Search Engine Optimisation
This article describes a number of techniques to make a website "search engine friendly". Doing this usually improves the site's visibility in search results. There are numerous techniques used to optimise a website for search engines; five of the most important are:
- quality content
- noscript and noframe tags
- inbound links
Getting the search engines to index your site isn't difficult - you can either do nothing, and wait for them to discover the site (they are pretty good at doing that) - or you can skip the waiting and submit your site directly to the search engines. They each have a page for doing this.
The hard part is getting your site included in a page of results. If your site doesn't appear in the results, this is probably not because the engine hasn't heard of you (you can check this by searching on the domainname), but because it thinks the results it has returned are closer to what you wanted to find. It makes this decision using a complex algorithm, which is usually a trade secret, and is constantly revised. Despite this, there are some specific factors which are known to influence the behaviour of the algorithm.
The key point here is that search engines are trying to provide the best results for their users. The pages they return must thus contain the information the user is searching for. Therefore, the more information you include on any given page, the more chance there is it will match the keywords users type into the search box. So, you should ensure your pages include a healthy amount of terminology (key words and phrases) which are specific to the subject matter at hand. If your page matches more than one keyword, all the better.
Just to reiterate this point - if, for example, your website is about lipstick, you should ensure the word "lipstick" is well-used throughout the site. You should also ensure to use several variations ("cosmetics", "lip gloss", etc). This will ensure that the keywords users are likely to search on are embedded in the text of your site, which will in turn improve your chances of appearing higher up in the list of search results.
Search engines also use keyword density to determine relevance. If your page has 10 keywords scattered throughout 1000 lines of text, this will be ranked lower than a page with those same 10 keywords scattered throughout 100 lines. You should thus keep your writing relatively concise.
Try and place as much quality (information-rich) content on your site as possible. Either publish internal collections, or write the content from scratch. Anything that is potentially useful to a customer should be considered. The more of these pages you have, the more chance someone searching will find your site.
The final task here is to ensure that each of your pages gives users links to your product pages, next to the quality information you've given them. This way, once users land on your site, it's easy for them to take their interest further, and make an enquiry or purchase.
While these are less important than they used to be, keywords and descriptions can be embedded into certain areas of the page, specifically for use by search engines. These metatags can be changed from page to page, or a single 'global' set can be used for an entire site. Repeating the same keywords many times is a bad idea.
Search engines will often use the description field on the results page, so a meaningful entry here not only improves the chances of a searchterm match, but also improves the chances the user will notice and click your link.
These are small files or commands that redirect web traffic from one page to another. Once your site is indexed, the last thing you want to do is delete a page. This is because the page will still be indexed in the search engines, sometimes for a long time. A user following a link to a deleted page will get a 'page not found' error and will almost certainly click the Back button. And the traffic is lost. To avoid this, when removing a page, replace it with a redirector to another page - either an index page, or another of your pages which is relevant to the content that was deleted. This way, the user doesn't see an error, and you have the chance to show them something else.
noscript and noframe tags
Similarly, if your site has frames, they may not be correctly indexed. Use the <NOFRAMES> tag to create an engine-friendly site in this case.
Another way to get indexed and improve your rankings is to ensure other sites on the web are linking to yours. There are many ways to do this, from the use of signatures in postings in public forums, to listings in business directories, to webrings and reciprocal links agreements. There is another way as well, but we've covered it already - quality content. You'll notice it was listed first. If you have quality content, other sites will link to you so their users can enjoy it.
Avoid spamming the search engines - you might be blacklisted. This means:
- don't submit your site more than once a month
- don't load it with a bunch of irrelevant keywords
- don't try tricks like hiding keywords with, for example, white text on a white background
The simplest rule is, if you're trying to trick Google, or the user, it's a bad idea.
Be patient. It may take several weeks or more to be indexed.
Don't forget that Google is not the only engine in the world (as of this writing, it has 65% marketshare in the US).
Read up on website design. There's more to a successful website than appearing on the results page - you'll want to look at ease of navigation, the use of visual cues to guide user behaviour, and various tools and features you can include to make your site more useful and appealing.
And finally. Did I mention quality content?