Posted Saturday, November 6, 2004
Search engine optimization is one of the most popular topics in Internet Marketing. The reasons are obvious. Search engines provide highly targeted traffic at a zero or very low cost. There are a lot of myths, debates, and disagreements over what is good Search Engine Optimization (SEO). We have decided to look at 7 principles that you should definitely follow when optimizing your site for search engines.
Use Meta Tags
You will certainly here a large number of people tell you that meta tags are not important and are useless. There is some truth to this, however, it is largely untrue.
Meta tags were first included in web pages primarily for search engines and directories. Meta tags are to be used as summaries as to what your website is about. Because they were good summaries and a logical way to identify and classify a website, search engines used meta tags in their ranking algorithms. This method was good in the early days of search engines and the Internet.
Unfortunately, everyone else figured out that by “optimizing” their meta tags, they could better their rankings. This optimization quickly turned into spam. Search engine technology developed and soon most search engines would remove meta tags from their ranking algorithms.
However, meta tags are still extremely important in SEO. You want your site to be easy for search engines to crawl. Meta tags are still used by spiders to make a quick assessment as to the nature of a website. Meta tags are also used to identify the author, the company name, various rules for the spider to follow, and a general rating for the spider. An example of the meta tags that you should have are listed below:
This describes what language and format the site is in. This would be different for an XML document or other formats.
Is this site up for only a short time? If so, let the engine know how long the information is good for.
Do you only have regional content, or should the whole world be opened up to see you?
Who owns the site, or who designed the site. This WILL help your rankings if someone does a direct search on your company name.
Obvious important copyright information.
This should be one or two sentences. Make them well-formed sentences…don’t use sentence fragments. Use a few of your desired keywords, but do not spam the sentences with your keywords.
Use anywhere between 6-15 keywords or phrases in this section.
Tell the search engine robot to follow all of your pages. This doesn’t mean that it will, it just gives them permission.
How often do you change your content? Once a day, once a month? Let the robot know this information, but be truthful!
Do you have an adult website? Make sure you indicate that here. If it is for the general public, then let them know that as well.
Meta tags, although not crucial to your ranking, are helpful for search engines. For this reason alone it is good to employ them on your website.
Use Properly Formed HTML
One of the biggest mistakes people fall into is that they use improper HTML on their sites. HTML is relatively easy to code. Well formed HTML is structured clearly and neatly. Poorly formed HTML includes open tags, closing tags out of order, minimal information when forming your tags, and errors that may not show up in a browser.
When a search engine spider visits your website, its task is to ascertain the information on your website and give it a grade. If you have poorly formed HTML on your website, you are making the task of the spider more difficult. Additionally, if you have poorly formed HTML on your website, the search engine may not consider your website to be the best candidate for your desired keywords as poorly formed HTML represents a lack of professionalism.
You should always follow a few rules when forming your HTML:
A. Close All of Your Tags
Every HTML tag has an open and a close tag, with the exception of a line break (). Do not leave tags hanging. For example:
This is my text
The problem with this code is that the person forming the code did not close out the tag. This means that it is still open.
B. Close Your Tags In Order
Although a minor issue, closing your tags in order creates better HTML. For example:
This is my text
These tags are closed out of order. You should always close the last open tag first.
C. Use ALT Tags on Images
A search engine does not know what an image looks like. Most spiders can figure a few things out about an image by its file name, but an ALT tag should tell a spider everything about that image. For example:
Properly formed HTML will make it easier for search engines to know what your site is about. The faster they can digest your information, the more they will digest.
Avoid Dynamic URL’s
A URL such as(http://www.anydomain.com/program.php?id=456&p=4) is not search engine friendly. Search engines have come a long ways in their ability to spider
URL’s such as the one above. In fact, you will probably be included in an index with that style of url, but it is not a friendly URL.
With the introduction of mod_rewrite, you can easily make dynamic URL’s into search engine friendly URLs. Mod_rewrite would give you the ability to make the above url into something that looked like this:
Search engines will be more inclined to index this type of URL.
There really is no such thing as over-optimization. Over-optimization is actually search engine spam. Search engines hate it when people spam them with keywords. A few examples of search engine spam. If you make your site sound natural, but form it around a central topic, you should obtain the perfect balance of keyword density on that page. If you do not, then you should rethink what your website is really about.
Spending all of your time making sure every Alt tag has your targeted keyword in it, or finding a way to include very small or close to invisible text so that you may spam a certain keyword, is a sure way to waste your time and ruin the appearance of your website.
Keep Content Fresh
Search engines LOVE fresh, new content. Constantly add new news to your website, new information, and change your front page. You do not need to change the look of your website, just the content on the front page.
Search engines are always trying to provide searchers with the most relevant, up to date information possible. A page that hasn’t changed since 2000 will not have as relevant content as a page recently published with updated information.
There is also an issue of pride with the search engines. Part of the search engine wars has been to see who can keep the freshest index. As a result, search engines such as Google take note of sites that change frequently. The more frequently your site changes, the more frequently they will come back and re-index your site.
Don’t Rely on SEO
This article has focused on some basics of SEO, but if there is one rule to follow in developing your website it is this: do not rely solely on search engines. There are plenty of ways to develop a steady stream of traffic to your website outside of search engines. Link exchanges, purchasing links, advertising, participating in online communities are great ways to build your traffic. Don’t be afraid to purchase advertising. If you have a great website, people will refer others to your website.
The lesson in all of this is that good search engine optimization stems from organized development, fresh content, and generally an attempt to develop a useful website for your visitors. If you do this, you will be surprised at how SEO really takes care of itself. Search engines are looking for well-developed, content-rich websites. Simply give them what they are looking for and let them worry about filtering out all the people who are attempting to “trick” them.
Copyright 2004 Mark Daoust
About the Author
Mark Daoust is the owner of Site-Reference.com and TowerSearch.com. Add your site to TowerSearch to receive a guaranteed #1 position for free!