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November 5, 2007

Search Engine Optimization And How To Use It

Search engine optimization, or SEO, is a means of designing a website, and its individual pages, so that you meet the requirements of a mathematical equation called an algorithm that is designed to apply statistical analysis to determine how it relates to the search terms used by the search engine customers.

That is a long sentence, so let us look at the various elements that it contains. First designing a website. There is more to designing a website than making it pretty, and unfortunately there are a lot of website designers who do not appear to understand that. Before you can even start on design a site, you have to consider what the purpose of the website is. Usually to provide information to visitors on the search term that they use to reach you.

Web Pages Should Load Quickly

When you click to visit a website what do you want to happen? Do you want to see lovely flash graphics that take several minutes (or seem to) to load up, or do you want to be taken immediately to the home page. We both know the answer yet they still insist on the fancy stuff. That is ego, not practical web design.

Once you actually manage to get onto the home page, do you want some good information and easy navigation to well explained web pages, or do you want loads of graphics, pictures and nothing but line after line of adverts with some links to other pages on the site that you have to search for? We also both know the answer to that, but how often do you see pages full of adverts and graphics and little else? These pages are designed by self-professed SEO experts!

I recently had one of my customers ask to me run my eye over her home page that she had just had revamped by a professional developer but seemed not have been listed in Google. Because I look after my customers I agreed to do so free of charge, and do you know what I found? A web page that the spiders would have left the second they visited because the first text they would find would be line upon line of navigation away from the home page. When I checked the target pages, guess what? Same thing. The spiders would have been running round in circles, seeing nothing. Also no worth while titles and no headings except one in a H2 tag – no H1 tags at all.

Nobody can Guarantee a Google Position

All that from a ‘professional web developer’!! What do you need to be a professional these days? Don’t get me wrong, there are some good ones, though please take a piece of advice from me. Don’t hire anybody that has to pay for advertising. If they can’t get their own website into the top 10 for their main keyword, then how can they be qualified to do it for you? Forget the promises and guarantees. I can get anybody’s website into the top 10: even to number 1! All I need do is find a unique keyword or phrase that nobody is using, such as “Top website developers in Blaenavon South Wales”. I have checked that and nobody is using it! The only problem is that neither will any Google customers use it. Nobody can guarantee a Google listing position.

Incidentally, search engine customers are those that use them to find information that they are seeking. They are not advertisers on Google or people that use any of the Google services other that the search engine itself.

Keyword Density is a Thing of the Past

All SEO experts can get you in the top 10, but not for any keywords worth having. You are better doing it yourself. All you need worry about are having your keyword as part of your title (not all of it) and in TITLE tags, and use your page keyword in H1 tags as the main heading. Use it again as part of an H2 sub-heading. Use your keyword once in the first 100 characters and again in the last paragraph. Once more for every 500 words and that will do. Forget 1% -3% keyword density. Use lots of related text, but be careful of synonyms because few word mean exactly the same as others. Make sure that you make it clear in what context you are using a particular word.

Write naturally about your topic and you will be fine. Make sure that the spiders see your page title first, then the heading next. That will tell them what the most important text on your page is, and hence the topic of the page. The sub-headings will reinforce that, but only if they are in H2 – H3 tags. Forget anything more than H3.

The spiders should come across links leading from your page until it has read all your text. The lead t to where you want it do next. Attach a lead to it and guide it through your website, page by page, and avoid leading it from page to page haphazardly before it has seen the content on each page. Any website designed like the one I described at the beginning, with nothing but links at the start of every page, will be lucky to be listed at all unless it has hundreds of thousands of links coming into it.

Page Rank Might Lose its Influence

However, Google appear to be reconsidering how it views links, and perhaps web page content will be viewed as it should be – as more important than incoming links that can be contrived artificially. Follow my advice and do your own SEO. It is as easy as I have described. If you fail to get listed within two weeks you are doing something wrong, and then you might need help, but make sure you get help from somebody who wants to help you and not simply boost his or her ego.

There is more to search engine optimization than flashy pages. Spiders see in black and white, and are impatient creatures, so don’t lead them a merry dance. Be obvious, tell them what your page is about and let them read your content before sending them on to the next page.

SEO is about being honest with your visitors and giving them information that is as relevant to your subject as you possibly can, but also using common sense. Look at your home page, and consider what you want to be the most important parts of it. Then think where you would want your visitors eyes to go on your page to be given the best information. You can use HTML to make sure that the search engines crawl your page exactly that way.

Do Not Confuse Your Spiders

You can lead spiders from paragraph to paragraph. Table to table, link to link. Keep in mind that if a spider follows a link it will start crawling the page you sent it to and only come back if you allow it to: i.e. provide another link back to your home page. Theoretically you could send it back and forth the between two pages in an unbreakable loop!

That is the ‘website design’ part, leaving algorithms, statistical analysis and search terms still to cover. These will have to be the subject of another article!

Author:  If you want to learn more about search engine optimization, check out Pete’s website here: Improved Search Engine Rank where he offers a free 7-Part SEO course to help you improve your search engine listing, and also offers advice on getting rapid listings in the top search engines.

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