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Search Engine Optimization *Revised* Part 2

By John Buchanan
Posted Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Part One of this article covered choosing the right keywords for your site, focusing the content of each of your pages on specific keywords and keyphrases, making the best use of your pages' title tag and the truth about META tags.
Now, let's cover a few remaining key elements to your site's success in the search engines.

5. Links...The Name of the Game

While linking isn't exactly new, its importance cannot be stressed enough. Google calls it PageRank, while Inktomi and other engines simply call it link popularity. Regardless of what you call it, if you don't have it, your site will never be found in the search engines.

Unfortunately, getting other sites to link to you can be a long and tedious process, although the rewards are worth the time spent.

The easiest way to begin your link campaign is to pick one of your competitors' websites, then visit a search engine (Google for instance). Next, run a search to find out what sites link to your competitor's website (you can generally find out how to do this on the Advanced Search Page).

The sites returned in the search results are your first targets. Examine them carefully. Some may be owned by your competitor (fairly common these days) while others will be similar, but non-competing, sites that may be willing to link to you as well. Approach all of these sites and invite them to trade links. You will almost certainly have to set up a links page since it is almost impossible to find a site that will link to you without expecting a link back.

Repeat this process for other competing sites in your field. With time and patience, you should be able to acquire a high number of inbound links.

Aside from contacting sites about exchanging links, you should also submit your site to directories. Easily the most important is the ODP . However, there are numerous niche directories that you should submit your site to as well. This can be a time-consuming undertaking but is necessary in today's search engine arena.

6. Link Text - Not all Links are Created Equal

In the previous section I covered the importance of persuading other sites to link to you. Equally important is HOW these sites link to you.

Google, which is arguably the most important search engine, puts a great deal of emphasis on the anchor text of the inbound links to your site. "Anchor Text" is the text that is associated with the hyperlink to your site ( the text people will click on to be taken to your site).

Google sees this "anchor text" as a description of the target page. Thus, if your site is about "widgets" and all of the inbound links use "widgets" as the anchor text that is great, but if all of the inbound links use "flimflam" as the anchor text, then you are only getting a fraction of the benefit that you could be getting from your inbound links.

What you need to do is decide on your most important two or three keyword phrases and then use the phrase that best describes what your site is about.

If your site sells golf equipment, that phrase could be "golf clubs" or "golf equipment". If your site is travel related, that phrase could be "airline tickets" or simply "travel" etc.

Regardless of your market, decide on the phrase you most want to target and, when contacting webmasters about exchanging links, be sure to tell them exactly what you want for your anchor text. In general, most webmasters are receptive to this since most understand the importance behind it. If not, simply explain why you want that specific anchor text and tell them you would be happy to reciprocate for them.

This really is an important adjunct to building link popularity. I have seen many sites beat out other sites with a better link popularity simply because the site on top ensured the anchor text for their inbound links included their target search terms.

7. Keep your Site Design Simple

For those with an artistic flare, this guideline is hard to follow, but it is very important.

Avoid using too much Javascript and Flash when designing your pages. Search engines like simple coding and text. If ranking well in the engines is important to you, keep your website coding as uncomplicated as possible.

Search Engines don't understand Javascript and are only touching the surface of understanding Flash. Using elementary HTML coding makes it easier for the search engine spiders to index your page and offers less chance that some type of error will hinder the indexing of your site. If you must use Javascript, place it in an external file and call it from your page.

The same goes for tables, frames, etc. Keep your page as simple as possible. It's a balance you have to find for your particular site. The more complex the layout and coding of the page, the less likely the engines are to fully understand what the page is about.

8. Use CSS to Further Simplify Your Coding

Staying with the same theme of page simplicity, one of the easiest things you can do to streamline the coding of your page is to replace as many of your font tags as possible by using CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). Many of the WYSIWYG HTML editors generate a large number of unnecessary font tags which can bloat overall web page size considerably. By replacing these tags with CSS coding you can shrink the overall size of a page significantly. You can even go one step further and place the CSS font control properties in an external file and thereby shrink page size even more.

If you are unfamiliar with CSS, there are a great many tutorials available on the net that can teach you all you need to know.

By using CSS, you will not only shrink the size of your pages, causing them to load faster, but you will also give the search engines less coding to digest when indexing your site.

About The Author
John Buchanan is the author of the book "The Insider's Guide to Dominating The Search Engines", and a search engine optimization professional. Visit him at for more information or with any questions.


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