Saturday, 1 October 2011

What is Search Engine Optimization?

SEO stands for "Search Engine Optimization" and involves creating web pages in a way that is diplomatic to search engines. These diplomacies include, but are not limited to:

ALT Tags: These are HTML tags that provide "alternative" text when images cannot be displayed. Search engines can't see what an image is, or represents, so they need to look at the ALT tags. ALT tags help to create a general theme for your website in relation to search engines and what they're looking for, and search engines take them into account.

Hyperlink Title Tags: I am not talking about the Page Title tag, I am talking about a Hyperlink Title tag. If you create a text hyperlink with the word "click here" you might like to make sure that people can hover over the link and a small description is displayed, just as an ALT tag would. Hyperlink Title Tags are also taken into account by search engines.
Heading Tags: The Heading tags are used to display page headings. I have noticed that Google looks for this tag on your web pages and will usually create the description that it uses for the pages search engine listing, from the very next viewable text after the heading tags. Heading tags are very important for attracting search engine traffic, because search engines regard them highly. There are 6 heading tag sizes.

These are three very important things to make sure you have in your web pages. However, to obtain greater search engine rankings you should try to make sure that the same general keywords and phrases are used within them all, in one way or another, so that search engines can obtain a theme from your web pages.

Bold tags and Italic tags: These tags should be wrapped around any keyword or key phrases within your actual content. Do not use the underline tag, because people will mistake it for a link! However, you should also try to add hyperlinks to other pages within your site content, and use Hyperlink Title tags in them as well.

Page Title tag and the Meta tags such as the Keywords meta tag and the Description meta tag. You'll notice that I didn't list Meta Tags first. That's because they are not really relevant anymore. Many search engines don't even look at them anymore. You can get #1 search rankings without them, but I still include them anyway. Why not?

However, THE most important tag to use on your site is the PAGE TITLE TAG! Search engines favor this the most out of anything on your page. Search engines also compare the Title tag with any heading tags, along with your Hyperlink Title tags and ALT tags. If you have used the same theme of keywords and phrases in all of these tags, you'll be on your way to attracting some pretty good search engine rankings.

You need to make sure that your website has a sitemap, using all the tags that I have outlined above. The sitemap should contain links to all of your web pages. This is usually a good page to submit to search engines. The sitemap helps both search engines and human visitors to find their way around your site (but mainly search engines). Also, if you label your links properly, with a theme, search engines will gain a better understanding of what your website is about and ranking you accordingly.

You should also have a mini sitemap in your footer, which links to the main sitemap. The mini sitemap should have Hyperlink Title tags or ALT tag, This also helps search engines to work out what the theme of your site is, and also to spider/crawl your site.

Also, to attract top search engine rankings to your website, you need to make sure that there are as many links to your website, from other websites as possible. It is important that the links 'to' your website contain keywords that you would like to be found for on search engines. If your website is about "Web Design Tutorials", then you should create a 'Link us' page with related sites.

Taking all of the above into account, here is what a search engine will think:

Hmm, I found this website from a hyperlink on ANOTHER website, that was titled "Web Design Tutorials". When I got there, the index page was titled "Web Design Tutorials". I found the key phrase "Web Design Tutorials" 65 times on the website, and it was in many of the heading tags. Yep - I think I will place this website on the first page of listings for "Web Design Tutorials"

Also, other things to take into account are:

Page loading speed: You should make sure that your pages load fast, because search engines watch visitors now (through their toolbars), and if they see that a visitor spent all of one second at your site, they'll put it in search listing page 10 billion! The pages need to load some time this week, so that people will stay, so that search engines can SEE that they are staying.

Cross Browser Compatibility: Your website needs to be cross browser compatible for the above reasons. If someone goes to your website and sees the footer floating up past the header, they'll leave real fast. You don't want search engines to see this.

Hint: It is important to keep people at your site for as LONG as possible. That's why Forums, Shoutboxes and Chats, etc.. are really good for search rankings

Tables: Try not to use tables. CSS is now good enough to make an entire site from. If you don't know how to make a website from DIV's and CSS, but would like to attract good search engine rankings, then I would highly recommend learning. Tables take much longer to be rendered by a browser than DIV's and CSS.

Which brings me to my next point. For search engine friendly pages you should keep all CSS and JavaScript OFF the HTML pages, and put them in documents of their own.

Text to Code ratio: Search engines will weigh (so to speak) your viewable text (all text that is viewable from your web page, once it has loaded) with the code. If your page is 99% code and has 3 words on it, you can forget good rankings. However, if your page has 95% text and 5% code (and loads this week), you'll be kept in the running for search engine rankings!

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