SEO: Getting People to Your Web Site
Killersites Newsletter Archive: February 9th, 2004
Search Engine Optimization
This question has come up more than a few times, so I figured I should write a little about it. This is not an exhaustive review of what to do to drive traffic, but I do provide the basic steps, and help you to understand the fundamentals.
What is Search Engine Optimization?
Search engine optimization is the process of making changes to your web site (the structure) and web pages (in the code and text) that will make it easy for the search engines to 'see' what your web site is about. It is also about intelligently making those changes so that you attract the traffic that is interested in what you have to offer. If you are selling jewelry, for example, you need to get to that select crowd, and they to you; people interested in video games or pets, or what have you, are not part of the integral picture.
The key steps to preparing your web site
Don't use framesets
HTML framesets can be fun (for those crazy people out there!), but they wreak havoc with the search engines. When most search engines hit a frames-based page, the best you can hope for is that they index the text you inserted into the 'no frames' section of the frameset.
The 'noFrames' tag was designed to display text to people who did not have browsers that could read frames properly. Typically you would put something like:
''This site is designed with framesets, please update your browser.''
There was a time when frames were new and some browsers didn't support them. This seems strange considering that framesets are now considered old crap that should not be used.
I've been off frames for a long while, but about two years ago a client insisted on using them (I forget why), so I grudgingly created the frameset-based pages. In the 'noframes' tag I inserted text that went something like this:
''You stupid idiot! Get yourself a browser that wasn't made in the stone age! In case you didn't know, browsers are free!''
I put in that little amusement for myself, figuring that no one would ever see it, because framesets were 100% supported. About a week later I got a call from my client; his popular web site was re-listed in the search engines with the text from the 'noframes' content displayed in the site listing. Ouch! Tens of thousands of people, when searching, were kindly greeted with my little joke. Remember, in business, always play professionally.
The Power of Keywords
The first thing you have to do when building your web site is to figure out what keywords and phrases your target audience is using to find web sites like yours. Besides using a little common sense, putting yourself in your audiences' shoes, there are word search tools that give you the following information:
How often people search for particular terms or phrases.
How many other web sites are targeting these keywords.
Keywords that are related to your category.
Typical keyword misspellings when people make searches.
This type of information is invaluable, and companies traditionally pay a fortune for it, so take advantage while it's still inexpensive. Marketing to your target audience like this is like getting the secret fishing spots from the locals; you catch more and bigger fish!
Effective Site Structure
Search engines find web sites and pages by following links; for your web site to be found by the maximum number of engines, you need to get other web sites to link to yours.
To ensure that the search engines can properly index your pages, you need to include text links to all your sub pages that the search engine robots can follow. One of the best ways to do this is to create a site map page. A site map is just a simple HTML page that contains links to all your website's pages. The site map should be accessible from your websites home page.
Be careful of Flash or DHTML menus
Fancy Flash and DHTML menus give most search engines a tough time crawling / searching your web site. The site map helps solve that problem, as well as a secondary text links at the bottom your pages.
Adding you web site's content: seeding your web site with keywords
There are four key spots on your web pages where you need to have your target keywords appear:
The page's <TITLE>.
In the META tags description:
Example: <meta name="description" content="A short description of your website with keywords">.
In your pages section headings: (H1 - H6).
In the list (<li> tags) and paragraphs (<p> tags) of your pages.
Don't use the target keywords too much; just write your sentences as you normally would and use those keywords when appropriate. If you 'stuff' your pages with keywords, you could get punished by the search engines.
A note about meta tags
There was once a time when the meta tag 'keywords' affected some search engine results. But that never really penetrated very well; the search engines have since dropped them (since 1997) because the results did not come in properly and people kept screwing around. Concentrate on good content, well-named page titles, and building links.
The number one thing that will raise your position in the search engines is the number of links (100 web sites linking to you is better than 10), and the quality of links pointing to your web site.
What are quality links?
Quality links are links from important web sites. A good way to evaluate how important a website is (according to Google) is the Page Rank number. Google ranks pages from 0 to 10, where websites like Google.com or Macromedia.com are 10's, and some new website with no links pointing to it has a score of 0.
Getting links from a web page with a rank of 7 is worth much more than a link from a web page with a rank of 4. Page ranks of 7 and up are rare, whereas pages with ranks 1 through 6 are much easier to find. There seems to be an exponential scale with every Page Rank number; to go from 5 to 6 is much easier than going from 6 to 7, and so on.
How to find out what page rank a web site has?
For PC users, the easiest thing is to get the Google Toolbar , where you get a display of each web site's page rank as you hit it. At this time, Google doesn't make a tool bar for the MAC.
Another thing to do is look at the top 10 web sites that appear in searches that you're interested in and see if any will link to you.
I concentrate on Google because it accounts for the vast majority of the searches made today. The Google search engine actually powers other search engines, like Yahoo, MSN, and AOL, among others.
What you put in the links makes a difference
When exchanging links with other web sites, it's good to provide your link code so that they can simply cut and paste it into their web sites. Besides making their lives a little easier, you can control what link text is being used.The words used in links (link text) play and important role in categorizing your web site in the search engines. So remember to include some of your target keywords in your links.
If you liked the article and you want to see more let me know!