How do you ensure that your website content is not a turn-off with the search engines? Does it suffice to just concentrate on how the pages appear to humans, or is the actual coding of the pages also important? What webmasters resources are available to increase the search engine friendliness of your web pages? These questions, and more, are answered in this article.
It's all too common for webmasters to unwittingly create web pages which are less than appealing to the search engines. There are some great tools for creating web sites, but many of them end up creating over-complex code, laden with redundant html. As well as paying attention to the basics (we'll provide a check list of these, in a moment) it is important that pages are as lean as possible, and the best way to achieve this is to use cascading style sheets. Valid HTML which will work in at least the most common browsers is also a critical issue. Fortunately, there are some great tools out there, and we will look at these.
FIRST, THE BASICS
KEYWORDS : Utilise good keywords and use an optimization tool such as Web Position Gold's Page Critic. We discuss keywords in our article "Why Submitting to Loads of Search Engines is not enough."
INDEXABLE PAGES : Remember that each page on your site is a potential entry point. You need to make sure that all your pages can be found (are indexable) by the search engines. One good way of doing this is to include a
site-map (e.g. have a look at Alcander's sitemap). Make sure the site-map is linked to on your home page. Also make sure that the site-map is designed so all pages can be reached by one-click.
PAGE TITLES AND HEADINGS : Search engines pay a lot of attention to titles and paragraph headings (the text between <h1> and </h1>). Again, make sure you include your keywords in them, if possible.
LINKS : Try and link key phrases, rather than phrases (such as "Click Here") which mean little to the search engines.
IMAGES : The advice here is not to include too many images. The search engines spiders will be looking for text based on which to index your site, though they will also like the fact that you include some images. Too many, however, (compromising your textual content) is not good. You should also ensure you include alt text on your images (where you can include some of your keywords) which will help the visually impaired, as well as the search engines.
MEANINGFUL FILE NAMES : Try and use recognised words in your file names and directories, or (even better) your good keywords.
SOME DON'TS : Don't try and fool the search engines by using dubious techniques such hiding keywords on your page (e.g. by coloring the text to be the same as the background). Such techniques can get you banned or be detrimental to your ranking. Don't stuff your page with too many keywords (but Web Position Gold's Page Critic will take care of that). Also, don't employ cloaking techniques.
ACHIEVING LEAN WEB PAGES
The search-engines like lean pages (or pages which are not victims of HTML code bloat, as it is called in the trade). Lean pages can be defined as those with a high content / html code ratio. The best way of achieving this is to seperate style from content, by defining the style in cascading style sheets (CSS). These style sheets are not presented to the search engines, but your leaner pages, containing less html and more indexable content, are. The best style sheet editor that Alcander have come across is TopStyle , developed by Nick Bradbury. TopStyle can be integrated with CSE HTML Validator which is a highly recommended, powerful, easy to use, and user configurable HTML, XHTML, CSS, and WML syntax checker.
Leaner pages will enable your good keywords to be nearer the top of the page, be generally easier for the search engines to index (as there is less to wade through) and will lead to faster-loading pages. All this will be extremely beneficial to your rankings, and of much more significance than adjusting your meta-tags. You'll find that a lot of major companies' web sites are suffering from code bloat, as connection speeds become faster and attempts are made to cram more and more attention grabbing detail, so if you get to grips with CSS and use TopStyle and
CSE HTML Validator , you'll have a good chance of beating the competition. TopStyle will help you learn CSS, or we can recommend this CSS Tutorial.
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