Make your site
'search-engine ready'

Something many people do not realize when building their first web site is that *designing* for site promotion is the best first step. There are several simple-to-implement features one can add, a couple of items to avoid if possible. But once you understand a few fundamental principles, it's a piece of cake. And, believe me, you will be MUCH better off if you learn and follow these guidelines than if you don't.

KEYWORD STRATEGY

KEYWORD STRATEGY is really a preparation step in order to strategize. Yes, it's important to use the META tag KEYWORDS (more about that soon), but some search engines do not use that META tag. Your keywords are still very important to the engines that do not use the tag.

And to those of you who know all about KEYWORDS, when was the last time you went through this exercise? Are your KEYWORDS still working for you?

1. Start off by thinking of the words YOU would use to find a site like yours using a search engine. Write them down in order of importance. But that's just the start-

2. Ask several customers, friends, or associates what words THEY would use to find your site, not only on the Internet, but also in telephone books-you might be surprised. Write these down in order of importance-the most important ones being the ones that match up with your list.

3. Then, the true test. Use these keywords with every major search engine (any engine linked from Netscape's home page, for example) and see what you come up with. Do the words bring up sites like yours?

4. (Here's the sneaky part-but all's fair in love and search engine war, right?) Find your competitor's sites. Go to the menu bar on your browser and view the "page source"-the HTML-and see what keywords they are using. It will be at the top of the page within the , like:

<meta name="KEYWORDS" content="competitors,keywords">

Their keywords are especially important if they correlate with step (2) and (3) above and if their site is easily found in a search. Write these down in order of importance. Now, organize your all-important list of keywords into one list, with the most important words at the top.

USING KEYWORDS TO YOUR OWN ADVANTAGE

Now that you have done your "keyword" homework, let's discuss how to use keywords to your advantage.

We'll start with the most obvious, the META tag strategy. Several search engines (InfoSeek, HotBot, and AltaVista) use META tags, the DESCRIPTION tag and the KEYWORD tag specifically, to index pages and return results for searchers.

It's important to follow certain guidelines and principles to be sure your page is spidered and that the engine doesn't filter your page out of its index due to KEYWORD overuse.

First, tag placement on the page is very important. I use Microsoft FrontPage97 for my site, and have found a rather disconcerting feature-it puts my tags in the wrong spot. If you are using any HTML editor other than something like Notepad, check your tag placement!

Here's how it needs to look, with the tags in the order they should appear:

<html>
<head>
<!--NOEDIT-->
<title>Descriptive Page Title Which Includes Keywords</title>
<meta name="DESCRIPTION"
content="description of the page (using keywords) that will appear in
the search results when people find the page through a search engine
that uses this META tag">
<meta name="KEYWORDS"
content="the,very,important,keywords,
separated,by,commas,no,spaces,in,order,of,importance">
<!--/NOEDIT-->
</head>

Several search engines (Lycos, HotBot, Excite, and AltaVista)will spider your page when you submit it, then will EVENTUALLY go back to your site and investigate all of your links so they can index your whole site. Do you have your KEYWORDS and DESCRIPTION tags on each page? Don't limit your exposure to your home page alone. Include the tags on every page, making them relevant to the content of the page.

Follow the guidelines the search engines themselves set forth for the KEYWORD tag:

(1) Limit the character counts of your KEYWORDS tag to 1,000 to fall within Infoseek's and AltaVista's guidelines. Separate your KEYWORDS with commas, no need to use spaces (they count as characters), and place them within the tag in order of importance.

(2) Don't repeat a KEYWORD within a tag more than seven times (thisnumber is only a guideline), and then, this repetition should be used only in phrases, for example: "garden, garden plants, garden seeds, garden-etc." NOT like: "garden,garden,garden,garden," Just use common sense here - if you're trying to "cheat", keep in mind that the search engine will probably figure that out. Keyword repetition might work for some for awhile, but most (if not all) the engines are penalizing for excessive repetition-why take a chance that your page will be dropped completely?

KEYWORDS HERE, KEYWORDS THERE,
USE YOUR KEYWORDS EVERYWHERE!

Let's take a look at the importance of using your keywords throughout your web pages.

Alta Vista uses the META tags, but it also ranks relevency based on word frequency of the first text it finds. What is the first text it will find? Your page title. So, don't you think you'll get better results if your page is all about Tupper ware if you use that term in your page title? For example, instead of "KITCHEN ACCESSORIES" for a page title, "TUPPERWARE - TUPPERWARE FOR THE KITCHEN" or "TUPPERWARE KITCHEN ACCESSORIES" would give you much better results. WebCrawler uses META tags, but it puts MORE emphasis on your page title than on META tags. Web Crawler also rates how many times the search terms occur in the document. With all the search engines, actually, the page title is an important feature.

Using your keywords in your content is another very important strategy. And in most cases, the text closest to the top of the page is the most important. If you can add some descriptive text using key words at the top of the page without totally destroying your design, then do it.

Lycos and Excite don't use META tags--they index all the text on your page, so you want to be sure that you use your most important keywords in your content. What is your content? Of course, you know it is the text on your page. This text also includes page headings (or should). Some of the search engines seem to pay more attention to the page headings than regular text, so you'll want to take advantage of this. **Page headings are the HTML that make your text bigger and bolder, and are used as a brief description before a series of paragraphs.** <h1></h1> will make the heading very large, but you can always go down to <h6></h6> and use this keyword strategy. (The larger the heading, however, the better.) You can use your imagination a little bit in using this heading feature with yourkeywords--for example, <h6> and <strong> or <b> look a lot alike!

Another spot you can use your keywords is in the <alt> tag for images. If the first item on your page is your banner, you can use this <alt> tag to add some descriptive phrasing using your keywords. This also makes life more interesting for people as they are waiting for the image to load. And here's another little tip: your filenames--a search engine that uses keyword frequency to rank search results will give your page more weight if your file name is www.yoursite.com/tupperware.html than if it is named www.somesite.com/~myhome.html.

Well, let's wrap this up with a little summary of what the majorsearch engines use to rank relevancy:

Alta Vista:
Meta Tags
Page Titles
Word frequency within the first 200 words of text

Excite:
Page titles
Keyword frequency in the text

HotBot:
Meta Tags
Keyword frequency in the text
Page titles

Lycos:
Keyword frequency in the text
Page titles

WebCrawler:
Page titles
Meta tags
Keyword frequency in the text

Infoseek.com:
Page titles
Meta tags

You can see now that using your keywords through out your web site is an important search engine strategy. It can be a challenge to accomplish this without the text becoming monotonous, but it's worth the work.



A Tutorial By Susan Beatrie from susan's place