A Few Simple SEO Tips to Help Your Search Engine Rankings
Published: June 18, 2009

Want to improve your search engine ranking?  Follow these simple SEO tips that will keep you from making some common mistakes.

  1. Importance of text
  2. All images should be using the required ALT tags
  3. Original Text
  4. Avoid html errors
  5. Fix all broken links
  6. Minimize the use of Javascript
  7. Use Standard HTML Code
  8. Keep away from popup windows
  9. Link back to full URL
  10. ALWAYS use the www in absolute links
  11. Use Absolute URL's
  12. Always use external CSS style sheets
  13. Keep images sizes low
  14. Remove old files
  15. Avoid using tables for formatting
  16. Make Two websites into One
  17. Redirect Gone Command
  18. Put Keywords in heading tags
  19. Get High Quality links Back to your Site
  20. Don't Use Frames

Importance of text
The first important rule that one must know about search engines is SEARCH ENGINES ONLY INDEX TEXT.  When designing your website,  you must always keep this important rule in mind.  Search engines do not index images or flash very well so it's a good idea not to overuse them - use images and flash only when necessary and vital to your website.  Search engines are becoming smarter in their ability to index files like PDFs and captions on graphics but the general rule of thumb is to remember that search engines only index text.  To ignore this rule would seriously hurt your search engine ranking.

All images should be using the required ALT tags
Because search engines only index text, it is very important to label every single picture on your website with a text description.  This text description is call an "ALT tag" - ALT being short for alternate.  Most browsers will display the ALT tag for a picture when you pass your mouse over the picture and hold for a few seconds.  Wherever it is possible and wherever it makes sense to do so,  make ALT tags contain your main key word phrase.

Original Text
All site copy (text) should be original. When creating your website you should never duplicate text on more than one page and never copy your text from other websites. Search engines will lower your ranking if it spiders duplicated text.  Search engines rank your website based on how relevant your content is.  Therefore, it is extremely important to put content that is not only original but changed, adapted and updated every few months.  If you keep content fresh then the search engines will be more inclined to spider through your site content more frequently.  Putting original content is a "Must" if you want to be placed in the top search results.

Avoid html errors
A good tip that will make the search engines more inclined to spider your content is to ensure that all your html code is correct.  For example, make sure all tags open and close properly and that you never have empty html tags - e.g. <p></p>.  An example of a unclosed html tag would be complicated nested tables - search engines find these extremely frustrating to index and may just give up trying to read your content.

Fix all broken links
It is important to review your website links on a regular basis to make sure that none of them are broken.  Search engines do not like links that go nowhere.   If a dead end link comes back as a 404 error, the search engines qualify this page as one that does not exist, cataloging all the pages that link to it.  If the broken link to the 404 error is not fixed for a long period of time, then the 'Quality Score' of that page that links to the 404 error will be negatively affected.

Minimize the use of JavaScript
Search engines are unable to read the parts of a website that is created with  Java or Flash elements.  A Flash introduction is certainly impressive to view on the home page of a website, but a website that greets its visitors with plain old html will most likely get all the traffic 100% of the time.  So keep your JavaScript to an absolute minimum and make sure that you call them from an external .js file.

Use Standard HTML Code
Websites that use valid html code - proper coding practices - are viewed with more favor by the search engines.  Search engines must sort through your html code to read the content on the page.  The search engine crawler programs follow the html standards and they can only index your website if it also follows these html standards.  If your code contains errors, the search engines will be unable to "crawl" your site and may even lose what they've gathered so far because of the code error.

Another important tip would be to try not to use links that are not standard html (js links, image maps, dynamic links, etc.).

Keep away from popup windows
From the visitors standpoint, pop up windows are extremely annoying, distracting and a interference to whatever they are trying to do on your website.  To many they are seen as "Junk Mail" and discourage visitors from continuing to view, or from coming back to your website.  Google has gone as far as to block sites that annoy visitors with pop up windows and the newer versions of AOL have a program that kill pop ups as a service to their customers.  For this reason it is advisable to not put important information in pop up windows and avoid their use in general.

Link back to full URL
When creating links on your website that need to link back to your home page, always link to your home page using the full Website URL.  Do not link to your home page with a  link to index.html. Link to https://www.YourDomainName.com/

ALWAYS use the www in absolute links
When using absolute links, ALWAYS use the www. in the URL. You do not want the spiders thinking that you have two websites instead of one. For example; if you use the link: yourdomainname.com and the link: www.yourdomainname.com, the search engines will view these as two separate pages within your website therefore penalizing you for what it views as duplicate content.

Use Absolute URL's
Without affecting the security of the site and whenever possible use absolute URLs for links and images.

Always use external CSS style sheets
It is important to reduce the code clutter of your documents so as not to confuse the search engines.  A tip to improve your ranking is to move your page content up to as close to the start of your html code as possible.  When search engines find words near the start of your html code, they consider these words to be more important than words that are lower and buried deep within the file.  In keeping content up close to the start of your html code, it is important not to clutter your HEAD section of your document with big sections of JavaScript code or embedded Cascading Style Sheets as this cluttering of code just serves to push your content/keywords further down the html file.

Use an external CSS Style sheet for all fonts, colours and layout formats including tables. Using external CSS and JavaScript files will make your site faster and the search robots will only see your content, which is all they really care about.

Keep images sizes low
Keeping the size of your images low is a key consideration when populating your web pages.  Large graphics are a big factor in slowing down your page load time.  Not only are search engines deterred by a slow loading website, but visitors keen to view your site are no longer willing to waste their time waiting for a page to load as they are a click away from viewing a faster-loading competitor's site.

Remove old files 
Remove old files off your server that are No longer in use.  Improve the speed of your computer and free valuable space taken by your computer's history files. Sometimes as much as gigabytes of disk space can be freed up.

Avoid using tables for formatting
Avoid using tables for formatting and never using embedded tables.  Drawbacks to the nested tables is that they push down relevant content, wasting space in the top part of the code which may be all the search engine spiders are interested in.  Nested tables add more code to your document, slowing down load times and forcing the spiders to work harder to find the relevant content.  Another drawback is that these nested tables may also break the semantic connections in the text which would affect word proximity  - what looks like a properly set up text on your monitor may be widely separated when viewed in code.

Make Two websites into One
It's quite clear that search engine spiders do not like content that is duplicated on web sites, but you could be serving them duplicate content unknowingly, and it happens quite frequently.  Problems occur when the search engines index your site as Two websites: 1) https://www.YourDomainName.com/ and 2) https://YourDomainName.com/. The difference is in the www.  Also, search engine spiders find your site through various different URLs that go to the same page.  Some examples of this idea is:

  • yourdomainname.com
  • www.yourdomainname.com
  • yourdomainname.com/index.html
  • www.yourdomainname.com/index.html

The search engines all view these different URLs as a different page in your web site with content that is duplicated.  This can cause your website to be penalized with resulting lower search engine rankings until the search engines figure out eventually that these are the same page. 

You can fix this problem with a htaccess rewrite 301 rule that tells the search engines that they are the same page.

In thr htaccess file use the following code:
RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^yourdomainname.com
RewriteRule (.*) https://www.yourdomainname.com/$1

Redirect Gone Command
The htaccess file is also good for telling the search engines that a page is no more. You can use the redirect gone command for that.

Put Keywords in heading tags
Headings are weighted heavily in the search engines.  Many of the search engines are set up to search for the key words in headings more than anywhere else in your web site. When you use Head Tags, your browser shows your text bigger and makes it stand out from the rest of the text. So when you create your web site, use Head Tags and make sure your headings contain the main key word phrases for your site.

Get High Quality links Back to your Site
An important tip that will assist the search engines in finding your site is to increase your inbound links.  The search engine robots go from page to page on the web through hyperlinks, so the more number of websites that you have linking to your website pages, the higher the likelihood of the search engine robots finding your site.

After your website is created and put up on a server and registered with the search engines, go out and find as many other websites as possible, with relevant content,  that might have an interest in linking from their site to yours.  You would then send a personal email requesting a link and perhaps explain why this link would be beneficial for both web sites.  You may have to offer reciprocal links back to their sites in order to convince them. That's not a problem as you WANT lots of links from your site to other sites--that's one easily-provided free service you can give away.

Google provides a tool that is useful in checking how many web sites are linked to yours.  In the search, type link: www.yourdomain.com and see the number of links to the site. Keep in mind that link: yourdomain.com and link: https://www.yourdomain.com will all give different results. You can do this search for any domain.

Don't Use Frames
Although many search engine spiders today are able to read the content inside frames, the perspective of an SEO is that it is still a very bad idea for a couple of reasons. To refresh your memory, frames are pages that consist of individual html pages that are put together in such a way that it appears to be one page.  Frames were used by web designers to maintain a consistent and standard look among all the other pages on the website and for the purpose of navigation.  The confusion for the search engines occur because they don't reconcile the content in the frame with the page that the frame sits on - while the viewer may see the information as being together, the search engines may view it as a completely separate page. 

Another reason it is a bad idea to use frames is that some of the older browsers find it difficult or just plain impossible to read.  Don't take the chance of alienating visitors who don't happen to have the latest software/hardware combinations.  Say it with me, "Frames are Bad"!

About the Author
Anna Agnew is an author for The Computer Geek Custom Web Page Design. The Computer Geek is a web design company that prides itself in professional service at a fraction of the cost. The Computer Geek specializes in Custom Web Design, PHP & MySql and Ecommerce.

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