Tips for effective SEO

There are a few areas of web development which, especially to clients, are more important than any. One of these areas is search engine optimisation. It's been said a hundred times before - you can have the best website in the world but nothing will ever come of it whilst people do not know it is there.

I heard recently from my mate Jay Hands (SEO specialist) that professional search engine optimisation specialists can command pay cheques as high as £900... per day! Now this was a figure that even took my breath away, especially considering that professional web developers can only command an maximum of £400 a day. So I guess if there is one thing we should learn from this fact it is this - if you want that snazzy sportscar you've been drooling over forever, get brush up on your SEO techniques!

Dammit man, just give me the tips!!

Ive listed below a few important tips for improving your website's optimisation for the search engines. Some are possibly a little obvious, but it is amazing just how often these things are overlooked in practice.

  1. Use the title attribute. - This point is especially important for links, as engines such as Google take into account the content of the title attribute when indexing that link's destination page.
  2. Dont forget the <title> tag - It still supprises my just how many developers forget the title tag, or do not make effective use of it. Use some keywords but not too many, and only keywords which effectively describe the content of the page. For added brownie points try to ensure titles change from page to page.
  3. Use the <h1> tag - There's no excute for not using a H1 tag. Google in particular places quite some emphasis on H1 tags. And speaking of H1 tags...
  4. Mirror your <title> tag in your <h1> - Simple but effective. Mirroring your H1 text to that of your title content reinforces the description of each page. The search engines will pick up on this. Do it!
  5. Use <strong> tags - Just like the old <b> tags or yore, search engines place precedence of words within <strong> tags. That is not to say you should embolden whole paragraphs of text; use <strong> sparingly.
  6. Site Maps - A site map is, as the name would suggest, a page containing links to every other page within your website. Placing a link to your site map, particularly on your homepage, will help search engine spiders crawl your pages more effectively.
  7. Avoid query strings - Unless you know how to use apache rewrites then this point cannot often be avoided, particularly with database driven pages. If you can avoid using querystrings however (such as .php?id=5) then do so.
  8. Avoid flash - Flash technologies have one major pitfall - content within them cannot be read by search engine spiders. If you do decide to use flash make sure that important content is either not held within the flash object, or provide an alternative version of the content in normal HTML text.

The Golden Rule

Whatever you decide upon when optimising your website for the search engines, remember one thing. The search engines are not interested in your website, they are only interested in providing good search results. Place precedence on important information but only on important information, and do not cheat. Using keywords such as sex and viagra, in addition to hidden content and cloaked pages will only end in disaster, whether sooner or later. Finally, give the spiders what they want - after all they are just visitors like me and you

Dated: 20/04/2006. Filed under: Web Design.


On 22nd April 2006 Jay Hands said:
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Great points...

The single most important thing to remember is to make content relevant for your user. There is no point in getting your website to the top of Google, Yahoo or MSN if your user cannot use or is not interested in your site. Getting your website to the top of the search engine is one thing, converting that increased traffic to sales is another.

Great points well delivered.
On 22nd April 2006 Stephen Tucker said:
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Thanks for that mate, and what you say is very true.

I don't think the search engines actually penalise websites for optimising using keywords with no relation to the site's content, providing white hat techniques are used. However im not entirely sure on that one - seems perhaps like a bit of a SEO dark area. However like you said there would really be no point in doing so.

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