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Optimizing Web Site Themes for Search Engines
By Andrew Gerhart and Eric Lander - February 22, 2002
I admit it: I love
themes -- you might even say I have a themes addiction. Ever since I
read a great
thread at Webmaster World a while back, I've been intrigued by them.
I've experimented with using them and explored the benefits of a successfully
themed site. Within an ever-changing industry such as search engine
optimization, a constant such as a theme is a diamond in the rough.
Let's discuss the benefits you can enjoy when you theme your Website
successfully, and optimize it properly.
of the best aspects of themes is that they'll keep your Website organized
and on-topic, something that can become quite difficult as your online
presence evolves and grows. A correct theming structure will help you
maintain a clear delineation between the different areas of your site,
and allow you to target specific keywords and keyword variations to
particular sections. A themed Website should follow a structure similar
...which brings us
to the next benefit of themes:
- Second level:
National League Teams
- Third Level:
Different National League Team pages
- Fourth Level:
Team Stats and Player pages for each team
a structure and layout similar to the one above can have a positive
impact on the selection, strength and ranking of your keywords. In the
Keyword Targeting I explained the Theme Pyramid from Search Engine
World. Referring to this layout, the main keyword will be used on the
index page, and all the levels under the main page will contain variations
of this keyword.
In the example given
above, we used the main topic of "football teams" -- a very
general term. Then as we moved deeper into the site, the keywords became
increasignly specific as the content became more focused. Armed with
this "pyramid" of keywords, the Website's impact within the
search engines' rankings will grow stronger. The reason for this is
that the pages will reinforce, strengthen, and support one another.
If you target cars
on one page of your site, and football teams on another, chances are
that a competing Website that targets football teams throughout all
its pages will appear above yours in the search engine results.
strong effect that themes have on the optimization and overall positioning
of your Website within the search engine results is that a properly
themed site will set you up for the future. Do you think the search
engines would suddenly say "Sorry, we're no longer allowing clean,
organized, relevant, content Websites in our database"? I donít
Creating a Website
with a themed structure will save you time in the future. With a themed
Website that targets one main keyword, and different variations of this
keyword in the levels below, the most work you're going to have to do
in future is to update the content and make sure the keyword levels
are at the right percentage. You won't need to go back and remove the
themes from the Website -- instead you'll only have to add new tricks
or helpful hints that you've learned.
A few of the search
engines even use themes in their ranking algorithms right now...
Tabke was the first to discuss themes, and has described the indexing
process of theme-based search engines in this
article at Search Engine World.
The indexing process
of theme-based search engines is that they arrive at your Website, spider
the Web pages, and index them all as one. A regular search engine will
come to the site, spider the pages, and index each of them separately.
The reason that a theme-based algorithm gives more relevant results
is that it examines and weighs the Website as a whole, instead of each
page individually. When this type of indexing is performed, it's harder
for one page that targets a keyword to beat a whole site that targets
that same word.
So who uses theme-based
algorithms? According to Mr. Tabke, there are currently 8 search engines
that use themes in their ranking algorithm -- check out his article
for a list of them.
Whatís the Point?
with the search engine optimization industry is that site owners sometimes
butt heads with the search engines. We have an obligation to our clients
to provide them with top rankings and targeted traffic, while the search
engines have an obligation to their users to provide relevant results.
The search engines
have taken a stand against doorway pages, cloaking, and other things,
as they can negate the provision of relevant results. Themes are a highly
efficient way for the SEO Company to get great results for their clients,
and for the search engines to provide relevant results to their users.
It's a win-win situation: themes eraditcate the site owner's need or
desire to use unethical or offbeat SEO methods.
As I said before,
to make the most of a themed Website, you will need to get organized.
If your information and content is not properly organized within categories
of interest to the user, the application of themes to the site structure
will be near impossible.
Way To Success
break your content into its main categories. From those main categories,
you'll want to refine the information to a more specific level, but
don't make it too specific. These secondary layers will be your sub-categories.
One level of refinement beyond these, and you will have created specific
topics. From there, the only need to extend into another level should
be for statistical information, help, or another method of user-assistance.
On our generic football
league Website, a category might take on the folowing structure:
- Football League
- League's Eastern
Conference Teams Listing
- Specific Eastern
Conference Team Profile
- Team Statistics,
Rosters, Player Profiles, etc.
Work for the Search Engines
As you can see, this method of theming your content not only helps establish
a more usable Website, but it actually helps your position within the
search engines too! Why does it work so well?
The primary reason
a themed approach helps you obtain high ranks is because it breaks the
Website down into more refined content areas. This allows spiders, bots
and crawlers that look into your Website to follow an obvious pathway
from the homepage on to your more specific information. Most importantly,
your homepage or index sets a theme that the spiders can follow, resulting
in very high placements.
As your Website's
structure directs the way your visitors use your content, so do the
links, and information within those links. This, in turn, often increases
the value the search engines place on the linked content, and again
helps improve your ranks.
Develop the Site
the ideas and implementation of themes seems easy enough, it is very
important to remember the rules that help you attract attention from
the search engine's bots. As you establish a working layout and approach
to your page design, make sure you employ text links to deeper, more
specific information, as well as to other resources that may exist outside
your domain. And always be sure to link back to more general pages too.
In most cases, your target keywords will already have been decided
for you. If you can't tell what your keywords are for each page, use
this tool. The keywords that you use should be variations of your
main theme, and you should ensure a certain density of those keywords
depending on which search engine you're targeting. A safe keyword density
can range between 5% and 20%.
Apply the Keywords
Once you have developed your Website using a themed structure, the next
step is to optimize it. The great thing with themes is that the Website
has already optimized itself to a certain extent. A good starting point
is to run through each category, and name everything according to the
keyword being targeted on each page, or within each category. This includes
page names, image names, HTML tags, and folder names etc.
To fully incorporate
the theme into your Website, it's essential to make the main keywords
prominent and obvious not only to the spiders, but also to the user.
To make sure that the spiders know your theme and which keywords you're
targeting, you should include your keywords in certain HTML tags. For
starters, make sure that your target keywords for each page appear at
the top of the page in an <H1> or
Also place your keywords in other prominent places on the page, and
inside bold tags. This allows the spiders to pick up the target keyword
as the main topic of the page, and will also let the user know what
the page focuses on.
Use mostly vertical, and very little horizontal linking. For example,
if you have the index page, 2 categories, 4 sub-categories, and 4 pages
for each sub category, link as follows:
- Link the index
page to the 2 category pages,
- then link the
2 category pages to the 4 sub-category pages
- The sub-category
pages should link to the category pages and to the pages within their
particular sub-category, but not to each other.
- Then link the
4 pages within each sub-category to each other and back out to the
sub-category pages, but not to pages contained in other sub-categories.
This linking will
strengthen your keyword value and reinforce the main keywords. If you
use too much horizontal linking, you can dilute the impact of your keywords
and theme. A great representation of themed linking can be found here.
Submit the Site
Once you've finished optimizing the site, you must submit it to
the search engines and directories. Submit the site to all the search
engines, and then to the major directories. Then go back and submit
all your deep level pages to the search engines, as well as to those
directories that permit multiple submissions. The next task is to find
all the secondary, tertiary, and niche directories on the Internet and
submit your Website within their themed topics.
As we all know, what comes after the optimization and submission
of a Website is the implementation of an ongoing link popularity campaign
that seems to never end. However, with a themed site, things are a bit
different when it comes to building link popularity. The main thing
to remember is that the sites that you link to, and that link to you,
must be relevant to your theme. If not, these links will dilute the
strength of your theme, and the strength of your site for that particular
keyword. Not only is this important for the strength of your theme,
but for your ranking in some key search engines like Google, which is
a theme-based search engine.
Good luck with theming