How to make your website search engine friendly
Search for anything using your favorite crawler-based search engine. Nearly instantly, the search engine will sort through the millions of pages it knows about and present you with ones that match your topic. The matches will even be ranked, so that the most relevant ones come first.
Of course, the search engines don't always get it right. Non-relevant pages make it through, and sometimes it may take a little more digging to find what you are looking for. But, by and large, search engines do an amazing job.
As WebCrawler founder Brian Pinkerton puts it, "Imagine walking up to a librarian and saying, ‘travel.’ They’re going to look at you with a blank face."
OK -- a librarian's not really going to stare at you with a vacant expression. Instead, they're going to ask you questions to better understand what you are looking for.
Unfortunately, search engines don't have the ability to ask a few questions to focus your search, as a librarian can. They also can't rely on judgement and past experience to rank web pages, in the way humans can.
So, how do crawler-based search engines go about determining relevancy, when confronted with hundreds of millions of web pages to sort through? They follow a set of rules, known as an algorithm. Exactly how a particular search engine's algorithm works is a closely-kept trade secret. However, all major search engines follow the general rules below.
Location, Location, Location...and Frequency
One of the the main rules in a ranking algorithm involves the location and frequency of keywords on a web page. Call it the location/frequency method, for short.
Remember the librarian mentioned above? They need to find books to match your request of "travel," so it makes sense that they first look at books with travel in the title. Search engines operate the same way. Pages with the search terms appearing in the HTML title tag are often assumed to be more relevant than others to the topic.
Search engines will also check to see if the search keywords appear near the top of a web page, such as in the headline or in the first few paragraphs of text. They assume that any page relevant to the topic will mention those words right from the beginning.
Frequency is the other major factor in how search engines determine relevancy. A search engine will analyze how often keywords appear in relation to other words in a web page.
Those with a higher frequency are often deemed more relevant than other web pages.
Some people turn Meta Tag optimisation into an art! However, most of us don't have the time for that. The countless hours that can be spent on adjusting and re-adjusting Meta Tags could be better spent creating new content. After all, it is the content that search engines are "really" looking for. The Meta Tags just help the search engines to find it.
So, the best thing that you can do is to create a sensible set of Meta Tags which will be friendly to most search engines. Then MOVE ON. However, Meta Tags are quite important, so you should go about making them properly, ONCE.
There is no such thing as a "magical" set of Meta Tags that will instantly explode your web site statistics and search engine rankings. For example, you could go to a site that has a #1 raking for a great search term and cut and paste the Meta Tags into your site, but you will NOT get a #1 ranking out of it. Why? ..because there are many factors that determine search rankings such as site popularity, page loading speed and content. So, what you need is a set of Meta Tags that will match your site PERFECTLY!
Here is a great method of creating Meta Tags. It is BETTER to have too few than too many. We'll explain that a little further ahead.
If a keyword is not on your page, do NOT put it in the title, description or keywords. Many, many people do this, and it can be extremely damaging to your promotion efforts. All it will do is water the theme of your page down, and the search engines will be scratching their heads (if they had one they would) wondering who to show your page too.
If you do know a word or phrase that is very common, and you want to use it, then you need to make sure that it is in your title, description and keywords 'as well' as on your page several times. Therefore you will most likely need to re-edit your content as well, (not just the Meta Tags).
Don't try and trick search engines. They're not as silly as they once were and they're getting smarter every day. Example: Don't repeat text hundreds of times, making it the same color as the background. Search engines woke up to this a long time ago. Basically, just be honest. The time you waste trying to be "tricky" would be better spent working on your site, content and REAL promotion efforts. ie: Ones that actually work.
Keep your title, description, keywords and content specific. Many people try to add too many words and phrases all over the place. Imagine for a moment that you are lost and you need to ask for directions. If you were told to "drive under the bridge, past the green house on the left, over the little bump, past the red mail box, you'll see a house with a white gate and then you'll need to pass a school crossing and then turn left" would you look at the person with a blank face (providing that you continued to listen to the person)? Probably! However, if the person said: "Take your next left" it would be much more helpful, yes? So, you need to keep specific. Use as many informative words as you can to keep a "theme". Don't go overboard.
Creating a "functional" set of Meta Tags is actually not all that hard. It's not "rocket science" as many people would have you believe. You can of course do HEAPS of research on keywords and spend hours on each page, and get very good results, but if you have 3,000 pages and a business to run, it's not always practical. So, that's what we mean by functional. A decent set of Meta Tags that will do a great job, (possibly even better than sitting for hours per page). If there was anyone that KNEW how to get #1 every time, then they'd be a very, very rich person. The truth is that it's just not possible, so you need to keep realistic.
If possible take a look at the content, before you make any Meta Tags at all. Is there a GREAT keyword that could be repeated a few more times? Especially somewhere within the first 255 characters on the page? You need to put yourself in the web surfer chair for a moment. Ask yourself: "If I were looking for the content that is located on this page, what would I type into a search engine?" Once you have thought of 3 good words/phrases, add them to your content. Re-adjust the content so that it still reads well. If the words that you thought of were already in the content, good. Less work!
Now you need to make sure that the 3 keywords/phrases are also in the title, description and keywords. This can be slightly tricky at first, but once you have done a few you will get really good at it. It may be a bit of a bother if you do have 3,000 pages, but let a lesson be learned. It is good to get in the habit of using descriptive and informative words when writing content. If you are not the content editor, then it would be a good idea to explain this concept to the person(s) that do write the content.
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