Smyrl.Biz Web Consultants, Jacksonville / Midland, Texas

         SEO:  Search Engine Optimization

Search engines come and go.  The dominate one of today may be a "has been" tomorrow.  The rules of search engine optimization remain in a constant state of flux.  Currently the dominant search engine is Google.  It provides search results for  AOL, and Alexa.  The balance of power is changing.  In 2004 with Yahoo breaking ranks with Google the expectations are for  Google/AOL  alliance to have about 50% of the market with Yahoo/MSN just slightly less. 

By employing sound authoring practices web designers should be able to rank well with all search engines.  Spamming techniques may work in the short term but do not guarantee stable positions in SERPs and may result in your site being dropped from search engine listings.

Google's algorithm attempts to compensate for sites employing the following types of "black hat" SEO techniques: sites providing duplicate content, sites with hidden text, sites employing  cloaking, sites utilizing doorway pages, and sites that participate in link farms.

This said the following ideas are currently widely used.

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If you view the source of many web pages you will find what are called metatags appearing in the head of the HTML code..  These tags help some search engines index your pages.  The use of metatags is passing but most web designers still include them. The two used most often are the meta keyword tag and the meta description tag.

Keyword Tag

The keyword tag is formatted as follows:

<meta name="keywords"
content="keyword phrase 1, keyword phrase 2, keyword phrase 3">

Note the keyword phrases are separated by commas.  Don't go overboard listing keyword phrases.  Three or four should be adequate. Some advocate using page title as one on your keyword phrases.  Don't be a lazy keyword writer.  Don't use same keywords on all pages. Make keywords specific to page

The more important of the tags is the description tag.

Description Tag

<meta name="description"
content="page description goes here">

It is recommended that the description tag contain no more than 25 words and adequately describe the page.

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Title Tag

An extremely important off screen element is the page title. It is formatted as follows

<title>Title of page goes here</title>

Many WYSIWYG editors let you automatically add the title in a fill in the blank fashion at the time you save your page.  This together with your description tag are extremely important for indexing purposes. Writing good descriptive titles is a must. The page title should be no more than 8 words.

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Alt Tag for Images

The alt tag for images allows you to describe the image for the visually impaired or for viewers using  text only browsers.  This tag  has been misused as a means to add keywords to a web page.  Currently use this tag carefully to accurately describe images on page.

<img border="0" src="images/banner2.jpg" alt="description of image" width="799" height="99">

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Title Tag for Links

The title tag for links allows you to input the the title of the page to which you are linking.  It is formatted as follows.

<a href="portfolio.htm" title="title of page goes here">

There is debate whether or not this tag is useful for SEO. 

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Obtaining meaningful links from reputable sites

Once your page is online it is time to to find meaningful links to your site. Start by listing your site with the open directory and any other directories that are appropriate.  If your site publicizes a bed and breakfast seek links from the chamber of commerce in the town or area in which you are located.  There are many potential sites that have a reasonably link to you.  Avoid reciprocal linking schemes and link farms.  They may result in your site being penalized by search engines. 

Unscrupulous linking scams abound.  Some sites hide their links from search engines using their robots.txt files.  Others use javascript links which some search engines can not follow.  Others bury them so deep search engines do not normally spider.

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Use of Heading Tags and Terms in Bold

Search engines scan a page much as we visually scan a page looking for the main ideas presented. The main ideas are normally noted in the headings and in bold type face.  These tags help identify the main points on the page both to search engines and the viewer.

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Keyword Phrases

Accepted SEO practice has been to repeat each keyword phrase three or four times in the text on 250 word page and target no more than three keyword phrases per page. In my experience if you design a site to meet the needs of your client the site will rank well for the keyword phrases you are targeting

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Link Text

One of the more recent SEO techniques involves the use of meaningful link text (usually main keyword phrase) to describe the site to which you are liking. Example: Typically the link text used to link to a site has been the URL of that site.  If I wanted to link to the Prospectus for Midland Arts Association's Spring Show meaningful link text I might is  Midland Arts Association's Spring Prospectus.  Since a complete page description is not aesthetically pleasing for header or footer links, use of the title tag to help better describe the link.

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Site Maps

Always include a site map which is liked from your homepage.  This feature is not as much for viewers but for search engines.  A site map makes it easy for search engines to find your interior pages.

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PDF Files

PDF files are useful for certain purposes such as sharing patterns etc.   Since PDF files load so slowly and scroll so slowly make sure that they are used judiciously.

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SEO Research

SEO is a constantly changing field.  From time to time Smyrl.Biz participates in research projects.  Our last research project was an attempt to assist in Celaic Disease Research and further knowledge regarding SEO. The team headed by Alek, did a job in their last two contests and brought in $6141.50 for the University of Maryland to use in Celiac research.

Signature Link Test

The current SEO research project went live May 15th.  It consisted of placing a signature link with meaningless phrase on a popular forum.  This signature link links to a page with the test phrase for the title. The page was uploaded to server at 8:49 p.m., May 15..  By  9:24 a.m., May 18th  test phrase was indexed in Yahoo.and MSN but not Google.  MSN shows a cache date of May 17th. Yahoo yet to show a cache date. Update 1: By 10:00 a.m., May 19th, Yahoo has the page cached. but Google still has not picked up the page. Update 2: On may 20th found signature listing  when searching Google but yet to find page indexed.

  Indexed Cached Disappeared from index Disappeared from cache
MSN 9:24 a.m., May 18 9:24 a.m., May 18 5:00 p.m., May 22  
Yahoo 9:24 a.m., May 18 10:00 a.m., May 19   5:00 p.m, May 22

With MSN it disappeared from index May 22 but was back in by May 24th.  With Yahoo it disappears and reappears in cache.  It was cached on 23, absent on 24th. 

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By all means avoid shady SEO techniques. These include keyword spamming, invisible text and links, and clocking.

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