Sunday, February 01, 2009

SEO Techniques and Practices used by most of the Professionals

Domain Name:
As much as possible, try to obtain a domain name that most closely identifies to your visitors what your website or business is about. A domain name that exactly matches your business is not critical but it is desireable. Obviously websites like Google, Ebay, and Amazon did not choose this route. Their names were given meaning by strategic marketing, branding, and popularity (the first two can be time consuming and expensive). Other websites like YouTube, Facebook, and MySpace are great examples of websites that chose a brandable domain name that concisely describes what they are all about. Regardless of which route you take, make sure your domain name is easy to spell and easy to remember. Try to avoid hyphens, numbers, and specially long names.

File & Directory Names:
When building your directory structure(file names) make sure to use your keywords. For example, if your website is about computers and you have a section (directory) about notebooks, name that directory or file "notebooks." Does this seem obvious and non-worthy of discussion? You will be surprised at the mess or urls found on the internet.
For example, take a look at this real link: ( http://www.webexpress.in/products/products.asp?N=200076 ). Does that link describe what you will find if you click on the link or make use of any keywords? Compare the previous link to this cleaner version ( http://www.webexpress.in/top_sellers.asp ). Not only does the second link describe what you will find at the end of the link (top selling), it is also making use of keywords and is visually cleaner. While search engines may or may not place a great deal of emphasis on file & directory names using keywords, they clearly stand out under search results because they are cleaner, easier to read, and the keywords are highlighted by the search engines (hence, visitors are more likely to click on your website).

Relevant Content:
This is without question the most important aspect in terms of Search Engine Optimization: Relevant, up-to-date, valuable content will increase many factors to make your site stand out above the rest. Search engines will index your pages and direct search engine users to your pages, if they are most relevant to what a user is searching for. User will also visit your site more often and provide for the best free advertisement (word-of-mouth advertisement). Along with relevant content, make sure to use keyword phrases and keep an effective keyword density (see the following bullet points).

Fresh Content:
Periodically update your content to reflect changes. You don't necessarily have to re-write the entire website; however, as relevance changes (it could be prices, products, news, buzz words, etc), you should also change your content to reflect your business or website better. The fastest, easiest way to this is by making use of dynamic scripting languages such as php, asp, jsp, or cfml. Scripting languages are a powerful way to make changes site wide with very minimal effort. Take a look at our script installation service for examples of scripts.

Title Tag:
Title tags are used by the search engines as the first line describing your web page on their search results. In terms of relevancy (what determines your page showing in the results), title tags play an important role. Therefore, make sure to make each title count by making them a clear, very concise description (using your keywords) of what each page is about. Don't use the same title tag across your entire site, each page should have it's own unique title. Since people will be reading these on the search results, put some thought into what would attract you to visit one site over another site based simple on the title tag. The beginning of your title tag should have what you consider the most important keywords; most SEOs (Search Engine Optimizers) consider the name of your business or site secondary and recommend placing it at the end of your title (this is a matter of business strategy). Search engine will not use all of the title tag for long titles, make sure the title tag is kept to less than 10 words. Most importantly, do not leave title tags empty!

Keyword Phrases:
When we are using the term "keywords," we are generally talking about the words being typed and searched for by real search engine users to find products, services, or information. Normally, users will use a combination of words/phrases to find sites related to what they want. For example, someone searching for a portable mp3 player may search using the following 'keywords': "apple ipod" or "mp3 player" or "Tune player" or "4gb ipod nano." If you are simply using or focusing on "mp3 player" you are clearly missing out. The small, seemingly insignificant use of "apple ipod" instead of "mp3 player" can have a dramatic result on whether search engines and visitors find you. Find out what actual words users are typing in to find what they want (as related to your site) and bridge the gap by utilizing those keywords in your content and marketing. Visually, when you want to point to user something that is important you may bold or make a phrase a title. Likewise, search engines know to place a higher emphasis on page titles, headings, and link titles. Here's an example of what you can do:
1. Use keywords in your titles. For example: MP3 Player: 4Gb iPod Nano
2. Use keywords in your headings. For example:

Features of the 4Gb iPod Nano

instead of simply

Features


3. Your links should make use of your keywords. For example: "Search Engine Optimization Articles" instead of simply "articles"

Keyword Density:
Keyword density describes the percentage of words in your webpage content that are related to your keywords. If you have a 10,000 word webpage but only use your keywords 3 times, you have a very low keyword density. If you are using titles, headings, and other visual and structural techniques to incorporate your keywords effectively, you should have at the very least an acceptable keyword density. On the other hand, if you use the same word or phrase over and over and over and over and over (get the point), your webpage may be considered spam and can actually result in your website being dropped in rankings or even blacklisted. Be conscious and strategic in your placement of keywords, but do not make unnecessary and excessive use of them.

Black-Hat SEO:
Certain search engine optimization techniques can result in getting your website banned from a search engine (definitely not something you want to do). These include doorway pages, link farms, mirror sites, cloaking, invisible text, unusually high keyword density, mirror or identical pages, deceptive use of refresh or redirect tags, pop up and comment/author tags with unnecessary keywords. We won't go into the details here (remember, you are trying to avoid these techniques). The reasons people will employ these unacceptable SEO methods is to attempt to increase their search engine placement, and, while these techniques may work in the short term, long term they have a negative effect.

Meta Description Tag:
A description tag, as the name implies, should be a one to two sentence description of what the page is about. Search engines do not place a great of emphasis on the description tag, as they once did, because they were often abused with keyword stuffing. Some search engines will take the first words of your content text and display that versus the description tag. Because it should only take seconds to include and it still plays a role, if very minor role, in some search engines, you should include a description tag. Like the title tag, make sure each page has a sufficient description of what the page is about. Do not make the description tag a lengthy novel, one to two short sentences is perfect.

Meta Keywords Tag:
Like the description tag, the meta keywords tag is not as important as it once was. Again, due to abuse, some search engine simply ignore or place very little weight on the meta keyword tag. However, do not leave out this tag, remember the extent of its importance towards relevance may be arguable but it should only take seconds to include. Include approximately 10 - 15 keywords (don't over do it) and make each page's meta tag unique.

Author Tag:
Use the author tag to name your company or website name. For example:

Use Search Engine Friendly URLs:
Websites that use dynamic urls are difficult for search engines to index. Take a look at the following url:
(http://www.amazon.com/books-used-books-textbooks/b/ref=sa_menu_bo0?ie=UTF8& node=283155&pf_rd_p=328655101&pf_rd_s=left-nav-1&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_i= 507846&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_r=11TVEA3AFJX2MS8NYY8B)
Not only is it difficult to read and a sore on the eyes, it also makes it difficult on search engines. Most scripting languages, like php, have methods of rewriting these to make them more readable (both to humans and the crawlers that index your pages). Amazon has a great deal of resources to counter the negatives of dynamic urls (for example a large marketing budget, incredible popularity, and vast content), your website or business may not have such deep pockets or resources; therefore, keep your urls search engine friendly.

Main Theme:
If you have a website dedicated to used-car classifieds it will rank higher when a user searches for "used cars" Alternatively, if your site offers classifieds from real estate to cars to alternative medicines, your website will rank lower because its theme is being spread thin. Try to keep the topic of your website as focused and specific as possible. Any topic clearly not related to your main theme should be moved to its own domain.

Website Design:
The design of your site is very important to SEO in that once users have found your site, you want them to stay longer, return often, and provide word-of-mouth advertisement (including link backs to your site). A poor website design will make user's leave and the great deal of effort placed on other areas of SEO will have been wasted. The topics of website design are extensive and beyond the scope of this small article. You can find a great deal of free resources or employ a company dedicated for this important task.

Make use of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS):
Using CSS is not only good practice for making your html pages cleaner and more readable for designers and coders, but it also removes excessive and repetitive code from you web pages. Cascading Style Sheets can make your pages up to 2 times smaller in size (increasing the speed at which your web page is loaded). The code necessary to add presentation to your pages do not in themselves help your search engine placement; therefore, separating the code into CSS helps reduce unnecessary text from your content. It also facilitates making changes across your website a snap as you will only need to change the code in 1 file (the css file).

Frames:
There are only a very small number of valid reasons to use frames. If you have that specific need, try to keep them at a minimum and provide alternatives for users that have browsers that don't support frames. Some users (including search engines crawlers) are not able to follow framed links. There are much better, acceptable methods to accomplish what frames were once widely used for; try to avoid frames.

Site Map:
A good site map makes it easier for search engine spiders to crawl and index your entire website. Google webmaster tools has easy ways for your to create your site map. Also, many sites use the footer or a dedicated as their sitemap. Try to keep the links to less than 100 (as recommended by Google).

Broken Links:
From time to time, you may run across broken links, due to changes in websites that you are linking to or even to your own webpages due to design or structure changes. Make sure to check for broken links. A standard practice is to provide users a method to provide feedback. If your site has considerable amount of links, make sure to provide a simple, accessible form for users to report broken links. Broken links have a negative effect on usability and also impact your search engine placement.

Robot Tag & Robots.txt File:
Use a robots tag on pages that you do not want indexed. For example: A better use, however, is to use the robots.txt file. Search engines look for this file in your web root directory in order to determine what pages, directories, or files the search engine crawler should avoid. For example, if you have a password protected administration panel under the directory "www.yoursite.com/admin" you can specify to the crawler to avoid indexing that specific directory. It is important to include this file for two reasons, it is incredibly easy to create and it avoids having sensitive directories or pages indexed.

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