The Contentious World of What MattersNone of the major search engines make public the algorithms they use to sift through billions of documents.As a result, just about every Search Engine Optimization (SEO) practitioner holds a different perspective on the factors that matter.In the absence of a definitive understanding of search engine algorithms, SEO practitioners have experimented, observed, messed-with and republished web site content to try to gain insight into their inner workings.In general, these factors can be divided into four categories:
Factors that vary with each page on the site, such as the title of thepage. Individual authors frequently control or influence these factors. Appropriate CMS configuration can help ensureauthors follow best practices.
Issues that can be addressed for the entire site, such as the creation of asite map. Frequently, site or content management administrators can control orinfluence these factors.
Search engines are increasingly relying on factors such as the number ofexternal sites linking to a page and behaviour of visitors on a given site todetermine rankings. CMS solutions canonly address these factors tangentially.
A wide variety of issues can lead to search engines reducing the ranking ofa page; these range from unreliable site uptime to the inappropriate use ofredirects. Many of these factors can be addressed with an effective contentmanagement solution.
W3C Compliant Code
A page that is coded to match W3C XHTML standards issimpler for the search engines to parse and ensures all content is readable.
A comprehensive site map ensures that search enginespiders can find and index each page on the site by following a single link.
Google Site Maps
Google sitemaps significantly increase the likelihood of all of the content on yoursite being indexed by these engines. Yahoo! and MSN have also adopted Google’s standard.
Site Navigation asText
Create main navigation as text links – not images – toease the job of search engines crawling through the site.
Use Search EngineFriendly URLs
Avoid dynamic URLs; use static URLs. If you must use dynamic URLs, use no morethan two parameters.
Publish to a Flat Directory
By using a relatively flat filestructure – no more than two directories deep – you may be able to increasethe relevance assigned to pages by some pages to search engines.
Eliminate Broken Links
Establish a process for finding and eliminating brokenlinks and create a custom 404 page. Search engines may penalize sites for out-dated links.
Appropriate Use of robots.txt
An improperly constructed robots.txt page can prevent yoursite from being indexed at all.
Effective Title Tags
The text within the title tag of a page is one of the mostimportant factors influencing its ranking at major search engines.
Effective Meta Description Tags
Every page should include a compelling description of thecontent of the page as a meta description.
Reduce Code Clutter
Search engine spiders cannot read images, but they canparse and process the “alt attributes” associated with an image.
Ensure Links can beProcessed
Invest in a spell checkingutility to improve page quality.
Use Key Words inURLs
The use of the search terms within a page’s URL appears tocontribute to search engine ranking – include terms separated by dashes.
Make use of formal heading tags (<h1>, <h2>etc) to organize content and signify importance of specific terms.
Use DescriptiveText in Internal Links
Include key terms within the links that point to a pagefrom other pages on your site.
Ensure each page on your site is substantially different.
The same title should never appear on more than one pageon a site.
Avoid dynamic systems that assign a different sessionvariable to each visitor – including search spiders.
Make sure that search engines do not see similar URLs (www.url.com and url.com for example) asseparate pages.
Associating with“Bad Neighbours”
Beware linking to sites thatpractice underhanded search engine optimization techniques – avoid “linkfarms.”