Designing Your Website (Part 3) - Search Engine Optimisation
: Basic Considerations | Web Site Content | Search Engines | Our
may seem like stating the obvious, but if you want to get people to
look at your
website, having found plenty of content to appear on your website, you
get it listed by the search engines and a high ranking within the
searches. It is fairly easy to get a search
engine to list your website, however, you need to ensure that it stands
amongst the other 1000+ results when people conduct a search relevant
business. There are therefore certain rules which you should try
We can provide a search
engine optimisation service for your site, but bear in mind that it is
pretty much a full time job, maintaining any website and ensuring that
even minor changes do not affect your search engine rankings.
The reason why
have to adhere to these rules is that many search engines use a "robot"
which is a program which constantly goes from link to link on web
pages in order to try and find new pages to add to the search engine
databases. There are also search engines which require the
be manually added to their database (or directory), but they still use
rules in order to decide which web pages should appear at the top of
methods used by search engines in order to rank pages and decide which
appear at the top of search results remains a closely kept secret in
regards, these simple rules can increase the visibility of your
At the end of the day, no matter how flashy and attractive your website
many search terms returning several thousand results; just how close
you get to
the top of those results can mean the difference between your business
success or a complete failure. Ideally you need to ensure that
your site is ranked on the first page of relevant search results.
The Rules for Getting Your
Always get your website pages checked
by a decent proof reader -
crucial spelling mistakes may mean that your website is never
associated with certain search phrases!! This also provides an
opportunity for a third party to comment on the layout and content of
your website, plus if you have one or two obvious spelling mistakes on
a website, then this is likely to deter visitors. It is also
important to have your webpages checked on more than one web browser,
since not everyone uses just Microsoft's Internet Explorer.
We have come across a couple of websites which would display happily in
one browser, but appeared as a blank page in another web-browser (due
to an error in the HTML). We have also recently found that some
websites are falling foul of Service Pack 2 for Windows XP - one site
for example, displays only the source code for the website under
Service Pack 2, whereas it appears to work quite happily on earlier
versions of Windows XP (this is due to the tighter security features
implemented in Service Pack 2)..
Also remember that once your website is up and running, you need to
ensure that all of the links are kept up to date and that the
information is kept fresh and relevant. We have been asked
to proof-read websites where we have found
that prices which have been altered several months previously are still
stated at the old rates on some pages which leads to customer confusion
and undermines their confidence in the website. Trading standards
also take a dim view of this if it is a regular occurrence. This
can be overcome by the use of Perl programs which serve the changeable
information on a webpage using a database and template. We
ourselves have written similar code to serve our guestbooks,
robots to check the validity of website links contained in a
database based upon user defined criteria.
Ensure that every page on your website
includes a HTML title, description and keywords meta tags
which are relevant to your site and to the text on that page.
Titles and descriptions should be kept fairly short and do not attempt
to repeat keywords or phrases within each section as search engines
tend to look on this as a form of spam. However, do try to write
a descriptive title and description (both of which should contain your
major keywords), as these are shown in the search results of many
engines. Don't forget to also try to use each keyword within the
text on that page and remember that each keyword can consist of more
than one word, provided that each keyword is separated by a comma (we
have come across numerous websites where they use spaces alone to
separate keywords, resulting in a search engine robot seeing the whole
phrase as one keyword).
There is no real merit in using the same title, keywords and
description for every page on your website - you should write ones
which are specifically related to the content on that page. It
can be all too easy to use a standard template and find that a page has
keywords which are totally irrelevant to that page.
page title is displayed at the top of the browser window (in most
cases) and used when if a visitor adds the webpage to their
favourites. We all know the frustration of returning to our
favourites list to find that several entries merely say "untitled".
If you use <frames> on your
website, you need to beware that some search engine robots
cannot handle links within frames and will not be able to load the page
contained within that frame. You are also cutting out a
substantial proportion of internet users who do not have an internet
browser capable of handling frames. You should always include some text
within the <noframes> ... </noframes> section, even if it
is just a general description of your website and a link to a site map
(providing links to every page on your site).
You also need to remember that if a search engine actually indexes the
page which would normally appear within a frame, a website visitor may
be lost without any links to the rest of your website. You should
therefore ensure that each frame page contains a link back to your
to ensure that the page is forced into the actual frameset:
if (top.location.href == self.location)
of your frame file";
Avoid using free web-site hosting
services. They tend to result in slow loading times,
problems with frames and additional advertising which may not be
relevant to your website or visitors. Even worse, the advertising
can destroy the look of your site, or even be of interest to your
visitors and take their attention away from your site !! With good quality low cost web-hosting packages
available from £1pm, this should not be considered for a
Do not rely just on graphics for your
web-pages. We have seen one particular website where
every page consisted of various beautiful graphics (even the text was
stored as a graphic). Search engine robots cannot see the page in
the same sense as a human - they need text to read and digest, this
means that they cannot generally understand images (GIF, JPEG, PNG,
languages, or other multimedia file formats.
You must also remember that there are even some people who still browse
the internet with text-only browsers. You should therefore at
least add some descriptive text to every graphic by using the ALT HTML
tag. Graphics also increase the time taken for web-pages to load and
many visitors will be put off if they are waiting an age for a page to
load - although you may decide to use this to your advantage, by using
some promotional software to earn you some revenue, whilst also
providing your visitors with an invaluable service, such as the
*** Is this Page Taking
Too Long To Load?? Then Consider Onspeed's Internet
Accelerator !! ***
If your website uses a database to
generate pages - ensure that this database is kept up to date
and all of the links remain valid. You also need to remember that
this database is one of the main resources of your website and probably
of the most interest to potential visitors. It is therefore
essential to ensure that the database itself can be indexed by the
internet search engine robots. You can either do this by creating
a series of static HTML pages for every single database entry, which
are refreshed every time that the database is updated (or even whenever
a search engine robot crawls your website), or by using an alphabetical
index which includes links to the script which generates the pages, for
every entry within the database - see www.northcote.co.uk
(a free Listed Company Information Portal) for an example of how
this works in practice (click on the alphabetically tag).
The more pages on your website the
better - we have seen one website which used two variants of
the website name (a .com website address and a .co.uk website
address). The .com website consisted of a single page which
provides contact details and a link to the main .co.uk website.
It is highly unlikely that the .com website page will appear anywhere
near the top of any search results, due to the lack of information and
the fact that the website only has one actual page. If you want
to use two or more domains, then each should ideally be maintained as a
mirror of the original. Also try to keep the filenames for each
page and pictures meaningful and relevant to content.
Search engines tend to put older pages
towards the bottom of its listings, on the presumption that
the information may now be out of date. It is therefore
imperative that you keep your website up to date and regularly
updated. Remember that it is not enough to just resave your page
in order to alter the date that it was last amended. Search
engines are likely to check for changes in text and page size as well.
Ensure that your front page includes
details of the services / goods which you offer - we were
surprised when we viewed one website to note that their front page did
not even mention half of the matters included in the keywords listed in
the HTML. If you want to promote a certain keyword to be linked
to your services, then you need to include details of that keyword on
your front page as this is the first page which most visitors will see.
Do not try to spam Search Engine Robots
- with millions of webpages to look at, search engine robots are
becoming more intelligent, and will look for various attempts on
webpages to include the number of times that certain keywords or
phrases appear on that webpage. For example, repeating the same
phrase many times within the title, description or keyword list itself
will be seen as spam. Another common fault here is to include
text which has the same colour as the background for the webpage, or
which appears in an extremely small font size - both of these methods
are an attempt to include a large amount of text within a page which
would make no sense whatsoever to the human reader, but which, if
present, would increase search engine rankings. Most robots will
see this as an attempt to spam the search engine and penalise the web
page as a result.
Try to increase the number of websites
which link to your own and provide a common text to be used
for the links. This will help to ensure that your website is
found more easily by the 100s of search engine robots which crawl the
internet every day, whilst at the same time, reinforcing the strength
of a particular phrase (or keyword) associated with your website.
We use a program called Arelis to maintain links to our
Ensure that the first words of text on
your website make sense - this may seem such a simple bit of
advice, yet a search on many common phrases under a search engine will
reveal various websites where the listing in the search result does not
make any sense. This is because various search engines include a
summary of the first so many words on your website in their search
results, rather than storing the whole of your webpage.
Consider Creating a News Feed
which other members can use on their website - this is fairly easy to
achieve using an RSS file which is linked from your main pages.
Many websites are looking for up to date information for their website
and this provides a good means of creating links to information on your
own site, without too much effort. We have used one of these feeds to
show the optimisation news below. A description of the RSS
newsfeed format appears here.
Finally, have a look at the website promotion tools which we
recommend for actually ensuring that your website is submitted to the
major search engines and gets noticed.
Consider your choice of webhost carefully - avoid free
hosting or any host provider which may make your site unreliable or
place it within a frame.
Ensure you adhere to HTML and accessibility rules -
cater for text only browsers and those without java script or frames
Add relevant keywords, titles and descriptions to each
page on your site.
Avoid spam and hidden words - this will result in your
site being penalised
Adopt a good search engine optimisation strategy and
stick to it.
Regularly check your site for errors, broken links and
Use Google tools, such as Google sitemaps to ensure
that the cached version of your site indexed by their spider is always
up to date.
Consider the advertising you offer on your site and the
links other people place on their sites to direct traffic to your own.