Congratulations! Your Website is at the top of the search engine results and your traffic’s breaking records. Sales are up and your boss is grinning like a Cheshire cat. No doubt, as the person in charge of marketing your site, you’ve either spent hours researching on great sites such as Search Engine Guide or SitePoint and have achieved the results yourself or, more than likely, you’ve employed the services of a search engine marketing company.
Either way, you now proudly sit at the top of the search engine results for your chosen keywords!
So now that you’re number one, you can sit back, relax and enjoy months of great positioning, right? Wrong! The effort it took to get your Website to the top position is nothing compared to the effort needed to keep it there.
Back when your site wallowed in search engine obscurity, none of your competitors worried about who you were, or what you did. But your rapid rise to the top of the search engine results has stirred the vipers’ nest — and now, your competitors are rattled! You can bet your life they’ll come after you with a vengeance.
Your competitors are likely to be hurting, both emotionally and financially. They’re going to want their #1 position back — and quickly! More than likely, they’ll curse themselves for becoming complacent, and seek professional assistance to find out why they dropped down the rankings, and how the situation can be fixed. Whatever the case, they’ll be working hard to ensure that the coveted #1 spot they once held is again in their possession.
A Checklist for Continued Success
Maintaining the top position once your competitors know who you are is a very time consuming and difficult job: sneaking ahead of the pack is easy when compared with ensuring that your site stays at the top of the search results. Maintaining that great level of exposure is going to take a lot of diligence and constant monitoring on you part.
In fact, there are things that you will need to do on a daily, weekly and monthly basis to ensure that your site stays put. These three checklists should keep you busy — but I think you’ll agree it’s worth the effort if it means you can hang onto top ranking.
Check your uptime
Make sure your Website is up and running 24/7. Nothing would be worse than your site displaying a "404 error" just as Google decides to drop in for a little spidering. If your site down, even for only a few hours, you may lose your hold on the top position. If you don’t have time to monitor it yourself, InternetSeer offers a free site monitoring service that alerts you if your site goes down.
Make daily changes strategically consistent
Is your company using any of the Paid Inclusion services? If so, your website could be re-indexed as quickly as every 48 hours. With this in mind, any changes that you make to your site today, could affect your rankings tomorrow. Make sure that your website is consistent. I know of one company offering Japanese Hotels who removed the word "hotels" from all of their links and dropped from #5 positioning to #92!
Capitalize on trends
Review your site logs or statistics counter. If you don’t already have a site statistics package on your Web server, then head on over to WebTrends and get their statistics package. It’s imperative that you know who visits you, how long they stay, and which search engine brings them there. By checking this daily or every second day, you can note any trends as they begin to form, and be in a better position to capitalize on them.
Keep an eye on PPC bids
If you use Pay-Per-Click (PPC) search engines, make sure you keep tabs on your bids. In the blink of an eye, you could be paying too much (or too little) for your clickthroughs. In addition, learn to spot those fake clickthroughs. With your statistics package in place, you’ll easily be able to tell if you receive repeated clicks from the same IP address.
Check your rankings
It’s important to check your search engine rankings at least weekly. Some of you may wish to check on a more frequent basis, while others can stretch it to every couple of weeks. Whatever the case, the important thing is to check them! The most popular and reliable ranking report software is available with WebPosition Gold. Using this software, you can track your own site’s position, and keep an eye on competitors. One word of advice: Google has publicly stated that they will penalize anyone that repeatedly uses automated reporting software to check their rankings on the engine. To avoid problems, you can either check your Google rankings only when an update occurs (usually in the first week of the month) or check them manually as often as you want.
Read your subscriptions
Subscribe to the many weekly search engine newsletters that are out there. SitePoint Tribune and SearchDay are both great weekly resources with updates and news on search engine developments. Make sure you take time out to read them.
Keep up to date with SE news sites
Read the many articles and news available on respected search engine sites such as Search Engine Watch, Search Engine Guide and Promotion Base.
Visit your competitors
Visit the Websites of your biggest competitors and check for any dramatic changes they may have made to their content. View their source code from your browser and keep an eye on their Meta tags. A change in the content of their Meta tags is usually the first sign that your competitor is trying to out-position you.
Keep content fresh
Keep your website content up-to-date and fresh. Check all your links and make sure the sites they point to are still there. Are your prices current? Did you remove that product you no longer sell? Keeping your content current will ensure that your site is optimally positioned for the most relevant search terms.
Make sure that the new page you added last week has the correct Meta tags and that text includes targeted keywords. Many people are diligent when they first optimize their sites, but when it comes to adding new pages, they forget that these too need to be optimized.
Use the Google Toolbar
Download the Google Toolbar. This great tool sits alongside your Web browser and has some very useful features. For example, it will show you the PageRank of each site you visit. This is a rank out of ten that indicates how relevant Google thinks the page is. The higher the number, the better ranked the Website is likely to be in Google search results. Using this tool, you can quickly see which of your competitors are doing better than you, and react accordingly.
Check backward links
Check on the links that point to your site. As you know, the quality and quantity of links that point to your Website can affect your search engine position. Using the Google Toolbar, you can view all "backward links" for the Websites you visit. Use this to find all the sites that point to your own Website and make sure they list your site correctly with your targeted keywords in the link text. You can also check on your biggest competitors and see which sites link to them — contact each of these linking sites and see if you can encourage them to link to your site as well.
Keep up the good work
If your site has managed to creep up to top position on the search engines, you can bet you’ve dethroned at least one of your competitors to get there. Do you think they’ll simply sit back and be happy with their lower position and reduced traffic? Of course not.
The reason you wanted to climb up out of search engine obscurity is what will motivate your competition as their site drops down the rankings. This makes maintaining your search engine position a time consuming but equally rewarding process. Out-witting your competition is a big challenge for any business — but one that’s certainly worth the effort.
The suggestions above are by no means exhaustive, but by following them you’ll help ensure that you get to keep the great search engine rankings you worked so hard to achieve. Good luck!
Andy Beal is Vice President of Marketing for Keyword Ranking, specialists in search engine marketing. Highly respected as a source of search engine optimization advice, Andy has had articles published around the world.