Make a website and you’ll have visitors in no time, right? Well, it’s not that simple. It takes time for search engines to find and index your site, and once they do, there’s no guarantee that you’ll be on the first page of the search results for your subject. Search engines index billions and billions of pages, and even the tiniest subject can have tens or hundreds of thousands of those pages. For example, American Wirehair cats are extremely rare. In 2003, there were only twenty-two registered with the Cats Fancier’s association. When I type in “American Wirehair cat” into Google, I’m presented with 220,000 page options. That’s 100,000+ pages for every cat! On Yahoo, I was presented with 99,100 page options.
So how do you get your webpage to the top of the leaderboard? It all starts with search engine optimization (SEO). Search engine optimization is a term used to describe techniques and techniques used to improve the ranking of a website on search engines. The higher your page ranks on a search engine, the more likely it is that someone will choose your page to search for, thus driving more traffic to your website. Search engines such as Google and Yahoo! employ complex, proprietary algorithms to rank your site. These algorithms can be so complex that Einstein himself would have had trouble understanding them. Instead of dwelling on these issues, let’s focus on a few fundamental SEO techniques that will improve your websites ranking.
Another interesting fact about search engines is that in July 2006, Google was the most popular search engine by almost 50% of the people surveyed by Nielsen NetRatings. Yahoo! was second with 24% of users, MSN was third with 10%, AOL was fourth with 6%, and Ask was fifth with 3%. All other search engines combined account for about 8% of market share. For this reason, Yahoo! and Google will be the main focus of this article.
The most important part of SEO is picking the keywords for your page. In fact, “keywords” are usually key phrases because you’ll be picking about three or four keywords for each page on your site and rarely want to focus on a single word. It’s important to be specific when picking your keywords. Don’t use generic terms like “cat”, “television” or “car”. Pick phrases like “American Wirehair,” “plasma television,” and “Chevy Corvette.” The more specific you are, the better your page will rank and the more likely your target audience will find your site. Think about what words you’d type in when searching for your site on Google. Ask your friends or family members what they’d type into a search engine. Remember that TV and TV aren’t interchangeable words in search engines’ minds. For example, I’d pick keywords like “American wirehair cat” “Caleb’s Cattery,” or even “rare cat breeds” for the site for my fictitious site for Caleb’s
If you haven’t chosen a domain name yet, it’s best to go with one that includes at least some of your keywords. If you prefer, you can use dashes to separate the words. For example, a website named “cattery” or “caleb” is better than “caleb.” If you’re looking for an even better result, go with something like “cattery-wagtail-cats.” Keep in mind that search engines tend to rank domain names lower by more than two hyphens because they’re often associated with low-quality, spam-ridden websites.
Anchor tags (also known as anchor text) are the hyperlinked text that is visible on the page. They are heavily weighted by search engines. Make sure your anchor tags include as many of your key words as possible. They should also not be too long (although there is no limit) and should clearly indicate what the user will see by clicking on it.
When you’re creating a webpage for SEO, you’ll want to make sure that you’re using headings for your titles rather than graphic images. Headings are one of the most important elements of a page’s content. Google and other search engines consider headings when deciding which content to index. That’s why it’s important to make sure that your page’s headings contain your keywords. If you don’t include your keywords in your headings, your page will rank lower in Google’s search results.
Meta tags make it easier for search engines to index your website. There are many different types of meta tags, but the two most common are description and keyword tags. If you don’t include these two tags in your heading, search engines won’t know what to look for, usually because they’ll look for information in the first text they come across. Here’s an example of what each meta tag looks like:
• meta name="description" content="An introduction to search engine optimization, or SEO, including how to pick and use the right keywords, use meta links, title tags, alt tags, image names, site maps, links, and headings.”
• meta name="keywords" content="search engine optimization, SEO, webpage design, choosing keywords, anchor tags, headings, meta tags, title tags, alt tags, image names, site maps, robots.txt, keyword spamming or stuffing, web content development”
The description should be around 170 characters long, never longer than 200 characters, including spaces, and include all the key keywords for your webpage. Note that commas should separate keywords and there should be no commas after the last keyword in the sequence. Try to avoid repeating a word more than once in the listing. The author tag is a lesser important meta tag. While it won’t help your website rank higher, including it can help your company or name be discovered. It’s important that your description and key words are accurate and relevant to that page. If you list words or phrases that aren’t in the text of your page, they won’t rank as highly as they should. Search engines rank terms based on how often they occur on the page, where they’re in the document, how long they are in the document, and the “weight” of a search term. The weight of a term is the weight of how often it occurs on the page and where it’s in the document.
The title is technically a meta tag, but because it’s arguably the most important, it’s listed on its own. It’s also the first thing search engines look at, so you want to make sure it’s well-thought-out. You’ll want to have a different title for every page on your site. This is because the title tag is located inside the header section of your page. Most people just put their site’s name into the title tag. That’s not a good SEO strategy. Instead, use the title tag to highlight your most important keyword phrases. For instance, instead of typing “Caleb’s Cattery” into the title, write “Home of the rarest American Wirehair Cats in Northern New York”.
Length is another important factor. Google shows 66 characters of the title tag, with a cropping between each word. For instance, in the example above, Google would list the title as “Caleb’s Cattery – Home of the rarest American Wirehair cats.” Yahoo! allows 120 characters for titles, so it’s best to have a title that’s at least 66 characters in length and a subtitle that’s an additional 54 characters. You’ll also want to think about what browsers (Microsoft Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, etc.) will show you if a visitor bookmarks your site or index your pages. IE shows you the first 95 characters on the top of your page, then the first 48 on its tabs, then the first 60 in your bookmarks. Firefox shows you at least 130 characters on the top, 55 on your tabs, and 43 on your bookmarks.
Alt Tags and Image Names
Search engines index only text, but they do index alt tags attached to images. That’s why you’ll want to tag every image on your site with a tag that uses your keywords as much as possible and that’s relevant to that image. Don’t use simplistic alt tags. For example, if caleb has a picture on his site of a new bunch of kittens, use the alt tag “american wirehair kittens from caleb’s cattery” instead of “kittens”. Keywords are also great to include in file names. You can’t include spaces in the file name, but you can separate keywords with a hyphen (-) or underscore ( _ ) which search engines will read as spaces.
Site maps are documents you can submit to search engines to help them understand your site structure. To create a site map, you’ll need to create a link to each page in your site and add a text link to your site map on your site’s index page. You can also submit a site map to Yahoo! and Google.
What is a Robots.txt file?
A robots.txt file instructs the web site administrator which directories can and cannot be crawled by web robots. A robot is a computer program that searches the hypertext structure of the web to find websites to index. It is also known as a web wanderer, web crawler, or spider. Robots.txt implements the robots exclusion protocol, which lets the web site administrator define which areas of the site are “off-limits” to specific robots. The most basic robots.txt files will contain the following:
Once you’ve created and uploaded the robots.txt file to your web server, you can verify that it’s valid by visiting the robots.txt Checker on the following website: /bots-checker.txt If there’s a page that you don’t want robots to index on your site, simply add a backslash followed by disallow.
Keyword Spamming or Stuffing
Keyword spamming or keyword stuffing is the practice of including irrelevant keywords on a webpage in order to lure unsuspecting surfers to your site. It can be done in many different ways, such as listing keywords at the bottom of your page, using hidden text on your page, and so on. It is also the most common of the so-called “black hat SEO” methods, otherwise known as unethical search engine optimization (SEO). Sites that engage in keyword stuffing or keyword spamming are highly visible to search engines. Websites that use these tactics rank lower, or in extreme cases, are removed from the search engine altogether. Even though the web robot doesn’t recognize your tactics, your competitors may, and then report you.
Web Content Development
Optimizing your site is just as important as creating high-quality content in terms of attracting and retaining traffic. Having the world’s best site doesn’t mean a thing if it can’t be found. Good SEO shouldn’t change your page’s content or drastically alter it in any way. It just changes the ranking of your page by search engines.