Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Back to the grindstone - website optimization..

You may ask what is website optimization and why do I need it? Website optimization is the process of making a website search engine friendly and hopefully brings it to the top of the list during a search. Sometimes called SEO (search engine optimization), it is a necessary step for any successful webmaster. There are many companies on the internet (I know because they spam me) that promise to make your website #1 on a Google search for a fee. They promise it can be done in a week! This is just plain bullcrap. You can optimize your website yourself, but be patient, the wheels of progress turn very slow. You may not reach #1 on a search, but you will have a definite advantage over websites that don't optimize. The following is the tried and true HTML method.

Step 1. To make a long complicated story short and simple, a website page is broken up into 2 parts, the and the . The body section is what is actually seen by the visitor. The head section content is not seenby the visitor. But it contains 3 valuable tools for website optimization. They are called "Meta Tags", and are the "Title", "Description" and Keywords" You can only create, install and modify your meta tages if you have access to the HTML code in your website's text editor. You need to do every page of your website, and costumize it to be topic specific for each page. The "title" should contain the name or title of your website and a REALLY brief goal of your website. The "description" should be approximately 2 sentences and contain a more detailed summary and goal of your website. The "keywords" should be a list of words and 2-3 word phrases separated by commas. You want to use words that would be used in a search to find your website in a Google search. You also need to use words that are found in the visible text in the body section of your web page. You can use a tool that creates your meta tages for you for free by just filling in a form, then copying the results and pasting them in the head section of your web page. The tool can be found HERE.

Step 2. The actual visual content of your web page should contain a good amount of text. Try to implement as many of the keywords you used in your "keywords" in your meta tags. When Google indexes youe website, it will compare the visual text to the keywords and also evaluate the text to see if it is relevant to your site's topic. There is no real "correct" way to do it, but like I said before, be patient. Set your site up to the best of your ability, then in a month or so, do a few searches on Google that would be relevant to your site. If you have a really competitive site topic, it may take several months to even appear on a search. If you do find your site, but on the 40th page, you could make a few changes (back up your work in case you lose ground). It may take up to a year to reach a consistent level.

Step 3. Another step that used to be way more important than it is now is getting people to link to your website. This is called a "backlink". The most valuable backlink is someone linking to your site without you linking to their site. This is called a "1-way link". The more links that are pointed to your website makes your website appear to be more popular and is supposed to help you in search engine listings when all things are considered. There are many ways of getting backlinks, but the most efficient way is to search for websites thate are similar in content to your's and contact the webmaster. Linking etiquette will have you link to them first, send them an email with the location of their link, and include your information for linking back. If they don't answer or refuse, just remove their link.

Another good way of getting backlinks is to find discussion groups, boards and forums that are related to your website. Contribute a bit of intelligent text and leave a link to your site. Also guestbooks are good to leave a link, and it helps to compliment the websmaster if you don't want to be deleted. And the new kid on the block for creating back links is blogging. Your archived pages are all listed on search engines one way or the other. So what better blog is there than a Google blog? ;-) There are link building programs and websites to try and automate the process, but I have had very little luck with them.

Backlinks used to weigh a lot more heavily in search enging ranking, but in the last year they seem to have less of an impact. I think it has to to with what is known as "Link Farms". A lot of companies and websites (mostly based in India) created thousands of websites that have no other purpose that to create 1-way backlinks for paying customers. Google is catching on to them and participating websites can drop right off the list with no warning.

In summary, create a site with good useful content and rub your lucky rabbit's foot.

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