Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Solving A SEO Problem

This is the most common question I'm asked.

You have a web site, but it’s not showing up in the top results in searches on Google. What do you do?

Jump right in, start going through the pages on the site changing the titles and meta tags, and packing more keywords into the text on the pages. The sooner you get it done, the sooner Google will see your changes and rank the web site higher. Right?


Before making any changes or additions, know what you want to do and WHY you are doing it. In other words, do some planning first.

The first question is always, “What is the purpose of this web site?” Having a high search engine ranking isn’t important for about 80% of the web sites I manage. Some are intended for internal use; some are customer service related, some provide landing pages for adverting, and others are used to support a sales force.

Next ask, “Why isn’t this site showing up in search results? What are the possible problems?”

Here are a few things to look for:

1) Does the site use frames or Flash? If so, this is the place to start. First, get rid of the frames. Search engines will not read the content in the frames, so it won't get indexed. Besides, no web site needs to use frames.

Here's a web site that was originally designed using frames:

The site was redesigned to eliminate the frames. It not only looks better, but now the search engines can spider it: Blair & Vestigo Law Firm

There are some legitimate uses for Flash, but this is the only file format Google says they can not read. So information in Flash movies will not be seen by Google, which means your site won't show up in Google search results. If no one can find your site, then no one will see your beautiful Flash animations.

2) Is the site database driven? Pages built from a database will generally not be indexed by search engines. You’ll need to build some static content that will form a framework around your pages created from the database.

3) How much text is on each page, in particular your home page? Although this is not a firm rule, you should have at least 250 words of text on pages you want to show up in search results. A better rule of thumb is to create pages that have a variety of text, ranging from 100 words on some to 750 words on others.

4) What is your site navigation like? Does it use Javascript or image links? If so, consider changing to text links, or at least put text links at the bottom of each page, that duplicate the Javascript or image links.

If your site doesn’t have one, create a “site map” for search engines that has a link to every page you want the search engines to find. Put in a link from your home page to the site map page. This page makes it easy for spiders to find the pages you want them to find.

5) Is anyone linking to your web site (try link harvester)? What is your deep link ratio? These two tools will give you some perspective on the links coming into your site.

6) How are people currently finding your site? Check your web logs to find out how much traffic the site has and where it is coming from.

You web logs are packed with useful information. You can find the pages most frequently used to enter and exit your site. You can see what search terms and phrases have led visitors to your site. You can find out if you have a problem with 404 errors (page not found).

Once you have this basic information, identify the key problem areas and make a plan to change your web site to address those problem areas.


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