“The audience is the best judge of anything.” – Barbra Streisand

Okay, so you have a website. You’ve spent time and money getting this thing up. You’ve used all your creative juices to get the words just right. And you added some nice graphics to make the site aesthetically pleasing. Now what?

A website is of little use if nobody can find it.

Mastering organic search ranking has proven to be a fundamental part of the online marketing mix. (By “organic,” I mean the “natural,” as opposed to “paid/PPC,” listing that appears when someone conducts a search on Google or other search engines. Optimal placement is typically within the first 20 listings or three pages.)

Search engine marketing (SEM) and search engine optimization (SEO) – the ability to increase your site’s visibility in organic search listings and refine the content structure on the site itself – are critical for market awareness and customer acquisition. According to WebProNews, 66.3 percent of searchers click on organic listings before they click on a sponsored link. Even more important, a recent study by CreativeWebsiteMarketing.com indicates that most people who buy online start with a search engine.

Don’t let your site get lost in Internet obscurity. Here are five simple ways to help boost your website’s traffic and optimization.

1. Create online buzz about your site, product, or service.

You can do this by generating online press releases. There are services on the Web, such as PRWeb.com or Free-press-release.com, that do this for free or at a nominal cost. Another idea is to post comments to high-traffic blogs, bulletin boards, chat rooms, or forums.

Do a Web search for top blogs or news forums that are related to whatever it is that you’re selling. Go to each site, one by one, and post a comment. (Start a new topic or reply to an existing one.) This helps in two ways: One, you create buzz in the marketplace. Depending on your tactics, your message can even go viral. Two, you get a “back-link” to your site that helps when the site is indexed by search engine spiders.

An important note: Your post should be relevant and genuine. Your comment should be relevant to the question you’re replying to, have some sort of value to the readers that view it, and be in the proper area/subject matter on the forum you’re posting to. Stay away from posts that are blatantly self-serving. These posts are viewed as spam by forum webmasters and could get you banned from the forum, or at least be deleted.

For example, MaryEllen Tribby (ETR’s Publisher) had the good fortune to interview Newt Gingrich in March. Immediately after the interview, we posted a press release to several online press distribution services. We also uploaded comments about the interview to news-aggregating services, blogs, and political forums (with a back-link to the release posted in our Investors Daily Edge archive).

Within the weeks following the initial interview, website visits and traffic ranking more than doubled and conversion also showed a spike. Three months later, this release is still being picked up by the media and through syndication… and the Investors Daily Edge website is enjoying residual traffic and back-links from this effort.

Year-to-date, these techniques and the others I’m about to go into have helped increase traffic nearly 80 percent with a monetization of more than 150 percent ROI.

Which leads me to my next strategy…

2. Initiate a relevant inbound link program.

Set up a reciprocal link page or blog roll (a listing of URLs on a blog, as opposed to a website) that can house links from industry sites. Contact these sites to see if they’d be willing to swap links with you – a link to your site for a link to theirs. Again, relevance is key. Search engines shun link harvesting (collecting links from random websites that have no relevance to your site), so these links should be from sites that are similar in nature to your business.

3. Give Web searchers great content and a link back to your site.

Upload relevant content to sites that make such information available to other sites that want to publish it, such as ArticleDashboard.com or ArticlesFactory.com. This is a great way to increase market awareness as well as establish an inbound link to your site. There is also a syndication opportunity, as third-party sites may come across your article when doing a Web search and republish your content on their own websites. As long as third-parties give your site editorial attribution and a link, getting them to republish your content is just another distribution channel for you to consider.

4. Website pages should be keyword rich and related to your business.

Make a list of your top 20 keywords and variations of those words, and incorporate them into the copy on your site (avoiding the obvious repetition of words). Search engine “spiders” crawl Web pages from top to bottom, so your strongest keywords should be in that order on your home page and sub-pages (the most relevant on the top, the least relevant on the bottom).

You’ll want to do the same for your tagging. Make sure your title tags (the descriptions at the top of each page) and meta tags are unique and chock full of keywords. And your alt tags (images) should have relevant descriptions as well.

5. List your site in online directories by related category or region. 

This is an effective way to increase exposure and get found by prospects searching specifically for information on your product or service by keyword topic. Popular directories (like Business.com) typically have a nominal fee. But there are many other directories (like Dmoz.org, Info.com, and Superpages.com) that are free.

Most important, before you start your SEO initiatives, don’t forget to establish a baseline for your site so you can measure pre- vs. post-SEO tactics. Upload a site counter (which counts the number of visits to your website), obtain your site’s Alexa traffic ranking at Alexa.com, or get your site’s daily visit average (from Google Analytics or another application) – and then chart your weekly progress in Excel. Understand that it typically takes two to three months for a site to be optimized… so be patient. You will eventually see results.

[Ed. Note: Wendy Montes de Oca, MBA, ETR’s VP of Marketing and Business Development, has over 15 years of experience in law, financial services, and marketing. Enjoy the success you’ve always wanted with ETR’s Direct Marketing Quick Start Kit. This 4-CD program is the most effective, quickest, and least-expensive way to move you toward financial independence.]

WendyWendy Montes de Oca, MBA is President of Precision Marketing and Media, LLC and publisher of the popular marketing and business building newsletter, Precision Marketing. She is an online marketing and direct response expert with nearly 20 years of experience leading the marketing efforts for top publishers such as Agora/Early to Rise, Weiss Research, and NewsMax as well as Fortune 500 companies such as General Electric, Chase Manhattan Bank, CitiGroup, and Automatic Data Processing.

Her consulting clients (past and present) is like a "Who's Who" including top copywriters, anti-aging nutritionists, online publishers, supplement companies, travel service providers, political websites and more!

Her background includes multi-channel marketing (print, email, direct mail, radio, TV) with expertise in direct response marketing for the Web. Her marketing initiatives helped bring in millions of dollars in revenues for the companies she has worked for.

Wendy received a Bachelor of Science degree from St. John's University and a Master of Business Administration degree from Nova South Eastern University. Throughout her career, she has been recognized with various awards for quality, innovation, teamwork, and new product/new business development.

She is also a distinguished speaker at marketing conferences such as Specialized Information Publishers Association (SIPA) and author of several marketing and business articles for Early to Rise, Makepeace Total Package, and Target Marketing, just to name a few. Her blog, www.musclemarketing.blogspot.com  was named by marketing industry staple, Best of Web, as "top internet marketing blog." For more information visit www.precisionmarketingmedia.com.