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The Process of Optimising a Website

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Different search engines determine rankings in different ways, so it’s worth bearing these in mind when optimising your website.

Google is the undisputed leader in search. Therefore, perhaps not surprisingly, it’s also the hardest to gain high rankings in. Google looks for natural link growth over time, tends to be biased towards informational resources, trusts old websites, and link quality is far more important than quantity.

Yahoo! is slightly different in that off-topic reciprocal linking still works, and it has a paid inclusion programme which results in an incentive to bias search results towards commercial results.

MSN is similar to Yahoo! in that its search algorithm is nowhere near as sophisticated as Google’s. As a result off-topic reciprocal linking still works, and it places a disproportionately high emphasis on page content, meaning that new sites can rank quickly in MSN.

There are 4 main steps when optimising a website, with the focus being on obtaining high rankings in Google:

Keyword Analysis

  • Identify what potential customers are likely to enter into search engines when searching for your product or service. These keywords will form the basis of the whole optimisation process. Popular generic words or phrases should be avoided initially, such as ‘advertising’. Instead, identify less popular keyword phrases such as ‘small business advertising’.
  • However, it’s no use identify long targeted keyword phrases if no one is searching for them as high rankings will still result in no website traffic. There’s currently no 100% reliable tool when it comes to assessing search volumes for particular keywords, but one of the best free tools is the SEO Book Keyword Tool – not only does it give estimated search volumes but it also provides you with a huge number of related keywords.

Technical Optimisation

  • Title Tag – this is the title of your site – as seen at the top of the browser window. All important keywords should be included here, in a format that users can understand and are encouraged to click-through. The ideal title tag is 60-80 characters in length.
  • Meta Tags – abuse of Meta tags has resulted in search engines paying significantly less attention to them compared to in the early days of the internet. However, they should not be neglected, as indicated by the fact that Google actually recommends writing different meta tags for each individual web page. Length-wise, keep meta tags to within 200 characters.
  • Site Map – always include a site map as it helps search engines to navigate and index each page in your site.
  • Internal Linking – link to each page in your site as you would if it was an external link. In other words, use keyword-rich links instead of ‘click here’ text.
  • Mirror Sites – avoid creating a website that is identical across two domain names, such as the .co.uk and .com versions. Instead, redirect users from one to the other. For example, if the .com version is the actual name of your site, if someone enters .co.uk have them redirected to the .com site, shown by .co.uk becoming .com in the address bar.
  • Website Design – flash web sites are a disaster when it comes to SEO. Search engines cannot read flash so 100% flash web sites are seen as having no content. Therefore bear this in mind – use flash sparingly, and certainly don’t include the bulk of your navigational links in flash or search engines simply won’t be able to navigate your site.

Content Optimisation

  • Web Pages – there’s a wide debate regarding the ideal number of words on a web page when viewed from a search engine ranking point of view, but it’s generally considered to be between 300 and 500 words. However, the first 100 words are the most important and as a result they should include all keywords and keyword phrases, with keyword density being 5-12%. Use a good keyword density checker to check the keyword density of your web pages. However, don’t neglect human visitors – good website copyrighting should be able to combine the two demands from search engines and human visitors.

Link Strategy

  • The basis of the internet is built on links, so it’s not surprising that search engines see links as a valuable indicator of the importance of a web site. These days the quality of incoming links is more important than quality, signaled by Google PageRank (PR).
  • As a good basis for generating one-way links submit your web site to directories – check out our list of online directories.
  • Consider purchasing links from web sites with a high page rank – going via Text-Link-Ads is the main way to do this.
  • You could write and submit articles online to increase your link popularity – see our Article Submission Guide.
  • Competitor Intelligence – see what your competitors are doing. If they have high rankings what incoming links do they have? Those websites may also be interested in adding your link. Try out this useful link analysis tool.

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