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Optimize Your Web Site          Print the current page
by Brian D. Chmielewski

At one time or another, I have discussed the importance of optimizing your HTML code for the major search engines. Today I will bring several ideas together in an attempt to crystallize them for improving search ranking.

Between 70 and 80 percent of traffic that is driven to your web site originates from the major search engines. That metric indicates traffic, not sales. If most people share my surfing behaviors, they would type in a keyword at a search engine and then sort through the top ten to twenty results, actually clicking through an even smaller percentage. So, listing near the top and speaking to your target audience in the proper way are very important. There are six components of the web page that you should pay strict attention to when preparing a page for listing in a search engine.

The first step toward improved listing is selecting the best keywords to do the job. Keywords are the foundation for your presence in the search engines. Applying the same keywords throughout each component is very important, so converging upon a specific collection of keywords is very important.

How do I choose effective keywords?
You should already have some idea of the keywords or keyword combinations (keyword phrases) that you will want to use. To get a comprehensive idea of all of the keywords that could assist you with your optimization, there are two things that you should do. First grab an online or print Thesaurus. Investigate synonyms for your original keywords. Write these words down on a sheet of paper. Next, perform searches at each of the major engines for your original keywords and keyword phrases. Pay close attention to the web sites that rank 1 through 10. You will notice that the sites do not always rank in the same location and some do only appear on one engine. View the source code of these pages, looking for patterns and placement of keywords in the <TITLE>, <META> <BODY> and <ALT> tags. Next, search for your known competitor's web sites and view the HTML source code and their site text. Noticing patterns is your key to advanced ranking above them. Rather than visiting each engine and performing a search, you can simply use RankThis! < http://www.rankthis.com >. RankThis! allows URL searching of all of the major search engines by keyword or keyword phrase - all at one location.

Title Tag
Since the title tag is the first thing that a user sees if your web site is returned for their keyword query, it is a very important. Place those keywords that are most pertinent to your business in the title tag. When you select title tag keywords, you should be thinking of them like the words on a nameplate on the entrance to a business. Effective title tags include relevant keyword or keyword phrases only. They also avoid non-indexing filler words, such as a, an, the, welcome and home page. Example: <TITLE>uPromote - Center for Intelligent Web Marketing</TITLE>.

META keywords tag
These tags are HTML code that permit a web site developer to tell search engine algorithms what keywords are relevant to their site. The META keywords tag is your location in the HTML code for the placement of keywords and keyword phrases. Presently, META Tags are supported by AltaVista, Infoseek and HotBot. Example: <META Name="keywords" Content="web marketing, online promotions, promote, internet marketing, search engine submissions...">

META description tag
Similar to the keywords tag, this tag offers behind-the-scenes placement of additional keywords. Some search engines use this information to derive your site's description and some search engines use this information in developing your web site's relevancy for a particular search term. Example: <META Name="description" Content="Use our intelligent Internet marketing programs to drive qualified traffic to your web site. Choose a custom tailored web site promotion or an individual Web marketing solution to promote your web site traffic.

More about keywords
It is good to have a broad set of keywords to begin with, but what really matters are the specific keywords used by surfers to find your web site. Using the leader page strategy can help you to reduce the unnecessary overhead of unexhausted keywords. To initiate this tactic, break your larger set of keywords into smaller subsets. Place one set of keywords into a web page that is indicated by the URL www.yourdomain.com/index1.html, a second set of keywords at www.yourdomain.com/index2.html and so on with the remainder of your keywords. Submit each of these pages to the search engines and watch your server logs. Based on which pages are more popular, you will know what your customers are typing in to find you on the Web. uPromote's Optimization Guide explains this process for each engine in detail.

Alt Tags
Alt Tags are the HTML code that allow you to add keyword significance to images. Using this tag adds additional keyword relevance for search engines to index. This tag also enables visible text to be present when the 'view images' preference is turned off in browser. Example: <IMG SRC="/images/picture.gif" BORDER="0" ALT="web site promotion">

Side Note: Remember to use images sparingly in a web page. Words in images cannot be read by search engine spiders, since they are part of a graphic. No valid ranking information is available for images that don't use ALT Tags. Also, every image should have some relevant symbolism or functionality. The proper use of images and ALT tags improves web page load time, improves potential for high placement and improves user's experience at your web site.

Body Text
Many people forget to make pages that they want to perform well in the engines focused for certain keywords. Use targeted keywords in the pages that you wish to rank in the engines. Create multiple keyword-centric pages for advantageous listing for each of your keywords. Use additional pages that you are less concerned with to add detail to the keyword-centric pages. When writing the content of your body, be aware of keyword placement, use keyword and keyword phases. use synonyms of your keywords and don't be verbose. This will assist you in improving the ranking of each page for a particular keyword, while enhancing the user's experience.

You can check out the most recent specs for the search engines at Searchenginewatch.com.

Once your web site is optimized, use uPromote Directory Submissions to get the best for your site in the search engines.

First published in WebPromote's August 1998, Vol 4 newsletter.