Search engine optimization has changed dramatically over just the last 2-3 years.

Search engine optimization has changed dramatically over just the last 2-3 years.

A few years ago, it was for the most part sufficient to incorporate a well optimized title tag and have a few relevant search terms (aka keywords) in the meta tags to get a top 10 ranking. Those days are long gone, and yet in my estimation, over 75% of webmasters still hold on to the notion that search engine optimization (SEO) is all about tweaking title and meta tags. It is essential today to understand that meta tags for example, carry zero to little weight in a search engine algorithm.
In fact, the keyword meta tag for example, is completely ignored by the Google search engine, other search engines give it very little weight.

The main reason for the big changes has been the abuse of the meta tags on mass and the search engine results pages (aka SERPs) were becoming just a list of spam ridden sites with keyword stuffed meta tags, often not even relevant to the site in question. There are now for Google approximately 100 different HTML, design, on and off-page elements that can make the difference between a top 10 and top 100 ranking.

Of far more importance nowadays for example, is the actual body text content within a page and what I like to call off-page criteria which includes number of inbound links, anchor text of inbound links and whether the links come from “authority” / “high value” sites (in Google’s case).

The design, structure and website technology used are also important ranking criteria for the major search engines. Where in a websites source code, and in which HTML tags keywords appear, is just as important as the number of occurrences and the ratio of these keywords in relation to the rest of a pages text content (known as keyword density).

Search engines use so called robots or spiders which go through a web pages source code and store the crawled page in a database. This robot will usually follow the links on a page (assuming it can read and interpret them, but more on that later) and then crawl the linked page, and store this page also in it’s database, follow on to the next link and so on.

The favorite diet of these search engine robots/spiders is text. I usually call it spider food. Text embedded in images is unreadable to spiders, so are the text content in Java applets, javascript, css and in many search engines the links/text in image maps and flash objects are ignored. The links in framesets can also cause problems for some search engines.

The following pages are my attempt to dispel the common myths about achieving high rankings on the search engines and is designed to provide the basics on how to achieve a good ranking. Experienced search engine optimizers will not learn much from these pages. The place for SEO experienced webmasters would be my forum which provides up to date SEO technology, tips, views and commentary on modern SEO methodology.

To get the most of this tutorial, a little HTML and CSS knowledge is of benefit.

There is NO simple formula for getting ranked No.1 on Google for example.

Let me make that clear, there is however optimization methodology that makes it far more likely for someone to get ranked far higher than they would be without any optimization.

The best way to use this tutorial is to always click on the “next” button and not jump pages by means of the navigation on the left .

Webmasters may freely link to this tutorial either in part or entirety so long as ABAKUS is credited.

I hope you find this tutorial useful and enjoy it. Be sure to recommend it to friends and/or link to it.

Preparation

Search engine optimization should Ideally be one of the areas taken into account at the initial planning stage of a website. Thoughts on making a website search engine friendly should be made before even the first line of code is written. Careful consideration should be given to your design, site structure, navigation and internal linking structure. Do you REALLY have to use Frames for example. Is it really necessary to use active server pages (.asp) on every page of your website? Search engine friendliness should not be the only topic up for review in the planning of your website, but it is so commonly missed out completely in a websites planning phase. The major corporate websites are the most guilty of all for poor planning.

Let’s however take the case that you are going to go for a search engine friendly website. No frames, no or limited use of Flash, Java applets or extensive Javascript etc.
The next step is to establish your best search terms (keywords) or better phrases. This is a very important phase of search engine optimization. Just go for what you THINK are your best keywords and you may well regret it afterwards, when you find most searchers do not use the search term you thought was good. Research your keywords properly and you are halfway home. Do you know for example what users are typing into search engine boxes to find sites with similar or the same content your site provides? Do you know what two and three word combinations are most commonly being used and have relevance to your site? Do you know how many competing pages there are for each of your main keywords? Which keywords will bring you the best visit/sale conversions? What keywords your competitors are targeting?

If you don’t know ALL the answers to the above then you should not skip this section of the tutorial.

There are essentially 3 main methods you can use to establish the best keywords for a given web site.

1. Send all your friends and colleagues an email or hand them a sheet of paper with the following question on it stating specifically that you need 5 answers:

If you were searching for a web site with content identical to, or of the same theme as http://www.yourdomain.com, what word, or better word combinations (2-4 words) would you type into the search box? Please give 5 possible search terms or search term phrases that you believe are relevant to http://www.yourdomain.com content. “

1 _______________
2 _______________
3 _______________
4 _______________
5 _______________

Important: Make sure you actually write a numbered list 1-5 leaving spaces for them to fill in! Otherwise in my experience you will find you generally get just the one or two possible keywords.

You then collate the results from everyone and you can normally see clearly what enters most peoples heads for the keywords relating to your site. This method is particularly useful if you have plenty of people to ask. The more the better really. Ideal for companies with more than a handful of employees. You will commonly see keywords that you would never have thought of yourself and it gives you a great start on your keyword selection process. Studies have shown that 65% of the replies will be 2 words or more combinations. This is good news, I’ll tell you why later.

On the next page you will find the other two main methods for effective keyword research and selection.

2. One of the best ways to get ideas for keywords, is to analyze your direct competitors pages. This doesn’t mean you simply copy and paste your competitors keyword meta tags into your own site! Also be VERY careful not to use trademarked names.

You can best find your competition websites by searching with what you believe to be your own top two keywords in your favorite search engine and taking a look at the source code of the top 5 web sites in the results. Pay special attention to the contents of the title tag (<title></title>) and of course the keyword <meta name=”keywords”… and description <meta name=”description”… meta tags. These should help you get some keyword ideas. There is nothing unethical about researching your competitors websites. You can be sure they have done the same for their own site.

Successful companies know their competitors. Analyze your competitors websites in depth.

3. There are online resources that assist in the process of keyword research and selection. Generally through the use of large keyword databases holding the number of searches for any given term over a specific time frame. Normally a month or two worth of keywords. These databases can be very useful as they not only provide the number of searches but also help with synonyms and common keyword combinations relating to your specific theme. There is one particular company in the UK called Rivergold Associates Ltd. who offer a service called wordtracker. There are also other free keyword databases which are listed on my online tools page.

ABAKUS Internet Marketing has no affiliation with Wordtracker, but find it to be an excellent resource for english language keyword research and can recommend it.

There are some general guidelines to keyword selection that you should take note of. For web sites with lots of competition, it can normally be far more beneficial to optimize for two to three word combinations rather than single word terms. Especially if a site is new and has little so called off-page criteria such as inbound links. You will find you can get far more targeted traffic if you hone in on what exactly your web page is about. A good example for this would be if you had a real estate agency in say Michigan.
What you do not want to do is just focus your website solely on the keywords “real estate”. You want to go for keywords which are honed in and very relevant to your site so in this case “real estate michigan” would be best. You could also take that a step further and optimize a sub page on your site for say “real estate detroit” or even “real estate detroit michigan”. Now you are going to get targeted traffic and not a visitor from Nebraska looking for real estate locally. It is all about targeted traffic.

If however there is little competition, say less than 80,000 competing sites on a google search, you can then go for single term keywords regardless of your sites off page criteria (number of incoming links). Maybe that person in Nebraska wants to move out of state!

For highly competitive terms it is definitely best to consult a professional as to what keywords are best as they should have access to the subscription based databases and experience. This is an integrated phase of the search engine optimization service ABAKUS provide.

Plan for a maximum of only 3 keyword (phrases) per page.

Any more and you end up diluting the effect of any optimization for each of your keywords.

Now we have researched and chosen our best keywords, it is time to start thinking carefully about how and where to incorporate them in to your web pages. Thoughts and planning on your sites design should now be brewing. Design issues next…

The design factors on a website can make the difference between a page being in the top 10 of a search engine and languishing in the top 30. Design issues are a very important factor in achieving the very top rankings. This section will be looking at the design implications on search engine optimization and pointing you in the right direction towards a search engine friendly design.

You really want to think about your sites design BEFORE you even start coding. Here the most important factors.

1. Text, text and more text!

A web page with a large “splash” graphic and a few links embedded in an image map, commonly seen on corporate sites, is a great way how not to be found on a search engine.

First of all, there is nothing on the page for a search engine to index and run through its algorithm when someone types in a relevant search term. Secondly because the links are in an image map, it is not often a search engine will be able to follow the links and index anything else. Do not forget search engines can not read the text in a graphic. On most occasions there is no need to use graphic buttons or image maps for links. With CSS and table cell know-how, you can make profeesional looking links. This provides great search engine spider food. Think carefully whether you really need a flashy splash page as your home page. Be careful not to use a design that requires extensive graphics or Flash and go for professional text based pages that still look good instead. We are NOT advocating text only sites, just don’t go over the top on the graphics front. Fewer graphics also give your site much quicker loading times as well don’t forget.

2. Use <H1> and <H2> heading tags. The text content in these tags carry special weight with many search engines and are best used as closely after your body tag as possible. A very common mistake is to use a graphic as a heading when a well formulated text heading would do the job just as well without major detriment to the sites look and feel. You can always change the size or look of your heading tags through the use of CSS. Don’t forget search engines won’t be able to read the words in your pretty graphic headings and it is such a waste of a good opportunity to add keyword rich content. The use of heading tags can play an important role in your overall web page optimization.

3. In addition to the heading tag the bold <b>or strong <strong> tag also carry more weight for ranking purposes than normal paragraph text. Some engine like to see cursive text as well.

Do not over do the bold and cursive usage. Some sites I’ve seen have gone completely over the top on font styling for SEO. This makes a page look odd with every keyword either bold or cursive. You really only need to do it once or twice for each keyword. Even then, the weighting boost is minimal and many top ranked sites have no keywords in bold/ italic whatsoever, so don’t feel obliged to use such styling.

4. Search engines love links that contain keywords in the link text (anchor text). By link text I mean the text found inside a <a href> tag. Whether internal links or outbound links, be sure to use every opportunity to add your keywords into your links. It stands to reason therefore that generally text links are better than graphic links for SEO purposes.

I’ve digressed from design a little and gone a bit into coding. Sorry about that, time to move on to the implications on search engine optimization when using Frames…

Up until now we have covered what search engine robots like as spider food and want to see. Let us now concentrate on the opposite, what constitutes search engine unfriendly pages and in particular search engine unfriendly design.

One of the most common hindrances to a website not getting found with relevant terms is due to the fact it is a frames website that has not been correctly optimized.

Frightening isn’t it, the only text on this page that is going to be indexed is the title plus “Your browser does not support Frames!
You do not have to be Einstein to work out that you are not going to rank highly on any worthwhile search term if that is all a spider is going to take back with it for indexation.

There are of course workarounds which do work and make drastic improvements on getting a framed website found on the search engines. However, even with professional search engine optimization of a framed web site, a non-framed website which has minimal optimization is likely to beat it in the rankings. Other reasons why framed sites are general no-no’s can be found here. We will be going through some of the optimization and workarounds specific to frame sites later in this tutorial in the coding section.

ABAKUS has successfully optimized framed websites for many clients that now enjoy high rankings. It is however much, much, easier and normally makes for better rankings, if a website is not framed.

In truth it is rare when I look at a framed website that I actually see a need for the frames. Clever use of CSS and tables will almost always render frames unnecessary in the first place. If you have a small website in frames, do yourself, and your sites ranking a favour, by converting it to a non-framed site. It is definitely worth it.

The problems with framed sites are many and I seriously suggest you check out the link above which contains several pages as to the full consequences of using frames.

The next pages cover other design issues that are important to avoid in order to achieve a high ranking…

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One Response to Search engine optimization has changed dramatically over just the last 2-3 years.

  1. Very good info. Lucky me I came across your website by chance (stumbleupon).
    I have saved as a favorite for later!

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