Building an attractive even beautiful is the goal of most website designers. In the process, sometimes the effectiveness of the website is diminished. We need to keep in mind that our goal is not only to have a beautiful website that will make people want to stay and look around and enjoy, but also a website that will be helpful to the engines in determining what our website is about or what it is relevant to.
Udi Manber, Google vice president overseeing search quality, in response to a question about webpage content evolving to be more search engine friendly explained, “It’s definitely still lacking. I wish people would put more effort into thinking about how other people will find them and putting the right keywords onto their pages.” Popular Mechanics – April 16, 2008
Search engine optimization or SEO is arguably the most essential way to drive targeted traffic to your website because it leads to improved search engine placement. Optimizing the benefits of a well-designed web site will result in much more traffic coming to the website thereby generating income for the company publishing the website. With this fact in mind however, optimizing your website might cost you thousands of dollars if you are not skilled in this area. Good search engine optimization that leads to improved search engine placement will, on the other hand, bring you a much higher return on the investment of either time or money you put into it.
My goal in this article is to give you the basics of search engine optimization so that you can understand it and incorporate it to help you accomplish your task. This will help you to improve your relevancy and search engines rankings for the best results possible through proven search engine optimization techniques.
What are the major mistakes in design
First is is important to remember that search engines are machines and read words they don’t see images or pictures. The most common mistakes form a search engine optimization standpoint are:
- Making a website totally in Flash(TM)
- Images without alt tags
- Minimal or nonexistent meta title or title tag
Flash(TM) to the search engines is just like an image it is invisible although the Flash(TM) may capture the intrigue of the viewer it won’t help the search engine to know what your website is about. While the text display as a part of the Flash(TM) my be rich in keywords and information it will be lost completely to the search engines and you will go unnoticed. Flash(TM) and pictures can be used to enhance a website but the site must have text in order to build relevance for the search engines.
In the same sense images are also invisible, however we can include alt tags that will give the search engines an idea of what the viewer will see. In fact the alt tags can be very helpful since the search engines will place a little more emphasis on the text in alt tags. Don’t go overboard using keyword phrases in the alt tags but use some to help where appropriate.
The title tag as well discuss later is an important place to tell the search engines what your webpage is all about.
Where do we start?
Why is search engine optimization (SEO) so important? SEO is important because this will make your website relevant to your keywords during the search engine ranking process and will lead to improved search engine ranking. This is the reason why some businesses hire an SEO company to do this task.
You can get information on low cost related services anywhere on the internet. However, few are really showing you how to work out an inexpensive plan for improved search engine placement. Some companies will even use antiquated techniques that may slow the process down. Good search engine optimization should help you to start improving the search engine ranking of your website and start driving traffic to it in a matter of days or weeks with expensive processes.
Search engine optimization begins optimally on your website, as you plan and build it. If it was not done at first you are not too late, you can do it after you have it built and go back and revise it to improve the exposure to the search engines and still lead to improved search engine placement. It consists of the following elements referred to as “onsite optimization”.
- Keyword Research – choosing the primary and secondary keywords you will use on your website or webpage
- Implementing the keywords naturally into important elements in the website header and body.
Keyword Research and Usage
Let’s start first with keyword research. Why is keyword research important? The keyword research helps us to find the keywords that connect us with our targeted audience. They are the words that we want to use on our website in a variety of ways to build relevancy on our webpage so when search engines find our website and view / crawl our pages, they will then index us for those keywords. Once that happens, then when those keywords are typed into the search engine by potential customers, the search engine will then display our site in the search results, which is how they tie us to our targeted audience.
Ideally you will use a reverse search tool that will enable you to type in words you think are keywords people would search for and which will tell you the number of times those keywords were searched for over a given period of time. Depending on the tool you are using and the databases and the search engines they have access to for their search results you will get different numbers in your reverse search results. Your search engine optimization professional will know and have access to these tools and which ones are appropriate for specific uses. These tools can significantly speed up the process of onsite optimization lead to quicker improved search engine placement.
One tool you can use for manual research is http://www.keyworddiscovery.com/search.html Keyword Discovery’s Free Search Term Suggestion Tool. It will limit your results to 100 keywords for any given search. Another manual search tool is http://tools.seobook.com/general/keyword SEOBook.com’s Suggestion tool. Both of these manual reverse search tools will allow you to find the keywords that people type into the search engines and how many times they were searched for. Remember keywords are how we connect with our targeted audience.
How Do I Use My Keywords Once we have identified the keywords, next we need to know where and how to use them for improved search engine placement. The first and arguably the most important place to use our keywords would be the title tag for your website. The title tag appears in the header of the page and is the first opportunity we have to tell the search engine what our page is about.
The title tag should be 60 – 80 characters in length and use one or two of the most important and/or relevant keywords for that page and possibly your website domain name, especially if your domain name includes keywords in it. The title tag information appears in the blue header bar at the top of the window and is also used as the title of your listing when your website is displayed in the natural or organic search results.
The meta description should be about 2 – 3 sentences or up to about 200 characters that describe for the customer and the search engine what the webpage is about. In the natural or organic search engine results, this description will be the first choice for the text the search engine displays beneath the title. This description does not appear on the website page when the website is displayed for the visitor but is readable by the search engine and used in the search results primarily.
A third meta tag is the keywords meta tag which is also not displayed to the visitor of the website. The keywords meta tag is a hold over from early methods of search engine optimization, but because it was abused by website developers, it is seldom use by search engines. We still use the keywords meta tag, but most search engines ignore it due to those previous abuses. Some search engines may still evaluate it and you never know when search engines may start to use it again. The Keywords meta tag is simply a list of up to 12 keyword phrases separated by commas.
The example below exclude the angle brackets due to this article being written in HTML but the angle brackets are the less than and greater than signs.
“meta content=”Basic search engine optimizations concepts presented to give business owners and website developers and understanding of good SEO techniques…” name=”description” /” enclosed in angle brackets.
“meta content=”keyword phrase 1,keyword phrase 2,keyword phrase 3,…” name=”keywords” /” enclosed in angle brackets
Your keywords used in the title, description and keywords tags now need to be used on the page to validate to the search engine that your page is actually about what you told the search engine that your page is relevant to. If the search engine doesn’t see any of the keywords on your page, then it can only assume that your page is not relevant to the words you used in the title, description and keywords tags in the header area of the web site.
Now that we know that we need text on the page how can we use that text to help emphasize the relevancy of the keywords on the page? Mechanisms such as header tags for headings using keywords will give more emphasis to keywords. Hyperlinks where the anchor text is a keyword phrase will add relevance to the keyword phrase and since the anchor text and the associated hyperlink reference are indexed by the search engines, using a keyword phrase as the anchor text both on the website and in offsite marketing will increase your ranking for that keyword phrase. Bolding and italics also draw some attention to the keywords for the search engine. Each page needs to have enough text on it to allow that page to demonstrate the relevance of the keywords it displays in the header of the page to the search engine, if true search engine optimization is to be achieved.
Lets take a look at some of the other tags mentioned in the previous paragraph. Header tags alert the search engine to more important text on the page, much like the headline on the page of newspaper does to the reader. A header tag is a tag that contain a “H” and a number between 1 and 7. The lower the number the larger the text and the more important it is to the search engine. H1 tags can be formatted using font tags to control the size or .css files to control the formatting.
Hyperlinks consist of at least two components. The first component is the link destination represented by the term “href” referring to the hyperlink reference and the anchor text located between the beginning and ending anchor tags. An anchor tag is an “a” in angle brackets and ending with “/a” in angle brackets. The beginning tag also include the destination reference. Remember that you you could use a keyword phrase in place of the word home to designate your home page. That keyword phrase would be a link and would help to build relevance for your website for that keyword phrase.
As we use these structures in combination in a natural way we then are able to help the search engine to know what our page is about and also create a page that is functional for the user.
To optimize your website well for the search engines you should use unique meta tags on each page on your website. The keywords should be used in:
- The title tag – big three
- Meta description
- Meta keywords
- Header tag – big three
- Opening paragraph – about 4% density
- Alt tags on all images and using keywords on about 3 images per page
- Link / anchor text or hyperlinks – big three
- Body of the page – about 4% density (visible text)
- Closing paragraph – about 4% density
They should be used in such a way as to feel natural on the page. If the page feels awkward, then look for ways to reword the information on the page and make sure you are not forcing the keywords in too many times. This in combination with other activities to build your page rank are the best ways to get your page listed on page one of the search engines.
These strategies are what we call onsite page optimization. Each page needs to have its own unique page optimization for the content on that page. Don’t make the mistake of using the same title, description and keywords meta tags for every page on your site.
Using these strategies in conjunction with the design of your website will vastly improve your search engine placement.