Search engines and SEO optimization

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Search engines and SEO optimization

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Although we tend to talk generically about search engines, there are actually two different systems on the Internet:

Web Directory

A web directory lists websites by category. The entries are found by people, and not by software ("webcrawlers"). Entries can be free or have a fee. Directories often use search engines as a source for incrementing their databases. Inclusion in a directory can be important as it improves positioning on search engines that the directories refer to (for example, an entry in Dmoz improves positioning on Google™).

Well-known directories are Yahoo, Virgilio, Arianna, Dmoz.

Search engine

Search engines can be defined as databases of web pages. Even though it is possible to request site entry, it is usually the spiders (software that scans the web) that find entries, following chains of links that start from pages already present in the database.

Search engines work in three phases:

1.They analyze the web, using spiders (crawlers or robots). Spiders, like browsers, have a limited ability to read a web page: they cannot read all parts of graphics, Flash animation, JavaScript code, or parts in ASP or PHP.
2.They catalog the information they retrieve, according to criteria that vary from one engine to another.
3.They reply to user requests. To give a reply, the engine must be able to judge the relevance of a page with respect to the request: they extract documents from the database that contain the keyword given by the user and decide the page's relevance according to proprietary algorithms, constantly updated. The results are published in SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages).

The most well-known search engine is certainly Google™.

Click to expand/collapseHow and why you should be present on the search engines

Internet provides an immense quantity of information, and statistics confirm that users use search engines to find the pages they are interested in. This simple consideration makes it clear how important it is to appear in search engine results (SERPs), and so it is of vital importance to provide appropriate keywords that identify your website.

Realistically, to obtain a good positioning in SERPs, you will need a complex long-term strategy and this depends on how much you are willing to invest and the results you hope to obtain.

The various choices and operations that concur to make and maintain the visibility of a website by a search engine are numerous, but some of the more important aspects are:

The choice of keywords

By "keyword" we mean a word or group of words that the navigator may enter as a search string. To choose the most appropriate keywords you can work as follows:

1.Write an initial list of words that are pertinent to the topics in your website. Try to imagine what words a visitor would type to look for what you are proposing. Try and find out what keywords are used by other, similar websites, and with what results.
2.Analyze the statistics provided by certain search engines to identify the most common keywords.
3.Use Google™'s analytic tools to increase your list of keywords.

By optimization, we mean improving visibility of a website so that search engines find our pages more easily and more often, and so they appear more frequently in search results, and with a higher ranking (higher up in the list of results).

You need to order the keywords in a sort of pyramid, so the most important one is at the top, followed by a group of 2 or 3 that are slightly less important, and so on. Each page in the website must be optimized for a single keyword, with lesser optimization for the secondary keywords. Considering the entire website important, you should have a lot of pages with first-level keywords and fewer with second-level keywords.

Keywords can be used for tags, metatags and content.

<Title> tag

This is one of the most important elements in achieving high search engine rankings. When Google™ starts searching, it first looks for the content of the <Title> tag and compares it to that of the contents in the page and links.

A good title must:

not be longer than 2 - 4 words, and not more than 60 characters;
contain the most important keyword, without being exactly the same as it;
be coherent with the page and not the same for the entire site.
<Description> metatag

This is often displayed along with the title in the SERPs, and statistics confirm that clicks on the top rankings are influenced by the description and how this manages to attract a visitor's attention.

A good description must:

be a complete sentence;
contain the most important keyword and some of the less important ones;
be coherent with the page and not the same for the entire website;
attract a visitor's attention and give relevant information.
ALT attribute

The ALT attribute of the <IMG> tag provides alternative text to be used if the <IMG> image cannot be displayed for some reason (there is an error in loading it or the visitor is using a text browser or screen reader).

Images are not considered by search engines, but alternative text is.

To make the website more accessible, the alternative text should not be just a description of the image, but written as an integral part of the page content.

For optimization, the ALT attribute must:

be a complete sentence;
have the same subject as the page;
be different from other ALT attributes;
if possible, be pertinent to the image and the name of the image file;
must contain the main keyword;
should contain other keywords.
Title Attribute

The Title attribute of the <A> tag indicates text that will be displayed in a Tooltip, which appears when the mouse passes over a link. The Tooltip explains what will happen when the link is clicked on: a new window is opened, a PDF file is displayed, etc.

To optimize the site, the Title attribute of the links should:

be a complete sentence;
be relative to the linked page;
if possible, be on the same subject as the page;
be all different;
at least one in the page must contain the main keyword;
most of the main keywords should be included in at least one Title attribute.
<Keywords> metatag

This tag was originally important but, because it has been abused, the search engines no longer consider it so important.

A good <Keywords> metaTag should:

include the main keyword of the page;
include some of the second-level keywords;
include only words in visible text, or in the images' ALT(ernative text);
consist of no more than four key phrases, separated by a comma.

Images help define the subject matter of a page, and in any case they may be the results of a search.

For images, you should:

choose a name that is pertinent to the image and the page;
if possible, include the main keyword in the image's name;
give each image a different name, that contains different keywords;
follow the indications above for ALT;
include the image in a part of the text that refers to the same subject matter.
out-bound links

Out-bound links are links from a page to another website or a page in another website: they are important for optimization because they increase relativity to a subject. If used correctly, they link pages on the same subject matter, thus permitting users to extend their search to pertinent external documents.

The following rules should be observed when creating out-bound links:

each page should contain a couple of out-bound links, and no more than 5 or 6;
out-bound links should lead to pages on the same subject matter;
the links must have an alternative text on the same subject matter as the linked page and, if possible, with that where the link starts from;
at least one of the out-bound links in a page should contain the page's main keyword;
the titles in the link must be relevant to both the start and finish pages of the link;
the links must be periodically checked, to ensure that the finish page still exists;
if possible, some links should be included in the page's text, to which it is relevant;
out-bound links should never direct a visitor to illegal sites or spam-engines.
The texts

The texts in a page are the most important element for optimization and ranking. Each page should deal with one subject, so increase its theme relevance. the text must be meaningful and at least 250 words long; 400 - 500 words are ideal. The keywords must be present in the text, but not repeated too often (key density): keywords of a single word should have a 10% density, keywords of two words can have a 15%-20% density. the main keyword must be repeated frequently, but without exaggerating (key stuffing). Overall, in a website, there should be more pages dedicated to the main keyword than there are dedicated to secondary keywords.

Click to expand/collapseIn WebSite X5

The main advantage provided by WebSite X5 for improving indexing and SERP ranking lies in the code that the Program generates: WebSite X5 automatically generates pages in HTML5 and handles content in linked CSS stylesheets. Search engines like this "standard compliance" code because spiders can easily interpret it.

WebSite X5 also permits you to intervene on the above-mentioned tags, meta tags and attributes to optimize page searches via the identified keywords. Moreover, WebSite X5 automatically creates and links the website's SiteMap with textual links to all the pages present in the website. The SiteMap is a precious instrument for the search engines because they can use it to reach all the pages in the website and index them.

Finally, the Professional edition of WebSite X5 lets you analyse your website: this is a great help in finding any mistakes that have been made, or in identifying further optimization possibilities before publishing the website on the Internet.