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SearchEngineOptimization(SEO)Checklist

1 . D o ma i nN a me

Mostsearchenginesdo look at domainnameswhen rankingpages,but the direct benefit of


havingkeywordsin your domainis very small.

Thereis alsoan indirect benefit to havinga keyword-richdomainnamerSearchEngineslike


Googlethat factor link popularityinto their rankingalgorithmsoften also look at the anchor text of
incoming links. In other words,the text usedin a text link that pointsto your site should- as far
as possible- containyour keyword.If your site is about purplewidgets,you want peopteto tink to
you using"purplewidgets"as the link text.

Like this:
Hereis a goodsite aboutpurplewidgets.

Not like this:


Hereis a goodsite about purplewidgets.

But this is of coursein the handsof the webmasterlinkingto you.

Howdo you increasethe probabilitythat they will link to you usingyour keywords?Yes,keywords
in the domain.Manypeopte(I'm one of them) preferto link likethis:

PurpleWidgets
This is a good site about purplewidgets
www.purple-widgets. com

there are other (arguablymore important)considerations


Apart from SEOconsiderations, when
choosinga domainname.
A good domain is:

o shoft,
o €?sYto say and spell,
o descriptive and
. memorable.

You should be able to say it over the telephoneonce and the other person should know how to spell
it and they should know what you sell. If you can do that AND work keywords in there, good for
you. If you can't, skip the keywords.

2 . F i l e N a me

The sameapplieshere.The filenameshouldpreferablybe short and descriptive.Havingkeywordsin


the filenamehelps,but not a wholelot.

By the way, if you do use keywordsin the domainor filename,separatethem with hyphensrather
than underscores.

Googlesees
as seochecklist(good)
seo-checklist
but it sees
seo_checklist (not good)
as seochecklist

3. Content is King! The "bait" for search engine spiders to find your site

Searchengines'primaryway to locateyour site are the keywordsor phraseson the site that match
the searcher'ssearch. Withoutthesebeingsomewhereon your site, it'll simply not be displayedin
the searchengine'sresults. The actualpagecontentshouldhave a keyworddensityof about 20olo
and shouldweighin at about 200 - 500 words- but there are as many opinionsaboutthis as there
are SEOexperts.Somesay keyworddensityshouldbe 5oloand somesay it shouldbe 2Ao/o.

Thereis more consensusabout pagelength @ 200 words.Thosethat disagreeusuallysay it should


be more. Somesay it shouldbe 500. Thereis no exact rule of thumb here. I've seenlongerpages
doingvery well in the searchengineresultspagesfor highlycompetitivekeywordsso longermight
be better. Don't fuss too muchabout this. Keepthe file sizeunder 101Kthough becauseGoogle
chopsanythingabovethat.
4. Layout & Design

o You should have more !eX[ content than HTMLelements.


o No fancystuff (Flash,Splash,AnimatedGifs,Rollovers etc,) unlessabsolutelynecessary.
e No Frames.This often causesthe userto scrollright to view your completepage.Do not
assumethat they'lldo this.
o No JavaScript. If you needJavaScript,callit from an externalfile ratherthan dumpingthe
codein the HTMLfile.lavaScriptdropdownmenuspreventspidersfrom crawlingbeyond
your homepage.If you usethem, be sure to includetext links at the bottomof the page.
o No ads if possible.Doesanyonelike pop-upads?
o Nothingthat doesnot fit perfectlyinto the pagetopic; Thereshouldbe no doubt in the
searchengine'smind(or in he user'smind)what your pageis about.
o No unnecessary directories.Keepyour files as closeto the root as possible.

5. Page Title

Thepagetitle weighsheavilyin the algorithmsof all the majorsearchengines,so be preparedto


spendsometime on it.

Here's what to look for:

o Write an accurate,keyword-richpagetitle of about up to 100 characters.


o Do not includestopwords(and,the, a etc.) in the title. Thatjust wastesspace.
o Rememberthat eachpagecan (and should)havea uniquetitle characterizing its content.
o Remember that the title is the first and probablythe only thingthe searcherwill lookat in
the searchresults.Havinga keywordlist as title mightget you listedhigher(if you'renot
penalized),but it's lesslikelyto get clickedthan a wellstructuredtitle.

Syntax:
In the HEADsectionof the site add:
<title>Your Kevword-Rich, Descr:ipl-ive Paqe Trtle Her:e<,/title>

6. Meta Tags

The generalconsensusamongSEOexpertsis that the meta description tag is usedas a "snippet"


in searchengineresults(seePOINT#1below).The areasjust belowthe linksreturnedfrom a
Googlesearchresultfor "Austrialiantravel", showthe snippetsthat are so importantin whethera
potentialprospectclicksto go to your websiteor NOT. If the searchenginecrawlerfinds no meta
description,it then looksfor the first availablereadabletext to displayand usesthat as the snippet.

Oftenthis resultsin a jumbled,irrelevant-to-the-search


snippet(seePOINT#2below).
Allinl Travel Ireland - ever.ythingyou needto Travel to Ireland

POINT#{ lf you wouldliketo exchangeAustrialiantravellinks,pleaseemailyourlink


exchangedetailsto our webmasterat the fo*lowingemailaddress:Austrailian...
www.allin1-travel.comilinksaustrialia.
htm- 10k - Cached- Similarpages

***December 23. 2004 SydneyA.{ZSapphirePrincess*** - Topic ...

You can fly to the banierreefand bookpackagesthroughaustrialiantravel agents.byefor


nowjeff Posts:198| From:ca I Registered:05-21-01....
messages.cruisecritic.com/21 OpenTopic?a=tpc&f=4763056957&m=5913037067 - 101k-
Cached - Similar pages

Raining Cats and Dogs -

POINT#2......AustrialianShepherdTravelMug.Price:$16.95.StainlessSteelMug.
Quantity:Travel Mugs.
gallery.bcentral.com/Gallery/ProductDetails.
aspx?GlD=5021962&PlD=2588842&page=1&sortOrder=0 - 9k - Cached
- Similarpages

Here'show to use MetaTags:

Syntax:
In the HEADsectionof the site add:
(meta name:"keywords" content:"KEYWORDlKEYWORD2 KEYPHRASE1 etc. -
about 30 to 40 unique words")
<meta name:"description" content:"An accurate, keyword-rich description
- about 150 characters")

7. Headings

Useheadingsresponsibly.Frommy own experimentsthey don't seemto makea hugedifference,


but they do countand won't huft your site. Unlessyou misusethem of course.Don't be temptedto
wrapyour entirepagein <H1>.

Syntax:
<H1>Your Top Level Headinq Here<,/H1>
<H2>Levef 2 Heading</H2>
<H3>Level 3 Heading</H3>
etc. all the way downto <H6>
L Bold text

With boldtext, generalconsensus


is that thereis no advantagein havingimportantkeywordsin
boldtext.

9 . N a v i g a ti o nL i n ks, L i n ki n g

9.1 Navigation

Whatyour site navigationlink namesare calledto allowmovementaboutyour site is a very


importantand often overlookedarea of how searchenginespidersand site usersview your site.
Graphiconly linkscan't be readand will not helpspidersdeterminethe relevanceof the siteto the
searchphraseentered. Alt tags with very descriptivetext for thesegraphic-basedlinks are needed
to conveythis. Text-based [inksare alwaysreadby the spiders.Manysiteswill namethe links
general,inexacttermssuchas "Products"ratherthan"PrintedCircuitBoardAssemblies". Thiswill
allowthe userto knowwherethey'reclickingto and the spiderswill be ableto gleanmuchmore
informationaboutthe site'snatureto developa more positivepagerankingfor you. Your keyword
phrasesshouldbe woveninto all of the navigationlinks.

9.2Internal Linking

. Everypageon your siteshouldlink to at leastone otherpage.Ideally,you should


be able to get to every pageof the site from any other pagewith one click.
homepage shouldincludea link to your sitemap(a pagethat linksto all the pages
in your site).Thisis goodfor usersand allowsspidersto quicklyaccessall your
pages.

9.3 External Linking

Onlylink to externalsiteswhenyou absolutelyhaveto. Decideif it enhances the user'sexperience.


If it does,add the link. Googlealgorithm,PageRank, weighstheselinksand the validityof the site
of the inboundlinks,heavilyin their naturalsearchresultspages(non-sponsored or paidfor). This
is termedlink popularity.

9.4 Reciprocal Linking (link exchanges)

Onlyexchangelinkswith sitesyour visitorswill find useful.Don'texchangelinksonlyto increase


link popularity. Linksfrom link farms, a site that you have linksto your site from just to increase
your link popularityrankingin Google'salgorithm,are now lookeddown upon by the crawlers.

9.5 Anchor Text / Link Text and Link Titles

Usedescriptiveanchortext for all your text links. Mostsearchenginesconsideranchortext of


incominglinkswhenrankingpages.Thejury is still out on whethersearchenginesalsoconsider
otherelementson the link page(liketext surrounding
the link,the pagetitle etc.).

Link titles are like alt text for text links.Very neat. Link titles add to the usabilityof a site. It is not
clearwhethersearchenginesconsiderliketitleswhenrankingpages.I'm guessingthey do.

Here'san example:
Hoveryour mousepointerover this linkto seea link title in action.

Syntax:
(a href:"checkf1st3.html" title-"This 1s a li-nk title.")this f1nk<,/a>

9.6 Linking/Submissionto Search Engines

There is no need to submit your site to search engines. The crawlerswill find you. Simply
link your siteto otherrelevantsitesand the spiderswill locateand indexit. Thisincreasesyour link
popularityas well as allowingpotentialprospectsto locateyou too. Checkto see if you'vebeen
indexedalreadyby typingwww.yourdomain.com into GoogleSearch,Yahoo,and MSN. Continual
submission whenyour site is alreadylinkedtakesup valuablecrawlerresources.

Also regardingcrawler/serverresources,we stronglyadviseagainstthe use of rank checking


softwarelike Web PositionGold,etc. The followingis straightfrom the "GoogleInformationfor
Webmaster"area of the Googlesite:

Fiction: Automated"rankingchecking"programsare a good way for webmastersto save time


and measuretheir'online presence."
Fact: Automated"rankingchecking"programsviolateGoogle'stermsof service.They use
server resourcesthat should be spent on answeringuser requests.We strongly
requestthat you not use rank checkingprogramsto check your positionon Google.

As you can see, somethingsare written in stone.

10.lmagesAnd Alt Text


All imagesshouldincludedescriptive,
keyword-rich
alt text, especiatly
clickableimages.

Alt spam (alt tags that's nothingmore than a list of keywords)is fairly common,but can get your
site penalized. A good guidelineis to use alt text to describethe image.If it's a productimage,
describethe productin sucha way that someonewith a text browseror imagesturned off knows
what the imageis about.

Onepossibleexceptionis the title image.To just put "logo"in the alt is of no useto spidersor your
site visitors.Hereis the alt text I usedin the logoat the top of this page: "TargetMarketing
Solutions- SearchEngineOptimization Tips& Techniques". Thattells visitorswhat they'remissing
and helpsthe spiderunderstand whatthe pageis about.

Don't be temptedto make it very long. If it does.notfit in the imageplaceholder,it's probablytoo


long.

Syntax:
(imq src:".imaqe.qif" aft:"Your aft text here")

1 1 .T h eme s

Mostof the major searchenginesprefersitesthat focuson one theme. If your site is about
widgets,gizmosand SantaClaus.you'll do better if you registera uniquedomainfor eachand split
it into 3 separate sites.

Please note: Do not registermultipledomainsto housedifferent parts of one theme. If you


havea site sellingpink widgetsand blue widgets,that shouldbe on one domain- not on pink-
widget.comand a blue-widget.com That willjust diluteyour link popularity.
respectively.

Anot'her note: Don't cross-linkyour domains.Thereis a lot of speculationaboutjust how much


cross-linkingis safe. Don't go there. If the info you want to shareis all on one theme, keep it on
one site. If it is on multiplethemes,placeit on differentsiteswith no links betweenthem. Thereare
rare exceptionswhere it's ok (from an ethicalpoint of view) to cross-linkyour sites,but remember
that searchenginescannotlook into the intentionsbehindevery instanceof cross-linkingand your
site might get penalized.

12.No Tricks
Thereare no tricks in long-term SEO.Cloaking,hiddentext etc. etc. will all hurt your rankingsin
the long run. Buildpagesthat the searchengineswill love,text-based,content-rich,tightly focused
and you'll reapthe rewards.