A bad SEO plan can result in expensive redesigning and at the worst end, scrapping the site altogether. There are great methods for optimizing web sites for search engines and there are also really bad ones.
Before delving into the subject, there is a tool called Web CEO which is a free download. It is absolutely great at helping the designer optimize any site for SEO purposes. It can be seen at http://www.webceo.com/.
Tip 1: Write Effective Content
There is nothing worse for a web site than badly written or poorly researched content. Content must be useful for the web site’s target audience or they will simply go elsewhere, never to return. It must be relevant to the subject matter covered by the site. That does not mean just advertising products and services. The site should contain articles related to the site theme.
Content needs to be keyword-targeted, with keywords used by web surfers to find the information on the site using search engines. The search engine optimized content makes the difference between those who find the site and those who go elsewhere. Of course, there are other marketing methods for bringing traffic to a site, but by optimizing the keywords, targeted traffic from search engines is much more likely.
Web sites that employ well-written keyword targeted content will also be crawled effectively by the search engines. For example, a site selling mobile phones could host articles on the latest mobile technologies and brand reviews. It is no longer necessary to submit site addresses to Yahoo or Google. Given time, not too long either, the search engines will find the site quite easily by crawling using search algorithms.
Maintain the balance between graphics and content. Ensure that there is not an overload of graphical imagery splattered across the pages even if it is an artistically driven site like a gallery. The content and its ability to grab the interest of the visitor must be paramount. The quality of the content is what is required for optimized results on the web. This does not entail refusing to use graphics altogether. It simply means that a balance between content and graphics should be applied to avoid badly cluttered pages. Ensure that the images have <alt> attributes with relevant text inserted. For example, if it is a site showing pictures of computers for a vendor, the <alt> tag text could be "Brand new PCs at low prices." This in turn will further aid search engine page rankings.
As briefly mentioned above, careful placement of keywords relating to the text or sub-text is required for a search engine optimized site. Look at the theme of the site and choose popular keywords that are used by people to find the site information on search engines. As content is written for the site, be very conscious of the amount of keywords used in the text. This is known as keyword density; it is calculated by dividing the number of number of instances of the word by the total number of words in the text, and multiplying by 100. That percentage should be around the 15 – 20% mark for the top three keywords. It will be too repetitive if it rises above that.
On the subject of the use of keywords, it is time for the next all important task: writing content. If writing content is something that consumes too much time, and more time needs to be spent marketing the business, there are free sites where you can obtain content. A recommended site is http://constant-content.com. Articles are available for free and also for just a few dollars an article.
When writing, plan the content carefully against the keywords and write the phrases carefully, taking account of the frequency for SEO purposes. Ensure that page titles, headings and sub-headings contain those keywords. Don’t go overboard though. Do not overload the title with keyword repetition. The search engines will only read part of the title, approximately 50 or 60 characters, so there is no need to write a title like "Computers at low computer prices and best PC deals on all PC brands at low budget PC prices." This is the page title in the <title> tags and it should be treated with care. Save the long phrases for the meta tags, which will be covered shortly.
Do not fall into the encumbered keyword trap by writing titles like "Cheap PCs, Low budget PCs and Macs, affordable PCs and Macs, Best PCs and hardware, PC computer deals……" On many sites, that just goes on and on. Anyhow, this is known as keyword stuffing and Yahoo and Google will show their wrath by possibly banning the site from their search engines. It will be a horrifyingly repetitive article if the word computer or phone appears every 4 or 5 words. Just stay within that recommended percentage, be mindful of the frequency applied to the keywords, and ensure that they are distributed evenly through the text.
Great places to insert relevant keywords are:
The first paragraph of the site content; it should contain a relatively high number of keywords.
Page titles and hyperlinks.
Inside <meta> tags e.g. <meta name=”description” content=”The best PC and MAC computer low budget deals on the web. Visit <URL> for a range of great computer prices and helpful advice from our friendly PC and MAC advisers” >
Inside H1 and H2 tags that are placed close to the content.
Hyperlinks should also be allocated the relevant keywords relating to the site theme. This is why search engines like Yahoo will eventually find the site pages by using sophisticated crawlers. These crawlers will follow the links to and from other sites that share traffic. Link sharing plays a big part in traffic diversion and distribution of site visitors.
From time to time, however, there is the need to redirect traffic from old pages still showing on the search engines. Also, it may be necessary to move a site to a different server. The search engine crawlers need to know where the pages are located or they will find those outdated and dead links.
The method used to achieve this is server-side redirects. Check with your host to make sure that this can be done. If not, each of the pages in question will need to be edited to state that the page no longer exists. Then you need to put a link on the page that will take the visitor to the required content. It is a good idea to automatically redirect the page after about five seconds. It is a technique used ubiquitously on the web. Use this method only to redirect, by the way – not to use spoof style tactics! Here it is:
<META HTTP-EQUIV=”Refresh” CONTENT=”5;URL=http://www.newpage.com/”>
Simply replace the bolded URL with the site address being redirected to from the old page. Change the number 5 to whatever delay is required. Five seconds is a suggested timeout to allow for an apology for the dead or changed link that has been stumbled upon. Place a hyperlink there, too, so that the visitor can click it to redirect to that page. This is purely for convenience.
Now to server-side redirects. Using a command file called .htaccess, redirects can be smoothly added to avoid old and dead links. As the .htaccess file is checked before the browser loads the page, a few lines will redirect pages easily. A 301 error code is used on pages to indicate a moved page and 302 for temporarily moved pages. For a complete tutorial on using .htaccess, visit the Apache site at http://httpd.apache.org/docs/1.3/howto/htaccess.html. It is a nice walk through and will explain the process. In a nutshell, this will only work on a Linux server. Sorry, if the site is on a Windows server, these methods cannot be used, so refer to my paragraph above on redirecting if this is the case.
The .htaccess file needs to be uploaded in ASCII mode. This is true for other server-side scripts such as CGI and Perl. A nice free piece of software, and used by yours truly for some time, is FileZilla. It is straightforward to configure and has a great WYSIWYG style interface. Get it here: http://sourceforge.net/projects/filezilla.
Check with the server administrator that it is okay to proceed in this fashion. Or perhaps he or she would rather configure the .htaccess file. That would be expected if the site is being developed in-house. That administrator will know whether or not the .htaccess file already exists. Also, it may need to be renamed to htaccess.txt to upload and then have the name changed back to .htaccess later.
Redirect example and conclusion
Here is a quick example to illustrate how quickly this task can be performed. An example line in the .htaccess file to move a single page is:
Redirect 301 /yeoldelink.html http://www.somesite.com/newlink.html
The Apache tutorial at sourceforge.net will explain more in great detail. I may do a tutorial myself on the various applications for the .htaccess file in another article.
That concludes the article. It should be noted that in addition to the above techniques, please try to use proper grammar and spelling for the content. There is no use planning a keyword marketing strategy for the site if the keywords are misspelled. Check that thoroughly. Good luck optimizing!