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Who''s sending them?

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By Charlie Morris (Send Email)
Posted Aug 2, 1999


This is one of the most valuable sections of all. The first step in increasing your traffic is knowing where your existing tra ffic comes from. The two biggest sources of traffic for most sites are first, the search engines and directories, and second, links to your site from other related sites.

Those sites fortunate enough to be listed in Yahoo will usually find that it is the top s ource of hits. If you ain''t listed, get on the ball. Yahoo is selective about what sites they list, and carefully and patiently pre senting your case to them is much more likely to yield results than a massive Spam assault. There are some very good tips on getting listed at SelfPromotion.com , and also in the little-known section of Yahoo called "How to Suggest Your Site"< /A>. If you are listed in Yahoo, but are getting only a small percentage of your traffic from it, then you may want to try to modify your listing, perhaps moving it to a better category, or making the site description more enticing.

After Yahoo, you should see the top search engines listed (Excite, Altavista, Lycos, Infoseek). There are a couple of places on the Web where you can find the latest stats on the relative amount of traffic each of these has (see Search Engine Sizes). The order in which they appear on your traffic report should roughly correspond to this. If not, then a p roblem with one or more of the search engines may be indicated. For example, if the word on the street is that Altavista is currentl y the most popular engine, but it''s sending you less traffic than Lycos and Excite, then your rankings on Altavista show room for i mprovement.

Getting listed on the various search engines is only half the battle. You also want to try to make your site come up as high as possible on the list of results for your favorite search terms. Everyone knows to use plenty of keywords in your page titles, META tags and body text (and even filenames and ALT attributes), but every engine uses slightly different criteria for ranking sites.

The art of maximizing rankings in the various engines is an arcane one. Some folks go so far as to build ind ividual "gateway" pages, each one optimized for a particular engine. Others are parted from their money by sharpies who claim to hav e "secret formulas" for getting top billing. At the WDJ, we type the URL of the desir ed engine on rice paper, using a manual typewriter. Then we burn the paper, while our staff all link hands and dance in a ring aroun d it, chanting and drinking a lot of wine. Snake oil and false prophets abound, so think twice before committing money or time to an y scheme for improving your rankings. You''ll find some common sense ideas for bettering your rankings at Search Engine Watch.

The advanced log analysis tools can tell you not only which search engines are sendi ng you traffic, but also what keywords people are searching on to find you. This section can offer rich pickings. Are all these keyw ords included in your META tags? Are there certain keywords that you think should be yielding lots of hits, but aren''t? What might you do about it? Also, by comparing the same keyword across different search engines, you can get some ideas about the differences i n their ranking algorithms.

After the search engines, you''ll find listings for the various sites that have links to yours (You have been politely asking for links from related sites, haven''t you?). The sites near the top of your list are your buddies, so tre at them well. Make sure they always have the latest info about your site, and do them favors if you can.

As I''ve emphasized thr oughout this article, a high or a low ranking here can be interpreted in either a positive or a negative way. Not only should you tr y to reward those sites that send you lots of hits, you should turn your attention to sites that seem as if they should be sending y ou more than they do.

For example, let''s say you sell a software package, which is reviewed in two online magazines. One of the m sends you lots of traffic, the other a mere trickle. Why? Could you bribe the Webmaster of the second magazine to give you a more prominent link? Could you offer to break his or her leg if they don''t give you a more positive review? Could it be that their magaz ine just doesn''t get much traffic anyway, so you needn''t waste your time with them?

By following links to pages that have link s to you, you can often turn up scads of other promising places to solicit links. If a "links page" has a link to me, they may also have links to other links pages that should also link to me, and those links pages probably have links to other links pages... and o n and on until the sun comes up.

This leads to one of the most important points of this article. There are a trillion things you could do to improve your traffic, but you can''t possibly do them all. Careful analysis of your log files over time can tell you wh at yields results and what doesn''t. Use your imagination, but above all, use your judgment. Spend the bulk of your time on areas th at yield the bulk of your hits.

So, happy hit-hunting, Webmasters! If you''ve found another way to glean wisdom from your log fi les, drop me a line and let me know. Better yet, visit my Web site, and rack up a few page impressions while you search for my email address!

Further Reading

Where are they coming from?
Get the Most From Your Log Files

, an internet.com Web site.

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