Step 3 - Site Preparation
Before starting your search engine optimization project there are several
key factors you must consider prior to even selecting the first keywords.
You need to confirm your website's readiness in terms of overall structure
and navigation. Your search engine optimization efforts have to begin
with an easily navigable and logically laid out website structure.
If your home page has any graphics or flash animations you may have
to reorganize your web pages to make them search engine friendly. This
is done by (1) creating static HTML web pages in place of those hard to
index pages or (2) by using other optimization methods. As a rule of thumb,
you should not have more than 10% of text in images or flash based objects,
and it's absolutely important that your internal site navigation is based
on static text links. We will discuss this further in Chapter 4, Page
Optimization and why it is so important.
Search engine optimization works best with statically linked websites.
Although the Search Engine spiders have improved a great deal since the
days of their initial appearance, some spiders still cannot reliably index
dynamically linked pages such ASP, PHP and Java script with "?"
or session IDs embedded in them.
Creating a better site for the search engines and your visitors
The purpose of any site preparation is to get your website ready for
the search engines and your visitors. Although it may seem these two goals
entail different tasks, what's good for the search engines is also good
for your visitors. Usability case studies prove
paying careful attention to your users' experience on your site pays big dividends down the road.
Let's examine the reasons why we want to create a structurally sound
website with great user usability.
Pay attention to your users' experience, get your
friends or colleagues to test drive the site and ask for their feedback.
A great user experience will ensure the hard work you put into your site
to attain a top ranking will pay off in higher page views and better conversion.
Your efforts won't go to waste by turning visitors away with a bad website
The major search engines, Google, Yahoo! and MSN
are "crawler based" This means they regularly visit your site
and "import" your newly created pages and any updates into their
index. It's your job to ensure that nothing restricts the search engines
from discovering every page on your site that you want your visitors to
find on the engines. Since the search engines follow links from your home
page to every other page on your site, you need to create an optimal linking
What should you watch for?
Each of these key elements below can have a substantial effect on your
overall search optimization goals and search engine ranking so please
pay careful attention.
navigation based on static text links works best as
internal linking with keywords embedded in anchor text create a powerful
combination of page relevancy.
be avoided wherever possible otherwise it will stop search engines in
tracks and your web pages will be left out of their search engine index.
As of today many engines are able to follow links within framesets, but
it's best not to take any chances.
be limited to important concept illustrations or special affects, but
don't build a flash only website if you want to achieve high search engine
ranking. The biggest problem with a Flash based websites is the formatting
used in regular content can't be replicated. For example we can't bold,
italicize keywords or add bullets and headings to add emphasis to help
the search engines understand our pages better.
should be only used for illustrations and not for navigation or embedded
text. Search engines can't read text embedded in image objects. Unfortunately
If you suspect your site uses this type of menu system, change it right
away to either completely static link system or DHTML without the use
Dynamic content and
e-commerce website should ensure their
product and category page URLs are not simply a number or some cryptic
code, but a well formed URL re-written code. There is a built in URL re-writing
engine in Linux based servers and there are many third party tools available
for URL re-writing on IIS servers. The URLs can be reformatted so they
contain the target keywords pertaining to the page.
but DHTML based menu systems are ok. Check carefully the documentation
of the menu system you consider buying for search engine friendliness.
Page size and loading
speed is not as much of a concern as
it used to be in the early days of the Internet, but overloading your
pages with heavy graphics or flash is still not a good idea. Think of
your users and their time. If you notice your site's bounce rate is very
high it may be due to visitors getting impatient and leave before the
HTML code errors are
most often not seen by your visitors and the search engines are very forgiving
when it comes to sloppy source code,
but you should aim for nearly perfectly validated HTML pages. You can
use many freely available online and desktop tools to help you validate
your HTML pages. Here is the most popular HTML code validator Validator.w3.org.
The use of CSS
(Cascading Style Sheet) is strongly recommended to substantially
reduce the size of your HTML pages. Wherever possible use CSS classes
to make your HTML source code more readable and to reduce the ratio between
text and HTML codes.
Broken links to pages
and images are not only embarrassing, but
also can send a signal to the search engines
about the quality of your website. Use a freely available link checker
called Xenu to check your links regularly.
Image maps are not
search engine friendly. Search engines
generally can't follow links associated with parts of an image. An image
map designates different sections of an image as clickable links and allows
one image to serve as a hyperlink to target multiple URLs. Keep in mind
the search engines are blind when it comes to image maps.
Add a site map to your site once your main pages are uploaded.
This should be one of the last steps in the page optimization process,
but we decided to mention it here as it uniquely relates to usability
and search engine friendly web design. A site map is a catalog of important
links on a designated page. The link to each page ideally will have descriptive
text. The number of links on a site map should not exceed 50 on a
single page. If your site has more than 50 pages, you need to create additional
site map pages within a new category.
Add a site search tool
to your website. Installing a site
search tool on your website is great way to increase your site's usability
and at the same time you can get into the minds of your visitors by seeing
what they are searching for. The search keywords used in a site search
could also be a warning sign that certain information on your site is
not easily accessible. By regularly reviewing your website's search log,
you can uncover potential usability problems. Our favorite website search
tool is the Zoom Site Indexer. This
tools is MS Windows based and can easily index hundreds of web pages in
is a key essential for well indexed website. If your site is down
for even one day, you can expect the search engine to remove some of your
page and in some cases the complete website. We can recommend two hosing
companies we have used for years now. For Windows hosting please check
and for Linux based hosting we recommend Dreamhost.com.
Site preparation and search engine friendly website design can not become
an after thought in your website promotion campaign. Seemingly minor obstacles
for search engine spiders to access your website's web pages can turn
into major headaches later if they are not addressed properly. Search
engines can only rank web pages that make it into their index. It's your
job, as a webmaster to ensure every web page that is important to your
site gets crawled by the search engines. This may mean website re-design
for established websites with low search engine traffic. Look for the
navigation, or long URLs with session IDs. Once you have cleared the way
for the search engine crawlers to reach every page on your site, focus
your efforts on improving your site's usability.