Almost every single client I have had has asked me to implement their idea of SEO into their website. That idea is meta tags. Search Engine Optimization, although a highly desirable trait for a website (for obvious reasons), is extremely misunderstood. I’m not an expert, but I have enough of an understanding to explain how to implement some strategies that will help your website to properly get indexed by search engines.
“Just add the meta tags. That’s going to make me number one on Google, right?”
What is Search Engine Optimization?
SEO is the process of optimizing a website in ways that will help search engine spiders to index your website upon keyword search by a user. In layman’s terms, it is using a few strategies that will help your website attain a higher spot when someone searches for certain words.
The simplest way to explain how search engine spiders work is that they “crawl” through your website, picking up on repeated words and various tags that are in place. The most important thing to know is that they only crawl through text.That means that any content you display using Flash or within images will not be seen my search engines. You can (and should) use some SEO strategies that will make it easier for these spiders to quickly go through your website.
The Tips, Tricks, and Strategies
Contrary to popular belief, meta tags are not the most important search engine optimization tools. Your best bet would be to pay attention to your content – specifically, the keywords. Focusing on just a few keywords within your site will help boost your search engine spot tenfold. Easy, right? It may sound simple, but it takes a lot of thinking and work.
Let’s say that I’m making a web development firm’s website. The keywords they want are:
“Web Development, Web Programming, PHP Coding”
Note: I just made these up on the spot; when you decide keywords for you website, it will require a lot of research.
Out of these, one should be your PRIMARY keyword. This is the one you want to focus your search engine optimization tactics on. With that in mind, you will also work to raise your rankings for the other one.
The first thing you would want to do is include these in your website title. When search engines index a website, having your keywords in the title helps them to “realize” that these are important words. This will help you get higher in rankings for the keywords you choose. If you’re running a blog, it’s a good idea to incorporate within your post titles the keywords that actually represent your post. Page and post titles are extremely important factors for both, search engines and user desirability, and their value should be maximized as much as possible.
“So my title will be: Total Pixelation Studios | Web Development, Web Programming, PHP Coding”
Within your actual page, try to include the title in an H1 tag. If you have an image for your logo, put your title within an H1 tag, and use the CSS text-indent technique to offset the text. Then just include your logo as a background image. You would code your title like this:
>Total Pixelation Studios</
And then the CSS text-indent technique would be as follows:
: xxxx px;
: xxxx px;
Where xxxx px is equal to the width and the height of the background.
The next thing you want to do with keywords is to include them within your page’s content as much as possible. This is called keyword density. The higher your keywords occur, the higher your rankings go within search engines. But be careful; repeating a keyword too many times is bad. It may lead to search engines not even indexing your website. What’s worse is that repeating the same word hinders user readability; always remember that you’re writing for people not search engines. Ideally, you should aim for about 5%-7% keyword density (ex. if you have 1000 words in your page, then the keywords appear about 50 times, scattered throughout).
Also, update your website frequently. Obviously fresh content brings more visitors, but it also adds relevancy to your website in accordance with search engine spiders.
After you have sufficiently created ideal content using the above rules, you should move onto the meta tags. There are two important meta tags – the keywords, and the description. They’re self-explanatory; the keywords tag contains your keywords, and the description tag contains your website’s description. Meta tags go into the head of your document. For example:
"Total Pixelation Studios is a web development company based in Toronto focusing on web design/development and graphic design."
"Web Development, Web Programming, PHP Coding"
Note: For some reason, the script I use to display code wasn’t showing the meta tags. I have enclosed them in HTML Comment tags just so they show up; you would use meta tags without them.
These meta tags are read by search engine spiders. The descriptions you see when you search something on Google usually come from them as well. If the spiders read your targeted keywords within your meta tags, then they will have a higher “word value” to them.
After you have sorted out your content and meta tags, the best thing to do is to get as many inbound links as possible. Inbound links are links to your website from other websites. For example, if I were to have a tutorial featured on Pixel2Life, their link to my website would be an inbound link.
The more inbound links you have, the higher your search engine rankings. If you run a website, submit it to as many directories as possible; start with dmoz, which is one of the largest directories in the world. A simple Google search for directories will get you many more just like it. If you have write content such as tutorials, submit them to tutorial websites! Pixel2Life, Good-Tutorials, and many more not only get you inbound links, but they also direct loads of traffic to your website. I submitted my Creating a Website series to Good-Tutorials, and got thousands of hits.
Keep in mind, though, that when you’re on a link-building crusade, quality has much more value over quantity. 500 links from regularly updated, popular websites is better than 2,000 links from crappy websites such as link farms.
Including a sitemap is also a good idea. If you run a website with an intricate navigation, it may be easy for users to view all your pages, but search engine spiders get confused. Having a sitemap that links to all your pages allows them to easily get around your website and index each page.
One of the most important things to remember is to include text in a basic way. This means keep it straight up HTML – no Flash, no text in images, no nothing. Spiders can’t crawl through that stuff (for now at least).
Finally, tweet! Using Twitter and promoting your website can be very beneficial. I know this is more advertising than SEO, but the goal is to bring visitors to your website. Do it in any, “white-listed” method possible. If you’re an aspiring designer with a large fanbase on Twitter, you’ll get tons of visitors to your website. All you have to do is talk about it!
Search Engine Optimization Services
If you don’t have the time, or all this is going over your head, have no fear! There are lots of agencies that will optimize your website for search engines. Having said that, these services are not cheap. A good SEO consultant can cost a lot of money.
Make sure you know just what you’re getting into, though. Some of these agencies will promise you a spot at the top of Google. As promising as it sounds, they may not mean that for a keyword that people normally search for. They could easily get you a spot atop Google for something like “maude-colored website design”. Hell, I could do that for you, and I’m not expert. Always get a good, reputable agency.
There you go. A few tips to get you started with SEO, as well as a few companies that will do it for you. Like I said before, I’m not expert, but if you’re designing websites, you have to know the basics in order to give your customer what they want.