Here are my top Search Engine Optimization tips for giving your web pages a lift, making your website that little bit more friendly to the search engines and your visitors alike!
1. Sound like your dad: be an authority
Authority is essential. You need to speak (well, write) with an air of authority. Talk about your chosen topic in a manner that draws upon your knowledge and experience. Be passionate, too. People will pick up on this and feel compelled to read on. But don’t try too hard. No one likes to feel that they’re being talked down to from their dad!
2. Engage, don’t bore: keep the reader happy
Sometimes, a given topic can be a little dry, a little dusty, a little staid.
If you must, get yourself a copywriter. If you must, dig deep and spend money on getting someone involved who knows how to write engaging, lively copy (that’s another word for text) that will breathe life into your web pages.
3. Entitled to everything: make the titles stand out!
When you’re building your copy, build a hierarchy into your pages by using the titles. Make sure that you use your titles well. Using the right keywords & key phrases is essential.
Think about the names of your products & services. Think about the phrases that people are likely to type into to the likes of Google, Yahoo! MSN and Ask when performing a search and use those phrases in your titles.
4. Highlights: pick out the text that matters
If you need to highlight a special word or phrase, to give extra emphasis, try emboldening or italicizing. This highlighting of words tells the search engines that those words have extra meaning within the copy.
5. Standard-bearer: flying the flag for standards compliance
Being compliant with the web standards isn’t just about accessibility, it’s about ensuring that the search engines can make the most of what you’ve possibly spent good time and money building.
Think of the search engines as really fussy readers. If your web pages contain lots of waffle (having too much useless code in your web pages), then the search engines will just get bored and go somewhere else instead — maybe to your competitors, even!
So if you take the time to do things right, you get a two-for-the-price-of-one deal. On the one hand, your website is on its way to being accessible to people with physical or visual disabilities, while on the other hand, you’re helping the search engines do their thing.
6. Back to basics: break out the dictionary and check your spelling
Spell check your copy. There’s nothing worse than bumping through a website when nearly all of the web pages are chock-full of typos. No amount of design niceness will make up for that. Plus, you lose credibility. No excuses … oh, and check your grammar, too.
7. Image is everything: be picture-perfect with the right words
Sticking images into your web pages is all good and well, but that’s only the beginning. If you want to squeeze each & every last drop of value and effort out of those images, use the ‘alt’ attribute on the ‘img’ tag within your HTML code:
<img src=”folder/dog.jpg” width=”200″ height=”150″ alt=”this is a picture of my dog Meg!” align=”right” />
This attribute is your chance to describe the image. Maybe it’s a tree, or a cat, or even you! Well say so. Type a succinct but clear description of that image.
When you’re hunting for images with Google and Yahoo!, how do you think those guys know what you’re looking for? Be relevant and be descriptive.
As an added bonus, if the image in question is a picture of one of your products, type the product name in there. This is your chance to add in more keywords & key phrases.
8. FYI: make acronyms work for your text, not against it
It’s pretty safe to assume that it’s never safe to assume. If you must use acronyms in your copy, then make sure that you use the acronym tag:
“Hi! This article features some <acronym title=”Search Engine Optimization”>SEO</acronym> top tips. I hope you like it!”
Just because you and your friends have been using an acronym for an age, that doesn’t mean everyone else knows what it means.
You might be thinking: “So why don’t I just NOT use the acronym?” Because the opposite is sometimes true. If you were to say Universal Serial Bus, most people might just stare at you like you’re talking ancient Greek. But if you said: USB, then all would be fine and dandy.
Plus, by adding in the full term, you’re adding more keywords & key phrases into your web pages that the search engines will happily munch their merry way through.
9. A hard cell: using tables for layout is a crime!
Yes, yes, yes! I know! I’ve been there, I’ve done that. But now I’m reformed. I’ve gone clean and I’m now mending my ways, I’m here telling you about how tables can really mess things up for you and your website.
Remember how I compared the search engines to really fussy readers? Well, it’s worse than that. Imagine you had this huge Microsoft Excel file with thousands upon thousands of columns and rows. Now imagine having to navigate that spreadsheet with only the arrow keys on your keyboard.
When you use tables for content on a website, the search engines have to dig down through those tables to get to the content. This is bad. In fact, it gets worse still. Not only do the search engines have to do this, but anyone with physical or visual disabilities using a screen reader application will have to do the same, too.
Plan the design of your web pages thoroughly and use the proper ‘div’ tag to position your content:
<div id=”layername”>Hello World!</div>
If you’re going to use tables, use them for what they were designed for: tabulated data and not images and text.
Making the web work for you!
Whether you’re a business owner wanting to make the most your company website without paying for the likes of me, or you’re running your own ‘blog and you want to make your articles more visible and more friendly to the search engines, by following these simple Search Engine Optimization tips, you’ll find the World Wide Web to be Wonderfully Worth While…
About the author
Wayne Smallman is the man behind Octane Interactive, a web design, web applications development and internet marketing agency. Octane has been around since 1999 and is based in Yorkshire, England.
Wayne has been in the new media industry working as a web designer & developer since the mid nineties and also provides a consultation service to businesses looking to make the most of their web presence.
He’s a passionate believer in the power of technology to better the lives of everyone and his passion and drive are hallmarks of his attitude to doing business.
Wayne is also the author of a series of web-related articles for businesses and individuals wanting to know more about the web and how the web can help them be more productive and work smarter, not harder.