The Secret to Great Search Engine Rank


Recently I was doing some work with Robert Gerzon, author of Finding Serenity in the Age of Anxiety, and one of my first clients.

He had contacted me about search engine optimization (SEO) and what he could do to be found for such searches as “life coach,” “therapy,” “therapist,” “holistic counseling,” and “anxiety.”

I felt that it would be somewhere between difficult and impossible to be found for those terms, as they tend to be a bit broad. However, on a whim I decided to Google “holistic counseling,” and was amazed to see Robert ranking number four for this keyphrase.

Examining the link, I realized it wasn't pointing to Robert's home page, but rather to his page on Holistic Coaching. Now, admittedly, this was the most specific term of the group he sent me, but he was still number four out of over four million possible results.

When I tell clients that content drives search engine success, this page is a perfect example of what I'm talking about.

  • Start with a Keyword Rich Title. Although the title tag, <title>, could (and will) be improved to something like “Holistic Counseling and Holistic Coaching” it does include “holistic coaching,” a term that's in the same family as the search phrase.
  • Follow Up with a Keyword Rich Header. The header, in an <h2> tag, is consistent with the title tag and uses the exact term “holistic counseling.”
  • Finish with Good, Supportive Body Copy. There's great keyword density as the phrase “holistic counseling” appears five more times within the body copy, often close together. At the same time, it's not being overused, so the search engines (rightly) don't feel like Robert's guilty of keyword cramming. (Overusing a keyword or phrase is often considered “spamming the search engines” and can actually hurt your rank.)
  • Create Keyword-Rich Intra-Site Links. Several other pages at Robert's site link to this page with the words “Holistic Counseling” as the link. The words in a link, often called “anchor text,” give the search engine a clue as to the topic of a given page. That's why it's always better to use your best keywords in your links, rather than “click here” or “learn more.”
  • Optimize Web Pages, Not Web Sites. You probably have several products or services you offer; trying to optimize your home page (or any other page) for everything you offer will dilute your message and your rank. Keep the focus of each page as narrow as possible.

Caveat: We launched Robert's Web site in 1999. Many search engines give added weight to older, more established sites. How much weight is anyone's guess, but if Robert had launched his site last year it might not be doing as well.

Update: I first wrote about Robert's success a couple of weeks ago in my blog. At that time he had no incoming links to that page except from his own site. In my post I linked the term “holistic counseling” to his site. I'm happy to state that he's currently the number one result for that search at Google.

Interestingly, he's only #19 out of 2.3 million for the term at Yahoo. For the search “holistic coaching” (his page title), he ranks first. At MSN Search he's #15 and #2, respectively.

This shows that the algorithms for each search engine are different. I'd guess if we changed his title to “Holistic Counseling and Holistic Coaching” he'd rank better for both.

Understanding how search engines work and preparing your content in light of that understanding is important to good ranking. However, it all begins with quality, focused content that your target audience is interested in.

The search engines are not your customers: they don't buy your products, they just deliver prospects to your door.

In short, write for people and tweak for search engines.

Need help optimizing your Web pages for your keyphrases? Then contact flyte today.

–Rich Brooks
President, flyte new media

Filed under: SEO