Google‘s Information for Webmasters does a terrific job of explaining what are proper “SEO Ethical Practices”.
* Unfortunately, the marketplace today is still littered with many MANY unscrupulous search engine optimization firms that claim to be SEO experts in the field. During my day-to-day job as an SEO, I often encounter so-called search engine marketing companies, SEO firms or individuals that always promise you the world but fail to deliver any worthwhile results or any serious ROI.
They often use forbidden “spam” techniques by the search engines such as invisible text, invisible links, one-pixel links, doorway or gateway pages… etc. You would think that after all these years they would have learned something worthwhile, but apparently such is not the case for many of them. Let’s not generalize here: most SEO firms make a great job at professionally positioning a website in the major search engines and provide a valuable service to the business community.
However, some of the SEO “experts” don’t, and these are the ones you have to watch out for. For the sake of clarity, this article will explain the right and “acceptable” techniques that are recommended by the major search engines and these are the techniques that will make your site stand out from your competitors– without risking of getting your site penalized or banned altogether. Beware of people that promise you otherwise.
The proper use of the title tag
Correct usage of the title tag is as important as ever. More and more today, the major search engines give a tremendous weighting factor to the title tag. On top of informing your site visitors what the page is all about, it also helps the search engines get a better understanding of the topic of that page and what it should expect to see on it.
What’s more, the title tag is a great place to write that important keyword or key phrase that you are optimizing that page for! If your page’s main topic is “blue widgets”, then you should call the title tag Blue Widgets. As is usually the case with a lot of things, in SEO, keeping things as simple as possible usually will go a long way too.
If you are using a W3C standards-compliant HTML editor as it is strongly recommended, the TITLE tag is always located under the HEAD tag and that is where you need to write it, along with your main keyword or key phrase. Always write your title between the tags.
The proper use of the description tag
When you do a search on “Google”, after you have seen the title of the page, you will see a description, usually of only a line or two that will further inform you of what to expect from that page. To be effective, always write a short but descriptive sentence or two in your descriptive tag. It is also a good idea to use at least once your main keyword or key phrase, as some search engines still look at the contents of some of the META tags (the description tag is part of the meta tags).
On a W3C standards-compliant HTML editor, the description tag is always located under the TITLE tag. Here is how it looks:
<meta name="description" content="Your descriptive text goes here">
The proper use of the keywords tag
In the early days of the Internet, placing your keyword phrases in the meta keywords tag would almost be a certain recipe to success. However, due to such increasing abuse and spam techniques used by many unscrupulous Webmasters and site owners, today the only search engine that still looks at them is Inktomi. Since it only takes a minute or two to write them, you might as well do, since it won’t hurt your rankings. Just don’t spend too much time on them or over-emphasize their importance, as they are almost dead.
On a W3C standards-compliant HTML editor, the keywords tag is always located under the descriptive tag. Here is how it looks:
<meta name="keywords" content="Your main keywords go here">
The proper use of the H1, H2 and H3 tags
After the TITLE tag, if there is one place where the search engines will reward you, it is with the use of the H1 and H2 tags. Simply put, H1 and H2 tags are your main headers when you need to place a headline or you simply need to write the main
topic of that page that your viewers will read. Placing that headline in bold (H1 and H2 tags are ALWAYS in bold) H1 and H2 tags will signal the search engines that whatever is in there is real important.
Almost invariably, I always make strong use of H1’s and H2’s and the sites I optimize usually rank very well in the major search engines.
Good body text and keyword-rich marketing copy
In real estate, it is “Location, Location, Location”. In SEO, it is “Content, Content, Content”. The more text and the more content you have on a given page, the more the search engines will see all that content and the more your page will rank high. It’s just as simple as that. Beware of anybody that tells you differently.
For that reason, stay away from Flash technology or site designs that make heavy use of graphics in any way. Always remember that all search engines are “picture blind” and cannot see any photographs, pictures or graphics on any of your pages!
Write good copy, keyword-rich sales copy that will read well, both to your site visitors AND the search engines. The more content you have, the better.
The proper use of a sitemap, helping your users
The sitemap is still the SE’s “best friend”. When designing your sitemap, always make certain that all your files are in it and that they are all linked to that sitemap. Search engines today are programmed to encounter sitemaps “by default” and if you have one, you are increasing your chances that all your pages will be spidered (or crawled) by the search engines.
Ideally, all your web site’s files are supposed to be in the search engine’s database, for the best visibility on the Web. The proper use of a sitemap will greatly increase that visibility. Also, you should always call that filename sitemap.html (all in one name- avoid using a hyphen or underscore). Also, be sure to link your sitemap to your homepage.
Submitting once to the major search engines
Never submit your site more than once to the search engines. Today, most modern search engines such as Google, AltaVista and many more have automated crawlers (or spiders) that visit the Web and index new or updated files and then include them in their databases. Once your site is launched, you can submit it once to Google using their submit function at: http://www.google.com/addurl.html
It is also recommended that you include your site to the Open Directory Project (ODP) or DMOZ. Google uses that directory for its main index of categories and it will usually benefit your site to be listed in it. The ODP is a free directory.
The proper use of links to your inward pages
One important technique that some Webmasters still neglect to follow is the use of inter-linking techniques used throughout your site. Your inner pages are as important as your homepage or your products or services pages. All of these pages can be used as legitimate “doorway” pages that the search engines will like to see and will usually reward you for using them.
If you have a page on black widgets, it should also be linked to your green and red widgets pages too, as they are all related together. Following these simple techniques will usually give you some “good mileage” as far as visibility is concerned.
The proper use of text links, recommended over graphics links
If at all possible, you should always use text links over graphics or Java-based links that the search engines cannot see. If you really have to use graphics or Java-based hyperlinks to the rest of your site, make sure you include a “bottom-of-page” footer text link menu that the search engines will love and properly index your page in their databases.
If you have a large site that is composed of many sections, divide all those sections into smaller ones, using “families” of footer menus that will be different from one section to another. It’s a bit more work, but you are significantly increasing your chances that the engines will reward your site in the rankings.
Conclusion As I have said so many times before, search engine optimization and positioning is a science as well as an art. What really counts are the results you will get from your efforts. If you carefully implement all the tips and techniques that are in this article, your website should rank well in the search engines and your Web-based business should be a success.
* = Article by Serge Thibodeau