Search Engine Optimization

The SEO fundamentals are: back links, quality site content, good title tags, no javascript for page content, no frames, no hidden text, no duplicate text. Let’s briefly look at each of these. Lack of any one will result in poor ranking for popular search phrases.

Back Links
These are links to your site from other sites. See Getting External Links for an analysis of the difficulty level in getting good links – there is no shortcut, and in our organisation every member of the team is committed to a daily routine of link requests, however senior they are. Links from external sites need to be carefully crafted to be valuable as links for search engine positioning.

Quality Site Content
If you build it they will come – but only if it’s great – only if it solves some problem or satisfies some want or need. Make the site good, make it fill that need/want and sit back and enjoy the results. Well, almost. You have to obey the other rules too, and you have to get some initial links to the site. But look at sites like xe.com – they don’t even have to ask for links – their site is one of those sites everyone uses to see the current exchange rates. They provide some tools that other sites use that results in an automatic link back to them – but if they didn’t, people would come anyway because it fills a need. Examine sites like this to see how they do it.

Good Title Tags
Covered in some detail in our section SEO and Title Tags, title tags are one of the three most important facets of search engine optimisation. It should ocmply with the theme of the page and be slightly, not overtly, promotional – since it will appear in the SERPs (search engine results pages) and will serve to attract potential visitors to click to your site. Make each title different per page.

No Javascript for Content
Notwithstanding the fact that the search engineswill pick up any Javascript that offends any SE rules (like a mass of site links to the same place), any content provided by javascript is not indexed. The simple rule to follow is to look at your public source page – whatever is there is what will be indexed by the SE’s. If you can’t see any actual content (just function calls and html furniture), then neither can the search gods. Which brings us to the next section…

No Frames
If you are thinking of using frames, think carefully about it, and then decide not to. Unless you’re implementing the equivilent of Googles gmail program (in which they use frames) where content is supposed to be hidden and you’d not be too interested in search engine traffic anyway, forget all you learned about frames and start developing sites in a different way, like tables or CSS. The content needs to be seen, and frames are difficult for search engines to grapple with. There comes a point where they (the bots) try so much then give up – and score the site as best they can. Same as the above – look at the public source file – if you can easily see the information then it’s OK.

No Hidden Text
Look at it this way – pessimistic though it is. The SE’s are looking for a reason to not index you or to penalise you in the rankings. If they come accross hidden text, their cyber noses start sniffing and they think they’ve found a bad site – they’ll look a little further and decide on that basis. Rest assured with one thing – they will never come to you to query the hidden text. So be careful. Don’t link elsewhere, whether internal or external with text that is too small to read, or text that is coloured the same or close to the background colour. The SE’s have hired the smartest people on earth – don’t try to outsmart them. If the hidden text is genuine, it should be evident – but if in doubt don’t hide any text at all.

No Duplicate Text
Don’t have the same or very similar text on yor site that you know exists elsewhere on the web. Don’t even do this internally to the site. Don’t make calls to translation sites that result in pages hosted with them that read the same or similar to content you already have. If material you have is copied – do occasional checks (through copyscape.com) to see if it has been copied. It will have been copied – but it’s up to you to see if it presents a danger. Generally, the rule of thumb is that if you have a higher PR (or expected to be higher) on the page in question than the one showing the content (include the expected PR by looking at parent pages), you’ll be OK. Otherwise you’ll have to get out the riot act – people generally oblige. Duplicate content is the current public enemy of the search engines, especially Google. They want to refine the search experience by having distinct material – they don’t want different sites appearing in the SERPs with substantially the same content. This is even true of adwords – how much more so with organic results!