Search Engine Optimization and Design

October 5, 2016

Building an attractive even beautiful is the goal of most website designers. In the process, sometimes the effectiveness of the website is diminished. We need to keep in mind that our goal is not only to have a beautiful website that will make people want to stay and look around and enjoy, but also a website that will be helpful to the engines in determining what our website is about or what it is relevant to.

Udi Manber, Google vice president overseeing search quality, in response to a question about webpage content evolving to be more search engine friendly explained, “It’s definitely still lacking. I wish people would put more effort into thinking about how other people will find them and putting the right keywords onto their pages.” Popular Mechanics – April 16, 2008

Search engine optimization or SEO is arguably the most essential way to drive targeted traffic to your website because it leads to improved search engine placement. Optimizing the benefits of a well-designed web site will result in much more traffic coming to the website thereby generating income for the company publishing the website. With this fact in mind however, optimizing your website might cost you thousands of dollars if you are not skilled in this area. Good search engine optimization that leads to improved search engine placement will, on the other hand, bring you a much higher return on the investment of either time or money you put into it.

My goal in this article is to give you the basics of search engine optimization so that you can understand it and incorporate it to help you accomplish your task. This will help you to improve your relevancy and search engines rankings for the best results possible through proven search engine optimization techniques.

What are the major mistakes in design

First is is important to remember that search engines are machines and read words they don’t see images or pictures. The most common mistakes form a search engine optimization standpoint are:

Making a website totally in Flash(TM)
Images without alt tags
Minimal or nonexistent meta title or title tag
Flash(TM) to the search engines is just like an image it is invisible although the Flash(TM) may capture the intrigue of the viewer it won’t help the search engine to know what your website is about. While the text display as a part of the Flash(TM) my be rich in keywords and information it will be lost completely to the search engines and you will go unnoticed. Flash(TM) and pictures can be used to enhance a website but the site must have text in order to build relevance for the search engines.

In the same sense images are also invisible, however we can include alt tags that will give the search engines an idea of what the viewer will see. In fact the alt tags can be very helpful since the search engines will place a little more emphasis on the text in alt tags. Don’t go overboard using keyword phrases in the alt tags but use some to help where appropriate.

The title tag as well discuss later is an important place to tell the search engines what your webpage is all about.

Where do we start?

Why is search engine optimization (SEO) so important? SEO is important because this will make your website relevant to your keywords during the search engine ranking process and will lead to improved search engine ranking. This is the reason why some businesses hire an SEO company to do this task.

You can get information on low cost related services anywhere on the internet. However, few are really showing you how to work out an inexpensive plan for improved search engine placement. Some companies will even use antiquated techniques that may slow the process down. Good search engine optimization should help you to start improving the search engine ranking of your website and start driving traffic to it in a matter of days or weeks with expensive processes.

Search engine optimization begins optimally on your website, as you plan and build it. If it was not done at first you are not too late, you can do it after you have it built and go back and revise it to improve the exposure to the search engines and still lead to improved search engine placement. It consists of the following elements referred to as “onsite optimization”.

Keyword Research – choosing the primary and secondary keywords you will use on your website or webpage
Implementing the keywords naturally into important elements in the website header and body.
Keyword Research and Usage
Let’s start first with keyword research. Why is keyword research important? The keyword research helps us to find the keywords that connect us with our targeted audience. They are the words that we want to use on our website in a variety of ways to build relevancy on our webpage so when search engines find our website and view / crawl our pages, they will then index us for those keywords. Once that happens, then when those keywords are typed into the search engine by potential customers, the search engine will then display our site in the search results, which is how they tie us to our targeted audience.

Ideally you will use a reverse search tool that will enable you to type in words you think are keywords people would search for and which will tell you the number of times those keywords were searched for over a given period of time. Depending on the tool you are using and the databases and the search engines they have access to for their search results you will get different numbers in your reverse search results. Your search engine optimization professional will know and have access to these tools and which ones are appropriate for specific uses. These tools can significantly speed up the process of onsite optimization lead to quicker improved search engine placement.

One tool you can use for manual research is Keyword Discovery’s Free Search Term Suggestion Tool. It will limit your results to 100 keywords for any given search. Another manual search tool is’s Suggestion tool. Both of these manual reverse search tools will allow you to find the keywords that people type into the search engines and how many times they were searched for. Remember keywords are how we connect with our targeted audience.

How Do I Use My Keywords Once we have identified the keywords, next we need to know where and how to use them for improved search engine placement. The first and arguably the most important place to use our keywords would be the title tag for your website. The title tag appears in the header of the page and is the first opportunity we have to tell the search engine what our page is about.

The title tag should be 60 – 80 characters in length and use one or two of the most important and/or relevant keywords for that page and possibly your website domain name, especially if your domain name includes keywords in it. The title tag information appears in the blue header bar at the top of the window and is also used as the title of your listing when your website is displayed in the natural or organic search results.

The meta description should be about 2 – 3 sentences or up to about 200 characters that describe for the customer and the search engine what the webpage is about. In the natural or organic search engine results, this description will be the first choice for the text the search engine displays beneath the title. This description does not appear on the website page when the website is displayed for the visitor but is readable by the search engine and used in the search results primarily.

A third meta tag is the keywords meta tag which is also not displayed to the visitor of the website. The keywords meta tag is a hold over from early methods of search engine optimization, but because it was abused by website developers, it is seldom use by search engines. We still use the keywords meta tag, but most search engines ignore it due to those previous abuses. Some search engines may still evaluate it and you never know when search engines may start to use it again. The Keywords meta tag is simply a list of up to 12 keyword phrases separated by commas.

The example below exclude the angle brackets due to this article being written in HTML but the angle brackets are the less than and greater than signs.

“meta content=”Basic search engine optimizations concepts presented to give business owners and website developers and understanding of good SEO techniques…” name=”description” /” enclosed in angle brackets.

“meta content=”keyword phrase 1,keyword phrase 2,keyword phrase 3,…” name=”keywords” /” enclosed in angle brackets
Your keywords used in the title, description and keywords tags now need to be used on the page to validate to the search engine that your page is actually about what you told the search engine that your page is relevant to. If the search engine doesn’t see any of the keywords on your page, then it can only assume that your page is not relevant to the words you used in the title, description and keywords tags in the header area of the web site.

Now that we know that we need text on the page how can we use that text to help emphasize the relevancy of the keywords on the page? Mechanisms such as header tags for headings using keywords will give more emphasis to keywords. Hyperlinks where the anchor text is a keyword phrase will add relevance to the keyword phrase and since the anchor text and the associated hyperlink reference are indexed by the search engines, using a keyword phrase as the anchor text both on the website and in offsite marketing will increase your ranking for that keyword phrase. Bolding and italics also draw some attention to the keywords for the search engine. Each page needs to have enough text on it to allow that page to demonstrate the relevance of the keywords it displays in the header of the page to the search engine, if true search engine optimization is to be achieved.

Lets take a look at some of the other tags mentioned in the previous paragraph. Header tags alert the search engine to more important text on the page, much like the headline on the page of newspaper does to the reader. A header tag is a tag that contain a “H” and a number between 1 and 7. The lower the number the larger the text and the more important it is to the search engine. H1 tags can be formatted using font tags to control the size or .css files to control the formatting.

Hyperlinks consist of at least two components. The first component is the link destination represented by the term “href” referring to the hyperlink reference and the anchor text located between the beginning and ending anchor tags. An anchor tag is an “a” in angle brackets and ending with “/a” in angle brackets. The beginning tag also include the destination reference. Remember that you you could use a keyword phrase in place of the word home to designate your home page. That keyword phrase would be a link and would help to build relevance for your website for that keyword phrase.

As we use these structures in combination in a natural way we then are able to help the search engine to know what our page is about and also create a page that is functional for the user.

To optimize your website well for the search engines you should use unique meta tags on each page on your website. The keywords should be used in:

The title tag – big three
Meta description
Meta keywords
Header tag – big three
Opening paragraph – about 4% density
Alt tags on all images and using keywords on about 3 images per page
Link / anchor text or hyperlinks – big three
Body of the page – about 4% density (visible text)
Closing paragraph – about 4% density
They should be used in such a way as to feel natural on the page. If the page feels awkward, then look for ways to reword the information on the page and make sure you are not forcing the keywords in too many times. This in combination with other activities to build your page rank are the best ways to get your page listed on page one of the search engines.

These strategies are what we call onsite page optimization. Each page needs to have its own unique page optimization for the content on that page. Don’t make the mistake of using the same title, description and keywords meta tags for every page on your site.

Using these strategies in conjunction with the design of your website will vastly improve your search engine placement.

Karl Bennion is the owner of SEO Expert Pro, a search engine optimization company specializing in improved search engine placement. Karl has worked for companies in the graphics and computer industries such as Evan and Sutherland and Sun Microsystems and now focuses on bringing search engine optimization to the public.

A Search Engine Optimization Campaign – Quick & Dirty

October 5, 2016

An effective Search Engine Optimization campaign begins by using keywords to target the subjects which you intend your web site to rank for. In order to rank in the search engine results pages (SERP’s), a web site has to have a position of relevance to the search engine for a given search term. This is usually achieved by having keyword rich content on the site that coincides with the search term that the internet user types into the search engine.

In organic, (natural) search engine optimization, there are several factors that contribute to the ranking for a search term. Each search engine provider has their own unique set of criteria that they use to determine which web site is most relevant for that specific term. The factors that are used to determine search engine rankings are then calculated by a complex search engine algorithm.

Due to the high amount of targeted customer traffic that stands to be gained by a web site that has a top-ranked position in the search engines, the search providers keep the details of the factors which make up their algorithm a closely guarded secret.

Even though the search providers are careful with the exact formula that they use to gauge the rankings of web sites, there have been several constants discovered that when applied, produce favorable results.

Keywords – Content without Keywords = Website without Traffic

Keywords are at the center of any effective search engine optimization campaign. The basic rule of thumb in search engine optimization is that content is king. So, it is important to base all the content of a web site on accurate and informative content.

The first thing to perform in an optimization campaign is keyword research. To find the search terms that are generating traffic for the topic that you want to rank for, you need to determine what the internet users are searching for. This may be accomplished by several different means however the most common way is to use a keyword selector tool.

There are several different keyword tools that may be used. The one tool that was the industry standard for quite a while was the Overture keyword selector tool which, as of January 07′, has been retired . The data in the Overture database still remains available for historical data, but is no longer being publicly updated by Yahoo!, the company that now owns the service.

There are however several other keyword tools that may be used. Some free and some available for purchase or subscription based service.

Free: SEO Book keyword suggestion tool:
Free: Google AdWords keyword suggestion tool:
Various prices: Keyword Discovery:
You Have to do your Homework – Keyword Research
There are few things to keep in mind before starting keyword research. The fact is that you will probably not be able to rank for a very competitive single-word search term like “money” or “cars”. For that matter, there are many two-word search terms, like “real estate”, that you will not be able to rank for either. So, in order to achieve rankings for your site with a subject like real estate, you have to look for related terms that will allow you to obtain a high position and yet not be too obscure so that you will still be attracting relevant traffic. For instance, you might try ranking for the search term “South Florida Real Estate Agency”, or “South Florida Real Estate Brokers”.

In order to determine the best search terms to use on content pages, I generally make a spreadsheet based on the topics that I feel are of most relevance.

There is an instructional Video I Created on “Search Engine Optimization Keyword Research”, over in You Tube … (
The research phase is generally considered a very crucial part of the campaign because if the keyword terms that you choose are not searched for by internet users or if there are too many pages indexed in the search engines for that specific search phrase, your chances of achieving decent ranking results are very low.

There are some SEO’s that suggest that every page on a web site should be based on a keyword. This strategy may produce a high amount of pages that rank well in the SERP’s. However, the other side to that is sacrificing quality and readability. It may be difficult for a potential customer to perceive a web site as an authority or as a respectable source of information, if that web site has a directory structure that appears to be nothing more than a group of phrases. Moreover, it is very important to maintain a level of simplicity in the navigation and layout of a web site so that when a visitor comes to the site they may quickly identify the areas that would be of interest to them.

If a visitor is trying to determine which link on the navigation is relevant to their search and is only provided a selection of keyword-driven entry page links, the site may elicit a response of being shallow, which could in turn damage the reputation of the site.

As a good rule of thumb, it is suggested to have at least three, and no more than ten, keyword-driven content pages for every topic that you are attempting to rank for.

More Keyword Stuff? Oh Yes! … Keyword and Keyword Phrase Usage

After you have performed your keyword research for the topics that you want to target, there are some considerations that need to be addressed before actually sitting down to start writing. One of the key concepts that many successful SEO’s tend to focus heavily on is keyword or keyword phrase density.

Keyword density is the measurement of how many times a given keyword or keyword phrase is used in the entire body of the page. For instance, if your web page contains 500 words on the page, and your keyword or keyword phrase is used 10 times, you would have a density of 2%.If the keyword density is too high, the search engine algorithm may consider the results to be search engine spamming which in worst case scenarios, can have your site banned from the search engines. If on the other hand, the keyword density is too low, the page will not rank for the search term. Seeing that there are fairly severe consequences for creating a web page with a keyword density that is too high, it is generally suggested to air on the side of caution and limit your density to “safe” levels.

Though keyword density is a very controversial subject, I have found that keyword densities are relatively safe between 3% and 6%. However, you should keep in mind that algorithms may also consider an overall density of keyword usage for the whole site as well as for individual pages. If you have ten pages that use the keyword “real estate” at a density rate of 5 %, and those pages comprise half the pages on the site, then the site ratio for that keyword just jumped to 12.5 % which is not good.* (5% x 10 pages = 50% / 2 (half the pages)) = 12.5%
Keyword density should be used primarily as a gauge to determine if you have your search term either enough, or not enough times on a page, and should only be used as a gauge.

There are many other factors that contribute to ranking and density is really just a useful tool that can assist you in creating a good balance of keyword rich content. Keyword density alone will not produce search engine rankings.

*There is no evidence which suggests that search engines are calculating results based on total web site keyword density. However, many SEO’s consider total density to be an important factor to measure.

In Real Estate – It’s Location, Location, Location – In SEO – It’s Content, Content, Content

In search engine optimization, content CAN determine your location in the search engine results pages. Web sites that have a high quantity of quality content, naturally appeal to internet users. But, it is not the quality of the content itself that contributes to rankings – it’s the keywords in the content.

Most internet users are searching for informative articles regarding the subject matter that they are searching for. So, it is only natural that if a web site contains information that the user finds authoritative and informative, they will be encouraged to have confidence in the views, opinions, and suggestions that may be implied from the content. However, if a web site has very little or poor quality content that does not express a level of confidence in the consumer, they are most likely going to return to the SERPs’ to search for information that they find confidence in.

Many people that are involved in the creation of web content have a misguided belief that if the content on the site is good, the site will rank well based solely on the quality of the content. This is simply not true. Though good content is paramount to a search engine optimization campaign, the quality of the content has little if any significance in search engine rankings. Again, the quality of the content is not what contributes to rankings – it’s the keywords in the content.

So, you may be wondering, “If content is king why doesn’t that equate to rankings?” The answer is quite simple – the search engine algorithm.

The search engines give relevance to content on a web site based on the factors in their algorithm, not the quality of the content. So to achieve rankings, it is necessary to understand what the search engine considers as relevant. Not what you or I consider as relevant.

To answer the question that’s on the fringes of your subconscious … it’s the keywords in the content.

How to Put it All Together – Web Pages for the Search Engines

In order to achieve search engine rankings for your web site, there are two things that are necessary.

First, you have to have keywords that internet users are searching for which;

There are not too many pages in the search engine index for …
You need to have good keyword rich content that is created following your own keyword / phrase density levels.
The third part of the process is based on creating the content in a manner that will produce effective results. One of the first matters at hand is the amount of text that should be used. I recommend keeping the length smaller and adding more pages because search engine robots have been noted as only crawling to a depth of around the first 100 – 150 words.

Personally, I write my pages anywhere between 400 and 600 words in length and sometimes a bit longer. But the basic logic here is this: The more pages that you have, the more crawlable content you have. So, the answer is to simply create more small-sized pages. Furthermore, robots seem to crawl and index lightweight pages better. So, it might be wise to keep the page size rather low by limiting the amount of words, and especially the amount of images that you use on a web page.

Note however, that there really isn’t an ideal page size because different search engines index at a varying rate of depth and page weight. For instance, Yahoo! doesn’t typically index pages that are over 200KB. Google on the other hand, finds pages that are between 500 to 550 KB as “preferable” with regards to page weight.

When creating the content there are some very important guidelines that need to be considered as well. The placement of your keywords on your web page should be at the top of the page since the prime real estate for the robots are the first one hundred words or so. I generally like to follow a self-guided rule of writing the keyword or keyword phrase with in the first two opening sentences.

After that, I follow a formatting technique which tends to elicit excellent results for me, which is:

Intro-bullet list
This simple format has several powerful elements that contribute to optimization here. The key to using this format successfully is the positioning of the first three elements; the paragraph, call-to-action, bullet list. The use of this combination supports:

The creation of keyword or keyword phrases in the first few sentences of the opening paragraph.
The ability to create keyword or keyword phrase based links in the Call-to-Action.
Many more keyword linking opportunities and supporting topics in the bullet list.
Web pages that are created with this format and use relevant search terms in the bullet list have a tendency to rank for the content in the bullet list as keyword stems on the main keyword.

Oh Boy! Let’s work on In-Page Optimization

So now we come to the point where we start to look at the implications of actual HTML – web page creation. There are several key areas that are important to proceed carefully at when creating an optimization based web site. The first matter is deal with how the Meta tags are used.

There are three main Meta tags that are relative to the creation of optimized web pages.
The first, and with out a doubt the most important is the Meta Title tag. The Title tag should contain the keyword or keyword phrase and any relevant stems provided that the quantity of the entire title is within an acceptable character count. As with many areas of SEO / SEM, there are many opinions on how many characters should or should not be included in the Title tag. I normally stay between 50 to 60 characters when I am performing optimization on a site for a client. However, I will sometimes push the envelope if I am working on a site for which I am the only liable party. In short, if you use too many characters / words – the site may be penalized for “spamming” the search engines.

The next tag which I believe to be equally as important in an antecedent and consequent sort of way, is the Meta description tag. I feel that this tag is highly underrated and requires some consideration. The Meta Description tag works very much as a support to the Meta title tag and if it is created properly, can offer several opportunities to add keyword relevance and / or stems that may promote a wider marketing saturation for the keyword or keyword phrase.

For instance, let’s take a look at this example of the Meta Title tag and the Meta Description tag “in agreement” with each other:

At first look, it seems that this is nothing more than a simple title and description. Well, it should because it is really that simple. The Title has the keyword phrase and relevant stems trailing after it to promote a wider saturation for the main topic of the keyword phrase. Though in this example the character count is a little higher than I would recommend, the Title contains strong keyword phrase support and the description reaffirms the keywords and stems so that the phrase is stated twice and the stems are stated twice. This is a simple example of how the description tag offers a lot of opportunity to increase saturation for relevant search terms.

The next Meta tag is the center of much controversy and that is the Meta Keywords tag. The rule for this tag is quite simple – and should be closely adhered to. Only use between 10 and 12 words at the most, and the keywords that are used in the tag should be on the page that you are placing the tag on.

Lastly, but equally as important, do not use keyword stems like “keyword, keyword stuffed, keyword stuffed Meta tag”. The search engine will consider this spamming and the web site could suffer quality deductions for improper usage.

It Might Look Great – But What If Your Customers Can’t Find It?

The careful creation of web pages is a vital part in developing a web site to perform in the search engines. However, there too are other design & layout considerations that need to be followed as well. JavaScript, oversized images and Flash based templates may add a degree of dynamic presentation to a web site and be appealing to users. However, search engine spiders have difficulty indexing the code. To explain further, spiders are relatively simplistic in design and must be to be able to move swiftly through the web. A text link browser such as Lynx, portrays what a web site would look like to a search engine spider.

The most practical way to accomplish the problem with code and spiders is to place all of the files for JavaScript and images into directories and then import the files in to the page at run time.

In order to build sites that are geared toward the search engine spiders, images, JavaScript and Flash should be on pages that are either not “created for rankings” or be positioned in ways that will allow the spider to index the text-based content prior to “crawling through the code.”

Though it may be much more complicated to build a web site based on the requirements of the search engine spiders, the results can be the difference between being on the first of the search engine results pages, and being so far in the results, that the site is rarely if ever visited for the search query which the page is (presumably) attempting to rank for.

Links – The Holy Grail of SEO

One of the main factors that a search engine relies heavily upon is the density of internal and external links. The largest major search engine, Google, gauges to a large degree, the “position” of a web site based on the quality and quantity of links for the site.

Internal links should be created with keyword relevance in mind. Link text and internal links are considered to be of major importance when weighing a web site’s relevance for a keyword or keyword phrase. The basic idea here is that a keyword in a link should point to a destination URL that is relevant to the keyword or keyword phrase.

If the keyword phrase is “web developer”, the link should be pointing to a URL that has the keyword phrase “web developer” in it. If the link has “web developer” in it and is pointing to a URL that has “contact form”, your keyword strength is “draining” and the value of that keyword is thereby reduced. I feel that an analogy using electrical current explains this type of scenario quite well. If the continuity is not consistent from end to end the power is either lost, or drained out of the connection.

Another important matter regarding internal linking is the amount of links on a page. My advice is to keep links to no more than one hundred per page. If a web page contains more than one hundred links, the search engines may consider the site to be part of a link-farm or a link-exchange which may result in obtaining negative consequences for having a “bad character”, and the site may receive penalties for being in a “bad neighborhood.”

A large part of search engine optimization is based on the quality of inbound links to a web site. The relevance of the links that point to a site, and the PageRank of the site that is pointing to that site, have a great deal of importance regarding the “class” of the site that is receiving the inbound link.

For simplicity, Google has categorized web sites into “classes”, much like the model that society or Object Oriented Programming where each web site (Object or Person) holds a certain degree or position based on their attributes, and characteristics.

This somewhat describes how Google considers the character of a site. Quite simply, web site links are much like that of neighborhoods. If you have neighbors (inbound links) that hold a position of status (respectable neighbors), then Google gives your web site credit as being of status based on the company you keep. (In a good neighborhood)

If however a site has low ranking inbound links that are of little or no relevance to a web site then Google considers the links as being of a poor quality and does not give credit to the site for those links.

That Should Get You … Started

Though this is no where near everything that should go in to a comprehensive search engine optimization campaign, you should be able to get a good start from here and build up enough information to get you on your way towards ranking in the SERP’s.

For a really great resource of “FREE” stuff on SEO, check out the resources in Google’s Webmaster tools … there is a wealth of information in there that should really help you get up to speed with search engine optimization. If that doesn’t have what your looking for … just Google it!

There are many great websites, Blogs and articles on the subject to keep you reading for a long, long time.

And If you are still wanting to find even more information regarding SEO, and you have just run out of resources …
there are some articles on my site, Florida Search Engine Optimization, that might have what your looking for to get your next search engine optimization campaign underway.

Best of Luck!