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September 4, 2008

The SEO Workshop

se-optimization

Much has been written about the nuances of achieving high search engine ranking using SEO tricks and techniques. The web is littered with countless articles, discussions, and debates regarding the most intricate SEO strategies and their perceived interpretation by the major search engines. But an effective SEO campaign is more than the application of these philosophies, it is a comprehensive process that manages, measures, and controls the entire SEO initiative and, when done properly, yielding the desired results (see http://www.intsolgrp.com results returned by Google search for terms custom business software and custom ecommerce software), which brings us to the process, what I call the SEO workshop.

Effective management of an SEO campaign requires several software tools and services. Most are available as free shareware and the commercially available packages typically sell for less than $100 each. The important thing is to make sure you have the necessary tools to control the process. A basic SEO workshop should contain the following:

Computer with high speed Internet connection to be used for transferring, editing, and testing web pages, building site maps, and validating results. This computer should have sufficient disk space for storage of multiple backup copies of the web sites and, ideally, a USB (or other) external drive for saving archive copies of the web pages.

An FTP program for transferring files. I personally use CuteFTP Pro but there are many good programs available, some of which are free. You should, however, make sure that the selected program has the capability of sorting the directory listings by change date as this can save a lot of time identifying files to transfer when doing global changes.

An HTML editor. My choice is the editor produced by CoffeeCup Software but there are many to choose from, including free shareware versions. There are, however, several things to look for when choosing the editor. First, it should have a preview capability. This allows you to view the web page as you are constructing it, and to test your links (when using full URL in links the preview will search for the page on the web, hence the need for the high speed connection). A global search and replace capability (preferably at the directory level) will speed the process when making site wide changes and color coding of HTML and CSS  code will enhance readability and highlight code errors (some editors also include auto complete capabilities for program code).

A sitemap generator. I have used several and currently use GsiteCrawler, a freeware program that runs in Windows. One key feature to seek is automatic uploading of sitemaps and search engine notification that the map has been updated. Some generators also validate the pages in the site and report any broken links, another useful feature.

Tools to validate HTML and CSS code. I use the HTML Validator and CSS Validator at http://www.w3c,org. I have found that building conformant CSS files greatly enhances multi-browser compatibility.

Current versions of all major browsers including Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Opera, Netscape, and Safari. All new pages and page changes should be tested in all browsers.

A tool to check for broken links. It is widely believed that search engines penalize webmasters for broken links. As such, all pages should be checked for valid links. I normally use the W3C link checker but have used others that check the entire site (these programs are usually limited in the number of pages they will check) and, as previously mentioned, some sitemap programs also provide this function.

A web monitoring program to insure your site is available. Your website rankings can be adversely affected by excessive downtime or failures during the crawling process. My research has shown that these failures can occur more frequently than one might expect, particularly when using inexpensive web hosting services.  Monitoring program should be used to insure you are aware of the status of your site at all times. There are many freeware programs available including our free Web Check 24×7 software which can be downloaded at http://www.intsolgrp.com/webcheck24x7.htm. There are also web based services that perform similar monitoring functions. Key features to seek are email notification of problems, adjustable timer settings, and ability to check multiple sites.

A program to manage your links. Nearly as important as assuring that your site is up, management of your inbound links is critical to the success of your SEO campaign. There are several free shareware choices available as well as shrink wrapped products. The most important feature is an email notification when an inbound link is removed. Additional tools for promoting links and building link pages can also be beneficial.

Software to track your results. Search engine changes are not instantaneous. Some take days, or even weeks, to affect the SEO rankings. It is important to keep track of all changes and the associated results. I have found the web based tool at http://www.digitalpoint.com/tools/keywords/ to be an ideal choice for this task. The site allows you to setup your keywords and to perform periodic ranking checks to see if your results are improving or deteriorating. I find this tool indispensible for tracking the results of my changes.

About the Author

Charles W. Clark III is President of The Integrated Solution Group, Inc., a custom software development company specializing in custom database driven websites and smart client desktop applications. Please visit our website at http://www.intsolgrp.com for additional information.

One Response to “The SEO Workshop

    avatar John Metzler says:

    I think you missed possibly the most important tool of all: Google Analytics. Using statistics software to analyze visitor behavior on your web site is essential to improving search engine performance and user experience.

    It is especially important if you spend valuable resources on advertising and pay-per-click campaigns. Knowing which ads are sending traffic to you, and how deep those visitors go through your site, can mean the difference between wasting money and making money.

    Are visitors hitting your contact page without filling out a form or sending an email? Are they not even getting past your home page? This is stuff one needs to know. SEO isn’t all about obtaining a top page ranking. That’s only the start. I’d highly recommend Google Analytics (and it’s free) to anyone operating a web site today.

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