July 1, 2008 Phil

Serch Engine Optimization Tips

Search engine optimization is becoming very important as more and more people load terabytes of data online. Massive amounts of text, video and photos are being uploaded everyday. I new culture of information sharing is evolving and with it comes a massive spike in the amount of data loaded on the web. As the amount grows it becomes exceedingly important to optimize content for search engines. Unfortunately, the big search engines don’t make this easy with their secret search algorithms. Optimization becomes more of a guessing game with perpetual iterations of change. That said, there are numerous books and opinions on how to generate high rankings, but they’re all based on opinion so here’s mine.

First off and probably foremost, don’t try to be a hacker. Creating ghost pages on your site packed with keywords or posting hundreds of external links won’t help your cause. Today’s search engine crawlers are very intelligent and have a memory for methods targeted at circumventing the system. They will often demoted or delist a site if there is malicious activity so keep it real.

Focus on the content and how it is laid out. When you create your online presence define a group of descriptors that you feel represent what a searcher would enter if they were looking for your site. Remember that the more generic you are the more challenging it will be to differentiate yourself from the competition. There are many tools available to help you determine what people most often search. A great example of this is Google’s Keyword Tool. It allows the potential Adwords advertiser to get a snapshot of the competitive landscape for keywords. Users can look at individual words or phrases and determine how popular they are in search queries. Close review of these results can help to identify words that you could use in your content to help elevate search results.

When you write the content for your site make sure you pay close attention to the words used. Crawlers look for references that continually occur throughout a site. Make sure your keywords appear as often as possible. When possible use them in page titles. Make sure your page titles are not images, use header tags to ensure the search engine crawler can read the content.

Anchor tag or link text is also very important. The text inside of these tags should contain keywords as well. Avoid the generic “Click Here” line.

Keywords can also be placed in page URLs. With all the dynamic content on the web, URLs have become increasingly complex and quite often completely unrepresentative of their content. They often contain numbers and obscure character strings that mean nothing to a search engine. Where possible use clean URLs that contain keyword descriptions. For example, if you have page containing XYZ widgets the URL to the page should be www.example.com/XYZwidget/ as opposed to www.example.com/?id=41&content/43/32/67 .

Crawlers do just that, they crawl the web looking for content building huge indexes to help people find information. Links to and from your site form the roadway for Crawlers. Much like a spider web, the closer you are to the center the more pathways there are to your location. Since we want the Crawler to visit our site as frequently as possible it makes sense that there be as many pathways as possible. Internal and external linking is a very important part of SEO. Getting other sites to link to your site will help to increase Crawler traffic making it more visibility and elevating its ranking.

But visibility means nothing if a Crawler reaches your site and there isn’t anything new to index. Continually adding and updating your site forces Crawlers to constantly re-index its contents. Continue activity on a site helps to makes it look more popular in the eyes of the search engine. Blogs and other social media devices are great tools for organically growing a site’s content. The UGC created by these tools will also increases the number of internal and external links on the site.

Once you have optimized your site monitor its ranking and make adjustments. The job of optimizing a website for search engines is a perpetual effort. Use tools like Google’s Webmaster Package to see how people are finding your site. Webmaster provides a ranking review and will show you historical information for the past 6 months. When you look at the results watch closely for keywords that you haven’t considered in the past. If applicable incorporate them into the content.

Use analytics to review user patterns on the site. Note how your visitor’s use the site and see if there usage is related to the keywords you have selected. Are they finding the information you want them to find? If not try moving it around or re-writing it. Sometimes what you think is perfectly clear may mean something completely different to the visitor.

Finally, have a look at what your content looks like to a search engine to make sure it can see everything you want it to see. Turn off Javascript and style sheet functionality in your browser window and look at the content. Mozilla’s Firefox has a handy like tool set called Firebug that will allow you to turn off this functionality and see what a search engine sees when it visits your site. A well-built site should show a page of content nicely laid out much like a well-written book. Titles highlighted and content aligned in paragraph form.

So in my opinion organic search engine optimization is all about content. Using the right words in the right places and making sure they are visible to Crawlers is a must. Creating pathways to your site by using external links will help increase Crawler awareness while continually updating content will elevate popularity.

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