Search engines play an increasingly important role in directing users to web sites. “Search Engine Optimization” (SEO) refers to steps in web site design to improve indexing and ranking by search engines. This post describes the quickest and easiest ways to ensure optimal search engine results.
Google and other search engines keep their algorithms secret. That said, it is well understood that search engines rely heavily on two factors: “keywords” and “links”. In order to improve search engine results, your site should pay attention to these two factors:
Search engines index all words on a site, and match search terms against those words. Site designers should decide appropriate keywords for every page on a site (“keyword” can also refer to two and three-word combinations), and make sure that those keywords are included periodically on the page (although not excessively) and that they are included in prominent places, especially the page “title” (words at the very top of browser, taken from the page <title> tag), and in initial, prominent headlines on the page. It is fine to focus on several keywords per page. You can use this keyword generator to find suggested keyword combinations.
Search engines place great importance on the number of sites linking to your site (which are treated as “votes”), and the quality of the web sites linking to your site (if those sites themselves have many sites linking to them, they carry more weight). You want many other sites to link to you, and you especially want the most important sites in your sector to link to you. There are two ways to get sites to link to you. First, you can ask the site manager directly, potentially even suggesting where on their site they might put a link. Asking for links is much easier if you are aggressively linking to other sites, either from a “related resources” page or from text throughout your site. Second, there are a number of important third party sites where you can place links directly — online community sites, blogs, wikipedia, events sites, and many others.
You can see which sites currently link to you via a Google search using the format “link:www.mysite.com”.
Other SEO Factors
- Site structure: Search engines like text. Search engines generally don’t like flash, images, frames, non-standard URLs, or non-standard html.
- Dynamism: Search engines take note of sites that are updated frequently and visit those sites more often.
- Instructions: You can include a robots.txt file to instruct search engines as to which parts of the site can and can’t be indexed.
- Notification: You can submit your URL on the Google Add URL Page. Google also has a richer “sitemaps” service which facilitates full and frequent site indexing.
- Consistent URLs: You should use only one URL for your site.
- Monitoring: It is important to periodically monitor key search services to make sure they are appropriately indexing and displaying your site.