Friday, November 21, 2008

Search engine optimization and web site marketing summary

Search engine optimization and web site marketing is about making small modifications to parts of your web site and performing a number of actions. When the task is viewed as a whole it might seem like allot to take in and complete. To make this task easier for you to complete I have broken down each important elements I consider important to web site SEO and marketing. If you follow and complete the following actions on your web site you should notice a considerable difference to the ranking in the search engines and an increase in traffic.

Create unique, accurate page titles
- For your home page list the business name and the main focus areas of your site. (i.e. business name - main focus1 - main focus2 - physical location)
- For other content pages list the business name and the main focus area of the page.
- Note that the contents of the title tag will usually appear in the first line of the results as a link.
- The title tag should not contain any of the words Google disregards. These are words like 'and', 'not', 'a', 'the', 'about' etc which are too common for Google to take any notice of.
- Use your main keywords in your title.

Use the "keywords" meta tag
- The page's keywords meta tag should contain short concise keywords relating to your site content and contain no more than 250 characters
- Keyword information influences what keywords you site appears under in the search results.
- Use unique and relevant keywords that relate to your pages title, meta description and page content.
- Keywords should be unique for each page
- Weight is given to how near your keyword is to the beginning of your keywords list.

Use the "description" meta tag
- The page's description meta tag should be a sentence or two or a short paragraph of approximately 250 characters.
- Description information appears under a page's title and above a page's URL in a search results.
- If your site is listed in DMOZ then the page description from here is sometimes used.
- Write a description that informs users of the pages content and contains keywords relevant to your page.
- Descriptions should be unique for each page.

URL structure of the web site
- Create descriptive categories and file names for the documents on your web site.
- Create URL's that you can remember from memory and friendly to read.
- URL's to pages are displayed as part of a search result so include keywords to name folders and relevant pages.
- Create a simple directory structure
- Never have more than one URL for your home page.
- Provide one version of a URL to reach a document

Web site navigation is important
- If you have enough pages around a specific topic area create a page describing these related pages (e.g. root page -> related topic listing -> specific topic)
- Create a naturally flowing hierarchy making it as easy as possible for users to go from general content to the more specific content they want on your site.
- Use mostly text for navigation by controlling most of the navigation from page to page through text links. This makes it easier for search engines to crawl and understand your site.
- Use "breadcrumb" navigation - A breadcrumb is a row of internal links at the top or bottom of the page that allows visitors to quickly navigate back to a previous section or the root page. This create more keyword links on your pages and improves useability.
- Put an HTML sitemap page on your site and make the link to it a text link so that it will be indexed easily. Make sure that is easy to find for users.
- Create an XML Sitemap file to your page and submit to Google and Yahoo.
- Consider what happens when a user removes part of your URL as you don't want users browsing your directory structure. You can add an index.html page in each directory to forward the user to a formatted page containing links back into the body of the web site.
- Have a useful 404 page that has a customised look and feel

Be aware of the Google Sandbox and Supplemental Index
- The Google sandbox is part of the Google indexing algorithm that considers the age of a domain.
- Do not expect high listing in the search engines for more than 6 months even if you are doing everything right as older domains are favoured.
- If you site is in the supplemental index this means that your site has been classified as a site that contains duplicate content
- Simple Way To Probe Google's Supplemental Index - *** -sjpked

Offer quality content and services
- Creating compelling and useful content that will influence users on your web site so that users will link to your pages.
- Encourage users to link to you site through blog posts, social media services, email, forums, or other means.
- Use relevant language for you target audience.
- Write easy-to-read text and stay organised around the topic.
- Create content primarily for your users, not search engines and make the content relevant to the title and description of your page.
- Do not create duplicate web sites with the same content, these sites decrease your site ranking as search engines do not value content that is duplicated
- Content throughout a site should not also be duplicated.
- Aim to keep content duplication to a minimum; make sure that at least 70% of the sites content is original.
- To give you an idea of what keyword density to use, if you have less than 250 words on the page, just use one keyword and use it no more than three times total.
- To target specific keywords in your content bold the first keyword and italicise the second or third use of that keyword.
- Keep your content fresh and updated to keep bringing Google bot back to your site on regular intervals.

Include an RSS Feed
- Create an RSS Feed associated with your site or product
- It is vital that you take advantage of this technology to get your content broadcasted across the web and around the world.

Include anchor text on you links
- Choose descriptive and concise anchor text.
- Format your links so they're easy to spot on the page. (i.e. make they a different colour to the body text, preferably blue as this is the default colour for a link)
- Think about anchor text for internal links too and keep the anchor text consistent when linking to these pages.

Use rel="nofollow" for links
- Setting the value of the "rel" attribute of a link to "nofollow" will tell Google that certain links on your site shouldn't be followed.
- Using this attribute will allow you to prioritise which pages are indexed.
- Use this attribute on outbound links to other web sites that are not that relevant to your websites content.
- To nofollow all of the links on a page, use "nofollow" in your robots meta tag.

Include heading tags and format the page appropriately on each page
- Use <h1> for your main topic and <h2> for the sub topics included on your page
- Use headings sparingly across the page. (i.e. One use of <h1> tag and a few uses if <h2> tag)
- Use bullets where possible as visitors can quickly scan them. Search engines also prioritise bullets instead of long paragraph text.
- To maximise the results for your keywords optimization efforts focus on one or two keywords only per page.

Optimize your images for search engines
- Use the alt attribute to describe the image including a keyword where relevant (note: do not bother doing this for images that are used a spacers etc)
- Make the image file name relevant to the image including a keyword where relevant.
- Use brief, but descriptive file names and alt text.
- Store images in a directory of their own.
- These tips make it easy for images search engines to include your images.

Use of robots.txt
- This ensures that relevant sections of your web site are indexed.
- Use secure methods for sensitive content. (i.e. Logon mechanisms as robots.txt will not prevent users from accessing confidential material included on your web server)

Inbound and outbound linking
- Try to get as many links as possible to your web site from other sites listed in the search engines.
- The quality of your inbound and outbound links far outweigh quantity.
- The oldest method of gaining inbound links is to request them.
- Find the highest page rank sites linking to your site and your competitors' sites and try to get additional links from these web sites.
- Run monthly link campaigns and snatch up the best identified web sites.
- Run regular checks on what pages are still linking back to your site. Also make sure they did not move you from a high page rank page to a lower one.
- Eliminate any penalised sites you link to as this has a negative effect of your search engine rankings.
- Check your search engine ranking and your competitor's for each of your keywords every week. Do this for Google, Yahoo, MSN and Alta Vista at the minimum.
- One of the most effective methods of gaining back links is to provide an article for other companies to use containing links to your web site.
- Use PPC advertisements to achieve inbound links to your site.
- Linking to yourself from other sites that you might own is an acceptable practice. Don't set-up web site that simple link back to yourself though.
- Add a button to your site such as "Add This" so that users can use social bookmarking sites to link back to your web site.

Promote your web site in the right ways
- Include a blog about new content or services.
- Use social media sites to promote your web site.
- Putting effort into the off-line promotion of your company or site can also be rewarding.
- Reach out to those in your site's related community.
- Add your business to Google's Local Business Center this way your site will be added to Google Maps.
- Press releases are one of the mainstays of any marketing program and work wonders to drive large amounts of traffic.
- Create an affiliate program (This means that the affiliate - the person who placed your link on their site - gets paid a small percentage of any sale made)
- Avoid link farming, duplicated content, cloaking, spamdexing, and other attempts to fool search engine crawlers as this will get your site penalised.

Use web analytics services
- Get insight into how users reach and behave on your site and make common navigation paths easier on your web site.
- Discover the most popular content on your site so you can further improve these areas.
- Measure the impact of optimizations you make to your site.

In future blog posts I have decided that I am going to go into more detail for some of these specific areas covered. These future posts will explain how to complete each of the items listed in each of the main areas of SEO and marketing, so stay posted. If there are other areas that you believe I have missed on this list let me know and I will amend the post as I would like to include everything that makes for a successful web site.