A few tips and tricks that I have learned in optimizing for search engines.

It seems like nowdays the only thing people can think about is search engine optimization. Many articles have been written and many dollars have been spent trying to get to the famous number 1 spot. Optimizing for search engines goes far beyond keywords and inbound links. In my opinion search engine optimization involves a well rounded website implementing things from accessibility features, to making a site easy to understand.

I have compiled a simple and non-complete list of things that my company has done to try to get a higher ranking on Google, MSN, and Yahoo which were our top referrers. None of these tips are guaranteed but start as a good reference point to make your website the way websites were supposed to be designed.

And now, in no specific order:

  • Implementing Google Sitemaps might get your site out of the doghouse and clear any illegal practices that google recognizes your doing.
  • Your site will be harder to find if its not popular. Get inbound links from other websites that have been around for a while. The anchor text that they link to you is also important. For example a website linking to phoeniix.com should have a link that says “Web Developer Resources
  • Optimizing for non popular keywords as well as popular keywords, will increase your chance in getting a higher ranking when someone searches for that term. Its good to strike a balance between popular phrases and non popular phrases. Use Overtures search tool to get an idea what the popular searches are on the Overture network.
  • Dont have every page of your site have the same text, keywords and description. Try to create unique individual pages that are specific to some content. By having each page stand out will increase your sites usefulness.
  • Make sure keywords and the description in the meta tags reference the words in the page itself. Dont load extra keywords that arent on that specific page.
  • Design websites using the tags that were meant to build websites. ie, use divs to build those block level elements. Your header, content section and footer should all be divs, use tables for tabular data, use lists when appropriate. A moderate knowledge of CSS is important when working with divs.
  • Title tag is extremely important. The title tag is a first level indication of what that page is about. Write a title like you might write a title for a newspaper column. Short and to the point.
  • H1 is very important. This tag is an even more descriptive sentence than the title. It should mention what the text following it is about.
  • H2, and H3 tags are important. They help describe subsections in your content region.
  • Dont hide any text on the page, or embark on any other sort of “tricks” that dont have to do with your site.
  • Make your site accessible for everyone including the blind. Use the alt property in the image tag to describe what an image is showing. Use a title property on every link to describe what that link will do or where it will take you.Use a screen reader like JAWS or Home Page Reader to make sure your site works for tools like this. Some other resources are:
    • Lynx, is a free text-only Web browser for blind users with refreshable Braille displays.
    • Bobby, is a free service to analyze Web pages for compliance to accessibility guidelines.
    • WebAIM, is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving accessibility to online learning materials.
    • Designing More Usable Web Sites, a large list of additional resources.
    • Dive Into Accessibility, 30 days to a more accessible Web site.
  • Use abbr tags to abbreviate acronyms. ie The mission of the EPA is to protect human health and the environment.
  • Design websites to work in all most recent browsers. ie latest versions of Firefox/Netscape, Safari, Opera and Internet Explorer. Designing your site to work in Firefox/Netscape will set your site up to work in most other browsers except ie. Use the star hack in your css files to get your site to work in IE. For example, after a normal entry add “* html” infront of the class name:
    .someclass{width:200px;}
    * html .someclass(width:190px;)
  • Follow guidelines by the w3.org website and use their website to help validate html and validate css. Chris Pedericks Web Developer Toolbar for Firefox is an absolute necessity when working with websites. Or if you use IE, try theirs. Also, make sure to properly close your tags. ie. break tags should look like this: < br />
  • Some search engines like Google, change their algorithms every 4-8 months. If you design your website using an SEO tip that seems to give you good results, you might find yourself at #206 when they change their algorithms. Try to do all good website building practices across the board, so when the algorithm changes your still in competetive results.
  • The longer a domain name is registered the more likely search engines will consider this to be a site that will be around for a long time.
  • The longer your site has been around increases your sites importance.
  • Websites for excellent standards references (taken from tdrake.net)