Eight Critical Tips for On-Site Search Engine Optimization

SEO | Beginner | By Blue_Chi

A great number of websites on the Internet receive a significant amount of new traffic on daily basis without ever having to pay a single cent for advertising. How do they do this? Simply by search engine optimization (SEO) techniques. There are certain tips and techniques that any webmaster could use to enhance his chances of appearing higher in the search results and hence leading Internet users from all around the world onto his website.

SEO techniques could be divided into two main categories, on-site techniques and off-site techniques. On-site techniques are those that you apply to the content of your website, while off-site techniques are actions that you do outside of your website to enhance its search results. This tutorial will only explore on-site SEO techniques, I will hopefully write in the near future another tutorial on off-site SEO techniques. Here are the seven points you have to take care of when creating your content:

1 - Keyword Selection and Keyword Variations

Keyword selection is key to all the techniques to be discussed below. You have to carefully choose the keyword that you intend to target and focus on that keyword and other possible alterations of the same keyword. When thinking of keywords you must put yourself in the place of your average visitor and think of what keywords he could input in Google when looking for the type of content you have on your website. It is usually better to target phrases instead of single words as the competition for these is much higher. If you have a website about a specific type of juice, you should target orange fresh juice, instead of juice only. This will increase your rank for the combination of these words together and will ensure that the right visitors will be coming to your website.

Once you have selected the keywords you choose to target, you will have to think of all the possible alternations of that word. For example, if you would like to target the word telephone, you could be better off with telephones, as users that search for the singular and plural form will still find your website. The same rule applies for different variations of a verb, e.g. Glow, Glows, or Glowing. At times you might consider targeting several different versions of the word if different incompatible versions of it are probable to be searched for, e.g. University and Universities or Glows and Glowing from the previous example. A helpful tool for choosing which keywords to target is the Google Keyword Selection Tool.

2 - Write Clean Semantic Code

On-site SEO techniques are all about helping a search engine spider find what the most significant content on your website is. For it to properly be able to do this, you have to make sure that your coding structure does not make the indexing process hard or confusing for search engines spiders. You can ensure this by sticking to modern semantic coding style that separates the content from the formatting. Old school web coding uses visual and decorative HTML tags to format the styling the page by using loads and loads of repeated code segments to specify fonts, colors, and other details that a search engine spider is simply not interested in. We cannot go into the details of how to clean up your code, you can read this short piece on semantic code here.

You can see the two code snippets below to understand the difference between semantic and non-semantic coding. Both of the examples below have the same content. The first example uses HTML tags to format the look of the text, while the other one uses an external CSS to control the way the text is formatted.

Non-Semantic code:

<p align="center"><font size="2"><em><U><strong><font color="#FF0000" size="4" face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif">Welcome to Jack's Homepage! </font></strong></U></em></font></p>
<p align="center"><font color="#333333" size="2" face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif"><br />
</font><font color="#333333" size="2" face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif">My name is <strong><em>Jack</em></strong>, I live with my parents and I like to play <strong><em>football</em></strong>. Here are some of my favourite websites!!</font></p>
<p align="center"><font color="#333333" size="2" face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif"><a href="http://www.google.com/"><strong>Google</strong></a></font></p>
<p align="center"><font color="#333333" size="2" face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif"><a href="http://www.yahoo.com/"><strong>Yahoo</strong></a></font></p>
<p align="center"><font color="#333333" size="2" face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif"><a href="http://www.gamespot.com/"><strong>Gamespot</strong></a></font></p>
<p align="center"><font color="#333333" size="2" face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif"><br />
</font></p>
<p align="center"><font color="#333333" size="2" face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif"><em><strong>Thanks for visiting my website!</strong></em></font></p>

Semantic code:

<h1>Welcome to Jack's Homepage!</h1>
<p>My name is Jack, I live with my parents and I like to play football. Here are some of my favourite websites!!</p>
<p><a href="http://www.google.com/">Google</a></p>
<p><a href="http://www.yahoo.com/">Yahoo</a></p>
<p><a href="http://www.gamespot.com/">Gamespot</a></p>
<p>Thanks for visiting my website!</p>

3- Put Your Keywords High Up in the Page

Search engines give more importance to words higher up in the HTML source code of the page. So you will have to mention your keywords as early as possible in your page and repeat it various times and various forms for the search engines spiders to catch it. What matters is the position of the word in the HTML code and not visually on the page, it is possible to format and position your content all around the viewport, but for search engine purposes all that matters is the place within the HTML code. If you have navigation and side content bars, you could place these after your main content in the page and then align them in the way you choose by using CSS positioning and/or float effects.

4- Make Use of Proper Structure to Describe Your Content

Search engines nowadays look at structural HTML tags such as heading tags, strong and em tags as an indication to what the important content of the page is. Within the <Body> section of the html file, the most significant tag is the <h1></h1> tag, which by default creates the biggest heading in an HTML document. This means that you should make sure that you place the most important keywords in this heading tag. It is suggested that web authors should only use the <h1></h1> tag once, using it more than once could be penalized by search engines and that can lead to lower search engine rankings.

Other significant tags are the other headings in an ascending order <h2><h3><h4><h5> and <h6> and the <strong></strong> and the <em></em> tags. So make sure you use these to highlight your important keywords through out your documents.

Headings would not usually fit well within the look and design of you webpage if used in their default formatting, to make use of their impact on search engine ranking while retaining a proper design you will have to use CSS to control the way these tags look.

5- Use the <title> Tag Properly

This tip is in essence part of the previous one, but it is so important I had to separate it. The <title> tag of an HTML page is probably the most significant HTML tag when optimizing for search engines. The <title> tag is located within the <head></head> tags and it determines the text that appears in the title bar of the window and on the task bar. You should make sure not to follow the wrongful approach of assigning the title tag of all the pages of a given website as the name of the website, unless the name of the website is the keyword you are targeting in each and every page.

6- Make your content Accessible To Search Engine Spiders

Search engines can only read text embedded in your HTML page, it cannot read text embedded in Flash movies or text drawn on images. Creating a website that has all the text saved as images will mean that no search engine will be able to read any of this text. If you are creating a website that has the text embedded in a medium inaccessible to search engines, you should create a basic textual version of your website if you would like search engines to find it. If you HAVE to use images to decorate essential keywords in your content, such as the names of the sections in the navigation section of your website, you can solve this problem by using image replacement CSS techniques, or provide another text-only navigation menu at the bottom of the page.

Whenever you use images in your text, make sure that you give your images a meaningful name and always make sure that you use the <alt> tag to describe the image.

7 - Use Search Engine Friendly URLs

There are two points to highlight under this heading, the first is that you have to make sure that the links that you use are ones that a search engine spider can follow. Not all search engines spiders can follow dynamic URLs such as those generated using JavaScript and those containing complex signs such as &, #, ?, and $. If a search engine cannot follow the link, then it will simply not index anything further than the index page of the website.

If you do have a readable link, then you might as well enhance your chances of showing up higher at search engine results by enriching the URL with relevant keywords. The best method of doing this is by including the keyword you target in the domain name itself if there is a major keyword that you would like to target for every single one of your pages. For example, registering the domain name http://www.carwashonline.com/ is a good idea if you would like to target the keyword carwash. An alternative way to do this is by embedding the keyword of a specific page in the name of the file of the webpage itself and not necessarily in the domain name, e.g. http://www.carserviceonline.com/carwash.html.

8 - Cross Link Your Content

Modern search engines rate websites on the basis of their 'authority', i.e. the number of links pointing to a website. The higher the number of links leading to your page, the higher it goes within the search results. This applies to both links from other websites and links from different pages within the same website.

In addition to it being a method for enhancing your search engine ranking, cross-linking your content could help your current readers find relevant content on your website. For example, if you have a website that has a collection of tutorials, you can easily link from one tutorial to other ones that extend the topic to make the readers aware of their existence and to increase the ranking of these tutorials.

When creating links to other content you should take note of the actual text of the link and the TITLE parameter of the anchor tag. These two variables could be used to target special keywords to your site. For example, the paragraph above, I linked the word tutorial to Oman3D's tutorial page and set the TITLE parameter of the link (the text that appears when you leave the mouse hovering over a link for a while) as Oman3D Tutorials. Both of these fields have a significant impact on the ranking of the page they link to in relation to the words they contain, which in this example is the keyword tutorials.

Conclusion

I intentionally left out the topic of meta tags due to the fact that they are no longer of much significance to search engines as their usage was much abused by spammers on the web. They are still of some relevance as the description meta tag could still appear as the description of the page in a search result, and it is assumed that they have some impact on contextual advertisement units.

One should not forget that SEO tips help make search engines find worthy content, and without proper content there isn't anything to optimize, so make sure that you focus on creating quality content before looking for ways to optimize your website for search engines.

This concludes our tutorial, I'll write another one on off-site SEO tips hopefully sometime soon. Please feel free to post your comments and suggestions at the Oman3D Forum.

- End of Tutorial