Website optimisation tips

The position of a website on a search engine such as Google, MSN or Yahoo can mean the difference between getting traffic to your site and no-one ever seeing it.

There are many websites around the internet offering to guarantee a top placing on the search engines in return for a fee, but there are many simple steps that you can take to do this for free.

Below are some hints and suggestions for increasing your website's visibility. It is important to note that not only do you want a site which is well placed in the rankings, but it needs to be ranked based on the keywords that potential users might search for.

Site basics - Content

One of the most important things to consider is the content of your site. Having relevant content will mean that user reaching your site will want to stay there. Make sure that your pages are easy to read and navigate. Users will not spend time looking for information on a complicated site. Webmasters of other related sites may find your information a useful resource and create links to it.

Another useful way of attracting more traffic is by becoming an information source for related things. e.g. having advice on removing stains/ cleaning product reviews on a domestic cleaning business web site.

Regular updates to the site mean that users and search engine spiders/crawlers have more reason to return to your site. Adding a latest news page, customer case studies and recent work announcements gives visitors new things to read and look at.

A simple way to add a news page is by way of a blog. These can be easily integrated with your website to match the look and feel but are very simple to update.

Keywords

Choose 10-15 keywords for your site and include them in the titles of each page, the page content and in the Meta tags (hidden information at the top of the page that the user doesn't see)

e.g. Keywords for a building company might be - builders, construction, renovation, extension, contractor, house, repairs, driveway, loft conversion etc.

The first 4 or 5 words of the title on each page are extremely important so choose carefully what is in between the <title>...</title> tags. So for a flatpack furniture supplier, having "Flatpack bedroom furniture supplier" is much better than "Bob Smith Ltd website"

A simple way of getting your web pages noticed by the search engines is to get links from other related sites that already have a good ranking. Links with text including the nature of your website is better than the site's name on its own. E.g. "Japanese food and catering supplier - <company name>" would be much better than just the company name alone.

Registering your website

Register your site on search engines at google.com, yahaoo.com, msn.com and dmoz.org.

Google website registration page

Yahoo search registration page. (Requires sign in)

MSN search registration page.

DMOZ open project directory page.

Please note that once registered it may take several months for your site to appear in the search listings. Do not submit your site more than once!

Domain page and image naming conventions

Select an address that is relevant. E.g. B&Q, a large UK home improvement retailer's website is www.diy.com. For a Liverpool based electrician's website, it may be worth having www.liverpool-electrician.com. It is sensible to register both the .com and .co.uk addresses for your website so that a competitor cannot setup a competing site to yours with the same name creating confusion for your customers

Give your page names useful descriptions. E.g. rather than contact.html, use liverpool_uk_electrician_phone_number.html .

When creating images for your site, give them meaningful names too. So pic1.jpg would not be as useful as renovate_stained_upvc_windows.jpg. Also for every image you should have an "ALT" tag, this is used when the user does not see images and a text alternative is given. Using a tag with your keywords can help here too.

Headings and links

Some search engines also index the text in the <h1> tags within your site. Be sure to include your keywords and phrases in the headings used.

Use links within your site to the next page. E.g. "Click here to see our ready to assemble nursery furniture ranges" linking to the next page in the site.

Meta information - Keywords & site description

In the <head> section of your site add a site description and keywords using meta tags

<meta name="Description" content="information about your site">
<meta name="keywords" content="put all your keywords in here">

Cross browser compatability and code validation.

Sites may render perfectly in one browser but not display as designed in another. It is prudent to test your site in several different browsers. A useful selection for testing would be Microsoft Internet Explorer, Firefox and Opera. If you have access to a Apple Mac it is worth testing your site displays on that too.

Browser and screen resolution

Over the past 2 to 3 years many websites have been designed for screens with a resolution of 800x600 pixels. Old sites designed for 640x480 resolution are now less common. New websites are now being designed in 1024x768 pixels resolution as most new PCs come with at least this capability. Designing websites for resolutions higher than this should only be considered if you are certain that users of the site will have higher resolution screens.

HTML validation tools

Ensuring that your web pages contain valid code is highly recommended. A well written website with correct code is more likely to receive a higher page ranking.

Firefox has its own HTML validation tool which is free to use and there are many other free tools for ensuring your HTML code is correct. The tools not only detect errors and give warnings but make suggestions as to how these can be fixed. The tools usually generate a report of errors and associated recommendations for fixes.

User sitemaps

Adding a user navigable sitemap to your website not only allows your users to quickly find the pages they want, but also provides a link to every page within your site to the search engine spiders.

Google tools - Google Site maps and Goodle Analytics

Add a Google sitemap and Google Analytics to your site. (Just Google for more information!)

Robot.txt file

The robot.txt file tells search engine web crawlers which sections of your website they can crawl.

The most basic robot.txt file contains only two lines of code and should be saved in the root folder/directory of your website.

User-agent: *
Disallow: /cgi-bin/

This tells the crawler that it can access all of the website except the /cgi-bin/ folder.

Please note: Some search engine spiders do not use the robots.txt file and may index pages that you do not wish them to if they are accessible.

Do's and Don'ts

Do's

Don'ts

Useful SEO websites

Check your page strength - SEOMOZ Page strength page

Useful website - Plan your SEO operation

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