Section 3.4. Creating a Site with SEO in Mind


3.4. Creating a Site with SEO in Mind

The saying "Everything in moderation, even moderation" is a good principle to keep in mind when you tweak your web site to achieve SEO. The moderation slogan has been aptly applied to many human activities, from the sexual to the gustatory and beyond. It fits very well with SEO.

For example, you want a nice density of keywords in your pages, but you don't want so many keywords that the content of your pages is diminished from the viewpoint of visitors. Search engines look for keywords, but they take away points for excessive and inappropriate keyword "stuffing."

Put Meta Tags in an Include

In Chapter 1, I explained the importance of using includes to manage site content. In that same vein, the HTML used for meta tags and description information should be placed in a single include file, making it easy to change your meta information across an entire site or a series of related pages.

If your site is large, with many pages, and has several distinct areas of content, you can create a separate file, each consisting only of meta description and tags, for each content area.

You can always customize the meta information for a specific page by discarding the reference to the meta include file and adding page-specific meta information. Alternatively, you can create a page-specific meta include, keeping track of your meta includes by placing them all in one directory and devising a sensible naming convention.

It's a really good idea to have default meta information for a site that can easily be tweaked.


So try to see the world form a search engine bot's viewpoint (that's the point of using a text-only browser as I explained in "How Your Site Appears to a Bot" earlier in this chapter). Create sites that appeal when looked at this way, but go easy. Don't overdo it!

3.4.1. Site Design Principles

Here are some design and information architecture guidelines you should apply to your site to optimize it for search engines:


Eschew fancy graphics

For most sites, the fancy graphics do not matter. If you are looking for search engine placement, it is the words that count.


Use text wherever possible

Use text rather than images to display important names, content, and links.


Always provide alt attributes for images

Make sure you provide accurate alt attribute text for any images that are on your pages.


Navigability

Pages within your site should be structured with a clear hierarchy. Several alternative site-navigation mechanisms should be supplied, including at least one that is text-only.


Provide text links

Every page in your site should be accessible using a static text link.


Make a site map available to your users

The major parts of your site should be easy to access using a site map (Figure 3-6 shows a good example of a useful site map). If your site map has more than about 100 links , you should divide the site map into separate pages.

Figure 3-6. A well-designed site map, like this one from Flickr, makes it easy for visitors to find what they need on your site and also helps optimize your site for search engines


3.4.2. Linking

The links on your site constitute a very important part of how Google and other search engines will rank your pages.

Links can be categorized into inbound links , outbound links, and cross links (see Figure 3-7):


Inbound links

These links point to a page on your web site from an external site somewhere else on the Web.


Outbound links

These links point from a page on your site to an external site somewhere else on the Web.


Cross links

These links point between the pages on your site.

Figure 3-7. It's important to understand the distinction among the three categories of links


Broken Links

It's quite important to a search engine that none of the links on your site is broken . It shouldn't be that big a problem to go through your site and check to make sure each link works manually. Doing this will also give you a chance to review your site systematically and understand the navigation flow from the viewpoint of a bot.

Even though you've checked your links manually, you should also use an automated link checking tool. Quite a few are available. A good choice is the simple (and free) link checker provided by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) at http://validator.w3.org/checklink. As you can see in the figure, all you need to do is enter the domain you want checked and watch the results as the links in your site are crawled. After you've checked your links manually, use an automated link checking tool such as the W3C's Link Checker to make sure your site has no broken links .



3.4.2.1. Inbound links

You want as many inbound links as possible, provided these links are not from link farms or link exchanges. With this caveat about inbound linking from "naughty neighborhoods" understood, you cannot have too many inbound links. The more popular, and the higher the ranking, of the sites providing the inbound links to your site, the better.

PageRank and Inbound Links

Inbound links are considered a shorthand way of determining the value of your web site, because other sites have decided your site has content worth linking to. An inbound link from a site that is itself highly valued is worth more than an inbound link from a low-value site, for obvious reasons.

This concept is at the core of Google's famous PageRank algorithm, used to order search results. However, the PageRank algorithm by now has more than 100 variables (the exact nature of which are a deep and dark secret); many factors besides a recursive summation of the value of a site's inbound links do come into play.


For information about the best approaches for generating inbound links, see Chapter 2.


3.4.2.2. Outbound links

The "everything in moderation" slogan is really apt when it comes to outbound links. You could also say that the "outbound link giveth and the outbound link taketh." Here's why: you want some respectable outbound links to establish the credibility of your site and pages and to provide a useful service for visitors. After all, part of the point of the Web is that it is a mechanism for linking information, and it is truly useless to pretend that all good information is on your site. So on-topic outbound links are themselves valuable content.

However, every time your site provides an outbound link, there is a probability that visitors to your site will use it to surf off your site. As a matter of statistics, this probability diminishes the popularity of your site, and Google will subtract points from your ranking if you have too many outbound links. In particular, pages that are essentially lists of outbound links are penalized.

If you follow the word-per-page guideline I make in "Pages and Keywords" nextroughly 250 words per pageyou'll get the best results if you try to provide at least 2 or 3 outbound links on every page and no more than 10 or 15 per page.

3.4.2.3. Cross links

Cross linkslinks within your siteare important to visitors as a way to find useful, related content. For example, if you have a page explaining the concept of class inheritance in an object-oriented programming language, a cross link to an explanation of the related concept of the class interface might help some visitors. From a navigability viewpoint, the idea is that it should be easy to move through all information that is topically related.

From an SEO perspective, your site should provide as many cross links as possible (without stretching the relevance of the links to the breaking point). There's no downside to providing reasonable cross links, and several reasons for providing them. For example, effective cross-linking keeps visitors on your site longer (as opposed to heading offsite because they can't find what they need on your site).

In addition, from the perspective of making money with site advertising, you want to have dispersal through your site. One page that gets 100 visitors is much less lucrative than 100 pages that each gets one visitor. The aim of effective cross-linking should be disperse traffic throughout the pages of relevant content on your site.

3.4.3. Pages and Keywords

By now, you probably understand that the most important thing you can do on the SEO front involves the words on your pages.

There are three issues you need to consider when placing keywords on a page:

  • How many words should be on a page?

  • Which words belong on what page?

  • Where should these be placed on the page?

3.4.3.1. Page size

Ideally, pages should be between 100 and 250 words. If it is shorter than 100 words, Google and other search engines will tend to discount the page as a lightweight. In addition, you want to include as many keywords as you can without throwing the content off-kilter. With less than 100 words, any significant inclusion of keywords is going to look like keyword stuffinga verboten practice.

There's nothing wrong with creating pages that are longer than 250 words. However, from the viewpoint of hosting lucrative advertising, lengthy pages waste content; 250 words is about as many as will fit on a single monitor screen, so your visitors will have to scroll down to finish reading the rest of the page if you publish longer pages. You might as well provide navigation to additional pages for the content beyond the 250 words and gain the benefit of having extra pages to host advertising.

3.4.3.2. Choosing keywords

Beyond the mechanics of crafting sites and pages that are search engine friendly lies another issue: what search queries does your site answer? You need to understand this to find the keywords to emphasize in your site construction, a very important part of search engine optimization.

Keywords are emphasized by their placement within a page. For example, important keywords should go in a page's HTML <title> and in <H1> headers. For details, See "Keyword Placement" below. In comparison, you may use some of the same keywords on your page as part of a page meta information, but meta information is not as important to search engines as the actual content of the page.


There's no magic bullet for coming up with the right keywords to place in a page. A good starting place is the "elevator pitch" story, and related keywords, that I explained developing in Chapter 2.

The description, and the keywords, are also the likely source for your site's meta tag information (See "Meta Information" earlier in this chapter).


It's likely that you'll want to vary keywords used in a page depending on the page content, rather than trying to stuff a one-size-fits-all approach into all the pages on your site.

If the answer is X, for example, what is the question? This is the right way to consider keyword choice. X is your web site or web page. What did someone type into Google to get there?

As you come up with keywords and phrases, try them out. Search Google based on the keywords and phrases. Are the results returned by Google where you would like to see your site? If not, tweak, modify, wait for Google to re-index your site (this won't take too long once you've been initially indexed) and try your search again.

Ultimately, the best way to measure success is relative. It's easy to see how changes impact your search result ranking: just keep searching (as often as once a day) for a standard set of half-a-dozen keywords or phrases that you've decided to target. If you are moving up in the search rankings, then you are doing the right thing. If your ranking doesn't improve, then reverse the changes. If you get search results to where you want them (usually within the top 30 or even top 10 results returned), then start optimizing for additional keywords.

You should also realize that the success that is possible for a given keyword search depends upon the keyword. It's highly unlikely that you will be able to position a site into the top 10 results for, say, "Google" or "Microsoft," but trivial to get to the top for keyword phrases with no results (such as "nigritude ultramarine" or "loquine glupe," two phrases that became the fodder for SEO contests, as I explain in "Keyword Placement" below). The trade-off here is that it is a great deal harder to do well with keywords that are valuable, so you need to find a sweet spot: keywords where you stand a chance but that also will drive significant site-related traffic.

See Chapter 2 for information about how to get your site initially indexed. To the extent that it doesn't contort your content, you should use variations when you choose keywords, for example, "photograph," "photographs," and "photography." However, the practice of using misspellings as keywords is probably not as valuable as some SEO practitioners maintain.


In a society where feedback is ultimately determined by financial incentive, an interesting approach to keyword selection is to see what words cost the most to advertisers. If you are registered with Google AdWords, you can use the AdWords tools to do just that and get cost estimates for keywords and phrases (see Part III for more information about using AdWords).

3.4.3.3. Keyword placement

The text on your web page should include the most important keywords you have developed in as unforced a way as possible. Try to string keywords together to make coherent sentences.

Not all text on a page is equal in importance. Generally speaking, besides including them in the body of the page itself and in meta information, you should try to place your keywords in the following elements, presented roughly in order of descending importance:


Title

Putting relevant keywords in the HTML title tag for your page is probably the most important single thing you can do in terms of SEO.


Headers

Keyword placement within HTML header styles, particularly <h1> headers toward the top of a page, is extremely important.


Links

Use your keywords as much as possible in the text that is enclosed by <a href="">...</a> hyperlink tags on your site in outbound and crossbound links. Ask webmasters who provide inbound linking to your site to use your keywords whenever possible.


Images

Include your keywords in the alt attribute of your HTML image <img> tags.


Bold

If there is any reasonable excuse for doing so, include your keywords within HTML bold (<b>... </b>) tags.

Keywords higher up in a given page get more recognition from search engines than the same keywords further down a page.


Keyword placementsometimes called keyword stuffing seems simple enough conceptually. You take the most significant keywords and place them in the HTML elements of your page that I've just highlighted. But looking at an actual example may help you understand what you need to do.

To show you an example of keyword placement, I've turned to an SEO competition. SEO competitions take a nonsense phrase that, to start with, yields no Google search results when entered as a query. (The words that make up the nonsense phrase can be real words.) At the end of a given time period, the site that is first in Google's search results wins the contest.

Obviously, keyword placement is not the only technique employed by contestants, who also try to maximize inbound links. But keyword placement is an extremely important part of search engine optimization, as these contests prove, and one which you can easily implement.


To date, the most famous SEO contest has been for "nigritude ultramarine." You can search on Google for the phrase yourself to see some of the results, or check out the contest FAQ at http://www.nigritudeultramarines.com to find out more about it.

Besides "nigritude ultramarine," there have been SEO contests organized around "seraphim Proudleduck," and, most recently, "loquine glupe." Figure 3-8 shows a page that won a recent SEO contest for the nonsense phrase "loquine glupe."

Just a glance at the page shown in Figure 3-8 shows how some of the keywords have been placed: the loquine glupe keywords (with variations) are used in the title, the keywords appear in the page's <h1> header, and the keywords appear over and over again as the text enclosed by <a.>...</a> hyperlink anchor tags.

Here's how the HTML for this successful example of keyword placement looks (I've excerpted it for clarity):

     <html>     <head>     <title>&#1769;&#1769;&#1769;&#1769; loquine glupe &#1769;     LOQUINE GLUPE &#1769; loquine glupe &#1769;&#1769;&#1769;&#1769;</title>     <meta http-equiv="Content-Language" content="en"> 

Figure 3-8. You check out this page, which won a search engine optimization contest, to learn more about keyword placement


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While this example shows successful placement using keywords, in real life you may not want to stuff your keywords quite so hard!




Google Advertising Tools. Cashing in with AdSense, AdWords, and the Google APIs
Google Advertising Tools: Cashing in with Adsense, Adwords, and the Google APIs
ISBN: 0596101082
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2004
Pages: 145
Authors: Harold Davis

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