Search Engine Optimization (SEO) - Designing Your Website For SEO

With over 80 percent of website traffic coming from search engines, it's no wonder I am often asked the question "How can we get a better position on the search engines?" Still, with all of the attention on Search Engine Optimization (SEO), companies are not investing enough of their marketing effort/budget on SEO. In fact, while most companies consider SEO important to their marketing success, very few are actually doing it (some studies show fewer than 40%), and those who are...not completely.

Search engine optimization (SEO) means ensuring that your web pages are accessible to search engines and structured in ways that help improve the chances they will be found and listed as close to the top of the list as possible.

How do you stack up?

This article defines the types of search tools, reviews the optimization areas that most impact your position:

Meta Tags: Page Titles, Descriptions, Keywords

When a search engine visits your website it will first look at your Page Title, Description, and Keyword Meta Tags. Before submitting your website to the search engines, pay close attention that your Meta Tags for each page are descriptive and accurately reflect that page's content. While the list of keywords in your Meta Tags were once a key element to optimization, it is now more important to be sure each page includes your keyword, or keyword phrases, up to three times within the page content itself (or at least 3-10% page density). Also, search engines will check for keywords near the top of a web page, such as in the headline or in the first few paragraphs of text of that page. They assume that any page relevant to the topic will mention those words right at the outset. SO, as far as the Meta Tags are considered, the most important are the Page Title and Page Description, so pay close attention to how those are treated in the code of EVERY page.

Content and Structure

First and foremost your site's pages must contain "quality" content. Quality is defined by the degree of usefulness the content has for the expected visitors, comprehensiveness of that content, the direct relation of that page's content to the Meta Tags in the code of that page, and the quantity of content (Websites with fewer than 100 pages are going to have difficultly ranking).

Also, don't build your site with frames or extensive use of Flash, as generally these design options are not able to be spidered by the search engines' robots. And while dynamically generated sites using technology such as ASP, Cold Fusion, and PERL, can have a great impact to the site's functionality, they can cause issues for search engine placement because the pages don't actually exist until a visitor triggers the page and a search engine spider doesn't trigger a page when it crawls the code. The other problem is that this type of technology adds question marks into the URL and many spiders can't read a link past the "?" in a link. There are technological ways around this, but it can be tricky. If you're going to use dynamically generated web pages, be sure you've addressed these issues first.

Limit your use of graphic representation of text. Spiders can't index images, so even though graphics help you control the "look" of the text, you will want to avoid using them when representing your keywords on that page.

Finally, the content on your site must also be accurate and updated regularly. As your home page is often the first page to be spidered, be sure to design it to be the page that is updated monthly with new information and news. Also, consider using your company name as often as possible, rather than the more casual use of "us" and "our." Basically, follow the rule of thumb of always getting specific...not "our products", but "our sales and marketing tools."



Link Strategy

Multiple links from RELEVANT third-party sites to your site are very important for many of the search engines. The search engines do give you points for quality links so linking for linking sake is not the answer here. The major search engines use link analysis for search ranking, which is the process of determining the relative importance of each link pointing to your website and in some cases the context of the link. This is vastly different from earlier days, when search engines factored sheer popularity into their algorithms.

A solid link strategy is essential for top search engine placement, but takes significant time and effort to complete. The first step is to identify the potential sites you want to link from and to set up a place on your site to reciprocate. Then contact those sites and ask them to include you on their site (consider paying for this "sponsorship" and/or bartering for it). When you post links on other sites, remember that text links are important to include alongside logo links and the text of the link should be the keyword or keyword phrase(s) you are optimizing for.

Finally, be sure to cross link within your own site (use "anchor text" for each link). Many of the robots will follow links from your site to other areas of your site and index those areas. For this reason, add a site map from your home page that is a text-only link outline of your entire site. Again, the text of the link should be the keyword or keyword phrase(s) you are optimizing for.


The final step to optimization is submitting your site to the search engines and directories. You can do this yourself to the three majors-Google, Yahoo, and MSN.

The bottom line? Search engine optimization is a tedious, but necessary task. And, it can take a few months to see tangible results. Depending on the importance of search engines to your marketing strategy, you may want to consider hiring an expert.

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