Recent studies suggest that over 80% of new visitors to any web site get there as a result of a search engine query. If this study is to believed, it certainly suggests that working to get high rankings in the search engines might be the very best thing you can do to bring visitors to your website.
The next 12 design tips can help you to get started in optimizing your website’s search engine placement.
1. Design for Specific Search Engines – there are hundreds of different search engines, but for best results you should design your website to take complete advantage of the research criteria of the large three – Yahoo, Google and MSN. If you’re able to get high positions in those three, you won’t need to worry about the other search engines. Knowing how these search engines rank websites (and why they will punish a website ) is crucial. The rules change frequently, but the hints below will be the most current.
2. Know your target market. Before you apply any of the suggestions below, do some research and find out what will be the most likely important words and phrases your target audience will be searching for. Typically, the keywords or phrases will not be your site name, but will be something associated with the solution to a particular problem or the response to a certain question. Knowing the question which will be requested is half of the battle.
3. Use Meta tags. By now just about everybody knows about Meta tags. These are commands you can put in the html on your webpage to assist the search engines categorize exactly what your page is all about. The two most important Meta Tags are ‘Keyword’ and ‘Description’. The description Meta tag should explain what’s on the specific page, and the keyword Meta tag should include the important key words from the page. Avoid using’fluff’ phrases and words as these will be dismissed by the website.
Caution: If the keywords in the keyword line aren’t found within the text online page, some search engines will penalize the page or just not list it. This is done in order to prevent’meta tag’ spoofing.
My advice – have a distinct Meta description tag on each page. And don’t forget that keywords in the keyword tags are used on the page.
4. Optimize your Title tag. Many search engines give significant weight to the html title tag on the page. It’s the first element the search engine will scan and weight. Not including a name instantly lowers the search engine rank your page will get. When yo create a name tag, include keywords and write it to capture the eye of the users be scanning lengthy lists of names from search engine results.
For higher rank, make sure that the name tag fits headline text on the page. And make certain to use a different name tag for every page on your website. (Pages with the exact same name tag will often be ignored.)
5. Use Keywords in page headlines. Page headlines are significant – to your visitor and to search engines. Use short keyword phrases, such as hot button words and phrases. Prevent’fluff’ and generic words.
My advice – use a powerful headline on the page, and use the exact same headline in the title tag.
6. Use interesting text. Search engines really count all the words on a page, then rank these words by frequency of usage. The more frequently you use a word or phrase(up to a point), the higher you’ll rank with that word or phrase in the search engine. Because of this, be certain to include words or phrases which are most likely to be searched for on your own pages.
My advice – Keep your text brief, on topic, and packed full of key words. Avoid useless and meaningless words, and certain phrases that will place you in the penalty box.
7. Use the AlT tags on all images. Search engines have started to index websites by the pictures found on the website. They accomplish this by looking at all of the image tags on the page, and cataloging the ALT tags accompanying the picture. Obviously in case you don’t use the ALT tag, then images on your website will not be properly cataloged. While using the alt tag, make certain to use a key word or phrase describing the content of the picture.
8. Use the Name tag on hyperlinks. Search engines look at all text on the site, including the name tag on the hyperlinks on your website. Most sites still do not use the link name tag, so once you do, you get an advantage. The link name should be a brief keyword or phrase.
My advice – Check out how the pages on my website have a left navigation menu full of department names. I attempt to make these titles keywords for my website, and the URL to the sections all make use of the name tag. Doing it this way means that the search engine rankings the section names twice. After as text, and as a Link Title Tag.
9. Give a Link Trail. Search engines coming to your site follow the links on the front page which lead into your website. These links should offer a two degree trail to all pages on your website. If you don’t supply a connection path, the search engines probably won’t find all of your pages. (And even should you provide a’link path’ – if you use the identical name tag and Meta tags on your pages, the search engine may ignore all of the pages beyond the first one.)
My advice – check out how every page on my website has a one click link path to any section on the website. You’re never more than two clicks away from any page. Plus each page has at least 30 different link paths (through the sections ) which makes it easy for visitors in addition to search engine spiders to proceed through the website.
10. Avoid the Penalty Box. Search engines are getting smarter every day, and they’ll penalize a site if it succeeds search engine guidelines. These rules include:
Keyword spoofing – with keywords not related to site content
Keyword Planner – pasting hundreds of copies of the keywords on the page just to get high ranking
Numerous door pages – using hundreds of index pages which do nothing but point to the Website
Link Spamming – submitting links to the 500,000 link submission services
Page Redirects – not necessarily a major penalty, but can cause loss of ranking
Frames on Main Page – not necessarily a major penalty, but can cause loss of ranking
Flash Movie on Main Page – not necessarily a major penalty, but can cause loss of ranking
My advice: Remember that search engines are smart software. When they see a page they attempt to ascertain what the page is all about, relying mostly on the titles, text, headlines, links, and graphics on the page. That’s why it’s important to concentrate on those components, and avoid those that can put you in the penalty box.
11. Check for errors. Before you submit your webpage to the search engines, run the page through an html checker and a spelling checker. Search engines do assess and take under account spelling and html errors, and will penalize a page which has too many of either.
My advice – take the opportunity to do it correctly. If you get a bad ranking on a search engine it may be six weeks prior to the search engine comes back to re-rank you. Get it right before you submit to the search engines, and keep it right so when the search engine returns, you may continue to get high rankings.
12. Manually submit the website. Don’t hesitate to use an automated site submission program. They do not work, and will get you penalized. Better to manually submit your website to the top search engines. Yahoo, Google, MSN.
My advice – Start with Google.com, then yahoo.com, and then MSN.com. Each has a place to register your website with their search engine.
This might appear plenty of work, but if you do it right and get high rankings, it is going to pay off.