One of the hottest topics on the Internet is that of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). There is no question that optimizing your site to the extent possible is an important function. The operative phrase here, however, is “to the extent possible”. You can burn a whole lot of time and energy trying to follow every last “tip” you get for SEO (nevermind the fact that some of these tips turn out to be contradictory). In this article we will explain some of the fundamentals of SEO.
The actual programs that go out and look at all the sites built by Google, Yahoo! and Bing on the web to collect, classify, and rank them for the search engines are called “spiders”. They are also know as “bot”, “crawlers”, and a number of other names. Basically speaking, the spiders look through your site to see what you have.
First and foremost, it’s all about content. We are talking about text content here; relevant content. Search engines love content rich sites. Flash intro screens may be all the rage, but they tend to be a problem for search engines and also are being discontinued. They can’t pick up any discernible content from Flash intro screens. Same thing applies to sites that have more graphics than content. Pleasing to look at, but they don’t do anything to help your page ranking. As it relates to SEO, you can actually wind up shooting yourself in the foot by making your site too flashy.
So when you design your site, make sure it includes lots of text-based information. You also want to make sure that the keywords you believe people will search for are used within that text. If at all possible, you also want to have more than just a few pages. A minimum of 20 pages would be our recommendation. Spiders just love to crawl around interconnected pages.
A number of years ago, many webmasters used a little trick of embedding and repeating “hidden” keywords on their pages. This is done by having text the same color as the background. For instance, if someone ran a dog grooming site, they would place “dogs” and “grooming” on the page in all the available areas not used by visible text. Don’t use this technique. The spiders see it for what it is and will actually penalize a site for “keyword spamming” as a result.
Spiders also love “fresh” or new content. Sites that don’t change much tend to lose page ranking. No one is interested in seeing the same information over and over again. So try to add new content as often as possible. Two great techniques for this are discussion forums and blogs. If you can get other people to participate in your forums and blogs, they in effect, provide content for you.
Most spiders don’t really pay that much attention to meta tags, but even so, you want to use them. Your Title tag should be short and concise; no more than 60 characters or so. Same thing for the description tag: short, concise, and containing some of your keywords. Maximum length shouldn’t be more than around 160 characters.
We all put our keywords in the keyword meta tag, even though we know that most modern spiders don’t care. But there are things you can do that will hurt more than help. Spiders really don’t like seeing the same keyword over and over. No word should be used as a keyword more than three times. Using the dog grooming analogy again, having your keyword list contain dog, dogs, dog grooming, grooming dogs, dog salon, and so forth is NOT a good idea. This is more keyword spamming. If you can’t think of a more varied list of words or phrases, then just keep it to a few relevant words. You also want to keep the total character count for keywords to no more than 120 or so.
The number of “referral” links you have (links to your site from other sites) is one of the factors considered when determining page ranking. Of course, link quality matters. Having people come to your site from cnn.com or msn.com carries alot more weight than having them come from one-eyed-llamas.com.
Try to get as many other sites to link to you as possible (many sites offer a reciprocal link feature). You have to work at this. It may cost you a little money, but putting ads on sites such as classifiedads.com or others like that certainly won’t hurt. For a small fee, classifiedads.com will “blast” your add to thousands of other ad sites. This serves two purposes. First, if your site is for business, it may get you sales or leads. Second, your site link will be distributed to other potential “referrer sites”. Even if you have to pay to get your ads or banners on larger sites, it may be worth it.
A site map is nothing more than a page that provides a “road map” to all the other pages on your site. The spiders seem to like this (there is some debate) because if provides an easy means for them to access all the other pages you have. This can be particularly effective if you have a content-rich site.
At TurkReno, we live, eat, breath, sleep and work SEO, SEM and SEV. We’d love to help you and your business be found online, no matter how complex or simple the project is. Give us a call today, (251) 279-0278, or contact us.