Optimise your Chances of Being Seen Online

I have reinterpreted this article SEO and Site Design for Search Engines to address the issue of site-design, plus showing how easy it can be to increase & optimise the sites ‘findability‘.

I am also reading about the importance of presenting a website that encourages search engines and web traffic to return regularly. It is a great subject that somehow has a lot to do with the biggest phenomenon on the internet. Blogging is ensuring that a site gets traffic. The main issue to me is marketing to the search engines. What I mean is How do I ensure the search engines will want to return?

In the past I have included this META-tag in the <head></head> on this site:
<meta http-equiv="expires" content="-1" />

Whilt it tricks search engines into returning EVERY day, yet since its removal from my site, nothing has changed. I still get about 50 hits a day from mostly search engines, mostly lurkers who don’t like to leave comments (Come on people, I have an ego to feed!)

By regularly adding interesting & diverse information to a website, the search engines have a lot of “search words” to cache. I suspect google have had their algorithms reconfigured to allow for the sudden rush of dynamic movement around the world wide web and the incredible increase of vocabulary from previously-stagnant cyber-brochures.

But what are you doing, or what can you do to increase your site-appeal to the average user or the ever-trawling search engine?

Over the last few days I have done a lot of online research into this question, for both yours & my benefit. So lets consider what is worth analyzing. Then we determine how we will better their dynamism, accessibility & interactivity. Then each of these three areas will be applied to measure the effectiveness & outcomes of the changes.

Here are the 13 most important factors to consider removal or modification to improve your sites WWW appearance

This first lot are not all complete negatives. Some are just outdated or have serious implications on your sites effectiveness if continued. Which is why each are a vital area to fix. Many sites still include some of these areas, but they are not ”seen‘ by search engines:

1. Text Embedded In Images

That’s right, those ‘tags‘ are not always seen by the search engines. So if you are going to include an image, you will need more than this.<img src=”etc” alt=”description” >. Write a story about the image, tell your audience about the situation, colors, people, emotion, humor, geography and the feelings.

2. iFrames

Take it from someone who learnt this the hard way: Get away from iFrames. Your site will only improve in value & appreciation for doing this one thing.

If you are still using the pre-1996 method of integrating three or more frames or iframes together to form one window, you won’t be seen by search engines. With your home page filled only with meta-tags and few lines that say where the frames are being linked from – there is no actual data for the search engines to cache. It will see each frame as an individual window, but won’t know to associate them altogether! As there is so little content on the home page the search engines invariably fail to list them correctly, let alone at all.

3. Flash

Personally I hate flash. It’s only good for un-intrusive adverts and sites built purely for displaying SWF-graphics only – but it fails as a suitable navigation system nor acts as a replacement for HTML.

Macromedia Flash is nothing more than an image. What did we say about ‘Text Embedded In Images‘? That’s right: The search engines don’t even see it. So if you replace your entire navigation, either vertical or horizontal, with something that flashes, beeps and wails like a banshee – it means nothing to anyone. Unless you have embedded a voice that speaks the name of the navigation … oh my, how annoying would that be?

I am not saying to anyone that they must stop using it today! All I am saying is that most search engines will say “Oh, XXYYZZ is talking about YYZZAA’s here. We cannot find any outgoing links…” and won’t give you any mention. So modify your site to describe/inform your viewer using HTML(and CSS) how else they might access the same data-source that the Flash-imagery does.

4. Image Maps

Does anyone still do this? Didn’t they make these obsolete in about 1998? Kidding. I know some sites still employ this method -and it works for them. Guess what? Search engine crawlers will NOT follow the links defined in image maps. This idea is so outdated that its best to simply redesign to a simpler method that ensures the link is easy to see and access.

5. JavaScript

Half the world-wide-web today is generated using Java-scripts, either to access and invoke information from another site or page. Using small (and sometimes large) scripts in your HTML tells the browser to read information from another location then put it in on the page. Therefore nothing is actually on the page. Imagine a search-engine seeing that! It won’t. Yes, it will cache it – but it would be more likely to find the other location first before linking yours.

Any page that uses Java-scripts to generate data should also have alternative information, or provide similar data in a HTML format. This ensures your viewer stays long enough to read. You should provide a explanation for the viewer tha treads “JavaScript needs to be enabled for this information to be seen“. If you have seen this around the internet, take it as a sign that you really need to enable that feature! Disclaimer: Risks come with all choices.

6. Invalid HTML

This is a very important area for everyone writing for online publication. Your data is best presented in a format that is recognised by Search Engines. If you have uploaded a MS Word document, you can be sure that the search engines (and your users) will hate you.

HTML is the number one way (still!) for formatting web pages. It is reasonably easy to produce. CSS needs to be integrated into it to give it life, color & pizzazz!

Both require precision & careful coding. There are HTML specifications that should need to be adhered to plus HTML validation across the web. Each of these help everyone to ensure their data is both presentable, readable and easily cached by non-discerning search engines.

7. Domain Name / Web Site

This seems to be the hottest subject at the moment. Every man & his pet rock has a domain name. But they are what can make the difference between being seen and being left by the whey-side. Here are two examples.

Each of these pages talks about ‘Component Object Model Technologies‘. But can you see the difference. Microsoft is the first linked site on google. I found the other quite by accident when I googled “tripod com“. The biggest difference between them is the domain name. Microsoft is memorable, whereas tripod, geocities and blogspot accounts will be forgotten quicker than you can say “Who?“.

The point? Get your own domain. About seven letters maximum. Be unique. Stand out in the crowd, without losing track of your purpose & destination.

8. Web Page Title Tags

Many bloggers are forgetting the importance of good titles . Good blogger programs enable the writer to integrate their post titles into the the Title Tags. This becomes important when your site is cached by a search engine: When the site is listed on a search-response page, it should include three things:

  • Domain - eg: caeser.com.au
  • Author - eg: marc antony
  • Page Title - The Rise & Fall of Caesar's Toga

This will ensure that when someone spots your site among the many others listed on a search engine, you might stand out.

Make sure you make the title unique and include key words that are from the passage itself. Some people (myself included) often give page titles that have nothing whatsoever with the passage itself, or even forget to give each page a unique name. It’s amazing how often you find sites where EVERY page title is “Blank Page” or “Index / Default / Home“.

9. Headings – For Sections or Blog Posts.

The defining point of any site is the heading to a passage of text. It’s what draws on the reader to any tract of text, inviting them to ‘read onward‘. The heading needs to summarize the plot of the passage.

In Jeffery Zeldman‘s book “Designing with Web Standards” we find a variety of sub headings within each chapter. Many have little to do with the text they are above. But it’s cryptic, funny and (most unnervingly) a succinct four-word sentence. Headings like “More Popular than MTV” (Ch.4, page 106) and “How Suite It Is” (Ch.4, page 115) are two examples of headings that draw you in!

So give your headings some style. Be funny, but don’t forget it is a title for the text beneath it. Don’t leave your readers guessing what you were smoking.

10. Text

It’s not enough to write good code, it’s now important to write good text. In order to be found on the internet you have to have something important to say – and know how to say it. Just because you have great ideas, interesting lives and enjoy loud bowel movements – it does not mean it will make good writing.
Remember that everything you say online is cached somewhere and someone one day will read it. Maybe. So write a story, a monologue, a review, a critique. Rewrite Ben Hurr with Star Wars characters, or vice versa.

11. Text Navigation

Ludicrous linkage from site to site is the hottest craze on the internet these days. Linking to your bibliography of sites referred to, linking to humor laden databases, RSS-feeds that link to your favorite writers & articles – the end is listless, whoops, the list is endless. Link to your mentors, your favorite things, your wish list, to anyone who’ll pay for it.

Important: Text navigation refers to linking to text, NOT to images. Image-linking too often fails to include alt=”alternative words”, therefore the image simply fails to appear. Then the link is gone too!

So give linkage to text plus images. This ensures your viewer has the option to click on either (which in turn doubles your chance that they will!).

12. Site Map

The key feature of any good site is a site-map with its own page – and be linked to from EVERY page in your site. Usually this is listed at the base of your page or in the side-bar navigation, but is not a prerequisite. This offers the reader a last-resort option to find anything on your site.

13. Key Words & Description META Tags

The trend is not to bother with including these in your <head></head> area. The reasoning being that your keywords are now within the dynamic posts that appear (ir)regularly – or the scripts on each page that tell the viewer why they are on your site.

Both of these are important. Your page may not be dynamic – but just a data-page. Therefore you will want & need the search engine to entitle them correctly when the page is cached.

Rather than filling keywords with useless words with no relationship to the content, use this opportunity to describe the contents of the page. Would you rather your site was listed in google as “aardvark abigail andrew android abacus annoyed & irritated” or would you prefer the page title to describe exactly what is being talked about, “Boiling Pickles in Brine : Without Burning Your Eyebrows Off“?

Summary

PewInternet have a trend report showing the amazing amount of internet-users using search engines to hunt for everything they need & want and “about 60 million American adults are using search engines on a typical day“.

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