Search Engine Optimization:
A Few Tips
Search engines and directories get a bad rap. These web sites busily organize, prioritize and index the World Wide Web and make a staggering amount of content more accessible. And the vast majority of web users (over 90%, according to some pundits) use search engines as their first means of finding products and services on the Web.
Yet every web site owner I know grinds their teeth when I mention search engines. Either they can’t get their site listed favorably, or they get an inexplicably good result one week and then dissappear the next.
Since I’m always a man with an opinion, I thought I’d send everyone Ian’s Three Rules of Search Engine Optimization. These are the basics, obviously, but if you follow these you can at least keep search engines from ignoring your site:
1. Keep It Simple. Those of you who know me hear this a lot. A simple web site is a happy web site. It’s also a higher-ranked web site. Search engine ‘bots’ or ‘spiders’ – the programs that read your site into the search engine and determine how you are ranked – generally want to see the right keywords, in your site content, as close to the top of the page as possible. By using clean, simple layouts that don’t include a lot of tables, frames or other coding dross, you can insure that your page is friendlier to bots. As a side benefit, your web site will download faster, be compatible with a wider array of web browsers, and be easier to maintain. And it can still look good. Honest.
2. Think Like a Bot. No, I don’t mean start speaking in a monotone or saying ‘Klatuu Berada Nikto’. But search engine bots read text. They can’t read pictures, they can’t read Flash, and they can’t read video. And they can’t read your mind! So make sure that your message is clear, and that every page of your site has at least some text content on it. That insures that the bots have something to read.
3. Share Links. ‘Popularity’, or the number of web sites that link to yours, is an increasingly important statistic in search engine rankings. Google, the most popular search engine out there, uses your popularity as the primary metric when deciding your rank. So find complimentary sites and offer to exchange links with them. Or, better yet, develop a few smaller web sites of your own, host them at different locations and then link them to each other. You can give special products or services special treatment and improve your search engine rank at the same time.
Clearly, none of these ideas are hard-and-fast rules – sometimes design is more important than anything. But if you keep them in mind as you build or rebuild your web site, the search engines won’t pass you by. If you’re really serious about getting a top ranking, talk to a professional (shameless plug here) and they can help you really stay on top of the rankings.
Talk to you next month,
Ian Lurie – President, Portent Interactive