SEO: Where do I start?

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What are the best ways to increase your site's position in Google?

I am primarily a software developer however I tend to delve in some web development from time to time. I have recently been asked to have a look at a friends website as they are wanting to improve their position in search engine results i.e. google/yahoo etc. I am aware there is no guarentee that their position will change, however, I do know there are techniques/ways to make your website more visible to search engine spiders and to consequently improve your position in the rankings i.e. performing SEO.

Before I started looking at the SEO of the site I did the following prerequisite checks:

  • Ran the website through the W3C Markup Validator and the W3C CSS Validator services.
  • Looked through the markup code manually (check for meta tags etc)
  • Performed a thorough cross browser compatibility test.

From those checks, the following was evident:

  • No SEO has been performed on the site before.
  • The website has been developed using a visual editing tool such as dreamweaver (as it failed the validation services miserably and tables where being used everywhere!)
  • The site is fairly cross browser compatibile (only some slight issues with IE8 which are easily resolved).
  • URLs aren't very search engine friendly (e.g. index.php?page=home)

I can see right away a major improvement for SEO (or I at least think) would be to change the way the website is structured i.e. change from using dynamic pages such as "index.php?page=home" and actually having pages called "home.html". Other area's would be to add meta tags to identify keywords, and then sprinkling these keywords over the pages.

As I am a rookie in this department, could anyone give me some advice on how I could perform thorough SEO on this website?

Thanks in advance.

Answers 11

  • Here is what you need to know for SEO.

    1) Perhaps the most important thing is the canonical link tag. The canonical link tag represents an absolute path that you would like to represent your page in a search engines index to reduce redundant indexing. This is supported by MSN, Yahoo, and Google.

    2) Content is king. If your content sucks then it does not matter what you do. Fix spelling and grammar errors. Write naturally and clear. Do not try to stuff your content with search terms. If your content is valid and well written it will be respectfully indexed.

    3) Validate your markup. Just because Google's markup is trash is not an excuse for your markup to be trash. Search bots have to weed through your tags, attributes, and content. If the search bot has to struggle to make sense of your page, no matter how glorious your content is, it will screw you when it indexes your page.

    4) Focus on accessibility more than SEO when writing markup. If a blind user can read and navigate your content with ease of understanding then so will the search bot and your page will achieve superior SEO as a result.

    5) Be liberal in what you have to say, but be conservative in how you say it. Use markup that is appropriate to first structure your content and secondly describe it. Be verbose with your code and you will be well loved.

    6) SEO bots do not care how pretty, usable, or interactive your page is. Put all CSS and styles in an external stylesheet. The ONLY exception to this rule is that occasionally a display:none or visibility:hidden style should go inline on elements you wish to hide from text readers. JavaScript should always exist in an external file. There is absolutely no exception to the JavaScript rule.

    7) Don't encode the Bible, Quran, and Book of Mormon on a single page of HTML. Search bots have a limit, typically about 200k, and once that limit is surpassed they will abandon your page.

    That is all you need to know to absolutely conquer SEO. Once you have mastered SEO the next subject will be SEM, which is a bedtime story for another time.

    1. Build something worth linking to (this cannot be emphasized enough)
    2. Pretty urls (I'd go extensionless if given the choice)
    3. Titles are very important
    4. h1, h2 tags are important
    5. You might want to make a sitemap.xml file

  • Make the URLs on the site SEO-friendly.

    Meaning, not a long list of parameters like:


    Search engines rank higher these URLs, since they are more likely to point to a separate document rather than to one of countless states of a document (achievable through variation of parameters). The keywords in the URL also do matter.

    Since you mentioned the site was developed with a tool, then I have another suggestion. One more criteria that matters in SEO is the content-to-markup ratio. When using a tool to visually design a site, one often gets a clumsy markup inseminated with inline CSS styles everywhere in the document. They are often repeated. If you were to extract these inline declarations to a single style sheet and then just reference these declarations from the document, it will make the total markup shorter, thus increasing the above mentioned ratio.

    Also, for each page define what it's about, what its main topic is, what the subtopics are that are present on this page, and enclose these texts in header tags. A good rule is to have a single <h1> per page, and then <h2>...<h6> as you need them. Then a search engine will have a better clue to what this page is about.

  • @Lucifer - SEO isn't a constantly changing field, it's extremely consistent. As long as your website is useful to the end user, you will have an optimized site. That is what the search engines are looking for, not sites that show them what they 'want' their spiders to see, as such...

  • SEO is a very hard thing to get right and there are no guarantees. As @austin describes above, all those steps would help a great deal. Another way is what is known as offsite optimization - this is done through back linking to your site.

    There are lots of blogs and sites where you should easily get backlinks to your site. Most of this focus on Search Engine Optimization and brand promotions which includes moving up on your favourite search engine.

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