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Improving Search Engine Placements with Content

Well-written content is very important to search engine placement and maintaining repeat traffic to a web site. Even though search engines vary and use their own criteria for ranking web sites, there are some general characteristics that can be used in order for higher rankings and repeat traffic.

Uniqueness – Don’t Duplicate

Content should be written uniquely for each page of your web site. Why? Well, when a search engine spider indexes each page, it constantly searches for any patterns that match known spam practices.

Eample: An old spam tactic is to create numerous pages with basically the same content to get multiple placements under a single phrase. Many engines actively look for content that is very similar and will drop pages or domains they find crossing the line. Many catalogue sites will offer similar products with similar descriptions. You may not be trying to spam, but a search engine spider may conclude otherwise. Therefore, be sure to vary your content as much as possible.

If you still have concerns that a spider might jump to false conclusions, add a random amount of blank space and other "benign" tags to the page to vary the file size by 100 bytes or more. You can also vary your meta tags, ALT tags, title, etc.

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Don’t Misrepresent

If you optimize for keywords that have little or nothing to do with what the visitor will see on the page, you're asking for trouble. For help finding the appropriate keywords to target, there are a number of services such as WordTracker (www.wordtracker.com/freetrial.htm) that can help.

Don’t Hide

Search engines don't trust hidden keywords. Keywords in meta tags for example will not get you banned or labeled as a spammer even though they are hidden. The same goes with other hidden areas like ALT tags, NOFRAMES, hyperlink URLs, and comments. These are some of the "acceptable" hidden areas so long as you include only relevant keywords and you don't over-do it. Hiding keywords by using the same color text as the background is almost always considered to be spam.

Don’t Cloak

Cloaking takes the "don't hide" concept to the extreme. In simplest terms, cloaking software serves up one page to the search engine, and another page to the visitor. This effectively hides the real page being indexed by the engine from the visitor. If you've ever run across a page that somehow ranked high for no apparent reason, it may have been cloaked. Most engines today repeatedly speak out against cloaking. Still, the practice continues to thrive since the engines have traditionally done a poor job of finding and penalizing sites employing the technique.

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Don’t Stuff

If you stuff too many keywords into your page, you could get in trouble for spamming. Repeating the same word multiple times in a row is the worst offense. However, over-use of your keyword can cause your ranking to drop. What's the magic number? That varies by the area of the page and the search engine. In general, 4 to 15 is suggested for a page as a whole.

Fresh Content

Search engines are always on the lookout for web sites that offer information “useful” to their users. Following the logic of a search engine (and they are all essentially logical), an evolving web site is likely to be more interesting to searchers since the content is up-to-date. If Google found new content every time it indexed your web site, your site would instantly gain credibility because this would indicate that your site is constantly evolving. As a result, your site has a better chance of obtaining better placements and maintaining the positions gained.

Relevant

It is extremely important that when you create the copy for a web page you try to maintain the overall relevance of the topic.

Example: If your web page has been created to describe a service such as massage therapy then maintain that focus throughout that page. Do not skip to a totally unrelated topic such as (an extreme example) where to buy incense.

In the above example, the keywords on the page will be diluted and it will make it more difficult for a visiting search engine to determine the placement that the page should achieve.

A great deal of the SEO (search engine optimization) process is ensuring topical clarity throughout a web site. By ensuring that the copy on each page clearly indicates a desired topic, you will force a search engine to place your web site under your desired listing.

It is very important for your site to be focused. For example, Keep in mind that most of the top search engines will rank your site depending upon the topic they determine you are offering. This determination is largely made based upon the text within your web site. Don’t give them any reason to get ‘confused’.

The text on your home page is crucial to maintaining the attention of fresh viewers. In fact, copy is so important that many companies prefer to have a professional copy writer create the content. Since this is not an option, you have to keep your text engaging as well as smartly optimized to present an obvious topic to the visiting search engine spiders or visitors. To do this, keep your mind focused on the keyword(s) that you have chosen to target on the search engines while you write the content for the page. Implement the keywords within the text without sacrificing the true intent of the information – to engage and retain your viewers.

Important Note: Often the first 25-30 words of your home page are what the each search engine will use for the description of your web site. Try to utilize your target keyword/s within this area but be certain the resulting sentence is legible and descriptive.

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Content Visibility

Seems simple right? Well, there are many ways to unwittingly damage the visibility of your web site’s content to the search engines.

Do Not Use Frames

There are few worse blocks to search engine indexing than framesets. If your site is using frames and all of your content is found within a frameset then you may need to reconsider a redesign. The reason is because the home page actually has no content on it other than meta tags and a title because the page is only there to 'call' the framesets (which are the pages with the content). As a result, the search engines only see a page with a few links on it and some meta tags and no relevant content.

Do Not Create a Site Totally in Flash

Flash is a beautiful medium for advanced and often engaging multimedia but it should not be the sole medium for your web site because the content within flash is not viewable by a search engine. If you wish to use Flash, then we recommend interspersing it throughout a web site much like images are. This way you can include the same impressive interaction capabilities and you can still write your content in html (the sole medium that search engines can index).

Do Not Create a Site Totally in Images

The same rule applies to images. If you want your text to be found and indexed by the search engines then do not include it within a graphic.

Note: Image ALT tags do the job somewhat by providing an alternative copy of the text shown in the image. This is, however, a poor substitution for true visible text.

Provide Alternative Navigation Options

Most sites employ a graphical navigation method which provides a very attractive and often functional method of navigating a web site. By ALT tagging each of the menu buttons with a topical summary of the destination page, graphical menus can even be effective for
search engines. There are other things you can do to increase your ranking:

  • Bottom Navigation: include a mirrored text menu (main navigation in the form of links or hyperlinked text) at the bottom of the page. Hyperlinked text is more credible than a linked graphic. This is because the text within the link can be read by search engines (as it is html code) and, if properly designed, the menu's text link defines the topic of the destined page. Also, since this text is visible to visitors (unlike less visible ALT tags) there is less likelihood that you are trying to fool the search engines (adding further credibility).
  • Sitemap: include a text link to a sitemap located somewhere within every page. Some search engines take a long time to index pages that are located deep within a web site. By creating a sitemap (preferably with text links) that is accessible from any page, you provide the search engines with a direct route to every page within your site. Not only do you facilitate a faster crawl of your web site but you provide the search engines with more text links which may further increase the credibility of your content.

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Remember To Cross-Link

You should create links that travel from your home page to all other pages you wish to be indexed. If your optimized page has only outbound links and no inbound links, you run the risk of a search engine penalizing it for smelling like a one-directional doorway or entrance page. Although this is not likely to get your site banned, it may prevent the page from being indexed, or ranked highly.

Don’t Link Farm

Reciprocal links are great for improving your rankings. However, be careful of joining "link farm" services designed to artificially inflate your link popularity. Google and to a lesser extent other engines are now said to be blacklisting link farm sites. If you're caught linking TO one of these sites, you're found guilty through association. For ways to safely improve your link popularity, see: http://www.webposition.com/mp-0500.htm#ONE.

Optimize the Title

The title of the home page can be optimized quite simply by placing the keyword or keyword phrase that you have chosen to target first and then finish with the name of your company or web site. For example:

” Massage Therapy – massage.com”

The search engines place a great deal of weight in the title of your home page and the keywords within your title will likely be chosen as the title of your listing on the search engines. The title also plays a huge role in the relevance of your site. The topic denoted within your title will be compared to the content within the body of the page, if the topic and content match, you will have a much better chance of obtaining higher targeted placements.

Much of the content for this article was taken from www.stepforth.com/.

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