Web Site Optimisation - Important Search Engine Strategies

To ensure the initial, often considerable investment in a web site is worthwhile, clients need their sites designed to be found and indexed easily for the search terms most relevant to their products and services.

At the time of writing, Google is still the most popular search engine followed by Yahoo and MSN. Major search engines are committed to minimising spam - each have their own algorithmic methods for determining site credibility and detecting indiscretions, with Google currently being the most pro-active.

Here are some factors which search engines value when determining the relative importance and credibility of web sites.

  1. Clean, fast loading markup code

    While some coding mistakes are more critical than others, a minimum clients might expect from professional web designers is compact, error-free validated code with correct semantic usage of html and css elements to assist with search engine indexing. This is achievable readily with effort and attention to web standards.

    When search engines stumble on some coding errors, they may skip whole sections of content or leave the site completely. Errors in both html and css documents are easy to spot and eradicate using the W3 code validator. Those who use the Firefox browser will find there are developer extensions which make html and css validation a breeze.

    It is important to ensure that pages in database driven sites are able to be indexed by major search engine robots. Google in particular is said not to index urls containing "&id=". Static text links can be created to counter any indexing problems.

    HTML markup bloat, which slows page loading time, can be reduced by writing code with a decent, non WYSIWYG HTML editor and with the implementation of external style sheets and scripts. To decrease loading time further, scripts can be combined. A page speed report facility is available with the free Faganfinder tool.

  2. Logical, descriptive metatags

    Scrub the Web can be used to eliminate glaring metatag mistakes and to promote search engine friendliness.

    Page titles which encapsulate the essence of the page content are recommended. The title should contain the most important key phrase for the relevant page.

    Meaningful description and key word metatags should be utilised, containing the page's most important key words and competitive key phrases, with a specific title, description, key words and phrases for each page. Key words and key phrases in the keywords metatag should actually appear within the page content itself.

    Metatags should not be stuffed with keywords and key word phrases - three times is sufficient.

    More important information on strategically written titles and keywords within text are contained in this useful article of top SEOs' consensus describing the 10 most important factors for Google.

  3. Useful links

    Incoming links which are developed on an ongoing basis from sites with credibility are of most value. Particularly, links within the ODP and Yahoo directories are favoured by Google. As links age, they gain in value, with their full effect achieved after several months.

    Broken interior and external links should be fixed. Ongoing site maintenance and tuning is essential.

    Participate in artificial link schemes with link farm sites or with sites whose pages aren't indexed by Google at your peril. Developers can employ the elegant Future Page Rank tool to assess the value of potential link partners.

    The number of links on any page should be less than 100¹.

  4. Readable, Focused Content

    Well written copy which is attractive to and useful for potential customers and which interfaces well with search engines is a must. Keep paragraphs and sentences short and descriptive with terms which relate to the keywords. Use lists and remove all grammar and spelling errors.

    Unlike live site viewers, search engines don't care so much about graphics. However, graphics should be accurately titled within the 'alt' attribute. To assist in indexing within image directories, graphics files should be named appropriately.

    <h1> tags should occur only once on a page, followed by <h2>, then <h3> etc to indicate the relative importance of sections.

    List items should be separated with commas, semi-colons or periods.

    Over time, it is beneficial to add new content to sites. A changing News, Current Events or What's Happening section on the first page of the site is invaluable. Blogs incorporated in sites can provide a user friendly method for clients to increase content painlessly themselves. RSS feeds can also prove highly useful.

    The same words or key phrases in headings or content should not be overused, and long sentences and convoluted descriptions should be avoided.

    To attract search engine attention, important phrases can be marked up with <strong>text here</strong> or the print can be bolded with relevant css. eg .bold {font-weight:bold} in the style sheet and <span class="bold">important text here</span> in the markup.

    Sites with considerable relevant content, logical architecture and navigation are favoured.

  5. Navigation

    When using dhtml, javascript, flash or image map menus, site links should be replicated elsewhere in the page. While some search engines can index flash and image map links, others can't. Alternative descriptive text content and links within object tags or <noscript></noscript> alternatives for javascript should be added.

    A site map conveniently facilitates search engine indexing and a robots.txt file can be employed to exclude spider visits to pages which are of no value to the overall site or are of no use to search engines, such as external javascripts.

    When a lengthier description is appropriate, links should be titled.

    Page files and directories should be appropriately named to facilitate indexing.

    Using cloaked pages, doorway pages, hidden text and other deceptive tricks places sites at risk of being banned by search engines.

  6. Domains and Hosting

    Domains should be registered for a longer period than a year to avoid search engines considering the hosted site to be a fly by night spam source. The name and details of the business or person listed in the site content should be used as registrant of the domain.

    Hosting continuity with a reliable host should be maintained.

    Host .com domains on servers within the originating country or google won't index the site for searches within that specific country.

    Ensure the server on which you host has a clean bill of health. The tools at DNS Stuff are useful to locate server problems. You can also check whether the domain you wish to buy has a dubious past using the Spam Domain Blocklist.

    The longer the site has been on line, the better for search engine visibility. To retain search engine rankings and mitigate the Google and Yahoo aging delays and Google sandbox effect when replacing an old domain name, employ a 302 redirect from the old domain to the new domain, then a permanent 301 redirect later on.² MSN doesn't at this time employ an aging delay.

While the techniques above are by no means exhaustive, they may give an indication of the minimum one can expect from a serious web developer. For more information and investigative tools, enjoy some of the useful site analysis and search engine resources below.

Sibagraphics © 2005, 2006.

Bibliography

¹ Google Information for Webmasters : Guidelines
² High Rankings Advisor Issue 142

Useful Resources for Site Optimisation

Datacenter Quick Check
Datacenter PageRank Check
DNS Report
Matt Cutts : Gadgets, Google and SEO
Search Engine Optimization, Promotion and Internet Marketing
Watchfire Webxact

Top of the Page
Sibagraphics
ABN40098165406 / QLD BN17649330
P.O. Box 259, Pomona, Qld Australia 4568
Ph: +61 (0)7 5485 2085
Mob: +61 (0)412 665 189
Valid XHTML 1.0 / Valid CSS Copyright | Privacy | Disclaimer
Copyright © 1998 - 2017 Sibagraphics
Page last modified February 29, 2016.