Search Engine Optimisation

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The first step towards getting your site ready for Google's search bots is designing your web site according to a set of basic guidelines; Google's guidelines for indexing your site are available at http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?answer=35769 and further information is available at http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/?hl=en

Contents

Basic Guidelines

  • Make sure that the links on your pages are accurate -- every page of your site should be reachable from at least one static text link, and you should avoid links which don't work.
  • Make your site informative -- use accurate copy, and be sure to include keywords in the copy.
  • Make your site easy for users to navigate -- create a sitemap page which details the structure of your site, with links to all pages (note that these sitemaps are not the same as Sitemap files, which will be discussed later). Remember that if there are more than 100 links, you should split the map into 2 pages.
  • Keywords -- keywords are words which your site users would use to search for your website. Google searches for keywords in all parts of your site, so remember to include words in your copy which you think users will use to find your site. More about other places to use keywords later.
  • Name files accurately -- name the actual files of your website using descriptive words, and not just random identifiers. so a picture of a pair or Acme shoes should be called something like "Red_acme_shoes.jpeg" and not "pic123.jpeg"
  • Use correct HTML, and if using PHP, keep the number and length of parameters down.
  • Use tags correctly -- Use accurate content for the title tag, such as "Mimi's shoes -- a range of Acme, Generix, and Shinybrand shoes." Use meta tags correctly (meta tags are used in the "head" section of an html file).
  • Avoid duplicate content -- more occurrences of your key words all over your site won't produce better result. Rather be clear, informative, unique, and useful.

Using Meta tags

Google recognises the following meta tags which will assist searching and indexing:

meta name="description" content="A description of the page"
meta name="robots" content="..., ..."
meta name="googlebot" content="..., ..."
meta name="verify-v1" content="..."

Further information on other meta tags recognised by Google, and how these tags can be used can be found at http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=79812

Use a robots file

In order for Google and other search engines to know what's on your site, automated programs called "robots" are sent to index or "crawl" your website, adding information to their search engines' databases. You are able to create a file called robots.txt which will control which bots can crawl your site, and which parts they have access to.
Learn more from Google here: http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=40360

Don't be sneaky

While this might sound strange, presenting results which are intended to deceive (either search engines or users) are more likely to harm your search results than help them. Avoid using doorway pages (pages full of nothing but keywords), and don't use cloaking (delivering different results to users and search engines), hidden links or text, or deceptive redirects. Straight-forward DNS pointing, or 301-redirect (which requires hosting a small html file on the hosting server for the domain) are the best way to accomplish redirects. Imaginet offers both services for free.

Don't be evil

Google's company statement applies to web developers as well. Don't host malicious content, and don't link to sites know to spam users or to host malicious content.

Telling search engines that you exist

Now that your site has been designed, and you've prepared everything to be indexed, you'll need to inform search engines that your site is ready to be indexed.

You can submit your URL to Google's index at http://www.google.com/addurl/?continue=/addurl

and to Yahoo! at http://siteexplorer.search.yahoo.com/submit.

Should you want to submit your site to other search engines, the relevant links should be available on those pages.

The next steps

You can now consider the final few stages of optimisation, which would increase your page rank over time. Consider making use of Google's webmaster tools at http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/?hl=en and think about advertising, and submitting a Sitemap to search engines.

Sitemaps

A Sitemap is a file based on a specific protocol, which basically lists all of the pages of your site. You can submit one to Google via your Webmaster Tools account. Sitemaps are useful if you have a large number of pages which are not being indexed by a search engine (due to incorrect linking, missing links, etc), or if you have a large number of pages which change regularly, or need to be indexed in a specific way. You can go about creating one in a number of ways. We will outline the two easiest options below: You can create a list of URLs in a basic text file. This type of Sitemap will inform search engines that unlinked pages exist. Simply create a list of URLs, each fully typed out, one URL per line. For example:

http://www.example.com/file1.html
http://www.example.com/file2.html

Do not exceed 50000 URLs, and don't include any other text at all. Save the file in UTF-8 encoded text, and name it "sitemap.txt". Upload this file to your host server, to the highest level directory to be crawled.

You can also create a sitemap using the Sitemap Protocol. Create an XML file with the following header:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<urlset xmlns="http://www.sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap/0.9">


You can now add URLs using the following format for each URL:

<url>
    <loc>http://www.example.com/</loc>
    <lastmod>2005-01-01</lastmod>
    <changefreq>monthly</changefreq>
    <priority>0.8</priority>
</url>


The loc tag specifies the URL, lastmod is the last modification date of that page, changefreq specifies how often the page changes, and priority is the relative importance of the page to the rest of your site. For example, your homepage might have a priority of 1.0 (most important) whereas a page of unimportant links would only have a value of 0.2 or so.
When you've added all the URLs, close the urlset tag, save the file as sitemap.xml, and upload and submit as for a txt Sitemap.

Advertising

The more you advertise and the easier it is for clients to find you, the higher your ranking will be on large search engines like Google. Remember that participating in lining schemes, and linking to malicious sites or "bad web neighbourhoods" will only serve to damage your results. Your advertising should be useful to the users of your site.

Free classified adverts on the web

Google AdWords

Imaginet advertises with Google Adwords, as it's pay-per-click, it's a very effective way to make your business known. Adwords will not increase your search rank, but you will be able to advertise in sidebars, and ad blocks in certain sites. The service also allows for very precise budgeting, and campaign planning. Further information on this service can be found at https://adwords.google.com

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