Web 101: Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

There are a great many factors involved in getting a website to rank high in the search engines. Some factors are easily controlled while others need an expert to accomplish.

Let’s start with the ones you can control:

  • Keywords – this involves finding the words which a user might use to find your product of service on a search engine, then placing them correctly in the text and in the coding.
  • Page Titles – shows the search engines and the searcher what your page is about. It is displayed in the top bar of most browsers. (e.g., Pasadena Web Design – CityCenter Co.)
  • Image names and coding – there are a number of ways to add keywords to your images such as file name, getting them into the alt tag which provides alternate text about the image to the search engines and visually impaired users, image titles (different from file name) and captions.
  • File names – this is the actual name of the page file (e.g., website-design.htm)
  • Blogging – websites with blogs are visited by search engines more often than a static website as a blog’s content is refreshed more than static sites.

Some of the more difficult ways to enhance your web ranking are:

  • Link building – This is getting links from other websites back to you. This cannot be done haphazardly as only links from relevant and trusted sites count.
  • Articles and press releases– Getting articles and press releases published on other websites which are in some way connected with yours. It can be associations you belong to, industry sites, or other sites about your industry. You can link to your site in the by-line. This also helps to make you “an expert” in your field.
  • Social media marketing – Setting up pages for your company on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. Once created, you need to post to your pages regularly with links back to your site for more data.
  • Pay per click – Online advertising with important keywords on Google, and other search engines, then paying each time someone clicks the ad leading the user to your site. It is important to do your keyword research before getting into pay per click as it can become quite expensive if done wrong.

We would be glad to assist you with your SEO activities – please call us!

Web 101: Writing (keywords), graphics, photos

When creating a website, content is king. It communicates to both the reader and the search engines, while images only talk to the reader. Therefore it is important that the website be written correctly.

It is important that you immediately let the visitor know what you do. You have about 10 seconds to convince the person that they are where they need to be. So your first sentence needs to say what the site is about and it needs to say it with your keywords.

Content is probably the most important factor in search engine optimization because you can use your keywords more times in the text of the site than anywhere else. According to search engine gurus, for best rankings there should be between 200 and 600 words per page for the search engine to index. This text needs to be keyword rich – a keyword percentage of 1 to 3% is optimum. Less than that and you could go unnoticed. More than that and the search engines might flag the site as a spammer.

Your keyword(s) should appear in the first sentence of the site and if possible be the first word of the first sentence. Your keywords should be used, if possible, in your navigation, in the captions on photos and where ever else they can be logically included.

One important thing to remember when making your content keyword rich – it still needs to read correctly for a real person. This is more easily accomplished using bullet points, each with the keyword in it, rather than trying to repeat the keyword several times in one or two paragraphs.

You can find out more about keyword density at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keyword_density

Can you over SEO a webpage?

CityCenter Co. works hard to make sure your website is visible to the search engines. It is vital that your site be found by the search engines so that it can be found by the searchers. We do however caution not to over do it, not to over optimize the site.

What do we mean by over optimizing? This is when the use of keywords supersedes the message of the website. The key is purpose. The purpose of a website, like any other marketing media, is to invite the reader to communicate. It is very important that the site present the message you want to your prospects to hear and to solicit some action from them in the form of an e-mail, a phone call or some reach for your services.

Over optimization can take several forms:

  1. Keywords are used so many times that the text reads like it was written for a ten year old. The site becomes stultified, it no longer delivers your message or guides the reader to action.
  2. The headline for the site does not attract the reader’s attention. Readers scan your webpage to see if this is the information they are looking for. They read the headline or the first paragraph and on that basis they decide whether to keep on reading. If the headline is more focused on impressing the search engines than on securing the reader’s attention then you’ve wasted the visit.
  3. A keyword can be overused to such an extent that the search engines adjudicate the site is spamming that word and ignore it.

Write for the person reading the website, not the search engines. You sell to people not search engines. Make sure your message stays intact and on target.

Optimization is necessary, you have to be able to be found, but we urge caution when doing it. Keep your message in mind and be sure not to lose it. Use keywords but use them to deliver your message not obliterate it.

Google’s Local Business Center

Any edge you can get to make your business stand out online – and in particular in Google – is a good thing. We recently set up a client to appear more prominently in Google Local Business Center and wanted to show you how easy it can be.

screen captureThis image shows the results of searching for “employment law pasadena” on maps.google.com. Note the one that has a photo – that’s our client!

The first step of the procedure is to get a Google account. Like (almost) all things Google it is free. Once you have that and are logged in to Google you can go to www.google.com/lbc – this is the starting point for Local Business Center.

You can then find your business and add information, photos, hours of operation, etc. This additional content is what will set your business apart from others.

At that point it is only necessary to “claim” your business – Google will verify that you have the authority to enter information on that listing and then your updates will be visible to all.

See our short video here of some of the additional things you can enter in to LBC:

Search Engine Optimization: Naming Your Pages

How you name each of your pages is very important. It helps the search engines determine what your web page is all about. If done right, it can improve how your site is found and ranked. If done wrong, it can hide your site from your prospects.

First let’s define some terms to avoid confusion:

Page Title: This HTML element shows the search engines and the searcher what your page is about. It is displayed in the topbar of the browser. (More on page titles )

Page Name: The file name of your page. It appears in the address bar of the browser. It, combined with the domain name, constitutes the URL (Uniform Resource Locator.)

Domain Name: The identification label which defines your entire site. It is the first part of any of your pages web address.
Page Title

Your homepage, depending on how your site is created, will normally be named index or default. This is set and is not variable. However each subsequent page needs to be a name that reflects its role but does so using keywords.

There are a great many pages online now with page names like services, about-us or contact. While these do reflect the pages role on the site, they do nothing to assist the search engines understanding of your site. Getting keywords in your page names is an often overlooked technique for SEOing a website.

If, for instance, we were creating a site for “Universal Widget” a company which manufactures and sells “Widgets”, we would want the following pages:

  1. Homepage – introduces the company and sets the tone of the website
  2. About Us – covers the history/experience of the company and its principals
  3. Services – outlines the various services offered (ie, creation, repair, classes…)
  4. Products – lists the various types of widgets produced
  5. Contact Us – contains all contact information including physical address, phone numbers, fax numbers and email address.

First we pick a domain name. Universal-Widget.com is better than UniversalWidget.com as the keyword “widget” is separate and not just part of another word. If Universal specializes in mahogany widgets then a domain name like Mahogany-Widget.com would be a good choice as it contains two important keywords, mahogany and widget.

When naming these pages we would keep in mind that the names not only have to reflect what the pages are about but also assist the search engines by using keywords.

Here are several guidelines which are used in creating the page names:

  • Keep them short, no more than 3 or 4 words
  • Use keywords
  • Use dashes between the words, not underlines and never spaces
  • Make them understandable to both humans and search engines
  • Don’t use anything extraneous such as dates, part numbers, etc which are meaningless to anyone but the company
  • Do not use special characters (&, %, ‘, *, etc.) except for dashes

So, using these rules let’s name the pages:

  1. Homepage – index.html (this is the default)
  2. About Us – about-universal-widget.htm
  3. Services – widget-manufacture-repair.htm
  4. Products – custom-mahogany-widgets.htm
  5. Contact Us – contact-mahogany-widgets.htm

Each contains keywords and describes what the pages are about, are no more than 3 words, are easily understandable and don’t contain any special characters. They will help the search engines find Universal Widget and rank it high for the keywords mahogany and widget.

Changing page names which have been used for a length of time is not recommended as the pages have already been indexed in the search engines and you do not want to lose there ranking. There is a way to make the change to a new page name (it is called a 301 redirect) but it needs to be done by someone with technical expertise.

One important thing to note is that you can over-SEO a URL. The trick is not to use too many words in the domain name or the file name. This will keep the importance of your keywords from diminishing since they won’t have to share significance with other, less important keywords.

Summary:

Using your keywords in creating your domain name and page names is extremely important in making your website search engine friendly. It helps the search engines and the searchers determine what your web pages are all about. If done correctly proper page names can improve how your site is found and ranked.

Useful Website Tools

We sometimes run across online tools that can show you how to make improvements to your website. Here are two really good ones:

Website Grader: http://websitegrader.com/ Just fill in the URL of your website (and if you wish some of your competitors) and it will give an overall score reflecting things like website traffic, SEO, and social popularity. It will also give you some ideas on how to improve your website.

Browser Size: http://browsersize.googlelabs.com/ From Google, this one helps you visualize how much of your web page others can see. This is useful when originally designing a page, but also later on when you add  a new element and want to make sure that the majority of your users can see it without scrolling.

Both of these are simple but effective tools – enjoy!

And Happy New Year from CityCenter!

Search Engine Optimization – Raise Your Visibility Through Link Building

In the last few months we have talked a lot about what you can do internally to improve your sites ranking on the search engines. We looked at finding and using your keywords in the Page Titles, Page Content, Image Tags and using Proper Coding to up your sites rank.

There is another very important aspect of getting your site ranked high on the search engines: link building. This is the practice of obtaining or creating links on other web sites back to your site. There are a number of ways to go about this. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Blogging – Set up a blog for your website and create keyword rich content which will be of interest to your clients and prospects. Then let the world know it’s there with ads, links from your site, links from your newsletter and RSS feeds. You can also connect your blog to your Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media accounts and also set it up to automatically send out as a newsletter. All these would create links back to your website. You can learn more about blogging from these articles.
  2. Social media sites – Set up business accounts for your company on Facebook and LinkedIn. and keep them current by updating them with keyword rich information. Be sure to link your posts back relevant pages on your website.
  3. Write articles – Write and submit keyword rich articles to article directories like Ezine, www.goarticles.com or www.articlecity.com or use an article submission service such as SendArticles.
  4. Write press releases – Write and submit keyword rich press releases to sites like PRweb or PRlog.
  5. Buy links – Pay per click search results and services like Google Ads.
  6. Ask for links – Requesting links from other related sites is always suggested. Find sites which relate but don’t compete with your site and request a link. Some good sites include trade associations, clubs, directories, Chambers of Commerce, and sites about your product or service which do not themselves sell. The higher the ranking of such sites the better the affect a link will have on your site. Avoid sites which have no relation to yours, such as link farms, link exchanges which indiscriminately put you on any site no matter the content (you could end up being connected to porn.)

Summary:

Links into your site are vital. Some SEO gurus estimate they account for up to 80% of your Google ranking. How many links do you have now? You can easily check it on Google by searching “link:www.yourdomain.com”. Now that you have a number, get to work increasing it.

Here are some articles on link building which we hope you find useful:

Search Engine Optimization – Coding is Key

It’s not just what you say that matter’s, it’s how you say it.

Sometimes it’s how you code it.

If you’ve got something important to say, you want people to see it. So what do you do? You can make that sentence bold, italicize it, increase the type size, or put a bullet point in front of it. That way the reader knows that sentence is more important than others.

But how would a search engine know what was important on the page? Simple, by properly coding the webpage you can let both the reader and the search engines know at the same time. Here’s how…

    • Header Tags
      Header Tags tell the search engine “This is important” By default the text is black, the type size is increased and bolded, however they can now be custom programmed to look however you wish. There are eight levels of Header Tag, <h1>through <h6>. <h1> showing more importance than <h2> which is more important than <h3>. You should utilize their hierarchical structure logically. If you use <h1> for the main headings of your content, the next level of subheadings should be <h2>, and so forth. Include keywords and phrases within header tags for the best bang for your buck.
Properly coding the webpage you can let both the reader and the search engines know what is important.

Properly coding the webpage you can let both the reader and the search engines know what is important.

  • Emphasis Tags
    Emphasis tags include bold <strong>, italics <em>, and underline. There is no difference in value, so you can utilize them all to spread emphasis around “organically” within your content. But don’t overuse them. Bolding or italicizing too much text takes away the emphasis for the search engine as everything seems to be important.
  • Bullet Points and Number Lists
    Using the ordered (number) and unordered (bullet) lists offers an excellent way to put emphasis on content in short, quick bursts. Using keywords and phrases within lists is a way to boost the emphasis you’re placing on pieces of your content. As with any of these emphasizing features, only use lists when it makes sense and when they flow naturally with the page’s content.
  • META Descriptions
    The description tag is one or two sentences (about 25 words) describing the site. This tag often appears on the search engine results page as the description of the site. Proper use of keywords in this tag can help the search engines find you.
  • META Keywords
    The keyword tag is simply a list of the keywords a person might put into a search engine when trying to find a site that deals with what your company does.

Summary

Good text is essential. Proper coding of that text is just as important. It not only lets the reader know what is significant, but tells the search engines as well. Take a look at your website. Does it emphasize your key points? Are those points coded so that the search engines can see the emphasis? If you need help checking these points, please let us know.

Search Engine Optimization – One picture is worth a thousand words

“One picture is worth a thousand words,” according to a Chinese proverb.

“A picture of a thousand words isn’t worth squat,” according to Google.
(Okay, we made this up.)

While images are important to your website’s message, they do not communicate to the search engines unless you take the extra effort to make them visible. There are several ways your web designer can code your images for better search engine visibility.

Example of HTML code for the image below.

Example of HTML code for the image below.

1. Name your images correctly. The image name should be descriptive and contain key words. If the site is about clouds naming your pictures cloud.jpg is good, but a name like “cirrus-clouds.jpg” is better. Don’t over do it, “clouds-clouds-clouds.jpg” or “clouds-cirrus-clouds.jpg”, may be looked on as spam.

If the site is about clouds then naming your image "cloud.jpg" is good, but a name like "cirrus-clouds.jpg" is better

If the site is about clouds then naming your image “cloud.jpg” is good, but a name like “cirrus-clouds.jpg” is better

Separate the words in the name with dashes. “Cirrus-clouds.jpg” will rank higher than “cirrusclouds.jpg” as cirrusclouds is not a word that is likely to be searched on.

2. The ALT attribute. The original intention of this attribute was to describe images for the vision impaired and to provide an alternate (ALT) description of an image which did not load properly. Thus, the ALT attribute should be a brief description of the content of the image as if you were explaining it to a blind person or a computer program which cannot see it, like a search engine.

Alt tag

Provide an alternate (ALT) description for an image which did not load properly.

The ALT attribute should utilize your keyword but not to the detriment of the description. A good ALT attribute for the picture above would be cumulus and cirrus clouds at sunset, it describes the picture while containing keywords relevant to the site. A bad ALT might be clouds, cumulus clouds, cirrus clouds as it is nothing but keywords. There is a good possibility it will be tagged as spam.

3. Image TITLE attribute. The image TITLE attribute can be valuable in making your images work for you. It gives you another opportunity to display keywords to the search engines. On some browsers, the TITLE attribute text displays when you place your cursor over the image, it also tells the search engine more about the image. It can be the same as the ALT or can go into more depth using your keywords.

4. Captions. Place a keyword rich caption next to the image. If the image is placed in the body of the site, surrounded by text content, having the keyword physically close to the image will also have benefits.

Summary:

Images are important. They make your site more aesthetic and quite often are the only way to make your point with visitors to your site. However, to make them valuable to your sites search engine ranking remember the following:

  • use keywords in the image file names
  • separate the keywords in a file name with dashes, not underscores
  • include keywords in the image ALT attribute
  • include keywords in the image TITLE attribute
  • place the image in the immediate vicinity of keyword-related content and use a caption

As mentioned in the last post, if your image contains words, such as a quote, a testimonial, or a beautifully calligraphed message, those words will not appear to the search engine unless completely duplicated in the various attributes. They will not help your search engine ranking the way properly done text does. Therefore you have to weigh the importance of how it will look versus what it can do for you.

In the next post we will discuss other HTML coding that make your website more easily found.

* Important Note: We are website designers and really know nothing about clouds. If these are not cirrus clouds we apologize.

Search Engine Optimization – Page Content

Search engines read words. This simple sentence is so important we’re going to repeat it. Search engines read words. Another way to say this is page content is very important in getting a high search engine ranking.

No matter how it is said, it means that if you want to come up high on the search results you need to have words on your pages.

According to search engine gurus, for best rankings there should be between 200 and 600 words per page for the search engine to index. This text needs to contain your keywords/phrases. That’s just common sense. But that doesn’t mean just putting your keywords down at the bottom a hundred times. That will get your site flagged as a spammer. You need to work your keywords naturally into the content so they are visible for the search engines and easily read and understood by the reader.

It is important to note here that search engines only read the text content of a website. Words displayed in graphics or as part of a flash presentation cannot be seen by the search engines. While these do display your message to a person visiting your site they are invisible to search engines. Using graphics to display words not only prevents search engines from reading your site, it also effectively blocks your content from being read by “reading” programs used by the visually impaired and from people who have images turned off.

Only the text content of a website can be seen and indexed by the search engines.

Only the text content of a website can be seen and indexed by the search engines.

This sounds easy. You just use your keywords a lot when writing your content. But remember that when you’re making your content keyword rich, it still needs to read correctly for a real person.

Here are some ways to make your pages a quick, easy and interesting read, while also making them search engine friendly:

  • Your keywords/phrases should be used in the first sentence of the page, as the first words if possible.
  • Use at least 200 words per page.
  • Don’t try and use all your keywords on one page. It is smarter to optimize each page of the site for one or two words and spread the keywords over different pages.
  • Use your keywords/phrases as a natural part of your content. Just be sure you use them.
  • Use keywords in your bullet items when you’re making your point. This is not only good for the search engines, readers often scan the bullet points first before reading the rest of the content.
  • Highlight (bold) keywords in sentences where applicable
  • Use keywords in your hypertext links
  • Keywords should also be used in the page title (Read our post on Page Titles)

Summary:

Search engines read words. Keywords are what bring those visitors to the website. Good writing and useful information are what makes a site “sticky” (holds the visitor’s attention). Good writing using keywords will not only bring visitors to your site but keep them there as well.

In the next post we will discuss how to use keywords to make your images work for you in increasing your search engine visibility.