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Basics of Search Engine Optimization

Do You Want to be Found on the Net?

There are two primary reasons to have a WEB presence. You want to have a great looking place to send people when they ask if you have a WEB site. (or) You want to use your site to generate interest, (sales and leads), in your business. There may be some overlap but generally it's easy to spot the difference. The vast majority of business WEB sites are not designed to generate interest in the site or in the company. Some of the best looking sites can't be found on the Internet by doing a search. Here is a link to a site that is informative (Link) and supports much of what's mentioned here.

If you enter a 3 or 4 word search, (pick any search engine), that pertains to your business, but doesn't contain your name or the business name, and it can't find your WEB site in the first 2 pages of a search engine then you aren't using your site to generate business, (even if that was the plan). If you can't find yourself on Google using that method, your site needs help!

90% of WEB design companies have no idea how to optimize the site to be search engine friendly, (See our SEO Blooper page) The only thing on their mind is making the client happy with a site that looks great. And most do at least a decent job of that. Some of the site design companies even have a disclaimer in their contract that excludes them from any responsibility for SEO or SEM.. That's not their business, it's site design. Anyone who has studied Search Engine Marketing,(SEM), knows that there are a few hard and fast rules, (though the rules change frequently), to follow in order to get into the search engine indexes.

Most SEM research sites will tell you NOT to use flash. Most search engines don't understand and can't read flash. You can use it, but there is a right and wrong time and place for it. Your opening page must have text that pertains to your business even if it doesn't contain your business name. When people search for most companies they search for a service or product not the company name. If your business isn't well defined in the first couple paragraphs, you might as well kiss the search engines goodbye, no matter how beautiful your site looks. However there are other things about the site design process that you should know. (See our WEB Site Design Page)

If you have ever spent any time manually submitting a site to search engines or directories you'll notice that most will tell you they won't index your site unless you have the proper "meta tags" in place. Over 70% of the sites I see have either no meta tags or they aren't formatted properly. There are several meta tags that should be on every page. They easily identify information about your site for the benefit of the search engines. There are title, keywords, keyphrase, content type, and robot tags among others. You can see if a site has them by going to "view -> source" or "view -> page source" in your browser menu. To be identified by some of the search engines those tags need to be formatted correctly and at the top of the page.

The 3 most important search engines are Google, Yahoo and MSN. Each depends on slightly different page structure to be included in their search index but it's possible to include structure for all the search engines in every page. Google is by far the most difficult search engine to get a link from, (referred to as an organic back link), directly to your site. But you have a better chance of appearing high in Google's pages if you appear in a large number of other high quality sites or search engines.

(If you are interested in seeing if a WEB site is close to meeting the generally accepted standards for design you can go here, W3.ORG, and input a site name). That site is the World Wide Web Consortium, (known as the W3C). and is considered by many as the authority on site design format and compatibility. They set the standards. The computer industry recognizes that Internet Explorer, (IE) is currently the least standards complaint of the widely used browsers. You heard it here, since most people won't tell you that. There are plenty of BETTER and safer alternatives. (see our Internet Caution page for more information). You can also see information about our preference, Firefox. Having pages that meet the standards is a great start but not the whole story.

There are plenty of companies that are willing to take your money to get you listed but they are almost all useless in the long term, Content is King! Those companies promise to get you a top 10 listing but they don't tell you it will be for your company name. Remember, when you want to find a service on the Internet, do you search for the company name? Not likely. Anything those companies do for you will probably only last a few months. I've seen this happen many times to many sites.

There are a great many of other considerations in page design that will help you get, and stay, listed well. Code to text ratio, (essentially the code the search engine must get past before they see meaningful text. Keeping the code at a reasonable level helps.). Keyword density, (the words that pertain to your business must be in the meta tags information but must also be in the body of the text on the home page but if you over do it you will be penalized). Contextual links, (you should have links on your site to other sites but if you're a law firm the links should be legal related). Hidden text, (don't try to insert text in the page body that the user can't see, Google in particular looks at that as being a trick they don't like much. If they see it, even though the viewer can't, you get penalized). Mirror sites, we have a customer with 3 WEB sites that are all identical, they just have different names and his business still can't be found using a description of the business. You can have different sites but they need to be different. (If Google figures out you have multiple sites with the same home page you could get banned from Google). Dynamic Pages. If you want the search engines to index your site, dynamic pages are not a good idea. You can identify most dynamic pages by a question mark that is in the location bar that will direct you to the page. There is a way around that by coding the location but most site designers don't use it. Robots, (every site should have a robots.txt file or robot information in the meta tags, or both to enlighten search engines about what is and isn't important to index on your site). Here is a link to the basic Google Guidelines page. One of the most important places to submit your site is DMOZ. It may take a long time to get into their index but it's a really good place to start. Make a note to look at this page which clearly states that they don't want mirror sites, among other hints.

Here is an interesting but little known fact. Anyone telling you their WEB site is popular based on the number of hits is not telling you anything. Hits can include the number of WEB accesses based on how many graphics are on the page. One visitor can represent one hit or a hundred but it's still only one visitor. More important is the number of unique visitors, length of stay, depth of the visit etc.. The number of hits can't provide any useful information to anyone.

Page rank (PR) is a much desired way of determining the overall popularity of a page on a site based on Google links. Here is a page that explains Google Page Rank.

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