Engine Optimization
         by Kitiara

There are a number of things you can do to boost your siteís rating with search engines. Large companies can afford to pay for sponsored links and advertising with sites like Google or Yahoo, but most of us donít have the necessary funds to splash out on that kind of luxury. Instead, we have to use other, more subtle techniques, to naturally inch our way up the ranks.

How a Search Engine Works
The best place to begin before optimizing your site is to try and understand a little of how a search engine spider works. At a very basic level, it will trawl through your page, and give it Ďpointsí for certain things. Some it places more importance on than others, but put simply, the more of these things that you have, the more points you get and the higher your rating will be.

Before going into more detail on these areas, something youíll need to take into consideration is frames. Web developers are generally split into two camps on this issue, and itís reasonably safe to say that most people either love them or hate them. Frames undoubtedly do have their advantages, but if youíre trying to build a site thatís optimized for spiders, then they can only cause trouble.

If you make a site without frames, you allow the search engines to reference your page quickly and easily. But if you do decide to build inside a frameset, then youíll have to make use of the <noframes> tag. However, for the sake of this tutorial lets assume that youíve chosen to forgo frames.

Onto the Important Stuff: Meta Tags and More
By now, just about everyone is aware of the <meta> tags that are available to developers, so itís helpful to get these right from the beginning. Tedious as it may sound, always write individual meta code for each page of your site, as that way it has a greater chance of coming up through a search. By trying to condense the whole content of your site into a few keywords for one page, youíre ruining your chances.

You have several tags to choose from: <meta name = ĒkeywordsĒ> and <meta name = ďdescriptionĒ> being the most important two. Always put your most important words and phrases at the front. As a rule, you should also keep the tags short and sweet. A spider will attach more importance to five words than to fifty, so make those five words count. Pick out words that you think people will be searching for to get to your site. You donít need to make these bold or all caps, the formatting inside <meta> tags has no real relevance to the spiders.

Once youíve picked your keywords and phrases for a page, youíll want to ensure that they appear as often as possible within the text. Repetition of the words re-enforces their relevance to a search engine, so if your site is dedicated to anime, put ďanimeĒ in the copy as often as you can without it losing clarity.

There are plenty of ways to include your keywords multiple times on a page. Things like drop-down menus use them, as do breadcrumb trails. If your site design incorporates them, all to the good.

Itís also worth noting that a search engine will rate a keyword higher than normal if it is formatted in some way. As an example, lets the anime page again. Youíd like a title in the main text to say ĎAnime Charactersí. Putting the phrase into an <h1> tag will give it maximum importance to a spider. You can use Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) to define the format of that <h1> so that it fits in with your overall design. So whilst it may not look like the traditional <h1> on screen, the search engine only sees the all important heading tag, and rates it accordingly.

You can take this tactic even further, to make your keywords stand out. Place <b> tags around your keywords as they crop up in the text and spiders will pick them out. You donít necessarily want a user to see them in bold though, so override the look with your CSS. Again, the spider doesnít see the end result, just the vital formatting.

Links are also something that spiders rate highly, in several ways. Continuing the formatting theme, spiders like to see links, and if a keyword is also a link, then thatís even better. Some things, like menus, will probably automatically use your keywords. But you can slip in some hidden links inside your copy if youíre clever. Put a keyword inside an <a> tag, and link it either to a relevant page or itself. Now, use JavaScript to keep the cursor to a default on rollover. Instead of a hand indicating a link, the user will see a normal cursor. Should they happen to click on the text, the link will work for them.

You can add titles to links too, similar to an <alt> tag. They operate in a very similar way to the <alt>, displaying a hover caption when the link is rolled over. Duplicate your keywords in here to boost the number of times it appears in your page. This isnít ideal though, as it does tend to interfere with the layout of the screen. If you donít mind the caption though, itís another possibility for you to use.

In addition to all of this, spiders will take note of all the outbound links on the page, and check out where they go. If the destination page is also packed full of similar keywords and phrases, then the link rates even higher. This is another reason why itís worthwhile tailoring each page individually.

Itís not just outbound links either, search engines will also see how many external sites link to your own. Generally, the more the better, and again, if the link is from a source with similar keywords and a good rating, your own standing is increased.

Another thing to remember is that a search engine places higher importance on the start of the pageís code than on the end. So ideally, you want all your newly optimized text with keywords to come right under the <body> tag. But we all know that if youíre building a site, thereís generally a lot of code written before you ever get to the main content. So how can you get round this?

If you remove all your JavaScript (providing you have any of course) to an external .js file and link to it, that will save you a lot of space to bump up the important pieces of text.

You can also employ layers to shift the order of the code round a little without screwing up your design. By dividing the page up into layers, you can place layers with keywords right up the top and layers with less important design elements underneath, whilst still employing things like tables on the main page.

Of course this isnít always ideal. Sometimes your design wonít allow you to work this way. But as with all of the points given above, you need to reach a compromise between the looks of the site and getting it rated with engines. Hopefully though, you should now have an even better idea of how to make your site top of Google.



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