Sites designed with heavy graphics, frames, Flash, dynamic databases, or other codes that are not HTML based require specific optimization techniques to get properly indexed by the major search engines. By consulting with SEO specialists early on, you can avoid expensive re-design costs that might be needed to improve search engine visibility.
SEO Best Practices
There are a number of techniques that can be used to ensure your site is indexed and well positioned in the major search engines. While SEO techniques change constantly, the following are currently important for good positioning.
Domain Name Selection
Your domain name (URL) can be a key factor in both search engine and directory positioning. Domain name research is important, and it's wise to get professional help in making this decision.
Web Site Copywriting
Web page copy is of major importance for search engines, directories, and customers. Search robots need machine-readable content (text) in your pages and HTML tags to index your site. Directory editors decide whether or not to list your site based on unique and relevant content. Customers make buying decisions based on savvy marketing copy.
Text near the top of the page is important to search spiders, as are keywords at the beginning of paragraphs and in headings. Write your text first, then create meta tags relevant to specific page content. Write for people first and search engines second. It's not easy to write compelling marketing copy that skillfully integrates your keywords, so it's a plus to have your content written by a pro copywriter.
Despite less reliance on meta tags, it pays to provide title, description, keywords, heading, and alternate tags in the head section of all your indexable pages. All your meta tags should be unique and apply to a specific page.
Basic Links, Hypertext Links and Site Map
You must ensure that search spiders have plenty of basic links to follow. Search engine spiders will index the text on your homepage, then attempt to follow links from there to other pages in your site.
Hypertext Links Ideally, your links should have a keyword in the link text or in an .alt description of the image or area tag.
Site Map Makes it easier for search spiders to find all your pages. Also useful for site visitors. This tool includes a categorized list of all the pages on your site. You must provide one or more links to the site map from the home page.
Directory and File Names
Because many engines and directories index file names and even directory names, it pays to create these using keywords whenever possible. Use at least one keyword phrase in your file/directory names, preferably at the beginning. Don't stuff keywords and keep the names relevant. Use hyphens or underscores to separate the words in your file and directory names.
Spider Analysis can provide a record of activity telling you what happens when search spiders enter your site to index pages. It shows whether or not your site has been spidered, by which search engine(s), on which pages, and on what dates. Spider Analysis reveals which pages are considered more relevant and which should be re-optimized and re-submitted. It also can identify and eliminate harmful spiders like email-harvesting robots. Many SEO firms offer spider analysis services.
Robots Exclusion File
It's important to have a robots.txt file present in your root directory because some search spiders will not crawl a site if they don't find the robots.txt file.
Most search engine algorithms now include link popularity, which started with Google's PageRank. This technology works by first identifying the link structure of the entire Web, then ranking individual pages based on the number and importance of pages linked to them. Identifying your inbound links and increasing the number of important, relevant inbound links is an essential part of your SEO strategy.
Don't Forget to Budget for SEO
It's essential for Web designers and their clients to budget for SEO in the design process. It's a marketing strategy that gives you highly targeted visitors, good conversion rates, and a good return on investment. Incorporating SEO Best Practices into your Web design process can help you avoid costly mistakes.
June 20, 2002
Paul J. Bruemmer has provided search engine marketing expertise and consulting services to prominent American businesses since 1995. As Director of Search Marketing at Red Door Interactive, he is responsible for strategizing and implementing search engine marketing activities within Red Door's Internet Presence Management (IPM) services.
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