Search Engine Optimisation #1
Search Engine Optimisation. The act of manipulating your website so it appears high in search-engine rankings, to get more visitors and hence revenue.
All Webmasters, me included, have at some point investigated (and implemented) ways of making our sites more appealing to Google. Hundreds of websites and forums are dedicated to the subject, packed with people trying to find the secret ingredient that will launch their site to the top of the rankings.
A look back at the history of SEO shows that short term fixes are eventually picked up by the Search Engine algorithms and the sites that use them drop down the rankings. Packing meta-tags, posting links on user groups, forums, blogs, hidden text links, etc, have all come and gone.
Reciprocal linking has long been a successful way of improving your sites ranking, as long as the links are from reputable, relevant sites, but in some forums people seem to think that reciprocal linking is declining in importance to Google, MSN and Yahoo.
Let's look at SEO from a different perspective and come up with a plan for our site that will improve its rankings long term, and in a way which will not later be penalised. To do this we have to think about Google's long term aims in the development of its algo, and predict what the next developments will be.
A successful search-engine has to deliver relevant results to its users. When they ask "how do I make a widget jump?" it had better come back with plenty of good websites about widget jumping, or pretty soon it will loose its customer base and advertisers. The problem is that it is now very easy to make money out of websites, through adsense, if you can get them to the top of the rankings. Think of how many times you have tried to search for something, on any search-engine, and how many poor results you're had to trawl through to find what you're really looking for. Clearly the search-engines haven't got it right yet, but they will do. Google, MSN and Yahoo are spending millions to develop algorithms that really work. What will they come up with?
The perfect search engine algorithm will probably be the first true artificial intelligence. It will be like a billion human editors, sifting through the web and ordering every page for every search term.. There will be no fooling it, anything designed to artificially inflate a site or pages importance will be ignored. So we need to forget all the SEO nonsense and go back to examining our pages and sites as real users, and ask ourselves how they compare to the sites we really think are important, we regularly use, and we think should be high in the rankings. Here we go.
1) A site should display properly in everyone's browser so they can read it properly. Sounds simple, just preview your pages in IE, Firefox or Opera, and if it looks ok, great. But computers don't see things as we do, even very cleaver ones, so what standard do we think the search-engines use to test a pages accessibility? Our best reference is the W3Cs page validator, which will check if your pages conform to various standards.
First rule: All our pages should be W3C compliant.
2) Our sites should include original and useful information. Difficult for a computer to check, but computers are very good at comparing things and checking correct grammar and spelling.
Second rule: We will never use duplicate content, and we will always spell and grammar check our pages.
3) A good site will generate inbound links because people will think that site is worth referencing from their own pages, from within their site and not just on a "links" page. Useful links add so much value to any web page, and linking between HTML is the real power of the internet.
Rule 3: We will link to other, useful pages from each page on our own website, not to gain popularity through reciprocal links, but as a resource for our visitors. These links will be on each page and not in a directory.
4) On good websites, the internal navigation is intuitive. The movement from one page to another is aided by relevant internal links, and not just plain menus or borders.
Rule 4: We will place context sensitive internal links on our pages to help our visitors find the information they need.
5) When I want to find info about something, I don't want to feel like I'm being channelled towards affiliate links and that the only reason for that website is to get me to leave and go to Amazon, etc, because they want to make a few bucks out of me.
Rule 5: We will use affiliate tracking links very carefully and make it clear to our visitors that they are going to be taken to a retail site to maybe buy that product. We will not load our pages with affiliate links.
6) For me to really like a website, it has to have excellent content and for there to be lots of it.
Rule Six: Content is king. We will write pages overflowing with excellent material which we will keep updating and improving. We will separate this content into smaller, more focussed pages. (This makes adsense perform better too.).
7) We will listen to and act upon the instructions that Search Engines give us.
Rule Seven; We will know the terms of service for Google, Yahoo, MSN, we will use their "site submit" pages, robot.txt instructions and site-map facilities to tell these search-engines about our sites, and we will update them regularly.
8) I still think that a carefully researched reciprocal linking programme could work well, with some provisos.
Rule Eight: We will only link to relevant sites. We will split our link directories into smaller categories. We will use original anchors to link to other sites, and encourage others to use original text in the way they link back to us.
The next few SEO tips are basics, but they may be of use to you.
Rule Nine: I will use meta-tags to describe my website (even though they may not matter); I will only have tags that reflect what is on the page.
Rule Ten: I will make a list of five search phrases that I would use to find the info on my page and include those phrases in my text. e.g. "How do I make blue widgets" and "FAQ on blue widgets" etc.
Rule Eleven: I will make my pages small, no more than 2 times the height of the screen. (This works especially well to create focussed adsense ads.)
There it is, my version of SEO. Let's see how popular our sites get by following those simple rules. #1 here we come!!!!