Tuesday, January 24, 2006

This Will Save You $500

My normal fee to do a quick evaluation of a web site and provide recommendations to improve search engine rankings and visitor response is $500. I find that I'm making the same recommendations over and over. So I'm going to give you those recommendations here, for FREE. All you need to do is implement them on your web site and you've just saved $500.

By the way, if you read this blog, and you don't make these changes, and then you hire me to evaluate your web site, PLEASE don't complain about paying $500 to get the same recommendations you've read here.

If you find that any of these recommendations apply to your web site, and you'd like to express your gratitude, please go to http://www.mtainfo.com and make a donation to help Russian orphans. (Thank you!)

#1 - Company name in the home page title tag. I find this problem on almost every web site I look at. The title I'm talking about is the title contained within the code in the HEAD section of your home page. It will be located between TITLE tags like these:

You won't see this title on your web site. However, it is a major factor used by the search engines in categorizing the page and it is commonly the source for the text that is displayed as the link text for your home page.

Instead of your company name, use a title that describes the content of the page or web site. If your home page is about engine maintenance for blue cars, then use the title: Engine Maintenance For Blue Cars. It will look like this in your HTML code:

#2 - Using the company name as the title for every page. Not only do most web sites I look at use their company name for the page title, they use the company name as the title for every page. This tells search engines that EVERY page on your web site is about your company name. If I were a search engine spider I'd think I was getting a lot of pages all about the same thing--that's not good spider food. (Spiders like variety.)

Do #1 above for every page on your web site. Each page should have a unique title that specifically describes the content of that page.

#3 - Flash menus. This isn't as common as the two items above, but it is a growing problem. If you are using Flash to create your menus, provide an alternative means of navigation using text links. More and more web sites are using Flash. Yes, you can do some cool things with Flash, but in many cases it's a dead end for search engines. They can't read the information in Flash files, which means they can't follow your menus. They'll get to your home page... and won't go any further.

You can keep your Flash animations and menus, but at the bottom of EVERY page provide text links that duplicate the links within the Flash file for that page. Spiders love text links and will follow them wherever they lead.

#4 - Frames. Frames should have died out years ago, but web designers continue to use them. A common use of frames is to make a page with the menus, and then frame the content. As you go through the menus it looks like the menu remains stationary and the content changes. Some web designers think it looks cool, but it's a dead end for search spiders.

The result most often is that the search spiders index the content within the frame as individual web pages. Visitors may end up at these pages, instead of the framed version, getting stuck on a plain looking page, with no navigation and usually no way out. It's a quick way to lose customers.

#5 - Database driven web sites. I've talked with web site owners who don't know what this means, and didn't know they had a database driven web site. A database driven web site is one in which information displayed on your web site comes from a database, and the web pages are created on the fly. They don't exist until someone wants to look at them. If you see a question mark in the URL for some of your pages (for example http://www.zd85.com/index.php?index=one), then it is probably a database drive web site.

Search spiders have gotten a lot better at indexing pages that come from a database, but there are still many problems. There are a few things you can do to make it easier for them to spider your database pages:

-- Keep the URLs short and with two or fewer parameters.

-- Remove the "?" from the URL and replace it with another character. For example, you can reconfigure Cold Fusion to use a "\" instead of a "?".

-- A must-do is to create a Google Site Map (https://www.google.com/webmasters/sitemaps/login) that lists all the URLs from your web site. Yahoo also accepts site maps. Information about submiting a site map to Yahoo is available at: http://submit.search.yahoo.com/free/request.

-- Plus a good solid way to ensure your most important pages are indexed by search engines is to create static pages.

A static page is one that is not created by the database software, it exists all the time. One approach is to pick your key products and create static "featured product" pages. Link to these pages from your home page, site map and other relevant static pages on your web site. Link from these pages to the associated dynamic pages so your customers have direct access to the features of your database-driven pages such as online ordering.

These are just the top five SEO problems I've been finding on web sites. Fix these and then contact me for a quick evaluation of your web site. There are usually plenty of other things that need fixing. And please don't forget, if you found the above useful, please make a small donation to help Russian orphans. Thanks!!


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