Blogging from the SEO SkillSwap | September 1, 2003

Just to let people know that I'll be blogging from tonights SEO SkillSwap event. I've never blogged live from an event befor to please bare with me. My spelling is really poor and I'm not a fast typer. So sit back, relax and if your reading this live, remember to hit your refresh button every now and again.

SEO is the art of getting high rankings on the major search engines and directories for relevant search terms. The main gola is to drive site conversions.

Need to think about your potential users and what search terms they will be searching for. Also look at your competition to see what search terms they are targetting. Rosie shows CityFruits.com as an example. She goes through the source to examine what search terms they are targetting. In this case it's "fruit baskets".

Need to make sure your search terms are targetted. "Computers" for example is not very targeted. "Buy new computer" is much more targeted.

Number to tools for search term research:

Rosie explains how to use each tool and goes into some detail explaining wordtracker. It provides a host of info about terms like how many searches are done on a particular term, how many compeating pages there are and which keywords are the best to target.

Try to pick search terms that will be easy to build into the content of your site.

Rosie has got everybody doing a short 20min excersise. People are researching their keywords using the tools Rosie has mentioned.

A hush silence has decended upon the room!

With the task now finished we start to look at what to do with these search terms.

The main factors to consider are:

Textural content is the most important part of SEO.

Put the search terms as high up in the page as possible, and preferably above the main nav. Spiders don't want to trawl though loads of code to get to the content

Try to optimise each page for no more than 3-4 searhc terms.

Have around 250-500 words per page and place the search terms every 200 words. Very difficult to write good copy and stay within these rules.

Use the search terms in different ways, e.g. page titles, headdings, em tags etc.

Common problems incluide:

Not enough text on the pages. Content needs to actually be text, and not flash or graphics. Harvey Nichols is a nice looking site but is all in flash so has no textural content that the SE's can happily index. Harvey Nichols has tried to get round this by having a text version of the site.

Hidden text is a big no-no. Tiny fonts, text of the same background colour etc are all out. The SE's are getting wise to these tricks. Anyway it's much better to have a page of relevant content than to hide content and use tricks.

People are now doing another 20min task, writting a page of copy, 250-300 words long, using the above rules in combination with the search terms researched from the eairlier task.

While people are writting their copy, I wrote a simple SEO bookmarklet a while ago which measures the keyword density of a page.

Now we're talking about how to make a site search engine friendly. First off the SE's like to find sites via following links. It's a good idea to use text links in your nav, especially as link text is taken into account by the SE's when ranking.

Try to keep the overall search term desnity across the whole page high. This means keep things like complicated nav bars to a minimun.

Jeremy Keith designed the G2Blue site. The Nav is a very good example of a well made SE friendly nav bar.

However the Stenaline site has a very complicated nav bar.

Dynamic websites can cause problems with some search engines as they can't follow complicated links. SE's generally don't rank dynamic content pages highly because the page content changes on a regular basis. To combat you can either create static versions of the pages or use thinks like apache's mod rewrite to create spider friendly URL's.

Automatically generated doorway pages can be a bit of a pain. An example of this would be this doorway page.

Informational pages are better. Here is a good example of an informational page. It's important to have informational pages linked to from elsewhere in the site.

Content in a frameset is not very good for search engine. If the site must use frames, use the noframes tag to add relevant content.

Another common problem is excess coding. Complicated table structures, javascript etc can be a problem. Keeping Javascript external and using CSS for design can help keep filesizes down, and thus search term density up.

Your top level domain is important. If you are promotiong to UK search engines, choose a .co.uk domain name. If promoting globally use a .com. SE's like google may be able to tell where a site is hosted and may take this into account when indexing your page.

Title tags are very important. Meta Description tags don't really help your SE position but some Se's still use this as a description when displaying your page in the results. Meta Keywords are less important. They were once used heavily by spammers so aren't that useful now. Try not to repeat search terms in your keywords more than 3 times.

Alt tags are a useful place to put keywords, but don't stuff them with keywords.

Much better to promote each page for only 3 key search terms. This will give you much wider relevancy on each page. Rosie promotes the more general search terms on a home page and the more specific search terms on deeper pages.

Anything created for a search engine and not the user will be considered as spam by the search engines. This includes redirects, tiny text, mirror content and cloaking.

Link popularity plays a major roll in the popularity of your website. They will drive extra traffic to your site and will improve search engine ranking.

SE's will take into account the link text you use to link to internal pages of your site. As such it plays a huge importance to your page rankings. The same rules apply to incomming links comming from external sites. Getting incomming links is important. Outgoing links is also important. Links to good quality sites mark you as a hub site and this can increase your ranking.

Search using your search terms and create a list of sites you would like to link to. Any site with a page rank over 4 is worth linking to. Also consider submitting your site to industry related directories.

Start by adding a link to your targets site. Contact them, explaining the benefits of linking and ask for a link. Some people these days are paying people to have links to their sites.

If your site has lot's of inbound links, it will probably get found by the SE's. However it could take some time to be found. You may have to submit your pages manually.

When submitting to directories, make sure you have search terms in the title and description.

You must manually submit, otherwise you risk being droped or banned. Only need to use the top search engines. Don't fall for people offering to submit your site to thousands of SE's.

DMOZ/open directory is probably the only free to submit directory worth submitting to. Yahoo and Looksmart are pay-for-submission directories and in the UK it's a one off payment. Make sure you follow all the directories submission rules. Read how a directory editor lists sites and use a similar language. It cut's down the chance of your description being edited. A listing in Yahoo will increase your link populartity and can be the difference between a first page and a third page ranking in a search engine.

Using subdomians may allow you to submit more tan once to a directory. Multiple sub domains could alos help your link popularity.

Many SE's still have a free to submit often. However many have paid submission schemes which can speed up spidering time and frequency.

As stated above, link popularity is important. Use your URL on emails and posts to newsgroups and forums. Also consider writing articles.

Pay per click schemes are good for short lengths of time, but are costly over the long term.

It's a good idea to track your position on the search engines and keep an eye on what search terms people are using to get to your site.

Phew, and that's it!

Hope there are not too many spelling mistakes and that you've found it useful.

Big thanks to Rosie Freshwater from G2Blue for a really interesitng talk.
If you're interested in future SkillSwap events, feel free to drop by the SkillSwap site and sign up to our newsletter.

UPDATE: Rosie's notes are now available to download on the SkillSwap site.

Posted at September 1, 2003 5:59 PM

Comments

Jamie said on September 1, 2003 7:39 PM

250 words? No way! Currently at 152, and checking the copy on the existing page I’m using as an example ( http://www.cftc.org.uk ) I see that has a total of 155. Hmm. Do search engines really need a min of 250 words if the content is relevant?

simon said on September 2, 2003 4:11 AM

great post andy

Lars said on September 2, 2003 2:21 PM

Great coverage! Hope to see more of that.

JTG Mark said on September 2, 2003 10:26 PM

Cool staff!
I’ve found here some good tip and info.

Let me add to your post that even site’s theme and design (I mean the whole site structure) helps to reach a good SE position. A pleasant, interesting, fast and usable web site will be better ranked.

Thanks in advance for your next posts Andy.

oli said on September 3, 2003 2:49 AM

You might want to check out Kung-log ( http://kung-foo.tv/kunglog.php ) > it has as-you-type spell checking ;)

peace - oli

Keith said on September 5, 2003 4:16 AM

Nice work Andy. You’ve got some really good tips in there. I like the idea of using an informational page. I can see how that is a nice way to get relevant keywords, etc. as well as keeping your content useful to the reader, i.e. not spamming keywords or writing just to get good keywords in.

I’ve found that the biggest key, to Google anyway, is having good title tags with a corresponding H1 or H2. It’s easy to do, helpful to a reader and will never steer your wrong.

Well, that and getting people to link to you.

mark said on September 12, 2003 2:02 PM

great session - thanks rosie and andy
and the blog is great as a reminder of what happened and what bits i found most useful - a really excellent learning tool

seo guy said on January 15, 2004 11:53 PM

“great session - thanks rosie and andy
and the blog is great as a reminder of what happened and what bits i found most useful - a really excellent learning tool”

I agree :-)