Improving Your Search Engine Rankings: a tutorial for web site owners


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Tutorial Overview

Topics covered in this tutorial (click link to jump to topic):

1. The Super Skinny SEO Summary 5. Special Indexing Services
2. The 10 Most Common Reasons Web Sites don't come up on Search Engines 6. Historical Analysis
3. The Importance of Inbound Linking 7. How Long Should it Take to come Up on Search Engines?
4. Don't Do These 8. Paul Boag's SEO Summary

First up... let me say if you use Dynamic Web Solutions as your web site design team the items below that discuss the site's construction have been covered during the development of your site.

The Super Skinny SEO Summary

There are 2 halves to good search engine rankings:

  1. a web site constructed of valid html code where much of the text is easily indexable by search engines. The web site should be comprised of more than just a few pages and have plenty of text.
  2. a well though out linking campaign for inbound and outbound links. Inbound link labels should contain your critical keywords.

Number 1 doesn't sound too hard, does it? Well, in reality many web sites are poorly constructed and do not pass validation tests. Oftentimes web designers use frames or tie up important navigation in Java rollovers or other eye candy that then makes the site's content unable to be accessed by the search engine's robot agents crawling the web.

Number 2, well that is harder. You can ask other web site owners for link to and from your site. You ask them to link to you, and you ask your webmaster to link to them... but the partnership is seldom made and requires numbers of phone calls to get off the ground. Most web site owners don't bother. Those that do though REALLY do well. More about that later.

The 10 Most Common Reasons Web Sites don't come up on Search Engines

  1. The site is not valid html mark up. This can be tested at
  2. There is not enough plain text available for the search engines to index. Web site owners want fresh, uncluttered design and tend to be too brief with text.
  3. The pages of the site are constructed of small images sliced up from a large image... this is very frequently an evil perpetrated by desktop publishers.
  4. The site is constructed in frames or iframes. Google has published guidelines about frames.
  5. The site's navigation is tied up in Java rollovers or dynamic html layers. Sitemaps have become a popular work around for sites that use these technologies.
  6. Not enough thought has been given to what keyword phrases the site should be built around. This should be known before a single stroke of code is written. Your site has to be demonstrative; it has to really be clear what the topic is.
  7. The site lacks quality in bound links. The inbound links have to come from sites similar in theme to yours.
  8. The site does not demonstrate an effort to link out to other web sites i.e. the site does not add value to your visitor's experience.
  9. The site is new. Google is increasingly awarding better page rank to web addresses that have been around a while.

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The Importance of Inbound Linking

  1. Try to get a minimum of 25 in-bound links from sites with relevant content to your user group. Try to develop a theme with your inbound links so a search engines is in no doubt what industry group you belong to.
  2. The more relevant in-bound links the better. Try to get the search engines to see your site as a hub, a website at the centre of some important topic, what Google thinks of as "expert pages".
  3. Use your keywords in your in-bound link labels i.e. the text that the link is under on the referring site.
  4. Link out to important and busy resources, try to think of what outbound links will add value to your visitor's experience of the web.
  5. Avoid FFA (free for all) link directories as your may be penalised for listing on some of them.
  6. Don't spam guestbooks or comments boxes (a technique that dynamically inserts links on web pages with a comments section or guestbook).
  7. Use keywords in your link labels, not "click here".
  8. Only buy links if the selling web site can demonstrate traffic from their site to yours.

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Don't Do These

  1. No tricks (bogus links pages, text the same colour as the background, doorway pages, many urls that forward into your site)
  2. Frames sites do not work - avoid frames, or bury them in the 2nd level of your site
  3. Flash sites do not work. Macromedia has a tool from converting a flash animation/presentation to a an HTML document... not sure exactly what you would do with it after that...
  4. Use cloaking (serving one page to a Search Engine and another to a user)
  5. Have all Java navigation. Java is difficult to index and links may not be followed.
  6. Put content in jpegs or gifs because it looks better. Content cannot be forsaken for design.

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Special Indexing Services

Google Site Maps:
Use the Google Sitemaps Program to register the Web site.

Yahoo Urllist.txt
Use Yahoo’s urllist.txt option for large or dynamic Web sites. This file is just a simple text file of all the urls within a domain. It can be submitted through Yahoo’s Site Explorer.

Use a Robots.txt file. Add parts of the Web site that should not be crawled to it.

  • Do: If not using robots.txt, use the robots meta tag only for noindex, nofollow.
  • Don’t: Use bad syntax, it could hinder crawling.

Google Sitemaps provides a free robots.txt checker.

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Historical Analysis

There is some discussion on the Internet about what kinds of historical data a search engine algorithm may consider when awarding rankings.

These include:

  • the age of the domain name
  • how frequently the site (or a subsection of it) is revised or changed. This could perhaps be determined by an analysis of file date and size changes.
  • commentators also speculate about whether a new page gets more or less attention from an old page. Opinion is divided.

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How Long Should it Take to Come Up on Search Engines?

Well, if your site only has a little text and is poorly constructed, it will simply not happen. If you site is a flash animation... ditto. If your site is in frames... ditto.

If your site is valid to the W3 standard, has good text, the domain name has been around a while, the site is linked well, it's content changed or improved frequently... about 9 months from upload day.

Substantial revisions to your site may improve its ranking early than 9 months. The Google bot does after all come by every 3 to 5 days.

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Paul Boag's SEO Summary

Paul Boag from recently did a podcast called "Better Google Listings". Download the Podcast here. The executive summary is:

  • age of domain, how long it has been registered
  • amount of content available to the search engine
  • new of sites that link to you and the popularity of those sites
  • the internal link structure and architecture of web site
  • quality of page build
  • relevancy to end user
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