SEO According to Google's Webmaster Guidelines

Posted onThursday, 29 July 2010

Tagged withSEOGoogle

by Mark Daoust

Every SEO expert has their own set of rules as to how they believe Google ranks websites. Most of the time, these rules tend to vary slightly from one another. But what does Google tell us? Fortunately they gave us all the guidelines we need. This article will look at these guidelines in depth.

Make a site with a clear hierarchy and text links. Every page should be reachable from at least one static text link.

Your website's navigation is the foundation of your entire website. It binds all the pages together into a common theme and provides a clear vision to your website visitors.

Clear navigation is extremely important for search engine spiders. Spiders want to find as many pages on your website as possible. However, if your navigation is confusing, or worse, incomplete, search engine spiders will not discover your entire website.

It is also important to remember that search engines learn what a page is about partially by the text used to link to that page. In this regard, the anchor text you use in your navigation can help you rank better for your targetted keywords. This is why Google also heavily recommends that you use text links on your website.

Offer a site map to your users with links that point to the important parts of your site. If the site map is larger than 100 or so links, you may want to break the site map into separate pages.

Having a sitemap is crucially important. When a spider visits your website one of the first things it will look for is a file called sitemap. Search engine spiders have millions of pages to visit in a very short amount of time, they want to work as effeciently as possible. A sitemap will allow the spider to know what pages are most important to your visitors, and therefore, the most important to the search engines.

Even if you don't have a sitemap you can still get your pages indexed by Google if you have a solid navigation system. Placing a sitemap on your website will simply make life easier on the spider, which is something you should strive for.

Create a useful, information-rich site, and write pages that clearly and accurately describe your content.

You've certainly heard everyone talk about how content is king. It is important to note, however, that not just any content is king...unique content is king.

Undoubtedly you have heard experts touting hundreds of sources for free content, from RSS to free reprint articles. Although RSS and free reprint articles can be very useful for your website, nothing will ever replace content that is developed by yourself or your company.

It is said that nearly half of all searches performed on a daily basis include combination of words that have never been searched on before. If users are searching using unique combinations of words, what are the search engines looking for?

Of course, RSS and free reprint articles are useful, especially if the information in the articles or feed is pertinent to the subject matter of your website. You should not be afraid to use free reprint articles or RSS feeds (in fact you probably should us them), but you should also be sure to have a significant amount of unique content on your site as well.

Try to use text instead of images to display important names, content, or links. The Google crawler doesn't recognize text contained in images.

This is an extremely important point that many, many website owners tend to ignore. They miss great opportunities to place heavy hitting keywords in great spots within their website. Instead, they place an image in that spot solely for the purpose of appearance.

Fortunately the web and most browsers have adapted CSS. With CSS you can format the style of your links and present important text in a stylish manner. Using CSS you can also present an image to your visitors while keeping important text in your code for the search engines.

Take as an example the code below:

<style>
h1 {
height: 50px;
background: url(images/logo.jpg) no-repeat left;
}

h1 span {
display: none;
}
</style>

<h1><span>Some Important Keyword</span></h1>

Obviously the above code is simplified for the sake of this example. However, the general concept is one that is being used more and more in well-designed websites. Search engines read HTML code. When they read this HTML code they will see the text inside of the <h1> tags and realize that these are important words for this site. Visitors will just see the background image, which should be your logo.

This is just one way CSS can be used to keep your site looking nice while providing the search engines a powerful, well laid-out map of what keywords are important for your webiste.

Make sure that your TITLE and ALT tags are descriptive and accurate.

The title tag is the single most important part of SEO that you can optimize. The title tag is included in the head portion of every HTML page. The tag is intended to tell your visitors and the search engine what the subject of that specific page is.

Many website owners make a number of mistakes with their title tag. Many times they'll stuff the title with a list of keywords. Other times they will not change the title from page to page. All of these things will hurt your rankings and drive the search engines away from your website.

A good title tag should be relatively short and highly descriptive. It should contain your most important keywords for that page, and it should make sense to a human reader.

If you use images on your website, you should always include an alt tag. Below is an example of an alt tag:

<img src="path/to/image.jpg" alt="Name of the Image" />

When chosing your alt tags you should try to be descriptive and brief of the image. Alt tags are not an opportunity to stuff your page with your targeted keywords. Search engines are smart enough to know when a website owner is trying to take advantage of image alt tags.

Of course, using CSS, it is possible to design a good looking website without using any images.

Check for broken links and correct HTML.

This is a simple step to take, and extremely important. This goes back to the concept that we want to make life easier on the search engine spiders. If a spider comes across a website with broken links it may think that your website is incomplete. Worse yet, it may consider your website not worth visiting as it wastes the spider's time.

Fortunately there are several link checkers available. You can use the Site Reference site link checker.

Correct HTML can be a little more difficult, especially if you use an HTML editor such as FrontPage and do not know HTML. As the owner of a website, however, you should take the time and effort to make sure the site is written in valid HTML. This will make it easier for a spider to find out what your site is really about.

To validate your website, visit the World Wide Web Consortium's HTML Validator. If you have any mistakes in your HTML, the validator will tell you what they are and what you need to do to correct them.

If you decide to use dynamic pages (i.e., the URL contains a '?' character), be aware that not every search engine spider crawls dynamic pages as well as static pages. It helps to keep the parameters short and the number of them few.

The larger a website gets, the greater the need for it to get some sort of content management system. If you own a shopping based website or a content based website that generates its pages dynamically, you should be aware of the implications to the search engines. Dynamic websites often employ the use of query strings. Below is an example of a query string:

http://www.somesite.com/index.php?query_string=this-is-the-query-string

Query strings can employ a wide range of characters which make it difficult for search engines to spider your website. They are able to spider sites with simple query strings, however, it is generally not a good idea to do so.

You can easily change your website URL's to be search friendly by using a tool called Apache Mod_Rewrite. Using Mod_Rewrite you can turn a URL from looking like this:

http://www.somesite.com/index.php?query_string=2932&name=some+name

to this:

http://www.somesite.com/2932/some-name.html

Conclusion

Most SEO experts have their own set of rules to rank well in the search engines. If you travel from one SEO to another you will find that they differ slightly in what they believe should be emphasized in your SEO strategy. Even though they may all have their differences, the most basic and most important aspects of quality SEO are all the same.

Fortunately, Google provides us with these rules.

SEO According to Google's Webmaster Guidelines was written by Mark Daoust, the owner of Site-Reference.

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Article found at Site Reference