Search Engineering Foundations

Search Engine Optimization has become a multi-million dollar industry so you may have seen the SPAM emails guaranteeing you top search results. It’s not uncommon to find established web designers trying to climb on the bandwagon and becoming experts on the subject, because they finally realize that’s what their clients need. What good is an expensive website if there’s nobody finding it online?

There are nearly as many experts as there are different theories about what works. Most of those different theories have been considered correct at one time or another. The landscape of the Search Engine world is constantly changing, and many people are spending countless hours trying to figure out what’s working and what’s not in any given month. Doing this is called “chasing the search engine algorithms”.These “algorithm chasers” have seen some wild successes and miserable failures. Sites can be ranked ranked in the top 10 one month, and drop completely out of sight the next month, only to return buried in the middle of the pack. There are still unscrupulous “web optimizers” operating who try to literally “spam” the search engines. They try and fool the search engine into bringing up certain pages that may not even be related to what the user was actually searching for.   Search Engines are getting a lot smarter and the spammers are losing. Garbage search results are almost a thing of the past and things aren't nearly as easy for the cheaters as they once were.

It is very important to remember there is no quick fix. The Search Engines give very clear guidelines and if you or your search engineering company try to bypass them, the Search Engines will "blackball" (ban) your domain name. If you have tried these tactics in the past, this could be why your website is not getting a ranking.

Through all these changes in the search engines, one thing has remained constant, and should not come as a surprise to anyone. That is that a good foundation for your website is the key to achieving successful results search rankings.

It is my hope that by giving you the foundation below, you can get an idea of how your website should be designed to be more easily found in the search engines. Whether you’ have designed your site yourself, or you’ have hired an outside firm, this information will be helpful. Armed with these facts, you can better critique your own site, or pass this information along to your staff or web designer.  If you check your own site, you might be surprised at what you’ll find was done by your designer.

Bringing up your own website in Internet Explorer, and then going to View > Source will allow you to see the HTML or code that your site was written in. That code is cryptic, but not impossible to read. HTML is made up of “Tags” and of text. Listed below are the top ten most important (in my opinion) issues to consider when designing your website with respect to your “search engine friendliness”.

Each of the following foundation elements should apply not just to your index page, but to each individual page.

Optimisation + Inbound links from relevant sites + Informative Content = WINNER.

On Page Optimisation

Title Tag

The title tag is what displays in the top blue band of Internet Explorer, and what the first line of the SERP’s (Search Engine Results Pages) will show when your site is found.  Your title tag of your website should be easy to read and designed to bring in traffic. Your main keyword phrase should be used toward the beginning of the tag.

Description Meta Tag

The description tag is the paragraph that people will see when your page comes up in the search results. The title tag is the headline, and this is the paragraph below it.

Your description tag should be captivating and designed to attract business. It should be easy to read, and compel the reader to act right now and follow your link. Without a description tag, search engines will frequently display the first text on your page. Is yours appropriate as a description of the page?

Keywords Meta Tag

The importance of Meta keyword tags fluctuates from month to month among different search engines. Avoid "stuffing" your keyword metatags with too many keywords. Just use relevant tags that apply directly to the content of that particular page, and don’t overdo it.

Alt Tags

The small yellow box that comes up when your mouse cursor is placed over an image is called the ALT tag. Every relevant image should have an alt tag with your key words or phrases mentioned in the tag. For example, the ALT description might be "Plumber Barrow company logo" instead of "companynamelogo.jpg".

Header Tags

The text of each page is given more weight by the search engines if you make use of header tags and then use descriptive body text below those headers. Bullet points work well too. It is not enough to merely BOLD or enlarge your text headlines.

Link Text

Search engine spiders cannot follow image links. In addition to having image links or buttons on your web pages, you should have text links at the bottom or elsewhere. The text that the user sees when looking at the link is called the "link text". A link that displays "products" does not carry as much weight to the search engines as a link called "central heating radiators". Link text is very important, and is actually one of the most frequently overlooked aspects of web design.

Site Map

Using a site map not only makes it easy for your users to see the entire structure of your website, but it also makes it easier for the search engines to “spider” your site. When the search engine spiders come to visit, they will follow all of the text links from your main index page. If one of those links is to a site map, then the spiders will go right to the Sitemap, and consequently visit every page you have text linked to from that site map.  On the site map page, try to have a sentence or two describing each page, and not just a page of links.

Links

Relevant Inbound Links

By relevant, I mean similar industry or subject related sites. Right now, no single strategy can get your site ranked higher faster than being linked to by dozens of other relevant Websites It used to be that the quantity of incoming links mattered most, but today it's much better to have three highly relevant links to you from other popular related Websites than 30 links from unrelated low ranked sites.

Content

Not to be forgotten of course, is the actual content of your Web Pages It must be relevant helpful information that people want to read. These days, each Web Page should be laser focused on one specific product or subject, in order to rank highly for that search phrase. The days of writing one Web Page to appeal to dozens of search terms are long gone.

Ideally, each page should have between 400 to 650 words on it. Too few, and the search engines won't consider it to be relevant enough. Too many words and the search engine spiders may have a hard time determining the actual subject or focus of the page. Concentrate on writing quality pages that actually appeal to the human reader. Write pages that provide the reader with exactly what they are looking for; that is, information about the exact search phrase they have entered.

Avoid Cheating

With all of this information, it's tempting to think that you can stuff 100 keywords into your title, or create a page with the key phrase being used 100 times in headers, text links, ALT tags, bullet points etc. but that will not help you. This is a another form of spamming, the Search Engines will penalise you, and your website will be banned from certain search engines.

As search engine robots continue to utilise better types of AI (Artificial Intelligence) they will in effect, get smarter. They are already starting to look for things the same way you and I do; with the highest relevance given to pages that directly relate to information about their exact search phrase. The way to achieve top search results on any given phrase is simply to become one of the top informational resources for that particular phrase. Once you have good content, your site becomes "linkworthy", and other authoritative sites will link to you, sometimes without even being asked.  Those inbound links will also continue to improve your search results.

This article has been reproduced with kind permission from Scott Hendison, who is a computer & internet consultant living in Portland Oregon and works with companies all over the world. His website is http://www.pdxtc.com

 

Copyright - Premier Internet - 2006