Search Engine Optimisation 1.01

This is a mega topic involving a great deal of skill and knowledge. It is really an art not a science. This page, though not the source of the latest, most definitive information, should give you a good starting point.

Do you care?

Probably yes. You may have enough business already coming to your site. However, what if you met a prospective customer but they lost your contact details and could never get back in touch? How would you feel if the 'phone company left you out of their directory? Need I say more?

Which engines matter?

80% of all searches are done on the top 5 engines. Google is now No 1 and as you would expect the other top ones include Yahoo, AOL, MSN and Altavista. So it's OK to concentrate your thinking on those.

Partnerships

A great deal of information is exchanged between engines through partnerships. A notable partner is the Open Directory www.dmoz.org. This is not an engine but a widely-used directory into which you can self-register.

SPAM

Engines are typically designed to detect attempts to compromise their accuracy and have appropriate countermeasures. Duplicate information is the kind of abuse they can detect and on the basis of which deregistration is the usual outcome.

Keywords

All strategies for placement are based on precise descriptions of content. This is communicated to the engines by means of a set of keywords. A first step is therefore to list the keywords that best describe your site.

Titles, Meta-tags, <H> tags, "alt tags" and page content

Keywords need to be in these places:

  • In the page title (also useful to users in navigating);
  • In meta-tags "keywords" and "description". The latter should be the keywords formulated into 1-2 English sentences.
  • In heading tags (H1, H2, H3 etc);
  • In the "alt" attributes of image tags and the "title" attributes of links. No image should be without descriptive text (also important for accessibility).
  • Within the visible content of pages, especially in the top paragraph or two.

Note: excessive duplication of keywords consititutes SPAM. Don't do it!

Link popularity

This is the "unfair" part. The more sites that link to your site the better the ranking that will be accorded by the engines, especially Google, the number one search tool on the net. So the popular get more popular.

A good plan is to develop a marketing programme which encourages sites to link to you. Incentives can be many and varied but reciprocal links are often easier to sell. Have them link to you with your keywords in the link text if possible.

The more frequently visited the site, the better to have it link to you. Yahoo, top of the Alexa Rankings is amongst the most useful.

Link reputation

Google in particular looks at inward links to see whether they are deliberately pointing at your site. To get a good score these links need appropriate titles and/ or wording.

Preparation

Knowing the above, do not bother to submit to engines until your site is properly prepared with good keywords in the right places. If you can lose the flash and the frames do so. Otherwise put in place some "doorway pages" that meet the engines' criteria and link to your main content. Doorway pages may also be useful for other purposes such as link tracking and generally increasing the number of keyword references.

Submission

Forget the automatic submission systems as these are likely to fall foul of the anti-SPAM countermeasures. Submit manually to the top engines. If a (paid for) express submission option is available then use it as it will probably save months of delay.

Measurement

Don't take success for granted. Measure the results of what you do by monitoring your site's rankings. If you are not getting the results you want you may need expert help.

Some useful links:

Here are a few useful links. There are lots more good sources as you will notice if you search for "improve search engine placement" using one of the top engines.

Google technology www.google.com/technology
Non-free information on this topic: www.searchengines.com
Tools to assess this important issue: www.linkpopularity.com
Help with keyword identification: www.wordtracker.com
A comprehensive reference book: www.searchengine-report.co.uk
Over
1000 firms provide services: dmoz.org

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