How to Think Like a Search Engine Spider
Tricks and SEO are not really terms that go together. SEO is not about tricks, despite what some Blackhat SEO operators may tell you. Rather, SEO is about a set of processes, both onsite and offsite, that work together to “convince” Google, Yahoo and Bing et al that your website should be ranked higher than the others for a particular keyword or phrase. Whether you call them tricks or processes or techniques, here are some effective SEO steps that actually make a difference:
- Page Title
There are various metatags at the very top of a web site’s source code, usually Title, Description and Keyword tags. Out of these, the title carries the most weight in the indexing of your website with search engines. When a search engine is looking to determine what a particular page is about, that’s what it’s going to look for (not to mention being the first thing that visitors will see when they look at your search engine listing). Stick a keyword or two in the title tag (but not so many that it looks like spam to a search engine). Place your company name at the end of the title and that particular page’s title with keywords in the beginning of the title.
- H1 Headers
Headers are what help users and search engines both know what the major points of that page are going to be. Put in an H1 tag, and further break down the copy with H2 and H3 tags. Not only will that break up the copy on the page, but it will also let search engines know what’s on the page and give priorities to the content that will help index the site properly.
- Alt Descriptions
Search engines love descriptive images. Putting alt descriptions on the images give relevant text that search engines can recognize when indexing the site. Remember that the more relevant text you have on the page, the better your chances are in search engine rankings.
- Titles for Links
The same principle that applies for images also applies here. Text that describes the link that you are about to click helps users and search engines both.
- Relevant & Unique Content
We shouldn’t have to reinforce the obvious here, but making your content fresh, engaging and readable isn’t enough (even though it’s very important). Just make it natural, conversational and relevant, both to users and to Google.
- Good Links
High-quality links are essential to getting traffic and getting a high page rank. Blogs, social media and other niche links are vital to your page rank. Build a give-and-take with other related sites, but steer clear of link farms and other “bad neighborhood” spamm-ish sites that can actually knock down your page rank and kill your legitimacy with visitors.
- Flash and Html
Users love Flash animation; search engines don’t. If you’ve got to have Flash on your site, make sure that you have an HTML equivalent side-by-side with it. And if you’ve got to have a Flash or splash page on your landing page, include a “skip intro” option, links to your main site content or sitemap. Not only do splash landing pages baffle search engines, they’ve become so cliché’ that they annoy visitors as well.
- Webmaster Tools
Google, Yahoo and Bing have webmaster sections where you can create an account, upload a sitemap and see stats about the crawling of your website. Leverage from all this data to optimize your website and your individual pages. This is an essential tool.
- Content Management System
If your site is still built on individual asp, php or html files, switch to a content management system such as WordPress, Joomla or Drupal. It will make your life much easier and give you a ton of tools to promote your site. It will also increase user interaction and decrease the amount of time you spend on updates and changes to your site.