SEO Best Practices

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the craft of optimizing public-facing websites for indexing by search engines. Since a significant percentage of Internet traffic to websites is driven by search engines, Search Engine Optimization must must be kept in mind when designing a website. There is a lot of information about SEO, this post pulls highlights on SEO that I have found from a variety of website.


Search Engine Optimization Best Practices

Use the keyword phrase in your title tag

The title tag is one of the most important tags on your Web page. And placing your keyword phrase in the title tag, preferably at the beginning, is very important to get that phrase into the search engines. Plus, that puts your keyword phrase as the link in the search engine index.


Get a domain with your keyword phrase

Putting your keyword phrase in your domain name is a great way to optimize for that phrase.


Use the keyword phrase in your URL

Even if you can't get your keywords into your domain name, you can put them into your URLs. Search engines read the URLs and assign value to the text they find there.


Do not OVER USE your keyword phrase

The ratio of your keywords to the rest of the text on your page is called the keyword density. It's important to repeat your keywords in your document, but not too much. Keyword density should be between 3 and 7% for your primary keyword phrase and 1-2% for any secondary keywords or keyword phrases.


Use your keyword phrase in headline

Headline tags (h1, h2, h3, etc.) are a great place to use your keyword phrase and secondary keywords. Search engines recognize that headlines are more important than the surrounding text, and so assign greater value to keywords found there.


Use your keyword phrase in anchor text of links

Link text is another great place to put your keyword phrase. Links stand out on most Web pages, and so are given higher priority than surrounding text.


Don't write your content with JavaScript

While search engines won't penalize a site for using JavaScript, they don't typically index the contents of the scripts. So if your pages use JavaScript to display the contents, it will be harder to get high ranks for those pages. This includes pages that use scripts to show and hide text and pages that use Ajax for the content.


Don't omit alt text for images especially images inside the text

Images inline with your text can dress up your Web page, but if you leave off the alternative text (alt text) search engines won't pick up the content relevance. Also keep in mind that the heavier your page is with images, the less likely that search engines will rank it highly. Text is what gets ranked in most search engines, and alt text is a poor alternative.


Don't use images instead of text links

Search engine optimization is all about text, and if you use images instead of text, even if you have good alt text, search engines will have a harder time ranking your site. This is especially true for navigation. Search engine spiders crawl through your site by following links, and links on images can be more difficult for them to follow or rank than text links. Using images instead of text makes your pages slower for your customers too. You're better off styling your text with CSS, than using images.


Don't use session IDs

Like dynamic URLs, search engines don't tend to like URLs with session IDs on them. In fact, session IDs seem to cause even more problems with search engine spiders than plain dynamic URLs. The problem is that every time the spider comes to a site with session IDs it can index that site as a completely new URL - even though the content is identical. This can lead to the search engine thinking you are trying to spam them with identical content, and could even get your site banned if it got bad enough. Google guidelines now state that id= URL parameters are okay, but that doesn't mean that other search engines won't choke on them.


Never include invisible text on your pages

Hiding text by making it the same color as the background color may fool your customers, but it won't fool search engines. Another variation of this is where you make the font size so small that it's unreadable by the naked eye. Search engines understand CSS and font and background colors. They also recognize that a font-size of 1px is not going to be readable. Text that is hidden from your readers but visible to search engines is considered spam and will get your site banned.


Links to your page

A great way to get inbound links is to simply ask for them. But remember that excessive cross-linking can be viewed as spammy, so be careful about trading links or otherwise buying links on external sites.


Try to get links from reputable sites

Reputable sites that link to you will increase your reputation. After all, if a reputable site feels that your site is valuable enough to link to, that means that your page has more value. You can tell if a site is considered reputable both by how high it appears in search engines and it's Google PageRank. Also, .edu sites have a higher reputation because they represent schools and universities.


Try to get links from similar sites

Inbound links from sites similar to your own are important as well. This indicates that your site does have content related to that topic. Plus, it indicates that your competition finds your site valuable, and that gives your site more credibility.


Don't make constant minor changes to content

While you want search engines to see that you update your content, making minor changes (like correcting spelling errors, or changing 10 or 20 characters) implies that you're just trying to get the updated date changed. This looks like you're trying to fool the search engines into thinking that you update your pages more than you actually do. Do spend time updating your pages, but make the updates substantive.



Never redirect to another domain

Redirecting to another domain is not a 100% guarantee that you'll be banned from search engines. But it is a very common spammer trick used in conjunction with doorway pages and cloaking. If you set up a redirect that goes to a new domain, you need to write it as a301 HTTP redirect, not a 302 or meta refresh. This tells the search engine that this redirect is permanent, and they should change to the new domain in their directory.


Write great content

Great content is where it all starts. You can have all the keywords in the world, but if your content is no good, people won't stick around on your site and search engines won't find your site valuable.


Add new content all the time

Sites that have new content added on a regular basis are seen as more reliable than sites that rarely do. This also helps you to increase the amount of relevant content on your site, which also improves your rankings.


Create a great keyword phrase per page

The first thing you should do when working on search engine optimization is find a great keyword phrase for that page. You shouldn't try to optimize your entire site to one keyword phrase - instead focus on writing pages for specific keywords and phrases.



Create as much content as you can

Content is king. The more content you have on your site, the more there is to be indexed and appear in search engines.


Keep your site live as long as possible

Older pages (at the same domain) will rank higher than newer ones.


Create a sitemap

Search engines love sitemaps - not necessarily for ranking, but for finding links on your site. It's not critical that you create an XML sitemap or Google sitemap, plain HTML sitemaps work just as well.


Format your keyword phrases to stand out

Use <strong> and <em> where appropriate to make your keyword phrases stand out. Search engines can read those tags, and will recognize that text that is emphasized is often more important than the surrounding text.


Write a descriptive meta description

Search engines use the description meta tag as the description in their index. So it's important to describe your pages accurately. This helps customers find your pages, and search engines to index them.


Keep your pages up-to-date

Pages that are regularly updated are given priority over pages that are older and ignored. But you should do more than simply fix typos or make small changes, regular, extensive updates are more effective than minor updates.


Use the meta keywords tag and include your keyword phrase

Meta tags are a very popular way to improve search engine results, but the fact of the matter is that some major search engines don't use them at all, and others only use them a little. It won't hurt to include your keyword phrase and any secondary keywords in the meta keywords tag, but don't expect it to work wonders.


Use hyphens/underscores to separate words in URLs

Just like your domains, you should separate words in your URLs with hyphens (-) or underscores (_). Hyphens are better, but outside of the domain, underscores can work. Hyphens work better because many search engine spiders recognize hyphens as the end of a word, but see underscores as part of the word. Also, underscores can be seen as a space by your customers (because the underline of the link and the underscore merge together), and they will then get frustrated if they try to type the URL with a space and can't get to the page.


Write short pages

The shorter your page is, the fewer times you need to repeat your keyword phrase and keep the density just right. Plus, short pages load more quickly, and so your readers will appreciate it. Keep pages under 30KB in size. Split long pages into multiple pages and optimize each page.


Use JavaScript with care

As long as your scripts are valid and don't break your HTML, most search engines will ignore them. But don't rely on JavaScript to improve your rankings - most search engines ignore content inside JavaScript.