Thursday, September 8, 2011

Ten Tips for Search Engine Optimization

Most searches begin with a search engine. That means we want to be able to show up well in the search engines. However, I must point out that when I check my stats most of my visitors come from other web sites and not search engines. Nevertheless, we don't want to miss out on any visitors because our websites are not search engine friendly. I've been reading about search engine optimization recently. Here are some of the things I gleaned from the reading. I must say, that there are a few changes I'll make to my websites based on this reading.

1. Content rich sites are best. Sites that are mostly collections of links or ads will not show up as well in the rankings as those which have articles. Even if you are going to feature audio or video on your site, write several pages of copy relevant to the subject, even if they are only about how to use the audio or video player. The search engines like words.

2. Keep the flash to an inside page. I'm sorry. I love those slick, cool, flash pages, but they are nearly invisible to the search engines. You notice that very few major commercial websites have flash only splash pages. They have content rich front pages which might contain some flash content, but doesn't take up the whole page

If you want to keep the flash, surround it or augment it with some actual text that is relevant to the search terms. Some tips if you are wedded to that flash page.
  • Use search term rich meta-tags in the "Head" section of the page. I'll write about meta tags later
  • Submit the site manually to the search engines. Both Yahoo and Google have utilities for doing this. It takes several weeks for them to put it into the queue, but could be worth it.
  • Add normal Html to the page. put some text below the flash that includes at least one search term. Like "To skip this flash presentation and proceed to the best Christian science fiction site on the web click here"

3. Run from frames. There are many alternatives to frames, use them. Put a vertical nav bar in plain html on each page. Use tables to lay out the page. Better yet, use CSS.

4. Use the search terms. Now, this is a bit tricky. You want your page to be readable, but at the same time, the more times you use a variation on the search term the more the page seems more relevant to the search engine. I guess the best thought is to look for places where it won't hurt the flow of the copy. Instead of saying, "I hope you enjoy the stories on this site," you could say, "I hope every science fiction fan will enjoy the stories on this site" or "If you love dragons, you'll love these stories" or "Get your fantasy fix here."

5. Inward bound links. Now, this means "quality" links. What the search engines mean by "quality" is a bit vague, but some things they don't mean are "free for all" link pages where anyone can post a link or massive link exchange pages. Some ways to get quality links include posting responses on blogs and including your link in the post itself not just the sig file. Include your link in the sig file on this board and similar ones. When people review your books, ask them to include the link to your website order page instead of the Amazon page (Amazon has enough inward bound links). Write articles for places like Article Announce and Associated Content or press releases for some of the sites I've mentioned in other posts. Also, ask for links. I talked about this in greater length yesterday, but simply write to webmasters who have links to websites like yours and invite them to visit your site and link to it if they would like. Write each email separately and uniquely and make mention of something you saw or noticed on that site so the reader knows you are not just a spam artist.

6. Metatags. These are placed in the "head" portion of your webpage. While not as important to SEO today as in the past, they still matter. Compose a good description of the page rich in search terms and a list of keywords. I'll talk about how to do metatags in another post. It isn't hard, but it takes some time to describe.

7. Title. Have a unique and descriptive title for every page that includes a search term. For instance, my web client just puts a default title on the page based on the first line of text. This then appears in the title bar. But that line may not be descriptive. So, instead of "Wayfarer's Journal", I could put "Wayfarer's Journal: Science fiction stories, essays and reviews with a spiritual, ethical or moral dimension."

8. File names. Incorporating search terms into the file names when appropriate can help. For instance, I might have a page of science fiction reviews entitled "sfreviews" which would be incomprehensible to the search engines or I could have "science_fiction_reviews.html" Or if I wrote a review of a Frank Perretti Novel. I could put frank_perretti.html If I also had in the Title "Review of New Frank Perretti Novel - Name of Novel" and in the meta tags a preview with his name mentioned, and his name mentioned several times in the review and the file name including his name, this becomes even more relevant to the search engine.

9. Pay for placement. It isn't that expensive. You can set your own price and pay only when someone clicks through to your site. For one of my search terms for Creative Calisthenics, I can get the bid down to about 30 cents per click through. Then several times a day people looking for that search term will get one of my ads appearing in the "sponsored links" section at the top of the page.

10. Site map and text links. Creating a site map helps the search engine crawl your site. Tips on creating these site maps can be found at

If you use fancy java or javascript navigation bars or buttons, that's fine, but you should also have somewhere on every page some plain text links with descriptive titles.

As a rule of thumb, the 'cooler' the effect, the less likely for the search engine to recognize it. And being ignored by the search engine is not cool at all.


  1. Excellent information all wrapped up in easy to understand lingo. Thank you. Now I'll add my link here. Is that right???

  2. LOL!!! That's what we are here for.

    The "easy to understand lingo" comes from being a tech savvy Liberal Arts Major (English, Speech Journalism) and not Information Technology. You realize the first online classes at our school were English, history and speech. IT classes didn't appear until quite late in the game. While the IT teachers new their stuff, they weren't quite that skilled at writing to explain it clearly online.

    Sometimes you need a non-IT person to make IT understandable.


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