Website Optimization - A SEO Specialist Reveals All
by: Robert Fuess
Website optimization is the first step in promoting your website. Those with foresight and deeper pockets will have a SEO-savvy webmaster (such as myself) build the website that is optimized from the start. Otherwise, a website may need a SEO-facelift later to help it be digestible to the search engines - and to make it obvious to the search engines that the keywords you are trying to be found under are truly relevant to your website. Like any specialty, performing website optimization involves skills, special tools, and a willingness to keep up with current changes in the market.
Unfortunately, hiring an SEO expert can be quite expensive. For those who want to do it themselves, here are the steps.
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The first step in website optimization is to make sure you have well-formatted HTML. I would encourage you to use the following tool to check this: http://validator.w3.org/ Do your best to get your website as close to conformance as possible.
If you follow most of the suggestions for having valid HTML code your web pages will be more digestible for the search engines, as well as being much more cross-browser compliant. You should also do this after any significant edit of the web page - to ensure that it is still compliant.
The second step in website optimization is to work on the Meta tags and the title tag for each page in your site. These are in the header of your web page document and need to be tailored to attract users who type in one of a select group of keywords. If you need a tool to help generate these, use this meta tag generator tool here (http://www.spiderweblogic.com/HTML-Meta-Tag-Generator.aspx) that I built.
The Title Tag:
The title tag is, of the three, the most important for the major search engines. Don't make this too long - normally no more than 6 words. But have your most important keywords here. Some SEO specialists advise that even the order of the text here is significant. They suggest that if you place your company name in the title, that it should be placed last so the other keywords are being considered with greater weight.
The Meta-Keywords Tag:
This is now of lesser importance than before, due to abuse by webmasters to achieve high rankings. However, it is still important and is required by many of the smaller search engines. Make sure that you don't repeat any keyword or keyword phrase more than three times. That would be considered Spam (bad SEO tactics) by the search engines. Remember, your visitors will see the title of the web page. Make it useful to them as well.
The Meta-Description Tag:
This is of higher importance than the keywords tag. Several search engines use it when they show your listing. It needs to encourage your potential visitors to visit your website. Of course, having keywords in here is important. But keep the primary purpose in mind as you write it. Here too, you should make sure that you don't repeat any keyword or keyword phrase more than three times.
Each page in your website needs its own tailored title, meta-description, and meta-keywords tag. These need to be focused on the keywords you are trying for. (These are the words or phrases you want to be found at when people are doing searches.) These shouldn't normally be the same on every page. They should be customized to the content that is on that page. You should also keep your visitors in mind as you write them.
The third step is to work on your content - especially on your home page. Ideally you would have between 800 - 1200 words of text. It should have your most important keywords at the top, middle and the bottom of the text. If possible, use an "h1" tag at the top for your title - and have your most important keyword imbedded in it. Also, have some of your keywords in a sentence or phrase that is bolded. Keep it natural for your visitors to read. If it doesn't look natural, you will loose any visitors you have attracted.
The fourth step in website optimization is to edit your links and your images to make full use of the "title" and "alt" attributes.
Text links can have a "title" attribute. The content is to more fully describe your link. When you put your mouse over the link, the content of the "title" attribute is displayed. I would encourage you to tailor the description so that it contains at least one of your keywords - but keep it accurate - that it really does describe the link. It must make sense to the common user.
Images HTML tags can have an "alt" attribute. It is used to describe an image when you put a mouse over it. It is also used for different devices for seeing impaired. Also, it is used when the user decides not to show images with the web site. They will see this text instead. (It is the "Alternate Text" for the image.) Try to incorporate some keywords here too - but keep with the spirit of being the "alternate text" for the image.
If you are using tables, you may even include a table "summary" attribute. The purpose of this attribute is to assist for those with disabilities to understand the contents and structure of a table. Keep all summary comments within that purpose - and add keywords only where appropriate. Note that these summary attributes may cause your web page validator to spit up an error - but this is newer item that is encouraged.
If you haven't chosen a domain name yet, you may strongly consider having your top keyword phrase in the domain name, with the words separated by dashes. This is an excellent idea, but not always feasible. Many companies already have a domain name selected, or prefer to use their company name as the domain name. This is a business decision left up to the customer.
THINGS NOT TO DO:
Don't create and market mirror sites though to accomplish this trick either. Sites that are identical in content, but have a different domain name are considered SPAM (bad/taboo) by the search engines. They don't appreciate such tricks, and the ranking of both websites will suffer for it.
Also, don't get too crazy with stuffing keywords where they don't belong or by repeating keywords or by having keywords in hidden layers. Search engines don't like that and will ban your site.
SEO SOFTWARE TO BUY:
I have used SEO Studio to do website analysis during my optimization. This has been an invaluable tool for analyzing how saturated my keywords are in a particular web page. It is reasonably priced and I have been very satisfied with the performance. It is easy to see such things as keyword density relevance for the whole web page. It also is helpful in showing where the keywords are not (and can be). You will learn a lot about website optimization just by using this tool!
After all this "Search Engine Optimization" you need to do a human review your website - is it natural/useful/helpful for the human visitor? Remember, getting website traffic is only half the game. This site needs to quickly convert them into paying customers.
Once it is "Optimized", then you need to let the search engines know that you exist. Only after it is ready should you tell them about it. But this is a subject for another article. Do a search of different article warehouse or SEO news sources. You will find a lot of information on this.
WEBSITE OPTIMIZATION NEWS SOURCES:
Since there are new quirks in the website optimization and website promotion that come out all the time - some that apply to all search engines, and some that apply to a particular one, it is wise to keep up to date. I strongly encourage you to join a couple of relevant mailing lists!