How to Optimize a Website

Getting the Attention of Search Engines

Search engine optimization or "SEO" is a term that's talked about frequently within Internet and Web marketing circles. If you have a Website for your business, you've probably heard the term yourself. 

SEO is the idea of planning and laying out a Website in such a way as to increase the chances that its pages will rank highly in a search engine query.  It requires strategic planning and deliberate actions on the part of the Website owner, its designer and anyone who writes Web copy for its pages.

Why should it matter to you as a Website or Internet business owner?  Because a significant number of visitors to any given Website on the 'Net got there by using a search engine.  More specifically; the user typed in a particular word or set of words using a major search engine (such as Google, Bing, etc.).  In response, the search engine returns a list of Web pages that contain and/or pertain to those words (known as keywords or keyword phrases.

Let's say that you have a Web-based business that sells flies for fly fishing. You would want to ensure, then, that any person searching the Internet for a place to purchase flies or simply for information about fly fishing would find your Website.  In order to find it using a search engine, your pages must be "optimized" for words that relate to fly fishing or purchasing flies for fly fishing.

There are several aspects to "optimizing" a site's pages.  Some of the major ones include:

* Meta tags- These are the words that you use within in your page's HTML coding.  They are added to a Web page to provide Meta data.  "Meta data" is information that is meant for search engines to read.  It cannot be readily viewed by a human reader and doesn't show up on a page's layout.  (It can, however, be viewed by looking at a page's source code.)  It may also show up when you hover your mouse over different parts of a page.

Meta tags are generally viewed by most SEO professionals as one of the top means that a search engine uses to determine what a particular Web page is about.  You should always be deliberate about the words that you use as Meta tags within your site's pages.

* The web copy (text or content) within your site's pages- This is another major clue that search engines use to determine what your site's pages are about.  They will scan the words and look for themes, topics and words that show up frequently.  Those that do will become the "keywords" under which those pages are "indexed" within the search engine's data base of Web pages from all over the Internet.

Note: You can't fool a search engine.  If the text within the pages of your Website contrast with the words that appear in your Meta tags, search engines will pick up on this.  It's considered a form of spamming and is deceptive enough to warrant sanctions.  Your pages will probably not be indexed at all, and you also run the risk of having your site banned from a particular search engine altogether.

* Page layout: The way you layout your individual pages can play a minor role in whether and how pages get indexed.  Search engines don't particularly care about aesthetics of a page.  However, it's important for you to know that search engines cannot "read" graphics like photos. 

Therefore, if you have a fly fishing Website full of pictures of flies and people fly fishing, they will not contribute at all to the site's search engine rankings for words like "fly fishing" or "flies."  Search engines can only scan text, so if you do use pictures/graphics on a page make sure that the page also contains optimized text or the page will be ignored by search engines.

It's also helpful not to break up the main text on a page.  Keep the body of your text together in one spot on the page.

Website and Web Business Owners, Beware!

Don't let them find your competitors first.

Website owners who fail to understand the importance of search engine optimization (SEO) may find themselves disappointed with the amount of visitor traffic they're getting (or not getting).  Worse yet, traffic that could have been yours may be going to your competitors.