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Search Engine Optimization : SEO BOOK.

Chapter 3

Making Your Site Useful and Telling People about it

It's important to create Web pages that search engines will read and index, pages that, will rank well in the search results for the keywords that are important to you.But if you are going to build a Web site, you need to step back and start at an even earlier stage - you need to figure out what purpose the site should serve and how it can accomplish that purpose. Consider this: The more useful your site is, the greater the chance of success. The more that people talk about your site, the more likely it is that journalists write about it, the more likely it is to be mentioned on radio or TV, the more people will link to it from their Web sites. Search Engines marketing and non search engine marketing are both important because either form of Web site search engine marketing are both important because either form of Website promotion can lead to more links pointing to your site.

The Secret but Essential Rule of Web Success

Simple rule to success on the Web:

Make Your Site Useful and Then Tell People about it

It's not so complicated. Figure out how your site can be useful to people and then find as many ways as possible tolet people know about it. You will use the search engines but you should be using other methods too. Search Engines are not the only way to get people to your site. In fact many Web sites have succeeded without using the search engines as their primary method of attracting visitors to the site. It's unlikely that search engines were a large factor in Amazon's success - Amazon grew rapidly mainly because of the enormous press attention it received, beginning in 1994. Many companies have done nothing or very little to promote themselves through the search engines, yet they still turn up at the top when you search for their products or services. Why? Because their other promotions have also helped to push them higher in the search engines, by creating thousands, even tens or hundreds of thousands, of links to them around the Internet.

The Evolving "Secret"

Over the last decade, a number of popular ideas about what makes a successful Web site have been bandied around, and all were wrong to some degree. Here are some of those secrets to successful Web sites:

· Links : When the Web began booming in 1994, it was all about links. You would hear in the press that the secret to a successful   Web sites was linking to other sites.
· Cool : Then people started saying that the secret of success was to make your site cool. Cool sites were more entertaining and   more likely to attract repeat visitors.
· Community : Then people started talking about community; that's right, that's the secret ! The secret to a successful Web site was   creating a community where people could meet and chat with each other.
· Content : Then , around 2000,people discovered that the secret was content. By putting more stuff, particulary textual information   on your site, you could be more successful.
  Specific one-size-fits-all secrets to success never make sense. The most harmful of the preceding ideas was that your site had to   be cool. This idea led to the expenditure of billions of dollars on useless but pretty Web sites, most of which have been   disappeared. Some of the it's all about cool crowd is still in the Web business and still convincing businesses to spend money on   ridiculous, wasteful things such as Flash intros for their Web sites. 

The Real Secret Is….

Your Web site has to be useful. The problem with the secrets I just mentioned is that they are too specific, leading people to build sites that were in many cases inappropriate. Sure, links are important to Yahoo! But they are much less so to the vast majority of Web sites. If you own an entertainment site, you may want to make it cool and entertaining. Certainly community can be an effective tool, but not every site has to have it. Content is very important, too - especially from a search engine perspective - but many successful Web sites don't have much content.
When you are planning your Web site, thing about what kinds of folks you want to attract to the site. Then try to come up with ideas about what features and information might be useful to them. Your site may end up with a lot of link pages, providing a directory of sorts for people in your industry. O may be you really need a cool and entertaining site. Or perhaps you decide to use discussion groups and chat rooms as a way to build community and pull the crowds into your site; Or may be you decide to create a huge repository of information to attract a particular type of customer to your site. May be you do all these things. But the important first step is to think about what you can do to make your site more useful.

A Bias For Content

Content is a special case. The Web's search engines are biased toward ranking content heavy Web sites well for a couple of reasons:
· Search Engines were originally academic research tools designed to find text information. Search engines mostly index text….That   is content.
· Search Engines need something to base their judgements on. When you type a search term into a search engine, the search    engine looks for the words you provided. So a web site built with few words is at a disadvantage right from the start.
   Search engines do have other criteria for deciding if a Web site matches a particular search, most notably the number and type of    links pointing to the site. But search engines do have a huge bias toward textual content. This bias is often a real problem. The    real world simply doesn't work in the manner in which the search engines see it.You cant ignore the fact that search engines like    content. However, you can compete other ways. One of the most important ways is getting links from other sites. Search engines    like to see links on other sites pointing to your site. Sites that have hundreds, even thousands, of other sites linking to them often    rank well. But they still need at least some content for the search engines to index. And the best situation is lots of useful content    with lots of incoming links.

Making Your site Work Well

Many of the rules of good site design just happen to match what search engines like. And many of the cool tricks that designers love cause problems with the search engines. So here comes the review of a few tips for good site design that will help both your site visitors and the search engines work with your site.

Limit The Use of MultiMedia
Most multimedia used on the Web is pointless because it rarely serves a useful pupose to the visitor. It's there because Web designers enjoy working with it and because many people are still stuck in the old "You have got to be cool" mindset. Look at the world's most successful Web sites, and you will find that they rarely use multimedia - Flash Animations and Video, clean, black text on white background, with lots of text and very little in the way of animations, video or sound. While Yahoo! Or Google, too, or or eBay - they're not cool; they just get the job done.You can employ multimedia on a web site in some useful ways. I think it makes a lot of sense to see Flash, for instance, to create demos and presentations. Flash intros are almost always pointless, and search engines don't like them because intros don't provide indexable content.

Use Text, Not Graphics
A surprising number of Web sites use graphics to place text onto pages. Web designers often employ this techniques so that all browsers can view their carefully chosen fonts.

Use ALT Text
When you place images in a Web page, it's a good idea to include ALT attribute text. The ALT attribute in an IMG tag was originally intended to provide a description of an image for people using text-based browsers, or browsers that are capable of displaying images but have the image display turned off. Few people browse without images turned on these days. Alt text can also be used by browsers designed for the blind, which read the text out loud.
Search Engines sometimes use the ALT text as one more clue about the page's subject matter. It's not as important as it used to be, but it cant hurt. Remember to put keywords in the ALT attribute, like this:
<IMG SRC="rodent.gif" WIDTH="500" HEIGHT="100" ALT="Rodent Racing Scores">

Don't Be Too Clever
Try not to be clever. From a usability standpoint, the problem is that not all browser types works the same; they have different bugs and handle technical tricks differently. If you are always working with the very latest Web-development technology, more of your visitors are likely to run into problems. Cool technology often confuses the search engines, too. Google and other search engines like simple. The more complicated your web pages are, the harder it is for search engines to read and categorize them. You must strike a compromise between employing all the latest Web-design technology and tools and ensuring the search engines can read your pages. From a search engine perspective, one step behind probably isn't enough!

Don't Be Cute
Some sites do everything they can to be cute. The Coca-Cola site was a classic example of this a few years ago, Though it finally got the message and changed. The site had icons labled Tour de Jour, Mind Candy, Curvy Canvas, Netalogue, and so on. What do these things mean? Who knows? Certainly not the site visitor. This sort of deranged Web design is far less common now than it used to be, but you still see it occasionally - particularly in sites designed by hip Web design firms. One incredibly irritating technique is the hidden navigation structure. The main page contains a large image with hotspots on it. But it's unclear where the hotspots are, or what they link to, until you point at the image and move the mouse around. This strikes me as the Web-design equivalent of removing the numbers from the front of the homes in a neighborhood. Sweet and sickly cuteness doesn't help your site visitors find their way around and almost certainly hurts with the search engines.

Avoid Frames
Framed Web sites were very popular a few years ago; fortunately they have fallen out of favor to a great degree. From a usability standpoint, there is nothing wrong with frames. But there are a few reasons why they are less prevalent today.
· Many designers misused frames, making their sites hard to navigate. Often designers put too many frames into a browser window   because they designed on large screens with high resolutions and forgot about the average Joe working with a small screen and   low resolution.
· Search Engines don't handle frames well.
  A few situations are there in which you can't use some other mechanism rather than frames, so I advise you to stay away from   them.

Make It Easy To Move Around
Web designing is constantly getting better, but it still surprises that designers sometimes make it difficult for visitors to move around a Web site. Think carefully about how your site is structured:
· Does it make sense from a visitor's standpoint?
· Can visitors find what they need quickly?
· Do you have dangling pages - pages where a visitor can't find a link to get back into your main site?
  Search Engines don't like dangling pages, and consider what happens if someone on another site links directly to the page -   visitors can get to the page but not to the rest of your site. Step into your target visitors' shoes and thin what they would want on   arriving at your site. Can your visitors get where they are going quickly and easily? If they can't, you are probably also making it   hard for search engines to find their way around.

Provide Different Ways to Find Things
People think differently, so you need to provide them with numerous avenues for finding their way around your site. And by doing so, you are also giving more information to search engines and ensuring that search can navigate your site easily.Here are some different navigational systems that can be added to the site:
· Sitemap : This is the page with links to the different areas of the site or in the small sites to the every page in the site.
· Table of Contents or Index Page : You can sort page thematically or alphabetically.
· Navigation Bars.
· Navigation Text Links.
 One technique can be used is to add simple text near the top, rather than the bottom of the page. Users with slow connections see  these links quickly, and search engines are sure to find them.

Use Long Link Text
It's proven fact that Web users like ling link text - links that are more that just a single word, but that actually describe where the link takes you if you click on it. Usability testing shows that long link text makes it much easier for visitors to find their way around a site. A long link provides more information to visitors about where a link will take them. Long links that explain what the referenced page is about are a great thing not only for visitors but also for search engines. By using keywords in the links, you are telling the search engines what the referenced pages are about. You also have a problem if all the links on your site are on image buttons - search engines can't read images ,so image buttons provide no information describing what the referenced page is about. You can't beat a well keyworded text link for passing information about the target page to the search engines.

Don't Keep Restructuring
Try to fix your site design before you get too far into the process. Sites that are constantly being restructured have numerous problems, including the following:
· Links from other Web sites into yours get broken, which is bad for potential visitors as well as for search engines…or more   precisely, bad for your position in the search engines because they won't be able to reach your site through the broken links.
· Anyone who may have boomarked your page now has a broken bookmark.
  It's a good idea to create a custom 404e error page, which is displayed in your browser if the server is unable to find a page you   have requested. Create a page with links to other areas of the site, perhaps even a sitemap, so that if visitors and searchbots   can't find the right page, at least they'll be able to reach some page on your site.

Spell Check and Edit
Check your pages for spilling and editing errors. Not only do error-free pages make you site appear more professional to visitors, they also ensure that your valuable keywords are not wasted. If your potential site visitors are searching for rodent racing, for example, you don't want the term rodint racing in your Web pages.

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