View Full Version : The Art of SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

11-17-2005, 09:49 PM
Many companies spend hundreds of dollars each year on optimizing their place in the major search engines. A good SEO charges thousands of dollars, but you can do a lot of the hard work yourself which saves both money and time.

Nearly everybody who uses the internet will know what search engines are and which ones are the best to use. In this article I will be discussing how to optimize your website using Google, MSN Search and Yahoo Search. You can see more information and statistics about search engines at http://www.infopeople.org/search/chart.html (http://www.infopeople.org/search/chart.html).

Optimizing your website for Google
Google is in fact the largest search engine on the internet, and therefore it is probably the most important search engine to try and gain a high ranking. Google uses a system called "Pagerank" which ranks the page out of 10. You can see the page rank if you use the Google Toolbar or by looking it up at http://www.stargeek.com/pr_checker.php (http://www.stargeek.com/pr_checker.php) and you can also view detailed information about how Google Pagerank works at http://www.searchengineguide.com/orbidex/2002/0207_orb1.html (http://www.searchengineguide.com/orbidex/2002/0207_orb1.html).

Google Pagerank depends on two major factors and other smaller factors:
1) Keyword Density: If the percentage of keywords on your page is too low your website isn't optimized, but too high and the Googlebot will suspect your website of what is called "Keyword Stuffing" and it won't get a high rating at all. A top website should have a keyword density of around 7 percent. The term "Keyword Density" means the percentage of keywords on your page. Keywords are words that are perhaps inside a heading tag or a bold tag. Meta Tag keywords may count but not that much as Google doesn't tend to list websites based on keywords in the meta tags.

2) Links: The Googlebot will check how many links from sites rated PR4 and above link to your home page, a top website will have around 300 links like this.

Smaller Factors: Your content is very similar to another website that the Googlebot has been over. Perhaps your code is messy, lots of javascript and images/tables with undefined "alt" tags. The Googlebot loves it when your site has been updated recently and continuously. You should not use dynamic urls as many websites do (eg instead of "help.php" "index.php?id=help" etc) and the obvious one is that the size of your web page is very large.

To try and correct these problems you should mainly concentrate on the first two, but make sure you concentrate on them both, a fatal mistake is just to concentrate on getting links rather than your keyword density. When you try and find other websites to swap links with you should make sure that the page your link will go is at least PR4 or higher. It is quite easy to make the smaller factors better.

PLEASE NOTE: Many people think that by using programs such as Macromedia Dreamweaver or Microsoft FrontPage their code will be perfect, this is not the case. These programs use poor coding often but Dreamweaver does have an addon clean up code function, which is useful.

When the Googlebot comes over your website it does not see it as we would, it sees just the text and the coding, I have found a useful tool that shows what a search engine spider would see as it came over a website. You can see it by going to http://www.stargeek.com/crawler_sim.php (http://www.stargeek.com/crawler_sim.php). You should ideally have a lot of text there and it will help your Google position as the Googlebot prefers more text to code.

Here is a roundup of what you should do to try and optimize your website in Google:

Make sure your keyword density is the right size
Have has many links on other related websites as possible
Make sure your website's coding is correct
Update your site regularly (perhaps use an RSS feed (http://www.xml.com/pub/a/2002/12/18/dive-into-xml.html))
Don't use dynamic URLs if you can possibly avoid it (if you have to use server-side includes (http://www.bignosebird.com/ssi.shtml) instead of using PHP or ASP)
Make sure your website has a large amount of text (you could also use a RSS feed for this)
Once you have addressed these programs you should have a higher ranking in Google.Although Google is the biggest search engine, it isn't the only one. MSN Search was at the top a few years back and still is a close contender as it is the default search engine on all Microsoft computers and although it is similar to Google it is different, so there are different methods of how to optimise MSN Search.

Optimizing your website for MSN Search
The ways of optimizing MSN Search are similar to Google, but you should pay more attention to keyword density. It would appear that MSN prefers keywords, so you should make sure that your keyword density is optimized, otherwise you will be losing out. The problem is that MSN Search prefers a slightly higher keyword density than Google, so you have to be careful when trying to optimize for both search engines. I would say that you should keep your keyword density under 10 percent if you are trying to optimize for both. As with all the major search engines you should make sure that you have a strong base of text and that it doesn't repeat, MSN Search doesn't like text being repeated which is obviously a similar situation as Google. MSN Search does put a small weight on links going into your homepage, but no where near as much as Google does.

MSN Search does tend to index forum pages, which can be a blessing and a curse, although Google does occasionally list forum pages, it doesn't normally. A forum usually has more text than code so it will do well in MSN Search as long as the forum remains active and new threads are created continuously.

Here is a list of what is different in MSN Search compared to Google:

MSN Search prefers a higher Keyword Density to Google
MSN Search does like other websites linking to your homepage, although it doesn't put as much weight on it as Google does
MSN Search does put a bit of weight on meta tags whilst Google doesn't
MSN Search is more likely to index forum threads which therefore means that MSN Search doesn't mind dynamic URL's as much as Google does
Yahoo Search is very similar to MSN although there is a difference with meta tags, as described in the meta tags section below.

Meta Tags
A few years ago meta tags were the way to get included on search engines, but as these are easy to abuse, the search engines have devised other ways to list websites. Meta Tags have almost no weight with Google, but they do play a small factor in MSN Search. The biggest search engine to still place a lot of weight on meta tags is Yahoo Search.

But because meta tags are so easy to abuse there are some fairy tight rules about how you should use them. It is best to have different meta tags for every page on your website, as the search engine spiders prefer it like that. Listing a large number of keywords in your meta tags will probably get your site removed from the search engine, as that is unfortuanatly seen as spamming the search engine by the spiders.

Following these tips can help boost your ranking on search engines, but it can also save you a lot of money on SEO fees. I do urge you however not to experiment too much with search engines on a website that is important, as occasionally the search engine spider may see this as abuse and you will be removed from the search engine. So unless you learn more about SEO I suggest you stick to the tips I have given you, as they won't get you removed from a search engine, but if you feel that you want to play around with search engines then I suggest that you use a special domain/site to experience with different methods.

If you are interested in really getting into SEO, whether for research purposes or perhaps a change of career then I suggest you take a look at http://www.seochat.com/ (http://www.seochat.com/) and other websites which can give you more detailed information.

By Mark Uttley