic appears.

This is important, not only for communicating with visually impaired site visitors (the computer can speak the "Alt Text") and people who choose to block graphics, but it also allows search engines to comprehend what the images are about.

In the case of the SolarPowerConference.com web site, the Alt Tag of the logo in the upper left corner of the page is effective because it says "Solar Power Conference 2007." The Alt Tag on the SEIA logo reads "SEIA logo" but could be even more effective by having the organization's full name.

Competitive Keywords
The most important part of the search engine optimization process is deciding what keywords to use in order to establish the best possible page ranking on Google, or other search engines. To do this, first you need to identify the people you want to attract to your website and determine what they are typing into the search engine.

Let's look at keyword suggestions for the SolarPowerConference.com website: Solar Power, Energy Conference, Solar Energy, Photovoltaic, Renewable, Alternative, Conference, Trade Show, Exhibit, 2007 and Long Beach.

To see how many times people searched for the selected keywords, you can use the keyword inventory tool at http://www.TheEnergyGrid.com/searches.

"Solar Power" would be a highly competitive word, but it turns out that most of the people using this keyword in a search are not seeking information about the Solar Power 2007 conference. "Energy Conference," though, appears to be a winner.

It looks like there was also some interest in the "Goldman Sachs Energy Conference" in January 2007 as well as several keywords around investing. This might suggest that the SolarPowerConference.com website create a few pages about solar energy investing. This could be a few articles about investing or a profile of a few exhibitors involved in investing.

Current Position
What is the current ranking of this website for these keywords? A quick keyword analysis indicates that the SolarPowerConference.com website appears in seventh position in a Google search for "Solar Power."

This information is extremely helpful to know when making changes to the site in terms of monitoring and tracking search ranking.

Competitive Analysis
Competition is fierce for some of these keywords, and as the industry grows, websites competing for traffic in this space are getting more sophisticated. By looking at websites currently showing up first in a Google search for 'solar power', we can better evaluate how to improve search ranking for SolarPowerConference.com.

The top ranking websites for solar power can be found here.

The Search Engine Optimization Process
Web marketing, like any other type of marketing is an art as much as it is a science. There are no sure-fire answers or guarantees. The benefit of internet marketing, though, is that the results are instant. Whereas a magazine ad takes months to appear, an internet marketing strategy takes as little as a few moments to show results.

Coming soon: pay-per-click and pay-per-view advertising and ad tracking strategies.

Helpful Tools and Reports
Type in any word and see how many times that word, and similar words were searched for at: http://www.TheEnergyGrid.com/searches

A full search engine optimization report for soalrpowerconference.com that shows all recommendations and the rationale behind them is available at: http://theenergygrid.com/grid/articles/solarpowerconf/comp.htm

Mark C. Robinson's website, TheEnergyGrid.com offers a full line of internet marketing services including website design, professional solar powered web hosting, and strategic search engine optimization. Robinson is LEED accredited Professional and is well-known in the renewable energy industry through his work with Nextek Power Systems, Beacon Power Systems, Advanced Energy, and others.