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Hack 88. 26 Steps to 15K a Day

Hot and cold running content is what draws visitors in to your web site.

Too often, getting visitors from search engines is boiled down to a succession of tweaks that may or may not work. But as I show in this hack, solid content thoughtfully put together can make more of an impact than a decade's worth of fiddling with META tags and building the perfect title page.

Following these 26 steps from A to Z will ensure a successful site, bringing in plenty of visitors from Google.

8.9.1. A. Prep Work

Prepare work and begin building content. Long before the domain name is settled on, start putting together notes to build at least a 100-page site. That's 100 pages of "real content," not including link, resource, about, and copyright pages—necessary but not content-rich pages.

Can't think of 100 pages' worth of content? Consider articles about your business or industry, Q&A pages, or back issues of an online newsletter.

8.9.2. B. Choose a Brandable Domain Name

Choose a domain name that's easily brandable. You want and not

Keyword domains are out; branding and name recognition are in. Big time in. Keywords in a domain name have never meant less to search engines. Learn the lesson of becoming and understand why they changed it. It's one of the most powerful gut check calls I've ever seen on the Internet. It took resolve and nerve to blow away several years of branding. (That's a whole 'nother article, but learn the lesson as it applies to all of us.)

8.9.3. C. Site Design

The simpler your site design, the better. As a rule of thumb: text content should outweigh HTML content. The pages should be validated and usable in everything from Lynx to leading browsers. In other words, keep it close to HTML 3.2 if you can. Spiders are not to the point they really like eating HTML 4.0 and the mess that it can bring. Stay away from heavy Flash, Java, or JavaScript.

Go external with scripting languages if you must have them, though there's little reason to have them that I can see. They will rarely help a site and stand to hurt it greatly due to many factors that most people don't appreciate (the search engines' distaste for JavaScript is just one of them). Arrange the site in a logical manner with directory names hitting the top keywords that you wish to emphasize. You can also go the other route and just throw everything in the top level of the directory (this is rather controversial, but it's been producing good long-term results across many engines). Don't clutter and don't spam your site with frivolous links such as "best viewed in ..." or other things such as counters. Keep it clean and professional to the best of your ability.

Learn the lesson of Google itself: simple is retro cool. Simple is what surfers want.

Speed isn't everything; it's almost the only thing. Your site should respond almost instantly to a request. If your site has three to four seconds' delay until "something happens" in the browser, you are in trouble. That three to four seconds of response time may vary in sites destined to be viewed in other countries than your native one. The site should respond locally within three to four seconds (maximum) to any request. Longer than that, and you'll lose 10% of your audience for each additional second. That 10% could be the difference between success and not.

8.9.4. D. Page Size

The smaller the page size, the better. Keep it under 15K, including images, if you can. The smaller the better. Keep it under 12K if you can. The smaller the better. Keep it under 10K if you can; I trust you are getting the idea here. Over 5K and under 10K. It's tough to do, but it's worth the effort. Remember, 80% of your surfers will be at 56K or even less.

8.9.5. E. Content

Build one page of content (between 200 and 500 words) per day and put it online.

If you aren't sure what you need for content, start with the Overture keyword suggestor ( and find the core set of keywords for your topic area. Those are your subject starters.

8.9.6. F. Keyword Density and Keyword Positioning

This is simple, old-fashioned Search Engine Optimization (SEO) from the ground up.

Use the keyword once in title, once in description tag, once in a heading, once in the URL, once in bold, once in italic, once high on the page, and make sure the density is between 5% and 20% (don't fret about it). Use good sentences and spellcheck them! Spellchecking is becoming more important as search engines are moving to autocorrection during searches. There is no longer a reason to look like you can't spell.

8.9.7. G. Outbound Links

From every page, link to one or two high-ranking sites under the keyword that you're trying to emphasize. Use your keyword in the link text (this is ultra important for the future).

8.9.8. H. Cross-Links

Cross-links are links within the same site.

Link to on-topic quality content across your site. If a page is about food, make sure it links to the apples and veggies page. With Google, on-topic cross-linking is very important for sharing your PageRank value across your site. You do not want an all-star page that outperforms the rest of your site. You want 50 pages that produce 1 referral each a day, not 1 page that produces 50 referrals a day. If you do find a page that drastically outproduces the rest of the site with Google, you need to offload some of that PageRank value to other pages by cross-linking heavily. It's the old share-the-wealth thing.

8.9.9. I. Put It Online

Don't go with virtual hosting; go with a standalone IP address.

Make sure the site is crawlable by a spider. All pages should be linked to more than one other page on your site, and not more than two levels deep from the top directory. Link the topic vertically as much as possible back to the top directory. A menu that is present on every page should link to your site's main topic index pages (the doorways and logical navigation system down into real content). Don't put your site online before it is ready. It's worse to put a nothing site online than no site at all. You want it to be fleshed out from the start.

Go for a listing in the Open Directory Project (ODP), Getting accepted to the ODP will probably get your pages listed in the Google Directory.

8.9.10. J. Submit

Submit your main URL to Google, F*, AltaVista, WiseNut, Teoma, DirectHit, and Hotbot. Now comes the hard part: forget about submissions for the next six months. That's right, submit and forget.

8.9.11. K. Logging and Tracking

Get a quality logger/tracker that can do justice to inbound referrals based on log files. Don't use a graphic counter; you need a program that's going to provide much more information than that. If your host doesn't support referrers, back up and get a new host. You can't run a modern site without full referrals available 24/7/365 in real time.

8.9.12. L. Spiderings

Watch for spiders from search engines—one reason you need a good logger and tracker! Make sure that spiders crawling the full site can do so easily. If not, double-check your linking system to make sure that the spider can find its way throughout the site. Don't fret if it takes two spiderings to get your whole site done by Google or F*. Other search engines are potluck; if you haven't been added within six months, it's doubtful that you will be added at all.

8.9.13. M. Topic Directories

Almost every keyword sector has an authority hub on its topic. Find it (Google Directory can be very helpful here because you can view sites based on how popular they are) and submit within the guidelines.

8.9.14. N. Links

Look around your keyword section in the Google Directory; this is best done after getting an Open Directory Project listing—or two. Find sites that have link pages or freely exchange links. Simply request a swap. Put a page of on-topic, in-context links on your site as a collection spot. Don't worry if you can't get people to swap links; move on. Try to swap links with one fresh site a day. A simple personal email is enough. Stay low-key about it and don't worry if site Z won't link to you. Eventually it will.

8.9.15. O. Content

Add one page of quality content per day. Timely, topical articles are always the best. Try to stay away from too much weblogging personal materials and look more for article topics that a general audience will like. Hone your writing skills and read up on the right style of web speak that tends to work with the fast and furious web crowd: lots of text breaks—short sentences—lots of dashes—something that reads quickly.

Most web users don't actually read; they scan. This is why it is so important to keep key pages to a minimum. If people see a huge overblown page, a portion of them will hit the Back button before trying to decipher it. They've got better things to do than waste 15 seconds (a stretch) at understanding your whizbang menu system. Because some big support site can run Flash-heavy pages is no indication that you can. You don't have the pull factor that they do.

Use headers and bold standout text liberally on your pages as logical separators. I call them scanner stoppers where the eye will logically come to rest on the page.

8.9.16. P. Gimmicks

Stay far away from any fads of the day or anything that appears spammy, unethical, or tricky. Plant yourself firmly on the high ground in the middle of the road.

8.9.17. Q. Linkbacks

When you receive requests for links, check sites out before linking back to them. Check them through Google for their PageRank value. Look for directory listings. Don't link back to junk just because they asked. Make sure it is a site similar to yours and on-topic. Linking to bad neighborhoods, as Google calls them, can actually cost you PageRank points.

8.9.18. R. Rounding Out Your Offerings

Use options such as "email a friend," forums, and mailing lists to round out your site's offerings. Hit the top forums in your market and read, read, read until your eyes hurt. Stay away from affiliate fades that insert content onto your site such as banners and pop-up windows.

8.9.19. S. Beware of Flyer and Brochure Syndrome

If you have an economical site or online version of bricks and mortar, be careful not to turn your site into a brochure. These don't work at all. Think about what people want. They aren't coming to your site to view your content, they are coming to your site looking for their content. Talk as little about your products and yourself as possible in articles (sounds counterintuitive, doesn't it?).

8.9.20. T. Keep Building One Page of Content Per Day

Head back to the Overture suggestion tool ( to get ideas for fresh pages.

8.9.21. U. Study Those Logs

After a month or two, you will start to see a few referrals from places you've gotten listed. Look for the keywords people are using. See any bizarre combinations? Why are people using those to find your site? If there is something you have overlooked, then build a page around that topic. Engineer your site to feed the search engine what it wants. If your site is about oranges, but your referrals are all about orange citrus fruit, then get busy building articles around citrus and fruit instead of the generic oranges. The search engines will tell you exactly what they want to be fed. Listen closely! There is gold in referral logs; it's just a matter of panning for it.

8.9.22. V. Timely Topics

Nothing breeds success like success. Stay abreast of developments in your topic of interest. If big site Z is coming out with product A at the end of the year, build a page and have it ready in October so that search engines get it by December.

8.9.23. W. Friends and Family

Networking is critical to the success of a site. This is where all that time you spend in forums will pay off. Here's the catch-22 about forums: lurking is almost useless. The value of a forum is in the interaction with your fellow colleagues and cohorts. You learn from the interaction, not by just reading. Networking will pay off in linkbacks, tips, and email exchanges, and will generally put you in the loop of your keyword sector.

8.9.24. X. Notes, Notes, Notes

If you build one page per day, you will find that brainstorm-like inspiration will hit you in the head at some magic point. Whether it is in the shower (dry off first), driving down the road (please pull over), or just parked at your desk, write it down! Ten minutes of work later, you will have forgotten all about that great idea you just had. Write it down and get detailed about what you are thinking. When the inspirational juices are no longer flowing, come back to those content ideas. It sounds simple, but it's a lifesaver when the ideas stop coming.

8.9.25. Y. Submission Check at Six Months

After six months, walk back through your submissions and see if you have been listed in all the search engines that you submitted to. If not, resubmit and forget again. Try those freebie directories again, too.

8.9.26. Z. Keep Building Those Pages of Quality Content!

Starting to see a theme here? Google loves content, lots of quality content. The content that you generate should be based around a variety of keywords. At the end of a year's time, you should have around 400 pages of content. That will get you good placement under a wide range of keywords, generate reciprocal links, and overall position your site to stand on its own two feet.

Do these 26 things, and I guarantee you that in one year's time you will call your site a success. It will be drawing between 500 and 2,000 referrals a day from search engines. If you build a good site and achieve an average of four to five pageviews per visitors, you should be in the 10K-15K page views per day range in one year's time. What you do with that traffic is up to you!

Brett Tabke

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