This article is intended to provide an end-to-end SEO (Search Engine Optimization) guide. This is a series of articles that will provide tips and techniques of SEO. You could find the remaining parts of this article from my articles page. To find the most up to date guide, please check SEO Guide.
Why do SEO?
SEO helps people to find your website using search engines. It brings more online business by improving search engine ranking and bringing relevant traffic to your website. This article describes how to do end-to-end SEO of a website.
SEO vs. Programming
SEO is different than normal software programming where you design, develop, debug, test and deploy. SEO is a website fine tuning activity that involves analysis and verification of web pages.
SEO is a combination of compliance to search standards and techniques to make your website relevant for certain keywords. While doing SEO work, probably you will end up verifying pages against search standards. SEO is never really complete; it is an on going activity to comply with constantly evolving search standards.
For a good SEO, you should know how the search engine indexer works? However, this is exactly what we do not know! That is "currently" how Google, MSN or Yahoo indexer works. If you are not already familiar with Indexer, you should know that a Search Engine has three main software components: Crawler, Indexer and Search Page.
Crawler finds new web pages and obtains text, URLs and other searchable information from it. Using URLs on page, the crawler finds even more web pages.
The crawler supplies page link, text and URLs to the Indexer. Indexer applies algorithms (or search standards) on this data to create a database of words and word pairs to page link.
Finally, Search Page is where people could search indexed information and find relevant web pages.
In this article, we will be learning about search standards.
How to Start SEO?
SEO is a process to verify your pages against search standards. There are no search standards per se, but tips and tricks to improve the quality of searchable contents and site ranking.
- XHTML 1.0 and CSS 2.1 validation
- Download Time Optimization
- Keyword Research
- Meta Tags
- Page Contents
- Search Engine Friendly Links
XHTML 1.0 & CSS 2.1 Validation
Cleaner pages result in better ranking and shorter loading time. Check your web pages for XHTML 1.0 compliance and for CSS 2.1 compliance at W3C website. One way to remove all errors and warnings is to download a free Visual Web Developer Express edition and check validate your page. A page is XHTML 1.0 Transitional compliant only if there are:
- Proper closing tags, e.g.
<img src="logo.gif"> vs.
<img src="logo.gif" />
- Proper quotes, e.g
<img src=logo.gif> vs.
<img src="logo.gif" />
- No attribute short writing, e.g.
<option selected> vs.
- Only lower case HTML elements and attributes. e.g.
- &, >, < etc. are escaped everywhere:
alt and even in URLs. e.g.
- And many other things. See XHTML1.0 Transitional specifications.
Check if the website has valid HTML. One tool is HTML Validator.
Download Time Optimization
If your web page takes a long time to download, people will close the browser window before it loads. Search engine keeps an eye and ranks those pages higher that get more traffic. Apply the following optimizations to improve download time:
- Do not embed CSS styles in web page. Move styles in a separate *.css file and use class attribute in web page.
- Images and flash are not searchable and increase page load time. Avoid using images and flash.
- If necessary, use images and flash files that are optimized for size.
- Remove unnecessary white spaces i.e.
<p/>. Also remove unnecessary
If your website uses keywords that people use to search in Google, MSN or Yahoo, chances are, your site will appear in the first place or in top 5. Keyword research is a three step process:
- Understanding business behind website
- Knowing Search Trends (or what people are searching for)
- Keyword tools (to build keyword list)
Understanding Business behind Website
For keyword research, it is important to find out the purpose of website or more appropriately the business behind the website. So for example, www.holidayhypermarket.co.uk sells holiday packages online. They provide cheap holiday and wedding packages for many regions, but specifically for Spain, Caribbean and Dubai. Knowing this information helps you finding the right keywords and thereby right traffic for website. Also visit a website with a similar theme.
Knowing Search Trends
Use the following tools to research what people are currently searching for or buying:
Lookup for alternate search suggestion to improve quality of keywords:
To further refine your keyword list, use the following keyword research tools to create various word combinations:
All your keyword research effort is to create a
<meta> keyword tag as shown below:
<meta name="keywords" content="bargain holidays,cheap holidays,
cheap flights,family holidays,last minute holidays,last minute,
late deals,holidays in,holidays to,holiday hypermarket,cheap holiday,
cheap package holidays," />
Do not repeat keywords for better ranking as most engines punish this. There are some engines that create their own keyword from page text. So keywords alone cannot do magic.
<meta> description tag as shown below. Search engines have keywords and description limits and truncate characters after certain length. Character with spacing limit varies with time/engine from 100-300 characters. As this description appears in Search Engine Result Page (SERP), so it should clearly tell the purpose of web page.
<meta name="description" content="Book cheap holidays online at Holiday Hypermarket.
Millions of package holiday bargains, last minute deals,
cheap flights and all inclusive holidays to book online." />
With correct keyword selection, chances are that people will click to navigate your website. I said chances, because click through depends on the quality of web page title and its description that appears in Search Engine Result Page (SERP). At times, people do not click first or second site in SERP because of poor title and description. Provide a title that uses keywords as shown below:
<title>Holiday Packages | Wedding Holiday Packages | Dubai |
Florida | Middle East | Europe | Caribbean | Far East </title>
Page contents should use keywords in
<h2> and text. This will make page "relevant" to title, keywords and description and will result in better search engine ranking. Use a text browser such as Lynx to examine what searchable contents are available on your site. Search engine crawlers see your site much as Lynx would. Following are the key areas where keywords matters:
- Page URL. e.g. http://www.greatholidays.com/cheap-dubai-holiday-package-1345.aspx
- Page Title e.g. Holiday Packages | Wedding Holiday Packages | Dubai | Florida | Middle East
- Meta tags keywords and description
<h2> and contents
Image alt Attribute
Make sure to specify
<img> tag alt attribute that uses "keywords". Consider following
<img> tags for an SEO consultancy:
<img src="seo-consultant.jpg" alt="seo & website consultants"/> is more searchable and relevant to a SEO consultancy as compared to
<img src="sc.jpg" alt="image sc.jpg"/> or
- Note that, contents being searchable (sc vs. seo-consultant) and relevant (software house vs. seo-consultant) are two different things. Using keywords makes content both searchable and relevant.
Search Engine Friendly Links
cheap-dubai-holiday-package-1345.aspx is more searchable as compared to hp.aspx?d=1345.
- Write a software component that generates and translates SEO friendly URLs.
- Try to name image, flash and other files such that they include keywords. dc.jpg is not searchable and irrelevant to an online digital camera website as compared to digital-camera.jpg.
- Hyperlinks could have the
title tag having keywords, e.g.
<a href="http://RafeySoft.com/" title="Website Development & SEO Consultant">
To find the most up to date guide, please check SEO Guide.
- 8th April, 2009: Initial post
- 10th April, 2009: Updated image
alt section, corrected typos