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Jim Gras

According to Search Engine Land Many consider search engine optimization as a sort of black box. But once the essential features of a search engine optimal website are laid out in a concise list, SEO is not nearly as mystifying.

The Big secret is, “There is No Secret”

Every web site owner wants more traffic and higher rankings in the search engines. In the midst of an SEO campaign, however, it’s easy to lose sight of the forest for the trees. So before you change a single title, you might want to shift your focus to answer some important questions.

So what do I mean by losing sight of the forest for the trees anyway? You’ve probably heard that expression since you were a teenager at least. You may even know that it means focusing on the details to the point that you lose sight of the big picture – and with the amount of detail work that goes into a proper SEO project, that’s easy to do.

The mission of search engines is to supply their visitors with relevant results, so penalizing or banning sites that appear to interfere with that mission is a necessity. Understanding which blunders adversely impact your search engine rankings is a prerequisite to a well-optimized site.

1. Do you use pull-down boxes for navigation? Search engine spiders can’t fill out forms, even short ones with just one pull-down. Thus, they can’t get to the pages that follow. If you’re using pull-downs, make sure there is an alternate means of navigating to those pages that the spiders can use. Note this is not the same as a mouseover menu, where sub-choices show up upon hovering over the main navigation bar; that’s fine if done using CSS (rather than Javascript.)

2. Does your primary navigation require Flash, Java or Javascript? If you rely on search engine spiders executing Flash, Java or Javascript code in order to access links to deeper pages within your site, you’re taking a big risk. The search engines have a limited ability to deal with Flash, Java and Javascript. So the links may not be accessible to the spiders, or the link text may not get associated with the link. Semantically marked up HTML is always the most search engine friendly way to go.

3. Is your site done entirely in Flash or overly graphical with very little textual content? Text is always better than graphics or Flash animations for search engine rankings. Page titles and section headings should be text, not graphics. The main textual content of the page should ideally not be embedded within Flash. If it is, then have an alternative text version within div tags and use SWFObject to determine whether that text is displayed based on whether the visitor has the Flash plugin installed.

4. Is your home page a “splash page” or otherwise content-less? With most webites, as mentioned above, the home page is weighted by the search engines as the most important page on the site (i.e., given the highest PageRank score.) Thus, having no keyword-rich content on your home page is a missed opportunity.

5. Does your site employ frames? Search engines have problems crawling sites that use frames (i.e., where part of the page moves when you scroll but other parts stay stationary.) Google advises not using frames: “Frames tend to cause problems with search engines, bookmarks, emailing links and so on, because frames don’t fit the conceptual model of the Web (every page corresponds to a single URL.) “Furthermore, if a frame does get indexed, searchers clicking through to it from search results will often find an “orphaned page”: a frame without the content it framed, or content without the associated navigation links in the frame it was intended to display with. Often, they will simply find an error page.What about “iFrames”, you ask? iFrames are better than frames for a variety of reasons, but the content within an iframe on a page still won’t be indexed as part of that page’s content.

6. Do the URLs of your pages Include “cgi-bin” or numerous ampersands? As discussed, search engines are leery of dynamically generated pages. That’s because they can lead the search spider into an infinite loop called a “spider trap.” Certain characters (question marks, ampersands, equal signs) and “cgi-bin” in the URL are sure-fire tip-offs to the search engines that the page is dynamic and thus to proceed with caution. If the URLs have long, overly complex “query strings” (the part of the URL after the question mark), with a number of ampersands and equals signs (which signify that there are multiple variables in the query string), then your page is less likely to get included in the search engine’s index.

7. Do the URLs of your pages include session IDs or user IDs? If your answer to this question is yes, then consider this: search engine spiders like Googlebot don’t support cookies, and thus the spider will be assigned a new session ID or user ID on each page on your site that it visits. This is the proverbial “spider trap” waiting to happen. Search engine spiders may just skip over these pages. If such pages do get indexed, there will be multiple copies of the same pages each taking a share of the PageRank score, resulting in PageRank dilution and lowered rankings.If you’re not quite clear on why your PageRank scores will be diluted, think of it this way: Googlebot will find minimal links pointing to the exact version of a page with a particular session ID in its URL.

8. Do you unnecessarily spread your site across multiple domains? This is typically done for load balancing purposes. For example, the links on the home page point off to, or, or and so on, depending on which server is the least busy. This dilutes PageRank in a way similar to how session IDs in the URL dilute PageRank.

9. Are your title tags the same on all pages? Far too many websites use a single title tag for the entire site. If your site falls into that group, you’re missing out on a lot of search engine traffic. Each page of your site should “sing” for one or several unique keyword themes. That “singing” is stifled when the page’s title tag doesn’t incorporate the particular keyword being targeted.

10. Do you have pop-ups on your site? Most search engines don’t index Javascript-based pop-ups, so the content within the pop-up will not get indexed. If that’s not good enough reason to stop using pop-ups, you should know that people hate them – with a passion. Also consider that untold millions of users have pop-up blockers installed. (The Google Toolbar and Yahoo Companion toolbar are pop-up blockers, too, in case you didn’t know.)

I expect many of you will look at these questions and think that they should be asked well before a site goes live, very early in the design process. That’s probably true. But it’s also true that web sites evolve over time, rather like people. They change, grow, and adapt to conditions in the marketplace. By the time a web site has been up for a couple of years (or even less), it might be a very different creature from what the site owner originally had in mind.

This kind of change is not a bad thing, per se. We all get a certain amount of satisfaction out of growing and tweaking our sites, and then watching what happens. If we’re not looking clearly at what the site is turning into, however, we can’t see what it needs.

Search engine optimization could be a tiring task but with time it sure helps you get better traffic.

Today Google Real-Time Search Changes Everything. Not being where your customer is looking could be costing you their business! Search engines are tightening up the loopholes to manipulate positioning.

So called “doorway” pages, tricks with meta tag/keyword files, etc. no longer are effective. Keyword positioning, along with indexing, is the way to be seen on today’s Internet.

•The vast majority of clicks occur within the top 5 positions on a search page.

• As a rule, the more competitive the business category, the harder it is to attain decent placement. Conversely, the more competitive the business category, the more important placement is to success of the business.

Entrepreneurs and small businesses constantly find themselves looking around asking themselves why they can’t quite seem to find a good fit for what they need from service providers.

People do business with who they like, who they trust and who truly care about their business. In fact, a recent study by US News & World Report revealed that when clients leave their current provider it’s not because of a pricing or product problem, but a “people” problem. People that no longer value their business, or seem indifferent to it. A whopping 68% of them.

• A fractional 14% defected because of a pricing issue followed by 9% who were successfully wooed by a competitor.

• With Google Real-Time Search the playing field has been leveled.

• No longer can you or your competition sit back and think they own their TOP organic Google positions!

To Improve Web Site Search Engine Rankings, it’s SEO Specialist Online for all your search engine optimization needs Why not let us do a Free Website Evaluation for Your Business TODAY!

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