If you're not into SEO, you're a Dummy!
by: Professor Mike Latreille
OK, let's be more precise - the title only applies if you're a website publisher and you haven't been optimizing your Web pages in order to get the maximum amount of traffic to your site.
To get visitors to your website, you have to sell it to the search engines.
By most accounts, more than 80% of the traffic to your website will come from the major search engines: Google, Yahoo!, MSN, Ask.
SEO means Search Engine Optimization, which means making your web page as visible as possible to the search engines. Even if they know you exist, you have to sell them your content, show them that you have some valuable information to offer and convince them to send more clients to you.
SEO can become a very involved subject. There are experts who spend every waking moment worrying about each twitch from Google and how it will affect their rankings.
We won't go that far.
There are a few standard techniques of SEO that you should be aware of as you create and deploy your web pages. It's not a guarantee of failure if you can't implement every single one of them but it will help if you can use as many of them as apply to your situation.
Here are 10 basic SEO rules to follow to get search engines to love you:
1. Create good content.
Content Rules! The search engines come to you for content. Give it to them and they will treasure you.
2. Follow the KISS principle (Keep It Simple, Stupid!).
3. Use CSS (Cascading Style Sheets).
This is in keeping with rule #2: CSS allow you to write simple pages to please the search engines, yet display them very artistically for your human clients.
4. Never write your text inside pictures.
Some people think that they can write large blocks of text with special fonts using a picture editor, like WordArt for example. Search engines cannot 'read' pictures. They will see them as a single .gif file and not see the text inside.
5. Write a good Title tag for each page.
The Title tag must contain the main keywords for the page and must be descriptive of the content. It's the first impression that a search engine gets of your page, and it's extremely important!
6. Write a good Description tag.
The Description is a meta tag after the Title. It is usually longer, contains more keywords and describes the page content in more detail. Most search engines that don't have the sophistication of Google or Yahoo! look at the Description to get an idea of the content of the page.
7. Highlight your keywords.
Use the Headings tags, <H1> , <H2>, ... to show that certain keywords are important. By putting keywords in headings, you give them more weight, more importance.
8. Think about keyword density.
Your main keywords should be repeated often in paragraph headings and in the text itself. Use keywords in different contexts, not just repeating for the sake of repeating. Experts sometimes recommend using the word 25 times in a 500-word page. I think that's a bit much but you should be able to squeeze it in 10 or 15 times.
9. Make sure your site's navigation is 100% accurate.
All the internal links should work, all the menus have to operate correctly and every page should link flawlessly back to the homepage, preferably through an external link.
10. Develop a linking strategy.
Try to get as many other websites as you can to link to yours. The links must be relevant – quality of links counts for more than quantity. Sites that are similar to yours have more value. Google looks at links sort of as references – if other relevant sites are willing to link to yours, it must be because you have something useful to offer.
Many SEO consider links to be the second most important factor after content. While I'm not convinced of that, it is definitely important. But make sure that you link only to good sites, those that have content similar to yours and are not on the Google banned list.
Sites that don't have a Pagerank are either very new or are banned by Google. You can see the Pagerank on the Google toolbar which you can install in your browser.
About The Author
Professor Mike Latreille has over 30 years of experience in the computer industry as a consultant and educator. He has worked for a number of companies, including IBM, as well as for the Canadian government.