Search Engine Optimization (aka SEO) used to be something you thought about after a website had been running for a while with lower than expected traffic volumes to the site. That is no longer the case. SEO has finally gotten out of the specialty category and into the mainstream of web design and development. You now have to bake SEO into the design process upfront by working closely with designers, information architects, copy writers, and marketing specialists as the site is being developed.
Understanding how search engines work can make it relatively simple. The three concepts that search engines base their algorithms on are relevance, popularity, and authority. There you have it! Consider yourself enlightened. Well, not unless you understand what these mean in our context. So let’s take a look at the first concept – relevance – in this post. The other concepts – popularity and authority – will be covered in subsequent posts so make sure to bookmark us and check back, or subscribe via our RSS feed.
So – how relevant is your website (or better yet web page) to the search phrase that a user typed into the search box? Can the search phrase be found in your domain name? How about the page title or header tags? How often are you using the search phrase on the web page in question? All of these factors influence whether search engines pick your site to display over other sites.
Here are a few of the guidelines I’ve used that yield successful results:
- Perform Keyword research by narrowing topically or geographically. Find a niche for maximum impact.
- Buy a definitive domain if possible – include primary key phrase, no underscores, can use dashes (e.g. amazingbooks.com for a bookseller).
- Remove Technical Barriers in your landing pages. Having undefined links or missing tags on your pages only hurt your ability to be indexed by search engines. Also limit or determine the proper use of Flash/Silverlight within a page.
- Optimize your site for high search engine visibility.
- Integrate top key phrases into title, header tags, and body copy.
- Let spiders through with robots.txt and get indexed through registration with sitemap.xml.
In a nutshell, how well you apply the guidelines surrounding relevance determines how quickly you beat out the competition for the key phrase being targeted.
In the next post, we will examine the best way to maximize exposure through popularity. In the meantime, please leave any questions or thoughts in the comments below.