The Ten Commandments Of SEO
Search engine optimization has lately become an art. I don’t know how many good sites don’t achieve the rank they deserve because of the violation of basic (and, not so basic) SEO rules and principles we have attempted to list here. Some of the items on this list are very basic and common-sensical, while others (towards the bottom) are very obscure, even surprising the most knowledgeable of SEO experts.
Everybody can learn something from this list, and adhering to these fire-and-brimstone style SEO commandments along with a healthy amount of incoming link love from high-pagerank sites will almost guarantee that your website or blog will achieve the pagerank it deserves.
These tips center around Google mainly, but also go into detail about subtle differences observed between Googlebot and Slurp, as well as Live Search’s crawler.
1. Thou Shalt Use Semantic Markup
The number one commandment on this list is that of the usage of semantic markup. I don’t know how many sites I’ve consulted that have what seem to be an endless amount of nested tables and embedded CSS via liberal abuse of the style attribute that don’t have the ranking they think they deserve. Crawlers, like humans, like easy-to-read markup since it determines the importance of the content contained within.
Consider the following: you are a web crawler (just pretend), and you have found a link to a new site while crawling your daily 10,000 sites. Well, the site you’re crawling was created using Dreamweaver, and now you must index, cache, and dutifully rank this messy markup:
Welcome To Our Website now try to index us Why don't this site rank high?
If you thought “oh my god, what is this webmaster’s deal” while mentally parsing that, then you’ve experienced the #1 reason why the site will arrive on page 24 of a google search for their company tagline. Now consider this markup in contrast:
Welcome To Our Website
Company Motto Here...
In addition to the clean markup, also note the tag hierarchy: The company name was placed within an h1 tag, not a styled p tag like the bad example. Search engines adore a site that adheres to the HTML standards for tag importance, and rank pages accordingly. The basics of this concept are:
- use this for the page heading, or main summary of the entire page
- use this for a subheading, or motto in our example
/– use (and style) these instead of b and i for text with an emphasis
- use this only for excel-style tabular data, using div instead for content placement (but easy on the nesting!)That was just a very very basic overview of what to use the standard HTML tags for - a real webmaster should use a reference of all HTML tags and utilize all of them unambiguously for content emphasis, including lesser-known tags like those for acronyms and code. And WYSIWYG Dreamweaver usage is generally discouraged in search engine optimized coding, as a protip.
While coding your site semantically, however, don't encompass everything in a styled h1 tag - that won't rank you higher, it just makes your whole page's content degrade by emphasis for every bit of text within that tag, and makes you look like an idiot. Use the most emphasized tags only for special text, such as titles and heading, while delegating other tags (like h4, h5 and p) to the duty of carrying the brunt of your main page content.
2. Thou shalt place non-HTML into separate files
Placing the non-HTML into separate files with one-tag references or inclusions within your page not only has the benefits listed above, but also makes it easier for a web crawler to index your page, rank it, and move on to the next page before its site-wide timeout is reached and it goes on to the next website to index in the queue.
3. Thou shalt use URL names to your advantage
One of the most influencing parts of a page is the URL itself. If a URL contains a keyword a user is searching for, then it almost instantly achieves a higher pagerank due to the URL's name in relation to the seeked content. This is also a good reason to use directories: the more keywords in a URL, the higher the pagerank you will get, so use directories to your advantage to cram keywords into your page, and the links will further improve your ranking and keyword visibility of your page and its URL.
As far as query strings are concerned, some search engines index the keywords contained within query strings while others do not, but it is generally helpful to avoid. In some cases, Google will refuse a site due to "duplicate content" (a common spam practice) due to a query string doing special modifications to the same page with links to differing parameters: e.g. "?start=april&direction=down" and the same page with differing parameters yet similar content will not look good for your site.
A cure to the query string issue rather than not using them at all is to use the rel="nofollow" attribute in links to sort the page: this prevents Google from following the links to sort the page's text or otherwise tweak the same content via a different URL, preventing any issues with indexing complex web applications and HTTP GET queries.
4. Thou shalt use the title tag, and use it well
The title tag is one of the most important tags in the whole page, if not the most important. What goes in your title tag is not only the first thing a user sees in a search, but also the biggest thing a browser indexes next to the URL, meta content (more on this in a second), and the actual content itself. Use those title tags, and include your site name/title along with a very to-the-point "keyworded" title for the specific page in question.
5. Thou shalt use the meta tags no matter what you've heard
Some SEO experts say that the meta tags of a page/site don't matter as much as they used to, and in some cases they are correct. Google places a bigger concern on the content, title, URL and link love of a page while using the description to summarize the page in results. Yahoo!, on the other hand, uses the meta keywords and description of a page in a more liberal manner in order to rank content.
Either way, use them both. Use the description of a page to make your page's result attractively summarized in the results of a search query, while using the keywords to provide intuitive information about your site. Keywords, like the h1 tag, are based on the "spread butter" theory: the more you use, the less impact each one has, while some crawlers disregard a page entirely if it uses above a certain amount of keywords.
So use a few keywords, and remain as close to the overall point as you can in those few keywords to achieve a higher rank in Yahoo!, although Google does take account of keywords without as much ranking love.
6. Thou shalt use a sitemap to mark the content
Submitting a sitemap to Google and Live increases their ability to know about all the pages of your site, in addition to the ability to place customized importance ratings on each page and additional meta information. Sitemaps are a must these days - they're the modern meta tags to engines like Google and Live, and wasting them as an available SEO resource is not a wise idea at all.
7. Thou shalt use the bloody title and alt attributes
In all links, use the title attribute to assign keywords to the link and link target so crawlers can rank other pages in your site content-wise before even following the link. This is imperative for navigation bars and footer links in your site, for internal indexing purposes. Using the title attribute in an external link to your site from another is also a hige boost in both pagerank and link keywording, especially if combined with the URL tips given earlier, although using all of these tips together is recommended.
The alt attribute is just as important in an image search - using the right combination of alt keywords (while keeping in mind that the alt attribute, like the title attribute, are both used as tooltips in most browsers) will rank the target in an image search and drive image-searchers to your site.
8. Thou shalt cross reference as much as possible
Ever wonder how Wikipedia got such a high rank in a short amount of time without many incoming links? The trick: internal links. Cross-referencing everything in your site with internal links to other pages is a huge boost for search engine crawling. They don't carry the same weight as an external link, but they allow crawlers to crawl your pages several times over and therefore index your pages better and more often.
It is an overall site boost you just can't pass up.
9. Thou shalt not spam-link
Linking to your site via publicly-editable websites is a good practice, but not to the point where you're spamming your site. Certain search engines take note of user-editable sites that serve as common link spam targets, and if not then the human visitors dealt with the task of scrubbing said links will have no problem contacting Google or other search engines of the problem (via special contact forms for doing so) and getting your site de-indexed.
10. Thou shalt use the "arrow thingie" in your page titles
This is one I just found out myself, and it's quite surprising: using
—in your page title while pointing them at the content name is actually a rank booster in itself!
I think of it like shell piping, since pointing to the destined content causes the crawler will take note of it. Some crawlers, like Yahoo!, have difficulty with special unicode characters and HTML special characters within page titles, but that still should not stop you from using these underrated rank boosters within your titles in addition to Yahoo!-friendly meta keywords.
Example: WordPress, Blogspot and many other blogs utilizing these characters with higher pagerank than those whom don't.
If you use all of these tips together with search-worthy content and incoming links, your site will show a tremendous ranking improvement. One thing not covered here is the aspect of HTTP redirection in the case of rewriting and URL shortening, and the cardinal rule is to not use Digg for shortening URLs, and to ensure that your rewritten URLs and redirects use an HTTP 301 redirect, since search engines will index the destination page with the desired link love rather than the redirector page/site - good sites for this are TinyURL.com, Bit.ly and Ow.ly.
Thanks for reading, and be sure to practice good SEO habits.