Search engine optimisation

There are many companies around, several of whom are blatant spammers, who will "guarantee" you a top ten listing on search engines in return for charging a wide range of fees. The claims of these companies varies and some are considerably better than others. But what secrets do they know that us mere mortals don't know? What tools are they using and what contacts do they have? Can you do what these companies can do? How can you be sure you are not being conned if you use one of these companies.

Even if you restrict yourself to using those companies that don't use spamming to market themselves, you still cannot be sure that you won't be conned. It's a dirty world out there in the world on web marketting and you've got to look after yourself. There's a lot of companies doing this and making these impressive claims, so can you just do it yourself and save yourself a fortune?

Well, it turns out that these companies are using commonly available tools and readily available information. They do not have secret contracts with the search engines or insider secrets. You can do a search for search engine optimisation and it will throw up a whole range of dedicated SEO websites. I will discuss the most important aspects of SEO, but you should check out the recommended links at the end of this article to read further. It's a never ending subject which you can never learn enough about.

The most important thing to decide is your keyword list. These are the words or phrases that people who may be looking for your site, or others like it, would be putting into a search engine. If you choose the wrong keywords, you'll get few visitors or visitors who are not interested in your products.

Stuffing your page full of your keywords is not the way to get good search listings. Most search engines will decide that you are intentionally trying to make your page appear higher than it should if you use this technique and will punish your site with lower search result rankings. There are several other things which will also get your site punished so you must not do them. Do not use text that is the same colour as the background. This is an old trick of getting your keywords into your pages without the visitors seeing them. Do not create tiny (maybe 1 pixel) images then stuff the alt tags with your keywords. In short, no cheating. Do not try to trick the search engines, they will win.

A lot of search engines are now checking the sites that link to your site and using that as a basis for ranking your website. For this reason, a lot of people are resorting to "free for all links" pages but these will usually have a negative effect on your search results. It is not just the number of websites that link to your website that count towards your ranking, it's the quality of the websites that link to you that make the difference. Free for all links pages are low quality sites so if you have low quality sites linking to you, search engines will assume your site is low quality too. The sites that you link to are also included in this rule so only exchange links with good quality relevant websites. Getting links from or to poor quality website can result in lower rankings.

You should make sure that your chosen keywords appear in:

  • The body of your page, ie. the written text
  • Preferably the domain name of your website but if not, the name of your html files will do
  • The title of your page
  • Image alt attributes
  • Link title attributes
  • Link text, this is the text that gets underlined for your link
  • Link page names, eg. keywords.html
  • Meta tags, especially meta description and meta keywords
  • Comments

The best piece of specific advice that I can give is probably to write W3C compliant XHTML. Badly written pages will render ok on most browsers but that is no excuse to let your page be sloppy. Search engines are not browsers and are not designed to be able to understand bad websites, they are designed to rank pages. So, if a page is written badly, it might not be understood by the search engine so will naturally not rank as highly as if it was written with W3C compliant XHTML. Even if the search engine does understand it, it is likely to decide that because it is poorly written, it is not worth ranking very highly. In short, search engines think that if your HTML is written badly, then your information is probably written badly too.