Search Engine Optimization: Four Vital Steps for Optimizing Your Website
2006 © Donald Nelson
There is a bit of confusion about search engine optimization. Some people think that SEO (the abbreviated form) is nothing more than tricking search engines into giving a high ranking for a particular site. Others think that search engine optimization is so complex that they could not possibly understand it. Neither of these views are correct. Search engine optimization is best defined as the art and science of building web pages that are both search engine friendly and user friendly. Below are four basic steps that you should take when optimizing your web pages.
1. Your Web Design Should Emphasize Text and Not Graphics
"Search engine friendly" means that search engines should be able to find data on your site that they can put in their data bases. While a picture may be worth a thousand words, a search engine is trying to classify pages by text and not by images. If you have an opening page with a beautiful picture of the sea and only two words of text saying "enter here" then this page will not rank high in searches for Florida Vacations. Similarly, if you have a headline with important text containing your site's keywords, it should not be displayed as a gif or jpeg image. Pages that are all flash or all images are not search engine friendly, and often are not user friendly as well.
2. Links to Your Interior Pages Should Be Easily Found by Search Engines
An important thing to remember is that you want not only your main page, but all of your interior pages to be included in the search engine index. While most people will probably enter your site through the main page, many will enter after doing searches which lead them to your inner pages. The best way to make sure that search engines will find and index your inner pages is to include text links to these pages. If you have a navigation system which uses Java-script or images, then it is best to add an additional text link navigation bar at the bottom of the site to ensure that the robot follows the links to your inner pages.
3. Your Pages Should Be Built Around Specific Keywords or Keyword Phrases
Robotic search engines and human users have one thing in common: they are trying to figure out what your site or your particular web page is all about. It is not possible to get high rankings for thirty different search terms with only one web page. However, it is possible to build separate web pages which explain and give importance to various aspects of your organization's activity. These sub pages can be optimized so that they perform well in searches for your various keywords.
4. Once Your Material is Organized, Then Your Keywords Should Appear in Strategic Portions of Your Web Pages
If your site is about Florida Vacations, then these words should appear in the following places of your html pages:
a. In the File Name or the URL
If your site is called www.floridavacations.com then this will give you a head start in any searches for this term. Similarly, if your company is called XYZ Travels, you may have a web page with this url: www.xyztravels.com/floridavacations.html
The URL or file name is an important indicator to a search engine, so don't miss the opportunity to put your important term either in your main domain name or in your file names.
b. In the Title Tag
text that is displayed in the blue line at the top
of your browser is your title tag. The title tag
is located in the <head> section of the document.
If your main phrase is "Florida Vacations" then the title tag in your html document should
look something like this:
c. In the Description Tag
The description tag is not seen on the web page but search engines often display it as the text which gives the searcher an idea of what your page is about. The description tag should be compelling, and make someone want to click and see your page, while also containing the keywords that are in your url and your title tag. A description tag for this site might look as follows: <meta name="description" content="Florida Vacations: Plan your Florida vacation with the help of XYZ travels. You will find up-to-date information and the best rates on accommodations, entertainment, and transportation in Florida on our website.">
d. In the Headlines
Just as someone reading a newspaper looks at headlines to find out what is important, a search engine robot looks at the headlines of a web page in order to pick up the essential feature of that page. Put your main phrase in a headline and place it near the top of the page. Your headline text should be enclosed with special header tags such as <h1>, <h2>, <h3>. A headline tag for our hypothetical page could be written as follows: <h1>Florida Vacations: Plan Your Vacation Now And Save Money on Accommodations, Entertainment and Transport in Florida</h1>
If you don't like the look of the h1 tag, then use a smaller tag, h2 or h3, or adjust your site's style sheet so that the h1 tag is displayed in a small font which better matches your body text.
e. In the Body Text of Your Page
Your main keywords or key phrase should appear in the first paragraph of text and in a natural way throughout the text and also at the end of the page. In normal writing you would first introduce your subject, then explain what it is about and then summarize at the end. Follow this same procedure when you start writing your web page. Pages written in this style will automatically have correct keyword density and distribution.
f. In Anchor Text on Your Page
Anchor text is the clickable portion of links on your web page. Suppose you are describing your Florida Vacations and you want to direct your web visitors to an inside page with more information about this subject. Instead of making a link that says "click here," it would be better to have a link that says "Click here for more information about Florida Vacations" or even better, the link text will only be "Florida Vacations" and the "click here" will be rendered as normal text.
If you follow these search-engine-optimization steps when building your website you will end up with web pages that are easily understood by your visitors, and easily classified and indexed by search engines.
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