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How to Improve Your Search Engine Rankings
by Kenneth W. Richards - Thu Apr 20, 2006 02:55pm

In this article, I will attempt to educate you on ways to improve the ranking of your website in the popular search engines. What I am discussing here are no "tricks" or "gimmicks". Believe it or not, there are not really any secrets to getting listed and ranking high on Google or Yahoo. Follow these simple guidelines to make the most out of your website and bring more traffic to your site.

1. Choose a good title for your page

Make sure the title of your page is relevant to the content contained on the page. Your page will rank much higher if the title is apropriate. Also, you should make sure that your title contains keywords which encapsulate the main key point you are discussing on your web page. These keywords will be picked up by searches performed in the popular search engines.

Almost as important (or in some cases more important) is creating a good heading on your page. Website crawlers are smart enough now that they often use the main title of the page as a main indicator of the content contained therein. Usually, the title will be enclosed in heading tags (<h1>...</h1>) and will appear at the top of the main content area of your web page.

2. Define Meta Keywords and Descriptions

Many people have descredited this meta information that appears in the HEAD section of your document. The meta keywords and meta description contain information specifically tailored for search engines. The keywords contain search terms that may be used in order to find your web page and the description contains a short (about one sentence) description of the content contained on the page.

3. Create a "robots.txt" page

In order to instruct search engines which content may be indexed and which may not, you should construct a robots.txt file at the root of your site. This is just a standard text file and usually only contains the names of directories that search crawlers / spiders are forbidden to access:

User-agent: *

Disallow: /cgi-bin/
Disallow: /icon/
Disallow: /images/

In the example above, we have a robots file that applies to all crawlers (User-agent: *). Crawlers are prohibited from retrieving or indexing files in the specified directories. Of course, there's no guarantee that crawlers will adhere to these rules, but all of the important search engines will follow these restrictions.

4. Flash / Javascript Navigation

Be very careful about using flash navigation on your site. Most search engines cannot follow navigation placed in Flash or Javascript. If you must have these elements on your website, be sure to place an alternate form of navigation.

One good way to get around this is to create a site map which has links to every area of your site. At the footer of your page, you can place a "site map" link so that crawlers can find your web pages. You may be penalized because the crawler will have to follow two links to reach your pages instead of one. For this reason, you should always place links to the major areas of your site on your home page.

5. Create a Site Map

Site Maps are a great way to tie all of the content on your site together. It has been proven that the circular linking nature of a site map can actually help improve your page rankings. While I can't provide you the proof here, suffice it to say that I have tried this and know that it works.

It also provides a handy references for people surfing your site. This is especially important if your site has more than one level of pages (meaning that not every web page is accessible from the main navigation placed on your home page.)

Providing a site-wide search box on your website will also be extremely helpful to visitors who browse your site. A site-wide search will not really improve your search rankings. One way that you can use the search to improve your rankings is to create static search page results based on the keywords being searched. For example, a search for "fake plastic trees" might generate a static results page named "fake_plastic_trees.html". Of course you would then have to create a directory of the static pages that can be crawled by the search engines.

6. Create Useful and Relevant Content

One of the key points that website operators fail to grasp, is that you need good quality content to keep your users coming back. This means that you need to spend some time on the writing for your site and make sure that everything is well documented. You may not be the best writer, but you need to do the best you can to explain who you are and what you do and (if you're running a business) what you have to offer and what sets you apart from the rest.

Through the user of a blog (web log), articles, tutorials, reference and help documentation, you can add great value to your site as well as important information for search engines to crawl. It's in your best interest to write as much as you can and to make your content as useful as possible.

7. Seek Quality Inbound Links

In order to build up the ranking of your website, you need to develop good, quality inbound links from other sites. You should only be concerned about links from other sites that have similar content or themes as yours. A link from a potato farm does no good if it goes to your technology consulting firm.

Links from high ranking pages are worth their weight in gold. It's a good idea to try and contact webmasters of high ranking sites to see if they are interested in exchanging links. If the site owner is unwilling to put your link o their site, you can offer free services or other help for their site.

The use of a link exchange site can also be beneficial in improving your ranking. Many SEO specialists will encourage you to get high quality one-way inbound links (meaning they are not reciprocal.) These are always nice when you can get them, but it is much easier to get reciprocal links to your site.

Some Things to Avoid

Some of the things that you will want to avoid are creating hidden text on your page. All of the popular search engines have advanced algorithms to detect this sort of thing and will just ignore this type of content. In many cases, you will get penalized for attempting this bit of SEO trickery.

Creating a special "doorway" page that leads the user to another page on your site is another big no-no. This was a method used long ago in order to stuff a page with a large number of keywords that has no other meaningful content on it. All of the major web crawlers can detect these and by using these, your site may become banned from inclusion.

You should also be careful of the number of keywords you use in your document. Search engines attempt to detect webmasters who stuff their pages full of keywords in order to get better search results. Generally speaking, if you are consciously repeating keywords in your document, you are probably stuffing your pages with too many. Try not to think about counting the number of times a keyword is used, instead, just make sure you hit all of the key points that you need to make in your content.

Also, make sure there are no missing pages on your site. That is, make sure that all the links on your website are valid. If you link to an invalid page, visitors who click this link will see the dreaded 404 Error - Page Not Found. Search spiders which encounter these types of errors will often stop crawling your site.

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