Not getting the flow of potential new customers that you'd like at your Web site? Here are four ways to increase traffic and your site's ranking at the search sites...

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Not getting the flow of potential new customers that you’d like at your Web site? Here are four ways to increase traffic and your site’s ranking at the search sites.

1. Check the coding

Search sites are constantly crawling the Internet and indexing Web sites. Once a site is indexed, it is ranked based on complex algorithms.

Each algorithm is different. But generally, they incorporate such factors as encoded keywords, written content on your site and links from other sites.

Work with your Web designer to ensure that keywords, such as the title, meta tag and meta description, are carefully worded. The more specific, the better. Or if you built your own Web site, include this information between the <HEAD> tags.

For information, read each search engine’s help page. Start with the top three. According to Nielsen//NetRatings, those are Google, Yahoo! and MSN.

2. Link with others

The more sites that link to yours, the higher your page will be ranked by search sites. There are many link exchanges that will get hundreds of Web sites to link to your site. But don’t register with them because this method can backfire.

Search engines look at not only the number of links to your site, but the quality as well. If you are linked by sites with questionable or zero content, your page ranking can actually go down.

Handpick the Web sites that you would like to link to yours. Look for sites that are complementary, not competitive. Link to a site before you request a reciprocal link. Then e-mail the webmaster with a short note explaining why his site should link to yours.

3. Advertise your site

A quick way to get noticed is to purchase advertising on a search engine’s site. These short ads can be seen immediately above and to the right of search results. You pay only when someone clicks on your ad. And the cost-per-click rate can range from less than 5 cents to more than $100. However, you set the per-click rate. You can also set daily spending limits so you don’t break your budget.

Google AdWords ( feeds ads to the Google search engine as well as the Google Network. The Google Network includes AOL, Ask Jeeves, Netscape and others.

Google AdWords uses a traffic estimator that will suggest a cost-per-click rate, estimate the number of daily clicks and the average position you’ll likely receive. There’s a $5 activation fee and no monthly minimum budget.

Overture ( provides advertising to AltaVista, MSN, Yahoo! and other sites. You must spend at least $20 monthly, and the minimum cost-per-click rate is 10 cents. For a one-time fee of $199, the Fast Track program entitles you to extra assistance in maintaining and optimizing your ads.

4. Hire a consultant

Search-engine optimization consultants will evaluate your Web site’s design, content and ease of use and make necessary changes. Expect to pay several hundred dollars for an initial analysis. After that, you’ll be charged an hourly rate or a flat fee for monthly or quarterly monitoring.

Look for consultants with affiliations such as the Better Business Bureau and Take a look at consultants’ client lists. Ask for a code of ethics. And be wary of anyone who guarantees a specific ranking. They cannot control rankings.