Webdesign Tutorial - Chapter 5: Search Engine Optimizing

Now that we know how to build at least a very simple web page, we're going to go through the basics of what's become known as SEO, or search engine optimizing.

Before I go through the various methods of how to make your site attractive to the search engine "spiders", I want to point out that these are not all the measures you could take to enhance the indexability of your web site - it is only the ones I personally think you should use.

There are a lot of "tricks" when it comes to SEO that are geared towards fooling the search engine into thinking your page ought to be ranked higher than it deserves, and those methods can very easily come back to bite you since, if discovered, they can mean your site will be locked out of many popular search engines completely! You can probably imagine how devastating a blow this would be to an online business, and therefore, I strongly urge you to not focus your efforts on technical trickery, but to apply the honest approaches below to the best of your abilities instead.

1. "Content is King"

There is a widely used catch phrase within the SEO community called "Content is King". This is really by far the most important point you could ever learn in terms of marketing your online presence, so make sure you learn it well.

When you think of the very purpose of a search engines existance, it makes perfect sense. A search engines "job" is to provide a catalog of the web sites on the internet, sorted according to a ranking order where the best site on a given topic deserves the first place. And what exactly makes a page "best"? It is of course all about what your visitors will get out of visiting it.

In other words, focus the majority of your efforts on making a great web site before anything else. If your content is worth the visit - and maybe even worth coming back for - it will get popular, other people will link to it, mention it to their friends etc, and it will climb the ranking ladder on Google!

2. External links to your site

Another factor that contributes to how a lot of search engines, and Google in specific, judge how popular your site has become is by looking at how many other sites link to it. The theory is that, the more people who find you worth recommending by linking to you, the better your page is likely to be.

So how do we achieve this then? Well, you can of course ask people to link to you, or even pay them to - a lot of people do that. But the surest way is still yet again to provide great content! If your site is worth its weight in bytes, people are going to want to link to it and recommend it without you having to nag them about it.

3. META tags

As you know there are things called META tags in our HTML or XHTML source code. They are placed in the <head> area of our document and are generally used to describe various things about our web site, to tell browsers what they're dealing with from a more technical standpoint.

There are also a few META tags that can help with indexing your pages in search engines, and the ones you're going to want to know about are:

1. Title

No, the title tag isn't technically a META tag, but it tends to be grouped up with them anyway since it's so related in function. The title tag will show up in search engines as the topic for your page, which is why it's smart to pick something that quickly lets the visitor know what you're offering. It can also in some cases benefit search results to throw your most important keywords in the title.

An example of a title usage:

<title>Freds Fruit Store - Apples, Bananas, Pears!</title>

2. Description

The META Description tag is used to provide a short description of your page. When search engines like Google list the results, they will usually show this text - or a short snippet from it - below the title and before the URL address.

An example of a META Description tag:

<meta name="description" content="Here at Freds Fruit Store we sell only the juiciest, tastiest fruit of the very highest quality" />

3. Keywords

Although still used by a few search engines still, the META Keywords tag has been officially confirmed as not used by Google anymore to determine page ranking. The reason for this is that it's been too over-abused as people have tried to "cheat" their way to a good ranking with its content. The main purpose of the tag is quite logically to provide a list of the most important keywords for the page.

An example follows:

<meta name="keywords" content="apples, bananas, pears, high quality fruit" />

The above three points are the most important tools used in optimizing our web site for the search engines indexing process. If you feel you've got these covered (although the first point is of course generally always a work in progress) you've come a very long way, and your site will have good chances of getting the very best ranking it deserves.

There are a few other minor points such as well written code with semantically correct choices of tags in the appropriate places etc, but these don't have a large impact on anything except for in some more extreme cases.

Now go make your site successful! :o)

More chapters are on their way but they are unfortunately not finished yet.

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