Sunday, December 7, 2008

Troubleshooting Search Engine Optimization - back to basics

While many people get carried away by Web 2.0 and twitter and arcane marketing strategies, they often neglect the basics. Then they don't understand why their Web site/page is not listed. Optimization "experts" ask in forums why their customer's page isn't doing well. Usually it is because they neglected simple stuff or simply ignored all the SEO Basics.   If your Web page/site is not doing well in Google and not attracting vistors, check the simple minded basic things first:
1. Is the page or site listed in Google at all? Doh.
2. Links -  Is the page/site  linked from a main page in your Web site, one that has high Google PageRank ?? Is it linked from other Web sites and Directories?
3. Does it use your  Keywords in all the important places?  Remember, the search engine spider is a dumb machine. If your page is about Widgets, you have to tell the spider it is about widgets in language that it understands. If you are writing about Widgets in a blog, does the blog article title say "Widgets?" Or is it a fancy title that nobody can associate with your real topic, like "To be or not to be?"
4. If you can include some keywords in the filename of the page that can help.
5. Did you do the drudgework of filling out the Title tag and the Description Meta tag and the Keywords meta tag in the Head Section ? Is there a clear <H1> title in the page itself (only one) ? Are there a few pages (at least 1) linked to that page from outside your Web site, using the keywords of that page as the anchor text? If you linked to the page with the Anchor Text  "More" or "Read about about it Here" the Google spider is very linkely to classify the page under "more" or "read" - you need to use the title text. The search engine will also conclude that your page is about "more" - no kidding, I saw this happen.  If the Title tag  (<TITLE>This is the Title</TITLE>  in the  Head Section  of the page is blank or says "New Page," you can't expect the search engines to do very well at figuring out what it was about.
6. Does the Body  TEXT of your page use the Keyword a lot? If your page is supposed to be about widgets, but all the text is about Brittney Spears, search engines can't know that it is about widgets.
7. Did you use alt tags  in your pictures of widgets or whatever your site is about to tell search engines and people using text browser (if there are any) and impaired people that these are all pictures of widgets?
8. Did you use Title attributes in the links so that search engines can "see" that these are links to articles about widgets. It is not your fault if someone else named their article about widgets "What is do be done?" or "A very excellent solution."  But if you have too many links with that sort of text, the search engines will think your page is about Shakespeare of the New Testament.
9. Did you check the code to make sure that the tags for the Body and Head Section are correct? If there is no closing </head> tag or no opening <body> tag the browser might show the page just fine, but the search engines can't tell that what is there is text you want people to read. Likewise, there can be other junk that the search engine spiders cannot see.
10. Is the page mostly text that search engines like, or is it filled with Javascript and Flash jibberish and CSS style directives that should be in a separate file? Is the code clean, or does it have a lot of junk in it that is produced by Wysiwyg editors like <Span style = "style1"></span> and
<FONT size = "2" Face = "ARIAL" Color = "Red"> </FONT> <FONT size = "3" Face = "ARIAL" Color = "Blue"></FONT></FONT>. Wysiwyg editors will fill whole Websites with that sort of meaningless flotsam if you don't edit it out. Search engines see that and lower your score.
11. Did you link to the main page from every page of your Web site, using an Absolute Path and proper keywords in the Anchor Text. If your home page is about Widgets, the anchor text must say something about widgets, not "Home." if you link to the main page with the anchor text "home" then you may expect to find that page when you search for "Home" in Google.
Nine times out of ten, Web page search engine visibility can be improved greatly just by checking and fixing those  things. And yes, you can go through every page that I or anyone else makes and find ways to improve that page, especially if it has been around for a few years and technology changed.
Beyond that, there are always unknown factors and gotchas, the Job factor in SEO. Remember Job from the Bible? You can do everything right and still the Gods do not smile. Remember that though not every page can be linked from the highest ranking page on the site (usually the main page), pages in the lower level sections may take much longer to become visible in search engines. Using nice orderly separate subdirectories seems to hurt even worse, though it should not. Sometimes these subsections cannot be avoided. Make up for it by linking to sub pages from articles and from auxiliary Web logs and site.
If all else fails and the pages won't get listed no matter what you do, submit a Site map to Google Webmaster central. It won't guarantee high placement, or even registration, but at least Google will consider the page.  
Ami Isseroff

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