Today, at 10AM PST I'll be conducting a webinar for SEMpdx. The webinar is titled Secrets to Creating a Search Engine Friendly Website, and it's still not too late to register by clicking that link.
Last week I answered some questions that were submitted by registrants and I wanted to hit a few more again today. I've got more questions than I have time to answer here, but will also try to get to some of them during the webinar. Anything left unanswered I'll probably be posting a few answers here a week until I burn through them all.
When developing a successful SEO friendly website, what things must be optimized (like a check-list) in the website to give it a general success?
Wow, that's a pretty broad question. I have a checklist covering about 400 different points, but it's not all SEO. Some of it is architecture, some is usability, some is accessibility. To me, all of these things are interrelated. SEO is about making your website appealing in a way that the search engines consider it a more valuable resource then the other competing sites. What makes a site valuable to people also makes it valuable to the search engines. The better your site is built, the better visitor experience you can provide and the more you try to create what I call a "Destination Website", the more people your site will appeal to, the more traffic you'll get, the more conversions you'll be able to make. All of that, in turn, translates into links and word of mouth. Which, in turn, translates into search engine rankings for a properly optimized site.
The webinar will cover a number of points from that checklist, primarily from the architecture side. But keep in mind, this is not an SEO discussion. It's a discussion on how to make your site search engine friendly so it can be search engine optimized. Those are two very different things. You can have "optimized" web pages, targeting your keywords effectively, but if the site isn't search engine friendly then all the keyword optimization in the world wont' do you any good. On the other hand, a search engine friendly site usually isn't enough if you're not doing effective keyword targeting on your pages.
We do development for our clients on our server, which results in similar content appearing in two places. Is a robots.txt file to keep crawlers out of our development directories sufficient to avoid rankings penalties for duplicate content?
Absolutely! Using the robot.txt to disallow any and all development directories should be enough to keep all legitimate search engines out of the development sites. Keep in mind, though that development pages can be bookmarked or linked to so some spiders will still find the information if it's publicly available. But most of these will not be "legitimate" spiders or search engines. If you wan to keep the non-legit ones out then you might might to password protect your development sites. This will block them effectively from rogue spiders and anybody else who isn't authorized to view the pages.
How do I build a durable site from the start? What are crucial design pitfalls to avoid--especially those that are hard to undo? (Ex: Company site SERPs dropped off the map when we split a product category into two; it needed to be done...Oddly, we continue to rank well for one of our targeted phrases. Does a necessary change always cause this much pain?)
The webinar will provide you with a number of solid points on how to create (or re-create) a durable, search engine friendly website. I'll also talk about a number of things to avoid doing, but you have to realize that everything you do to your site will have an effect on the rankings. Sometimes positive, sometimes negative and sometimes barely even noticeable in either direction. With that in mind, you have to consider carefully what changes really need to be made, think logically to how the search engines might react to that and then implement it only if the benefit for your users outweighs any potential negative effect from the search engines.
Sometimes you absolutely have to make changes that will have serious negative consequences. But those changes are often necessary both for visitors and for long-term search engine friendliness. For example if you have a system that creates mass duplicate content then you have to fix that. By doing so you'll see lots of pages fall out of the index in the search engines. This can cause an immediate negative impact on your business, but you know that by fixing the duplicate issue you're creating a more search friendly site. The long-term benefit of that change will far outweigh any short-term loss.
Plan ahead in such circumstances, weigh the pros and cons and find ways to combat the cons for a quick recovery of any loss.
Should your company's URL be keyword rich, or just the name of your company?
If you are just starting out then you can have both. When doing your research for your company name, make sure the URL is available before you make any final naming decisions. The last thing you want is to get what you think is a great company name only to realize that someone else owns the URL.
Is it smart to have a keyword-rich company name? Absolutely. Keywords are words that people use to create an identity between what you do and who you are. If you use keywords in the name then you don't have to "teach" anybody what your company does. Let's take McDonalds as an example. In the early days they were called "McDonald's Hamburgers." Right there you know this is a hamburger joint. Same with Burger King. What do they do? Make burgers! On the other hand if you have a vague company name like Global Enterprises, well, you've got your work cut out for you explaining what you do. If your company name is keyword rich then your URL should be also.
So get your keywords in your business name and make sure you can get your business name as your domain name. It's not so crucial that your domain name is keyword rich as it is that it reflect your company name. Otherwise it creates a branding disconnect. Imagine if Target was found at
www.clothingandelectronics.com. While Target doesn't use keywords in their name, there would be an even worse disconnect if their domain name was different from their brand name.
Your name is important enough to make sure it suites your audience first. Keywords in your business name are great, but don't go overboard in trying to create a business name that's just stuffed with keywords. You'll have a hard time with a business name such as The Boys and Girls School Clothing and Accessories Store. Find something that is workable, catchy and tells the story of what you do in few words. Then get the domain name, not for the keywords, but simply because that's your business name.
Overall, the effect of having keywords in your domain name is minimal. The effect of having keywords in your business name is much more important. Many people will link to you using only your business name, if that name is keyword rich, then you gain good keyword links with just about every link.
Got more questions? Please feel free to add them to your comments here (I'll reply in the comments) or email me at email@example.com. As long as questions keep coming in I'll be happy to continue to post answers on a weekly basis.
Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.
If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.
Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.
Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.
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