Archive for SEO

Optimizing Your Site For Image Search With Alt Attributes

Posted on 23 October 2009 by John Britsios

It’s not just the text on your website that you need to think about in terms of search engine optimization; images can and should also be optimized and images are an increasingly important part of the SEO puzzle.

Failing to optimize the images on your site means losing out on a better page ranking for your website; it’s a common oversight which can fortunately be remedied quite easily.

Alt is an attribute attached to images on your site in its HTML/XML code. Search engine crawlers can’t see your site’s images; but they can see your alt attributes. This is also a matter of accessibility, since the visually impaired also use this information to find out what images your site features. You should use alt attributes for every image on your site as well as descriptive text and/or captions above or beneath images (when appropriate).

Alt attributes for images are commonly abused by unethical SEO firms and webmasters who are new to search engine optimization. Rather than using human-readable, descriptive text, they will cram these attributes with keywords, including ones which are irrelevant to their site in an effort to gain an edge in the search engine rankings.

This should be avoided. Having a high keyword density is simply not as effective as it once was for SEO purposes – and too high of a density or using irrelevant keywords can result in a lower, rather than a higher page ranking.

It also reduces the accessibility of your site to the visually impaired, who use web browsers in conjunction with text to speech engines which read the content of your site out loud, including any alt attributes for images. The end result is alienating any visitor using a screen reader or text-only browser, not to mention risking a lower ranking for your site.

What should be contained in an alt attribute?

The alt attribute for an image shouldn’t be a caption; instead, this attribute should contain descriptive information which explains what is pictured or that provides the same information as one would learn by looking at the image.

When writing alt attributes for images, ask yourself if your readers would be able to understand what these attributes were standing in for if the images on your site suddenly became unavailable; this should get you on the right track.

Alt attributes are required to pass XHTML validation, though it is fine to omit them when they serve a purely decorative function on your site. For example, if you have background images on your site which are part of your CSS, it’s probably not necessary to create alt attributes for them.

In the case of images which are used in place of text, such as search buttons or in navigation bars (something which isn’t recommended from a SEO or accessibility standpoint, as attractive as it can be), then the alt attributes for these images should make their function clear, rather than simply mentioning that they are a button.

One other thing you’ll want to take into account is the way that your alt attributes will actually be experienced by visually impaired visitors or those using text only web browsers. These attributes will be read or viewed as if they were part of the surrounding text, so it’s a good idea to try to make them flow naturally with the rest of the content in as far as this is possible.

There are accessibility standards in use by the EU and the United States which webmasters can refer to in designing their alt attributes; this is highly recommended.

Optimizing images for Google Image Search

Using alt attributes properly also helps images from your site to be found more easily by using image search engines, especially Google image search. While accessibility is an important reason for using alt attributes for your images, it’s always a good idea to make your website easy to find through as many channels as possible – whether they get there via a web search or an image search, traffic is traffic.

In order to optimize your images for these searches, you should make sure to give your images file names which are descriptive and preferably containing keywords which you use on your site. It’s actually pretty simple, but can make a big difference in terms of your site’s visibility.

Using alt attributes is something you can implement with a minimal amount of time and effort which can give a boost to your page rank and bring in more traffic almost immediately. Ignore alt attributes for images if you will – but you’ll be doing so at your own peril.

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Search Engines Not Displaying Your Description Meta Tag?

Posted on 23 October 2009 by John Britsios

What exactly is it that you see when one of the pages of your website appears in search results?

Most of the time, the text that you’ll find there is taken from your description meta tag. Depending on the search terms used to find your site, the results may show an excerpt of content from the page which contains the search terms – which is useful in determining if this page is relevant to the search.

Another thing which might show up in the search engines is an excerpt from the DMOZ /Open Directory Project’s description of your site, assuming that your site is listed by DMOZ. If you’d rather the search engines focus on the contents of your description meta tag rather than on this third party description of your site, you can specify this by simply adding the following meta tag:

<meta name=”robots” content=”noodp” />

This meta tag is supported not only by Google, but also Yahoo! Bing and other search engines. While we’re on the subject of Yahoo!, if your site is listed in the Yahoo directory, search results for your site will usually be taken from the Yahoo directory description of your site instead of your meta tags. This is also an easy problem to fix – just include the following meta tag:

<meta name=”robots” content=”noydir” />

If your description meta tag information isn’t coming up in the results for particular search engines, you can set meta tags for each engine’s bots, like so:

<meta name=”googlebot” content=”noodp” /> for Google

<meta name=”slurp” content=”noydir” /> for Yahoo!

<meta name=”msnbot” content=”noodp” /> for Bing

You can also create just one robots meta tag which specifies all of the attributes you’d like to include. Just separate these attributes by commas, as in this example:

<meta name=”robots” content=”noodp,noydir” />

As with anything relating to how your site is indexed, it can take a while for the text displayed when your site shows up in search engine results to change. Give the search engine bots a little time to come back and re-index your site and be patient – they will change sooner or later.

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How To Use The SEO Workers SEO Analysis Tool

Posted on 23 October 2009 by John Britsios

This SEO Analysis Tool is to help you analyze and measure the ranking potential of your web pages. It doesn’t only analyze the Meta Tags of your pages, rather it tries to use the same spider technology as the search engines spiders them self.

When you use our SEO analysis tool, your results will be grouped into the following categories:

  • General Status;
  • Meta tag list;
  • Meta tag analysis;
  • General web page analysis;
  • The page as displayed in search engine results;
  • Keywords in anchor tags;
  • Keywords found in alt attributes for images;
  • Keywords found on the page;
  • URLS found on the page;
  • Headers returned by the web server.

General Status

General status includes very basic information about your page. This includes whether or not the page returns http errors, the date the page was last modified, information about the type of server which hosts the page and the character encoding and content type of the page. If you see that your page’s server is returning a 404 (page not found) error, then make sure that you’ve typed in the address of your site correctly in the SEO analysis tool and try again.

Meta tag list

In this section, you’ll find the page’s title and the information contained in the meta tags for the page. Make sure that each of these is unique to avoid being penalized for repeating your keywords too many times.

Meta tag analysis

This is the section of the results from the SEO analysis tool that most webmasters find to be the most useful for practical purposes. In this section, you’ll find a score for your page title, meta keywords and meta description on a 0% – 100% scale. Naturally, 100% is ideal, though any score which is rated as “excellent” should be fine.

If you’re getting a low rating, then you may want to look further down the page of results to find some keywords you may want to use instead of repeating keywords in your meta tags – this is one of the most likely causes of a low score. Remember to use page titles and descriptions which will make sense to visitors; it won’t do you a lot of good to rank well in the search engines if you’re bringing in visitors who expect something quite different than what they’ll find on your site.

The page as displayed within search engine results

What you see here is a preview of the way that your page may appear in search engine results. The preview used here is drawn from your body text rather than your meta description. It should be noted that search engines will generally use your meta description rather than body text in their results. While there are search engines which are starting to give less weight to meta description tags, you should definitely make this tag search engine optimized – since this text is what people will see in search results and what can make them decide to visit your page.

Keywords found in the anchor tags, ‘alt’ attributes and on the page

You may find these results useful if there’s a particular keyword you’d like to optimize a page for. If it’s been used on your page, it will be displayed here along with the number of times it has been used. You’ll also see links to results for these keywords on Google, Yahoo! and Bing so you can see how well your page ranks for these particular keywords. This can be very helpful if you’re trying to avoid keyword saturation.

URLs found in the page

This section is exactly what it sounds like: a listing of every link found on the page, including internal and outbound links. Try to avoid going over 100 links per page; Google recommends this as a limit for efficient indexing by their bots.

Headers returned by the web server

These probably won’t mean all that much to you or be of much use unless you’re having a connectivity issue with your site. These are the HTTP headers for your web server which browsers read when trying to access your page.

SEO Workers suggestions for making your web pages more search engine friendly:

There are some very simple things you can do which dramatically affect the search engine friendliness of your web site’s pages. You should make sure that all of your content is spell checked (both with spell checking software and manually – spell checkers fail to make some important distinctions that a human reader would) and vetted for grammatical and syntax errors.

Validate the code for every page on your site – invalid code can make your pages display improperly in some web browsers and even keep search engine bots from reading them accurately.

The SEO Tool is brought to you by SEO Workers Expert Search Engine Optimization Consultants.

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Why Your Site Needs Expert Search Engine Optimization

Posted on 20 October 2009 by John Britsios

A lot of people ask what SEO is. The short answer is that it is an acronym for search engine optimization; and the long answer is somewhat complex. SEO isn’t monolithic; the term refers to a number of different techniques used to increase the visibility of web pages and websites to search engines in order to make them easier for users to find.

Expert search engine optimization consultants offer services which are aimed towards this goal, including reworking the content of websites to make it more relevant to the overarching topics of the site or the particular page. They also do a variety of other work on sites which make them more readable by “spiders” or “crawlers”; the software used by search engines to index websites.

As a business owner, you may have some questions about whether professional search engine optimization services are something you actually need for your site. It is and I’ll explain why.

Suppose that you decided to make your business’ phone number unlisted. Of course you’d never do this; how would potential customers find you with no listing of your phone number or address available? When you don’t optimize your website for the search engines, it’s a lot like this. You can think of the major search engines as being like a phone directory – in fact, they have largely replaced phone directories for many consumers. If your site isn’t made easy for users to find with some expert search engine optimization techniques, it’s almost like it isn’t there at all.

Now of course, you have probably put a lot of work into making your site attractively designed and no doubt your URL is prominently featured in all of your advertising – so why am I telling you that your customers won’t be able to find you?

It’s because you can’t be sure that every potential customer will actually see your advertisements. There are always those who won’t see that newspaper or magazine ad or happen to be watching or listening when it comes on the television or radio – but everyone uses search engines.

Of course, having a website is no guarantee that your site will come up right away when someone types in a search term relevant to your business. This of course is where an expert search engine optimization firm comes in- SEO is the process whereby you make your site as easy to find as looking up your business in the phone book.

What Professional Search Engine Optimization Can Help You To Avoid

Sometimes you’ll see an example of a site which gets it all wrong in terms of SEO and web design. For example, sites which present their content as Flash animation. While there is a place for interactive multimedia content on websites, Flash should not be used in place of actual text content. Why? To answer this question, let’s return to the search engine crawlers for a moment.

The crawlers used by Google and other search engines to index your website and determine what the site is about don’t care about Flash animation, color schemes or much of anything else except for text -which is all they see. Using Flash as the means to deliver your content means that all Google will be able to determine about your site is this: that your site is there and that it contains Flash content; that’s it. It won’t be able to tell what the site is about or what sort of content it actually contains.

When your site is indexed, the crawlers analyze the content of your site. When a search is performed, the search engines scan through their database of web pages, ranking them in order of relevance to the search term used.

How exactly the determination works is a proprietary trade secret and the algorithms used by each of the major search engine is different. These algorithms are also being refined constantly; but through analysis of search engine results and a little reverse engineering enables expert search engine optimization consultants to determine what the most effective SEO strategies are at a given time.

This is why a professional search engine optimization firm doesn’t make guarantees about specific rankings within search results – SEO is a process, not a single task. It’s a fast moving world and no one can promise results with 100% certainty; but there are certain things which are known to work to improve the page rankings of websites.

Why Ethical Search Engine Optimization Is The Way To Go

If the search engines use the relevance of your content to search terms to determine ranking, then couldn’t you bring more visitors to your site by adding popular search terms to your site, whether or not they have any relevance to the actual content of your site?

Yes, you could – but only for so long. This kind of misleading SEO practice is known as search engine spamming and should be avoided. No ethical search engine optimization firm uses these methods and they can lead to your site being penalized or dropped from the search engine indices altogether; so even if you manage to fool the search engines and bring in more traffic for a while, the results won’t last long and you’ll likely end up worse than you started off.

These are some of the less than ethical SEO techniques which should be avoided:

  • Dynamically created doorway pages;
  • Hidden links/text;
  • Duplicate content;
  • Keyword stuffing with relevant or irrelevant keywords;
  • Link cloaking and hidden redirects;
  • Anything else used deliberately in the attempt to trick search engines.

Stick with ethical search engine optimization methodologies instead. The results may take a little longer to materialize, but they’ll be lasting and won’t result in your site being blacklisted by search engines.

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Why Usability An Important Part Of SEO

Posted on 20 October 2009 by John Britsios

Search engines work by determining the relevance of the sites which are in their indices to the search query being made by users. In order to get a site moving up through the results, a plan to not only have the content of the site relevant to what are determined to be the most important search terms, but also to make the site as usable as possible.

There are a number of factors which search engines use to determine the relevance and the importance of sites. One of these is whether a website has been bookmarked with social bookmarking services like Stumble Upon, Digg and and others.

The search engines see sites as having more importance if users have thought them useful enough to bookmark and rank them accordingly.

Bounce rate is another factor which search engines use to determine page ranking. This refers to when a visitor leaves (or “bounces”) after only looking at one page or only stays a very short time.

The usability of your site is something that will help your site to gain more inbound links which originate from popular websites; the kind of links which are of higher value. If your site is easy to navigate, you’ll find that a lot more websites are willing to link to you.

There are some basic web design best practices which are beneficial from the standpoint of SEO as well as usability. Building your website with a clean, attractive design and putting your pages together with a logical hierarchy which is easy to navigate and is intuitive, given the content contained on your site. Every site needs a user-friendly navigation bar which appears on each and every page.

When you know your target market (which you should), you’ll be able to develop a design, architecture and navigation bar which will appeal to this group. Your site has to be not just user friendly, but friendly to your users in particular.

As you build your site, usability and SEO are equal concerns; there are some things you can do to take care of both at the same time, such as making the titles of each page (and where possible, even the URL) reflect the theme and content of each page.

As you design a new website, the factors of SEO and usability should be part of the design from the ground up. Before the first line of code is written, you should know the answers to the following questions:

What is your site for- and how will you know if it’s working?

There is more than one right answer here. Your site may be for directly selling a product or service, to appeal to prospective customers, a sort of interactive advertisement for your business, a resource for customers to reduce the workload on your customer support department or any combination of the above and other purposes. Whatever your site is for, you need to determine metrics to measure its success.

Who is your audience and what do they want?

This is an elementary question; if you’re not sure who your audience or target market is, you’ll need to take a step back and figure this out before you proceed. If you are trying to reach new demographics, you have to decide exactly who you are trying to get your message across to and tailor it to appeal to their interests.

Can your visitors find what they came to your site for?

Essentially, what you’re asking yourself here is whether your site is something that your audience will want to use. You may have already added the sort of content that these people are looking for – but you need to ask yourself if you’ve made it easy for them to find it on your site.

There is a usability test here often referred to as the “man from Mars” test. Take a look at your site and ask yourself this: if you were an alien who came across your site knowing nothing about you or your business, would you be able to quickly figure out what your site is about? Would you be able to navigate the site quickly to find specific information?

What you’re trying to establish here is whether your site is designed with a logical hierarchy which makes navigation intuitive. If your hypothetical alien couldn’t find what they were looking for in short order, the chances are that your customers won’t be able to either.

Making your online presence work

There is more to making your online presence work for you than search engine optimization alone; usability is just as important as SEO. Generally speaking, these two factors are complementary to each other.

A site which is built in accordance with web design best practices takes both if these into account to create an end product which fosters improved visitor interaction, a lower bounce rate, a better chance of getting high value inbound links and of course, a higher ranking in search results – a combination which equals higher sales, more visitors or any other goal you have set for your website.

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Local Search Engine Optimization

Posted on 20 October 2009 by John Britsios

If you have a “bricks and mortar” business, you still need a great online presence. People are getting more involved in doing a local search on the Internet to do business with local merchants these days. And for this reason, you need to capitalize on the power of local search engine optimization to remain competitive.

With the global economy and the outreach of the World Wide Web today, what is so important about a local search? Well, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. As business becomes more global, people start remembering the importance of community and locality.

People may do a great deal of their research into businesses on the Internet today, but they still like knowing that if they needed, or desired, to they could come see you in person. It gives them a greater sense of trust.

People also like to keep their own local economy thriving. So, with local search engine optimization, you capture the business of those who are doing today’s typical “product plus MY town” Internet search.

Besides local search engine optimization content, you want to capture local search business with strategic submissions to directories and other hubs. But let’s look at some key underlying strategies now.

  • Submit your website to Yahoo. Yahoo is the leader when it comes to local search help. They mix their Yahoo 360 social networks with local listings. This means that businesses not only get listed, they get rated by people who have used them, making people’s searches that much more informative. Note that the new search engine Bing is coming on strong with this localized search information as well, so submit your website to them, too.
  • Remember the mobile search market. People love to be on the move, so they are turning more and more to their hand-held Internet devices like the iPhone and the Touch Diamond. Think of how things will look to someone like that when you conceive your local search engine optimization content.
  • Press Releases — there are free PR websites that you surely want to take advantage of whenever your business is doing something new or reaches a milestone. PR content gets picked up by journalists and can spread fast. It can end up in your local online and print newspapers.
  • CitySearch is a huge provider of local information for sites such as Ask, MSN, Ticketmaster, Expedia, and so on.
  • One important aspect of local search engine optimization is putting your physical address and phone number within an “address” tag at least on your contact page and one other page (if it’s just one other page, make it your homepage). But easily, the best option is placing your address on every page of your site. This information builds both trust and your website’s search engine results rankings.
  • Use microformats when building your local search content.

Now, what are the top directories and other hubs for taking advantage of the local search?

So, now you have a greater understanding than most of your competitors about how to capitalize on local search tendencies. For help with creating your local search engine optimization, contact an SEO Consultant.

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Building Your Online Presence With Ethical SEO

Posted on 20 October 2009 by John Britsios

Search Engine Optimization (or SEO for short) can’t do it all. The process of optimizing a page can help raise its profile and get it higher up in the list of results returned by search engines, but there are no iron clad guarantees with SEO, which is why no ethical SEO firm will promise to get your page into the #1 spot on Google, Yahoo or Bing results pages.

SEO is a process more so than it is a single task and it can take some time to see the results of on-site or off-site optimization efforts. Ethical search engine optimization consultants offer their best efforts, not guarantees.

The work of a SEO expert who uses ethical best practices for search engine optimization can significantly increase your website’s search engine rankings, but it may be the case that you won’t see the results you’d hoped for immediately.

It can take weeks, even months before you really start to see the difference – and of course, we’re all used to instant gratification and there are many who are unwilling to wait. For better or worse, this is one of those things which simply takes time.

Of course, there are SEO consultants who will tell you that you can get your site into the first page of Google results almost overnight. You might want to back away slowly from these consultants, for reasons I’ll explain below.

It is true that there are ways to boost the page ranking of a website very quickly – as long as you’re not concerned with lasting results or with having your website visible to users through the major search engines, that is. You may have heard of something called search engine spamming.

It’s a set of techniques which no ethical SEO consultant would use; but not everyone out there selling SEO services adheres to ethical practices.

These spamming techniques include some things which businesses occasionally ask SEO consultants to do, such as creating “ghost” pages, cramming the content on their site with far too many keywords or using link directories (often called link farms in the business)to build page ranking.

An ethical SEO consultant or firm will always let you know if something you’re interested in making a part of your campaign might actually harm your page ranking.

The problem with these kinds of unethical “black hat” methodologies is that the search engines will penalize these behaviors. If your site is engaging in these kinds of SEO practices, they may penalize your site by lowering its page ranking or even dropping your site from the index, making it invisible through that search engine – hardly what you’d hoped for.

One thing that an ethical search engine optimization will tell you is that SEO is just one piece of the puzzle of building your company’s online presence.

The search engines are important, but you also need to make your website appealing to your visitors with content which they will find useful and informative. It doesn’t matter if your website comes in at #1 in all of the major search engines if your content isn’t compelling enough to close the deal.

If you’re trying to establish an online presence for your business which brings you a satisfactory return on your investment, you’ll need to take a longer view with your marketing strategy. Work with firms who only use only ethical SEO methodologies in order to make sure that your site makes its way up the search engine rankings – from there, it’s up to you to make your visitors into customers.

Just beware of any SEO consultants who promise you #1 page rankings or tell you that they have some sort of special relationship with Google or any of the other major search engines; these so-called experts are planning to take you to a ride which may end up at the very bottom of the search results.

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