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Introduction to DIY search engine optimisation

By Rachael Sankey
Posted Tuesday, June 29, 2004

A lot is made of the importance of search engine optimisation and rightly so. If you are serious about getting your website noticed, you will have to consider how your site ranks in search engines. If you decide to optimise your site, you will either do it yourself, or pay someone to do it for you. Doing it yourself can be time consuming but will save you money. If saving money is your priority and you have the time, DIY page optimisation IS possible.

You will want to look at three aspects:

Search Engine Submission - This involves visiting search engine websites, finding the 'submit URL / site' section - and keying in the appropriate information. Some of them offer a free option but this doesn't guarantee inclusion and could take time to see results. The most important one is the open directory which will help your ranking with Google, among others. You can also submit your site to Google, Lycos, Yahoo, AltaVista, MSN and many others. Before you do, make sure you know what information you want to give them. You may be asked for a description, so have one ready. No search engine will accept sales style copy in their listings - so keep it plain. Most importantly, read the guidelines for each service - it may seem like a drag but could help your submission.

Page Optimisation - Now the search engines know you are there, how easy will it be for them to index your site? This stage comes first, of course - so once you register you site, you can sit back and wait - if you do it for free - you WILL have to wait! The easier it is for the SEs to index, the faster your site will get noticed. So what do you need to take into consideration? Here are a few tips:

Meta Tags and Description:These are tags at the top of your page (HTML code) which provide SEs with information about your site. Meta Tags are keywords and phrases, targeted to the subject of your site. Make sure yours are relevant to your site content. The Meta Description should reflect what your site is about.
Page Title: This shows at the top of a browser when your page is viewed. Make sure it's relevant, has a few good keywords - and is different on every page on your site.
Site content: This should go without saying - make your site content relevant, useful and accurate. Reflect this in your keywords and title.
Links: Any internal links should have relevant link text or Alt-text tags if they are graphic.
Page Rank & Back Links - This relates mainly to Google - possibly the most important search engine on the 'net. Once indexed, Google assigns each page a 'page rank'. You can see what page rank a site has by downloading the Google toolbar. PR is given as a rank of 0 - 10, 10 being high. Page rank relates to the number of links (votes) Google can detect that point to your site. You can right click (IE6) and select 'backward links' on a website to see who links to it. As a result, many sites now engage in the sport of link building. This can have its drawbacks, if you end up linking to a 'bad neighbourhood'. If you want to build links - follow a few guidelines:

Don't swap links with 'link farms' - or sites that may have a penalty*
All links aren't equal -
the value of a link decreases as the number of links on the page increases and the Page Rank of a site will determine how valuable its link is to your site.
When submitting your link to another site, try to get them to use meaningful link text with relevant keywords.
Ensure that links to and from your site are relevant to your site content
*A penalty can be indicated by a grey Page Rank bar or a white 'PR-0' bar. However, a grey bar can also indicate that a site has not been indexed and a white bar can indicate a site has been indexed but only recently - or has no recognised back links. Penalties are incurred when a site breaks the rules set by Google - SEO crimes include:

Cloaking - a page is made to grab SE attention and redirect to the URL of the site in question.
Keyword stuffing - keywords are 'stuffed' into image tags & other places where they shouldn't be, or aren't relevant.
Hidden text - text on a page that matches the background colour - so it's invisible to site visitors but not to search engines.

There are many resources on the 'net to help you optimise your site safely. Search Engine Ethos has resources and links to get you started.

About the Author
Rachael is a web designer who has just started her own company - Moneytooth Web Services.


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