Feb 9, 2010

10 Rules To Follow When Optimizing Your Website

In this installment of my “Top Ten” tips to better Search Engine Optimization, I’ll be reviewing “10 Things to Avoid When Optimizing Your Website”.

SEO isn’t easy! Let’s just call it what it is, Hard and Time Consuming. A major mistake that a lot of people make, in an attempt to make things easier, is looking for short cuts to optimize their website. Many of these shortcuts provide short-lived result, but can harm your rankings in the long run (or even get you black-listed from search engines!). This is where I like to refer to a couple of old sayings to help remind people to stay focused:

–          “If it’s worth doing… It’s worth doing right!”

–          … and, “If it’s too good to be true… then it probably is!”

Keep your eyes on the prize folks! Don’t let other people take advantage of you and your business. Avoid bad neighborhoods, link exchanges and farms, don’t keyword stuff and… well… just keep reading, and Good Luck!

1. Avoid Bad Neighborhoods

Basically, a bad neighborhood is a website that uses any unethical techniques to help increase their ranking in search engines in general. So don’t link to websites that utilize any of the tactics that I’ll be listing in this article, and don’t let them link to you.

Caveat lector: While you have control over who you link to, it is often difficult to get your site removed from a link farm if it has simply added your site on its own. If you find that your website has been added to a directory of questionable character, check to see if there is a “Remove Link” button, or try sending an email to the site owner. Beyond these options, your choices become much more expensive and time-consuming.

2. Don’t Use Link Exchanges or Farms

You may receive an e-mail from another company asking if you will provide a link to their website in “exchange” for them providing a link to yours. Nine times out of ten this is a “Link Exchange,” and it provides no purpose except to try and increase the other site’s Page Rank and Link Popularity. Unless the other site has relevancy to yours, this is deceiving and malicious in intent.

Link Farms have the same purpose only on a greater scale. Links farms target companies with relevant content (real estate agent websites are a big user of this technique), and ask them to include a list of a number of other “out of state” companies that are generally in the same field. In return all of those companies will return a link to you giving you multiple links (farm links) from a number of different websites with relevant content. There was a time when this could work, but that was long ago (in a time far, far, away). This technique is viewed as deceiving and with malicious intent.

3. Don’t Keyword Stuff

Keyword Stuffing is self explanatory, but for those of you that are new to SEO… let me explain further. Keywords are words that you will expect people to find your site with when searching with a search engine. For example, if you have a website that is selling “chocolate truffles” you don’t want “chocolate truffles” to appear in every other sentence. That is Keyword Stuffing… don’t do it!

4. Don’t Use Cloaking Techniques and Doorway Pages

Cloaking and Doorway Pages are similar, but I’ll attempt to explain, in a nutshell, what they do:

–  Doorway Pages… are “keyword stuffed” pages that are set to redirect to another page. This other page is the real page that is meant to be seen, but is poorly optimized. What happens is that the search engines end up indexing the keyword stuffed page. Before you go thinking this is a great idea let me explain that search engines are “hip” to this and have been for years now, although they may sometimes not catch it right away they eventually will and when that time comes around you can expect to be banned from their index. (Note that Doorway Pages are NOT Landing Pages.)

–  Cloaking… is when your website detects who is visiting your website (search engine bot or real person) by the IP address. If your site detects the IP to be a search engine bot then it redirects it to a keyword stuffed page. Otherwise it will take the real person to the real home page of the website. Again… once you get caught you can count on being dropped from that search engines index.

5. Don’t Use the Same “Title” and “META” tags throughout your Website

When you are developing your website hierarchy it should be obvious that each page will tackle a different topic. Therefore it should go without saying that your Title and META tags should be unique from the others across the site as well. Unfortunately this is a big oversight that a lot of people make, because they don’t want to be bothered with the tedious task of keyword research for every page, and then developing more copy for the META description tag as well as the perfect Title Tag and META keywords tag. Well I’m here to tell you folks… it’s worth the time. But don’t make the mistake of using this as a place for keyword stuffing… keep the stuffing for the turkey and use these places to lay down your targeted keywords to help search engines better index your website’s pages.

6. Don’t Use Hidden Text

Ummm… Don’t use hidden text. What’s hidden text? Hidden text is when you put text somewhere on your website that is the same (or similar) color as the background color it’s sitting on top of. For example you place white text over a white background. Why not you say? Well think about it… you won’t be able to read it because it’s white on white. So you can’t read it, but guess what… the search engines can. So what some people do is use this technique to keyword stuff thinking that because visitors can’t see it then it must be ok. Right? Wrong! Once again the search engines are well aware of this Black Hat Technique and it’s only a matter of time until they find out if you are doing it.

7. Don’t Use Frames

Yeah… Don’t use Frames! For those of you still living in the 90’s, don’t you think it’s time to update that website? There are many reasons not to use Frames, but I only need one. Search Engines have trouble indexing pages with Frames… That’s enough for me… Don’t use Frames!

8. Don’t Forget to Optimize Your Images

Make sure to optimize all of your images for your website. One of the factors that search engines take into consideration is the overall download speed of you website. One of the main contributing factors to this is the size of your photos. There was a time in web design that anything over 30k was considered suicide, but nowadays with faster internet connections it’s considered great to be under 200k (80 – 150K is optimal).

9. Don’t Forget to Check the Download Speed of Your Finished Site

Hey! Check your download speed to make sure you are within the limits that you pre-determined for yourself. There are many free tools available on the web to test this, just Google “website speed test” and pick one. This isn’t simply courtesy for your potential website visitors (which is a good enough reason to me), but search engines also penalize web pages with excessively large file sizes and slow download speeds.

10. Don’t Believe Everything You Read About SEO…Except for this of course!

No, really. Everything I have listed here are things that need to be avoided at all costs if you want your website to rank high in the SERPs. But don’t just take my word for it. Do some research and find out for yourself. What you’ll find is that there is a lot of information out there that people will claim helps you, but until you try them it’s hard to know if they’re right or wrong, “Black Hat” or “White Hat”. That’s where NetSource Technologies comes in to play.

NetSource has spent years developing “White Hat” procedures that will help your websites reach specifically targeted audiences on the internet. Audiences who are relevant to your products and services will always bring your website a higher ROI. So if you find that Search Engine Optimization is a little too much for you to grasp, let our experts at NetSource Technologies Inc., take care of it for you and sit back and watch your ROI increase.

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