7 steps to make a site search engine friendly
To promote a site and to obtain that all the pages are indexed by search
engines, this handbook is essential.
Because even if a site has complete and interesting contents, it will be invisible on the Web, without an action of indexing on directories, search engines and other sites likely to bring backlinks.
Matt Cutts, in an interview with the magazine USA Today, and following the experience he had with his chiropractor complaining that Google did not bring him visitors, gives some advice to beginners.
For SEO, meta tags, keywords in the page and getting backlinks.
To promote the site, creating a blog to talk about his products.
For site management, using Analytics and the webmaster tools that Google offers for free.
All this is explained in detail in this manual.
SEO can also require a modification of the presentation or the addition of accessories in the page. Note that abusing methods for artificially improving the position of a site (such as a page full of useless keywords) can lead you in the "sandbox".
1. Preparing the pages
- The pages must contain some text and a maximum of details to describe the contents. The first lines of the text have more importance for the indexing and can be used to make a description for the results of search engines (max. 250 characters).
- The repetition of significant terms improves the indexing.
- Try to move the non significant elements at the end of the page, if possible.
- Make sure all keywords related to the content, with possible synonyms are included in the text, and in the title for the most important.
- The title of the page, between the <title> </title> tags, should not be omitted and it must be 80 characters long and significant.
- Titles in the body (H1, H2, etc.) and highlighting by the strong attribute,
also gives more weight to the words for search engines.
If the page does not comprise a title, the contents of the first H1 tag are used to replace it in results of search engines.
- Image when they are originals must have a description in the alt attribute.
- Do not use frames, they will not be even supported in the HTML 5 standard. Use a PHP template instead.
- You can use the template of a Wordpress theme under the GPL license.
- Keywords must be placed preferably at the beginning of the text.
- In the title of the page if they relate to the whole of it.
- In the subtitles if they relate to a chapter.
- In filenames. The name of pages (HTML file) is taken into account as well as the anchors of links.
- In the description of internal links.
- In the alt attribute of images.
Navigation, internal links
- Each page of the site must be accessible from at least one other page.
- The home page should contain a link to the most visited pages on the site.
- Advice on the anchors of external links also apply to internal links.
- The URL, and other references are taken into account, they must contain keywords.
- The words in a filename must be separated by "-" and not glued.
- <a> tags have descriptive text, an anchor, which contains the title of the linked page.
Avoid beginner mistakes
- Avoid hidden texts to artificially fill the page with keyword, that will function one moment, then your site will be dropped in the "sandbox", or the blacklist, in other words it will be excluded from results of search engines, it would then be necessary to change domain name to be indexed again.
- Avoid duplicate content, identical pages on several sites.
- Do not use images for titles or subtitles. Search engine need for the titles and they can read only texts.
- Do not use heading tags to build the layout.
- No need to upload pages near empty: it will hurt the entire site.
2. Title tag
The head section of each page must contain a title tag.
It contains the title of the page, up to 80 characters. This tag is absolutely required.
- The text can include the domain name of the site for the home page, but it should not be repeated on the other pages.
- Titles must absolutely be different on each page else page can be badly indexed by engines.
- Titles must be sentences and not lists of keywords and must reflect the contents of the page.
- The ideal is that the title gives net surfers desire to read the page, it
is useful in the lists of results of search engines.
For example, according to the experience of a webmaster, adding "Every" in front of "Tools for sale" is sufficient to increase the results.
- The title of the TITLE tag could be more complete than in the page, because the latter is seen in the context of the site, when the first is seen out of context on results page.
3. Meta tags
The format of a meta tag is as following:
<meta name="" content="">
To name is assigned the name of the meta: "description", "robots, and to content the text or commands.
Description of the page (or of the site). Google displays only
It is especially useful on the home page of the site which will be indexed by directories, like for the pages having little contents and mainly images. In the article "Improve snippets with a meta description makeover", Google advices to write a relevant description that must be unique and not the same on all pages. Example:
<meta name="description" content="The topic of my page" >
Directives for the search engines, the default is "all":
- index: the page will be indexed.
- noindex: the opposite.
- follow: the dependent pages are taken into account.
- nofollow: the links are ignored by the engine.
- noarchive: the page is not stored in cache but still indexed.
- all: all positive options, the default if the meta is omitted.
- none: all negative options.
- noodp: if the search engine displays a description of your site taken in the Dmoz directory and that it is not appropriate, you can place this directive (ODP, Open Directory Project = Dmoz.org).
<meta name="fragment" content="!">
This tag informs search engine that this is an Ajax page et that there is a dynamic content to index (see the Ajax section).
Optional meta tags
These tags may be useful while not mandatory:
- AUTHOR: the name of the author.
- REL="canonical": In case of duplicate indicates the URL of the page to be indexed.
- REL="prev" et REL="next": In case of pagination, it is important to indicate the previous and next page for a same article.
These tags do not have any SEO utility, but they can be used for specialized tools:
- REVISIT-AFTER: ignored by search engines and replaced by XML sitemap.
- KEYWORDS: Keywords separated by a comma, up to 1000 characters. Useless, this is no longer used by engines.
References and tools
- The canonical attribute has a script on this site.
- Google gives the list of meta-tags that you can use (and that it supports).
- The article of Google, meta tags and Web search.
4. Links and backlinks
The format of internal and external links is important because it is used by search engines to better understand the purpose of a page and because users can take the link and anchor as it is for their own pages. Google recommends to create a single format for all internal links on the same page. The anchor should be similar to the title of this page.
About the file name, it is preferable that it is unique, even if we could use the same name in different directories, and all lower-case.
A breadcrumb, list of directories or key pages in the header is a good thing because it helps to navigation, as well that a hierarchical content into sections and sub-sections with local links.
Back links are essential as that are considered to rank pages in results because they testify the popularity of the site. Links from important sites and people have much more value. On this topic, see the article how to get backlinks.
Google provides a means of increasing its popularity and also add links to its own website: create a blog to talk about his products. Wordpress is a good tool to create your blog.
To have a significant value, the links must come from different sources and independent of the site, so even different owners. Texts that refer to the site without link tag are taken into account also by the Panda algorithm.
Directories are an alternative when a site is launched. But if after a time it did still only self-submitted backlinks, it will have no positive effect.
To submit a site on Dmoz, it is necessary to find the exact category of the site in the tree structure of the directory. The submission is followed by an examination before acceptance, and the site must have certain qualities:
- Ready for users and not in work.
- Substantial contents, and in text (not in flash or images).
- The site should not be submitted under several different domain names with redirections.
- The content must be unique. Duplicate content is prohibited by search engines.
The time of acceptance after submission in dmoz is variable and can exceed one month.
About other directories, to know which ones have the most visitors, made a request on search engines with two or three key words: those which characterize best your site + the "directory" word. And consider the first pages of results. Avoid directories that do not appear.
I tried a referencing campaign (for another site) in the past on a selection of directories supposed to have visitors, and it resulted approximately 500 more backlinks (although if submitted the site to 50 directories!) and a negligible improvement of the traffic. Most of the links disappeared with time. It is an experience not to reproduce today.
Mistake to avoid
The registration to a multitude of directories to improve the ranking can create a sudden increase in the number of links towards the site but this has no future. However major directories such as dmoz.org have on the contrary a durable effect. Avoid also a same description on several directories.
Creating a map of your site, and submitting it to Google, Yahoo and Live
Search, can improve the indexing of your pages. Moreover you can have a minimal
control on the behavior of the robots of the engines.
To create a sitemap file is very tiresome. But there are software which provides scripts with graphic interface and makes it possible to edit it more easily.
A generator of sitemap, Simple Map, with a graphic interface for Windows is provided here.
After at least a month before the Google's update you can check the new popularity of your site with the Webmaster Tools from Google which will displays the number of links pointing to your site. Other similar tools are linked in the liste of tools for webmaster, on this site.
To add an RSS syndication file at root of your site, which contains the list
of the best pages or the last articles or last posts, contributes notably
to the promotion of the site and obtainment of backlinks.
For more details and to obtain a free RSS editor, read the article: Promotion of a Web site with RSS.
An RSS feed is not helpful at all sites. It is useful especially to announce news and therefore to merchant sites or sites or news, and not to encyclopedic sites.
Launching a professional website should be accompanied by an advertising campaign with a service such as Adwords.
Some suppliers of domain names with higher cost propose a free optimization to justify the price. The main part is in page-setting by the exact definition and the insertion of meta tags in your pages.
See 10 ideas to publicize your site instead.
- Giant FAQ. Answers to all your questions about search engines.
- The patent of Google for the scoring of Web pages. Teach us how page reach the top in search results.
- The interview of Matt Cutts. Quoted at top of this page.
- Webmaster World. Forum of SEO.
- Webmaster Guidelines from Google for the design of a Web site, in order to improve ranking.
- SEO Starter Guide. How to optimize a site for search engines by Google.
- Webmaster Guidelines from Bing. Advices from Microsoft's search engine, released in late 2012, are similar to the contents of this page.