The Do's and Don'ts of Search Engine Optimization
New York, NY - Tuesday, August 11th, 2009
SEO - Search Engine Optimization
Written by: Lawrence Thorne | August 11, 2009
Tags: SEO , Search engine optimization , search engine ranking , keyword ranking , Google ranking , yahoo ranking
The Do’s and Don’ts of SEO or Search Engine Optimization.
I’ve seen clients pay upwards of tens of thousands of dollars for SEO services, only to find that they’ve been banned from the search engines entirely. With these basic tips, you can save yourself time, money and headaches.
Many times a consultant or SEO service will recommend keyword specific landing pages that are not part of your main site or use automated systems that pad your site's HTML code with hundreds or even thousands of keywords. This is a bad practice that can get you removed from the major search engines.
Another technique is to grab the User Agent string and if the visitor is a search engine bot, you present them with keyword rich, text based content specific to the search engine crawling your site.
These techniques will get you banned from the search engines so fast it will make your head spin.
What does work?
Pick 5 to 10 keywords (15 max!) that you want your site to score high for and use them in your domain name, your site title as well as your keyword and description meta tags. Create keyword specific pages that ARE part of your main site. Do not create a bunch of landing pages for each keyword, but actual text content that is unique and rich with the keywords you wish to score high for. Also use your keywords in your links/menu items.
Ok, you might say, that's not enough - we've done that and we still aren't scoring in the search engines. Search engines also look at the directory names that your pages are in. For example, use folder and directory names that include your keywords.
To illustrate my point let’s use the domain name BASE_DOMAIN. The URL BASE_DOMAIN/my-keyword/my-keyword.html will score higher than just BASE_DOMAIN/page1.html for your "my keyword" phrase even if you have your keywords properly formed in your site’s coding.
And this one is a freebie that was hard learned years ago: Use DASHES instead of UNDERSOCRES in your directory and page file names if you intend to use keywords as names - Google treats my_keyword as a single keyword/string, while my-keyword will be treated as two separate words.
In short, dashes are treated as spaces.
Before we go into the DO’s, I want to stress the DON’Ts…
- Don't use ?'s, &'s or ='s in your site URL's.
Many free Content Management Systems use these standard characters to pass GET variables to your web application. Here at Thorne Digital, we've written our own CMS/CRM tools that do not use ?'s, &'s or ='s to pass variables to your web application. Instead, we use /'s to isolate variables and a custom parser to process those variables making your site score much higher in the search engines. Wordpress uses this type of variable passing, which is why Wordpress sites score consistently lower than CMS driven sites that do not use this method of GET variable passing.
- Don't use Flash as your main content presenter! Search engines cannot index Flash content and if you put too many words in your alternate content tags from the Flash, you may get bounced from the search engines because it looks like you are padding your pages.
- Don't use a Splash page - many designers like to do fancy, animated flash pages that do not have your main site navigation in them - this technique is search engine suicide because search engines want to easily index your site.
NOTE: if you MUST use a splash page or Flash, duplicate your site’s main navigation using HTML within the splash page.
- Don't implement popups on your first page. You will also get banned for this by many search engines.
- Don't use more than 15 keywords in your meta tags.
- Don’t block your domain ownership info with your domain registrar - you will look like a spammer.
- Don't allow traffic to both www.BASE_DOMAIN and BASE_DOMAIN (without the www).
Pick one and 301 redirect the other. This keeps the search engines from accusing you of having the same content on more than one site/domain.
- Do use natural language in your content.
Adding paragraphs of nonsense filled with your keywords will can get you banned.
- Do use your keywords in your menus and make sure you are adding descriptive text to your Anchor tags (href’s) by adding a title tag to each one that is specific to the keyword/menu item.
- Do maintain a site map page that has a simple structure and standard Anchor tags to your pages.
- Do maintain an About Us and a Contact Us page - Google will often build a small profile of your domain’s result based on the content found in these pages of your site.
- Do get other sites to link to you. This is the fastest way to get into the search engines and have them begin spidering your site at regular intervals.
- Do concentrate on Quality sites for your linkbacks (links to your site from a .edu will score high).
Remember, getting thousands of spam’ed links to your site will do more harm than good and 1 single high-profile link to your site can be more effective than a thousand junk links to your site.
- Do maintain an abuse@ email address at your domain. Google will send notifications of malicious content to this address (in case a hacker attacks your Microsoft driven site with a SQL inject attack).
- Do use your keywords in your directory names and page names. For example our infaCORE CMS/CRM product allows you to add keyword specific directories to your navigation without having to create all the sub-directories which increases your ranking for those specific keywords.
The Appraisers Association of America is a perfect example of one of our clients who wanted to be on the first page for the keyword “appraiser”. They are currently the 4th non-paid result on Google and pay nothing in adwords or advertising their site.
In the Appraisers site, note how the word “Appraiser” is used in the domain name, the URL’s and the page names reflect the menu text as you click around the site.
Remember that ?’s, &’s and =’s can reduce your ranking when running a dynamic site.
This is why we wrote our infaCORE CMS/CRM; to eliminate messy GET variable passing and allow the Search Engines to be spoon fed your properly formed content from a dynamic, database driven site that looks like static HTML.
- Do use unique titles and meta tags for each page and put your company name last in your Title tags unless you have brand recognition.
Our infaCORE™ CMS/CRM product makes it easy to copy/paste your keywords when editing pages using the WYSIWYG page editor built into our CMS/CRM. This makes each page unique with keyword specific content WITHOUT the dangers of landing pages and doesn’t require the cost of a professional web designer/developer whenever you wish to tweak your keywords.
- Do blog about your site and maintain a blog at your domain if possible. Blogspot is great, but a blog at your domain with an RSS feed is better!
- Do use the alt tags for all of your images. Just like the title metadata of your Anchor (link) tags, these are looked at by the search engines when indexing your site.
- Do try to concentrate on a specific keyword for each page in your site. Trying to optimize for multiple keywords in a single page can look like keyword spamming or padding.
- Do surround your site images (important), videos and other interactive content with verbiage that reflects your keyword specific content.
Again, don’t go nuts and “pad” your pages, but try to elegantly use your keywords in a professional manner when crafting your site’s textual content for each page.
- Do add reviews, comments and ratings to your blog, news, events so that users may interact with your content and even link back to you. The more people commenting on a specific page/section of your site, the more exposure you are getting, this also increases the possibility of high quality linkbacks to your site.
- Do have a clean global navigation on every page. Relying on just your site map will reduce rankings and using only an XML sitemap is a bad idea.
- Do promote your site on the social media outlets, but don’t become a spammer either. That will just annoy your followers/friends and may cost you crucial word of mouth advertising.
And lastly, and most importantly;
- DO have patience.
It can take days, weeks and even months to get your site up in the search engine rankings. The ones you see on the first page have often been around for years or have fine tuned their keywords, meta tags and site content.
Background: Lawrence Thorne owns Thorne Digital Media Group, Inc in New York and has more than 15 years experience in design and development. He has written everything from those annoying dial-up install CD's you used to get in the mail in the 90's from Earthlink to large systems for the United Nations since 2003.
Thorne Digital Media Group currently provides hosting and new media development to more than 200 businesses worldwide.
Follow Lawrence on www.twitter.com/LThorne or www.FaceBook.com/lwthorne
Thorne Digital Media Group, Inc.
New York, NY 10010
Toll Free: 888 341-3707