Search engine robots (or spiders, crawlers) and “live” users see a Website differently, and sometimes it happens that your Website looks very user-friendly, but it’s absolutely inappropriate for SE. If you start doing search engine optimization (SEO) for the Website, you may find it a tough and thankless task – the SEO-ed site looks boring and loses its charm and unique style. How to keep the balance? I will give you 5 tips that will help you to make your site friendly both for users and search engines.
In SEO, text content is the main factor, and you must give it the best place on your home page. What is the best place? Remember how a spider follows the page – it starts from meta tags collecting necessary information about the page from the content of the tag head and then indexes the content of the tag body. It has only a few seconds to spider the code, so the text content must be placed in the first 1/3 of the code to be indexed well until the robot quits the page and follows its further way.
Usually, an HTML page has a table structure, and many Website designers like to place an image banner in the header of the page. The horizontal or vertical menu comes, and only then text section appears. It’s the wrong structure, and it must be changed if you want your site to be SEO-friendly.
I would recommend you this way:
If you use a “horizontal” structure for your site:
1. Place all page content in the table.
2. In the first row of the table, place 2-3 sentences of a text. The text must contain your main keywords but at the same time must be user-friendly – readable, easy to understand, and interesting. How to keep the balance? For example, your Website is about new and used cars, car dealers, and car spare parts. You can write “Welcome to your-site-name.com where you can find everything about cars, car dealers, and car spare parts” Make this text visible for users, i.e., don’t try to hide it playing with the color of text and background or font size, using layers, styles, etc. – sooner or later you will be caught by search engines and penalized. Better aim all your efforts at making this piece of your home page nice and user-friendly.
3. In the next row, you can place an image banner, Flash header, slide show, etc., i.e., a graphical element that must attract users’ attention.
4. In the next row, you can place a horizontal navigation bar (menu)
5. In the next row, place main text content along with images, charts, boxes, etc.
If you use a “vertical” structure for your site:
1. Place all page content in the table.
2. In the first left column of the table, place 2-3 sentences of the user-friendly text with main keywords.
3. In the next column, you can place logo, image, Flash slide show, etc.
4. Then, you can place the navigation bar, main text content, images, boxes, etc. I have given you simple examples of how to balance text content for users and robots. You can try your own options basing on the general idea.
Images at your Website are needed for users to attract their attention and give them a better understanding of the site theme. However, search engines also pay attention to images, namely to their names and tag alt. So it’s rational to name the image of a car car.gif or car-spare-parts.jpeg than something like bfbfjdjdj.gif or 12345.jpeg. But don’t be over-diligent naming all of the images car.gif or car-dealers.jpeg. It will be considered spamming! Use common sense and name images according to their content but with relation to your keywords. Also, remember that Google Images and other similar search engines also index the images and show them in the search results, so keep the naming rational and appropriate. It will give good results to your Website.
The same thing is about using text in the alt tag. The simple placing of all your keywords in adults of the images can only be considered as spamming, and your site can be penalized. Use normal short phrases that will give users a better understanding of your site if they have difficulty viewing images and placing your main keywords in the phrases. Make it look normal and rational. For example, you can use this text in alt for car.gif “Click to know more about new and used cars from the best car dealers.”
Title and description
Most users ignore your Website title (shown in the title bar of the browser) while visiting it. But they do when they search information in search engines and go through the search results – your site is shown there with its title, and description by which users decide is it worth visiting. That’s why the title and description must reflect the theme and content of your site 100% correctly and be understandable, catching, and promising for users.
But what’s about search engines? I think it is no secret that the content of the tag title plays the greatest role when search engines sort your site among other search results. Having certain keywords in the title gives your site a better position for these keywords. But it’s not correct to place your keywords in the title using or even not using commas. It’s a kind of art to find a balance between a wish to be #1 in search engines and fear of being caught for spamming.
I would recommend you these tactics:
- 1. Check the popularity of your keywords at keywords selector tool, for example, at http://inventory.overture.com/d/searchinventory/suggestion/
2. Decide which keywords are main for your Website – this depends on how competitive a keyword is, i.e., how many sites appear in search results for this term. If competition is too high and you feel that you can’t devote all your efforts and money to climbing up in search results, I would recommend you to select less competitive keywords to be main. Otherwise, it will be only wasting your time, money, and efforts without visible results. If you think you can afford to fight in this SEO game to win the first prize – top position in a search engine, the great go-ahead to start your promotion campaign – how exactly – it’s a theme of another article.
3. When you have selected the main keywords for your homepage, write it one under another in decreasing order of popularity. For our example, it looks like (taken from Overture’s database for June 2005): 1479805 car new 1269118 car used 1041861 car part 371108 car dealer 292644 car sale. As you see, all these keywords start from “car,” so it must be the first word in the title. Then “attach” there all other words in decreasing order of popularity but trying to keep the title readable, understandable, catching, and promising for users.
Yes, I know, it’s not easy. You can even spend all day thinking of this dilemma. But don’t give up, and finally, you will invent the best solution that will bring success to your site. So what we can use for our example: “Car new & used, car part by the dealer for sale.” You can see that Google, for example, shows and takes into account only the first 6-8 words of the title, so there is no sense to make it longer.
Do the same thing for description – write 2-3 short sentences that fully describe your Website for users and contain your main keywords. You may ask what to do with the rest keywords? Leave them in meta tags, add them to text content – they will play their role. Also, you can optimize other site pages for these keywords – using them in the title, description, and so on.
If you define Google as the main search engine for your site, you must know about Page Rank.
“PageRank relies on the uniquely democratic nature of the web by using its vast link structure as an indicator of an individual page’s value. In essence, Google interprets a link from page A to page B as a vote, by page A, for page B. But, Google looks at more than the sheer volume of votes or links a page receives; it also analyzes the page that casts a vote. Votes cast by pages that are themselves “important” weigh more heavily and help make other pages “important.”
Important, high-quality sites receive a higher PageRank, which Google remembers each time it searches. Of course, important pages mean nothing to you if they don’t match your query. So, Google combines PageRank with sophisticated text-matching techniques to find pages that are both important and relevant to your search. Google goes far beyond the number of times a term appears on a page and examines all aspects of the page’s content (and the content of the pages linking to it) to determine if it’s a good match for your query.”
So your SEO aims to make the link structure of your site getting a high Page Rank for the home page. Practically, try to place only essential links (internal and external) on your home page and link to them from all other pages of your site.
However, don’t forget to make other important sections of your site accessible from the home page because users will not waste their time finding page “Prices” or “Contact Us” browsing your entire Website. They will just quit it and go to another one. Make a navigation menu linked to your site’s main and important pages and create the site map with the site’s link structure where links to the rest site pages will be placed. If you don’t give privilege to Google, you can breathe with relief; however, try to follow the above-mentioned rule.
Dynamic or static content?
“Search engine robots follow standard links with slashes, but dynamic pages, generated from databases or content management systems, have dynamic URLs with question marks (?) and other command punctuation such as &, %, + and $.
Some public search engines and most site and intranet search engines will index URLs with dynamic URLs, but others will not. The simplest solution is to generate static pages from your dynamic data and store them in the file system, linking them to simple URLs. Site visitors and robots can access these files easily. This also removes a load from your back-end database, as it does not have to gather content every time someone wants to view a page. This process is particularly appropriate for Websites or sections with archival data, such as journal back issues, old press releases, information on obsolete products, and so on.
For rapidly-changing information, such as news, product pages with inventory, special offers, or web conferencing, you should set up an automatic conversion system. Most servers have a filter that can translate incoming URLs with slashes to internal URLs with question marks. This is called URL rewriting. For either system, you must make sure that the rewritten pages have at least one incoming link. Search engine robots will follow these links and index your page.”
So don’t be afraid to use dynamic content if you really need it that does the necessary actions to make it accessible for indexing by robots. As you can see, the tips are quite simple and rather give you the general idea of what you should do or shouldn’t than explain to you step-by-step “How-to-climb-the-top-of-search-engines.” All sites are unique, and there is no universal solution. But your patience, attention, willing to learn and try will finally yield and bring your site success.