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Search Engine Strategies for Mini-Sites

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Search Engine Strategies for Mini-Sites
by Dan Thies

One of the most popular marketing concepts today is the
"mini-site." A mini-site is essentially a one-page sales letter,
linked to an order form, specifically designed to sell a single
product or service. While mini-sites are very effective sales
tools, it can be a major challenge to attract search engine
referrals to a mini-site.

Conventional wisdom says that you have to buy your traffic
through e-zine advertising, pay-per-click, and affiliate program
commissions... but that's not the whole story. A high percentage
of the sales of my new book have been from direct search engine
referrals.

In fact, you can optimize a mini-site for search engines,
although it may require some real HTML coding skills to get the
job done.

In general, mini-sites lack the three things that search engines
value the most: keywords, content, and linkage.

The Keyword Challenge
Because a mini-site is a sales letter, the choice of wording in
headlines, and throughout the site, is dictated by the site's
primary purpose - it's supposed to close the sale. Somehow, a
balance has to be struck between effective selling copy and
keyword placement. In a moment, I'll explain how this can be
done.

The Content Gap
Most top-ranking sites carry significant content, optimized for
a group of thematically related keywords. The structure of the
site itself contributes to the overall search engine rankings
and traffic, by reinforcing the theme. A mini-site is only one
page, with a sales message. Don't worry, there are several ways
to bridge this gap.

The Missing Links
Unfortunately, a "links" section sort of defeats the purpose of
a mini-site, which is designed to keep the visitor in one place
until they've made their decision. So, link swaps are out of the
question. Even affiliate programs usually don't help with link
popularity because of the way affiliate links work. This, too,
can be overcome.

WARNING: This is a bit more complex than the usual e-zine
fare... you may have to read it twice to fully understand it.

Step One: Optimizing For Keywords
The first obstacle is the opening headline - you need it to be
effective and attention-getting. The solution? If you can't
change your headline, use an image instead of a regular H1 tag!
With GIF or PNG compression, you should be able to bring even
the biggest headline in at less than 1K - you can also use your
keywords in the image's ALT property.

If you use an image for the headline, you'll want to use
Javascript to make sure your headline image preloads before the
rest of the page - if you don't, you'll lose sales... and don't
try this at all if your hosting provider isn't up to snuff - the
headline should load within 1 second on a typical 56K dialup
connection.

Beyond the opening headline, it's easier to work keywords into
your sub-headlines and copy. If necessary, use a style sheet
(CSS) to reduce the font size of your heading tags - your
subheadlines should be H1 and/or H2, and be as keyword-focused
as possible. Pick at most 5-7 keywords and work them into your
copy - ideally each keyword will appear 3-5 times, somewhere on
the page. Work as many in as you can, as early as you can.

Finally, pick the most important keywords, and use them for your
page title if you can - it may look a little goofy, but if your
headline does its job nobody's reading the title bar anyway.
Without keywords in your page title, your search engine rankings
will suffer.

Step Two: Solving The Content Conundrum
Content doesn't necessarily improve your ranking for a single
search term, but it does broaden the scope of your search engine
positioning. Creating a single page of content for each of the
5-7 keywords you selected will definitely reinforce your site's
theme... but how can you put all that content onto a 1-page
site?

For starters, you can think about using informational pop-ups.
When a visitor clicks on one of your keywords, your content page
can open up in a new window. The HTML tag for this is: A
HREF="contentpage.html" target="_blank" - don't use a Javascript
pop-up, because search engines can't index that. Use Javascript
in the content page itself to resize the window as soon as it
begins loading - that way, your visitor sees a little pop-up
window and the search engine sees the content.

Of course, you might not even want that much linking and
clicking. In this case, you can use your stylesheet to give
hyperlinks the same color as the rest of your text, effectively
hiding them. To hide them further, you can put the hyperlink
tags around the period at the end of a sentence, or the space
between two words.

Now, here's another way to kill two birds with one stone... my
two-site two-step!

Step Three: Link Popularity
The traditional link swap is two websites pointing to each
other... but there's no law that says you have to do it that
way. The ideal way to create link popularity for your mini-site
is to create a "partner" site, under another domain name, that
carries content related to your keywords. You link to your
mini-site from every page, and you now have a way to swap links.

Here's how it works: you ask the other website owner to link to
your mini-site, in return for which you provide a link back via
your "partner" site. Usually, they'd rather have a link from
your partner site anyway, since it has more content on it.

I go even further when I can with a "content swap," where each
site owner provides an article for the other site. Your article
carries links to both your mini-site and your "partner" site.
You then set up a link on your "partner" site pointing to this
article. Because the article will have links to it from both
sites, it's almost certain to be found and indexed by the search
engines.

Nobody Said This Was Easy!
When it comes to search engine positioning, a mini-site presents
a lot of challenges. Everyone wants their home page to rank 1st
for all kinds of keywords, but in the new era of theme-based
search engines, that's easier said than done... especially if
your "website" consists of a single page. I hope this article
inspires you to make your own mini-site an exception to the
rule.

I wish you success...

About the Author

Dan Thies has been helping his clients (and friends) promote
their websites since 1996.
His latest book, "Search Engine Fast Start," is available at
http://www.cannedbooks.com

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