Some websites really have a tough time getting ranked well on Google / Yahoo / MSN, most of the time its because they are not specific in choosing what keywords they want to be number one for, and then optimizing their site and pages accordingly. Well thats the way I see it anyway.
From my experience, I feel each page on a site can and should be optimized for a specific and different target key-phrase, in order to cover a wide range of related key words and phrases. A big mistake that people tend to make is that they concentrate on only optimizing their home page, and also try to cover ever conceivable keyword combination. Unfortunately the website usually then has a problem ranking well for any of the keywords, and doesn’t get much search engine traffic.
If you do a search on Google for a single word and you will see the amount of pages that are listed in the results run into the millions sometimes, because it is usually too broad a search term. Most people tend to use two or three word searches at least, so that they get good, specific results that are useful to them. You should think about this when optimizing your website, what phrase would you like your site to be listed number one for? Get into the head of your customers, what would they search for?
The best thing to do is to decide on the main and ultimate key-phrase that you want to target, then find all the sub-key-phrases that are related to that key-phrase. Now, build your pages with the home page targeting your main key-phrase, and the sub pages targeting the sub-key-phrases, making the content for each page as relevant as possible. Each page should be individually optimized to target a specific key phrase.
The content and information of your pages needs to be good to rank well on Google, especially so if you are targeting highly competitive key-phrases. If you want to out rank your competitors, your pages need to be more relevant than theirs for the same key phrase. Search for your target key phrase on Google, look at the sites of the first 10 results. How do they differ content wise from your site? Is there information on them that should also be on yours?
I am a firm believer that the biggest thing to be concerned about when getting ranked well on Google, Yahoo, or MSN, is RELEVANCE. How relevant is the key-phrase you are targeting to the content on your page? All the big search engines want to deliver the best possible results for each search term, so surely he more relevant your content is, the higher your site will rank, and if your site is the most relevant, you will be number one. I believe it is just that simple.
Things like link popularity and page rank, etc, do help a lot, but can never really beat relevance completely. Take a very extreme example, try and do a search for something stupid like ‘flying pigs’, and look at the results. What you will see is that your site is NOT number one, why, because it is probably not relevant to the search term. Now ask yourself, why are the home pages of Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Myspace or the Stumbleupon for example not number one in the same results page? If you think about it, those sites have thousands of inbound links, AND have high page ranks, yet they did not display in position one of the results?! How can this be? You know exactly why, you have always known, its because they are not relevant to the search term, and all the major search engines surely must focus on bringing the best and most relevant pages into the results for your search term, period.
As a website owner, you need to target a specific key phrase for each of your pages, and make that page the most relevant page for that key phrase. Now it has to be said that relevance to a search term is in itself relative, I mean if your site consists of a single paragraph containing your target key phrase, then it might be extremely relevant to the content. This approach though doesn’t sit too well with the big search engines, who are not ‘stupid’, and will prefer a site with more relevant information to rank higher, so don’t even try and trick or fool them into giving you a better ranking. Your site needs to have a bit of substance to go with the relevance in order to perform well in the long run. If you are going to do something, why not try and be the best at it? Try to have the best and most relative information, and you will find getting to page one of Google, Yahoo and MSN a breeze.