Search Engines

Search Engines Continued

I continue to stand by all I said in a previous post on the field of “Search Engine Optimization” and I have a few posts to link to that back up what I said:

Chris Coyier’s Thoughts on SEO podcast

This rambles on for 40 minutes and much of it will only be relevant to web designers who understand what he’s talking about. And the links below are from his post but with some comments from me.

Common-Sense SEO Checklist

Also from Chris, an older post but quite relevant

Derek Powazek on Spammers, Evildoers and Opportunists

[pullquote]Make something great. Tell people about it. Do it again.[/pullquote]

This is a real rant and may offend some (with language and/or anti-SEO arguments) but I agree with all of it. Most of all, I agree with his “one true way” to get good web traffic: “Make something great. Tell people about it. Do it again.” That really is the key. People are looking for quality content. Deliver it and they will come to you and tell other people to go to you. Also worth reading (but perhaps more rant-like) are his follow-ups: here and here

There are some simple “best practices” for web designers to do to help the search engines rank a web site but the bottom line is that on the web, the three most important things are: CONTENT, CONTENT, and CONTENT.

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Why isn’t my site showing up in a Google search?

OK, not my site. My site shows up well. Do a search for “photographer Camden Maine” to find out.

A friend asked why her site wasn’t showing up in a Google search. The first thing to ask about this is “What search terms were you using?” She was using the terms that best summed up what she does (let’s say it’s “widget design”), plus “Maine” which is where she is. And she was nowhere in Google’s results, which is bad.

“Search Engine Optimization” is a whole field, separate from web design, and I don’t claim to be an expert. The basic steps as I understand and practice them are:

1. figure out your keywords

What is some stranger who does not know your name or business name typing into Google to find you? This will include all permutations of your products or services and possibly your geographic location. So it might be “Maine widget design” but there are bound to be other words that will lead those customers to you.

2. sprinkle said keywords on your website

Anywhere will do, at least it’s better than not having them there. But to do it right, put them in a. the page title and b. the h1 tag. Then maybe here and there in other places. More than anything, make sure that the page you are sprinkling with these keywords is actually ABOUT those keywords. Don’t sprinkle “lobster” on a page about boatbuilding. Avoid using images that are “pictures of words” as Google doesn’t recognize them. This bears repeating and emphasizing: those pages that are completely made up of pictures (even if they look like words to human eyes) cannot really be seen by Google. Put TEXT on your pages and make sure it’s relevant to searches. Most of this page is text but the logo at the top ( photography and web design in Maine) is an image, just pixels, and Google doesn’t really see it.

3. get people to link to you

Google considers incoming links hugely important, because a link is essentially a recommendation from someone.

4. wait

It’s hard but waiting is important several reasons. Google isn’t automatic, it takes time. And Google prefers sites that have a track record, so the longer a site’s been around, the better it ranks. Lots of sites do well largely because they’ve been around for years (that’s certainly the case with my site, at least in part; see below for another reason).

5. change your site often

Google likes fresh content, so keep changing things on a regular basis. This is one reason why blogging has exploded; it gives you fresh content as often as you feel like writing something.

6. check your ranking and adjust

Go back to number 1 and figure out what’s working or not working. Add or delete keywords, make sure your page is actually about the things it claims (in the title and h1) that it’s about.

There’s a LOT more to it than that but this is a beginning. Most people who have web sites don’t even think about this and it’s to their detriment.

The crucial thing to know about Google searches is: they are trying to deliver the most relevant page every time. So they like pages that are really about what they say they’re about. Don’t try to fool Google. Just try to describe the contents of the page as clearly as possible and make the content as satisfying for the end user as possible.

Perhaps most important of all: Deliver content that is fascinating, important and relevant. Do that and web surfers will like your pages and then Google will send more of them your way. (This, by the way, is another reason my site does well in search engines: I offer more than just a sales pitch. I also have the Maine Photographers’ Directory, and have had it for years. If you’re looking for a photographer in Maine, Google will show you that page because a. it’s been around a while, b. it has lots of content, c. lots of people have linked to it.)

In real estate, the three most important things are: location, location, location.

On the web, it’s: content, content, content.

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