Building The Page

I like to think of performing SEO on a web page as Tweaking the Content Cube. I see a web page as a three dimensional object which contains all the aspects well touch on when optimizing a page. It has a top and bottom and a front and back. Everything were going to touch resides inside this cube with one exception  inbound links. (Covered elsewhere in detail)

In no order, youll encounter the following items inside the Content Cube:

Title tag Description tag Keywords tag

The actual URL itself

The actual content Images

Alt tags Outbound links

Navigational links

E-mail links

The code that actually makes up the page

Most of those items can be tweaked to influence ranking in the engines. By far the largest influence on your rank, though, comes from the one item outside this cube the inbound links. Lets examine this list in greater detail and see what each item does and how to apply some white-hat SEO tactics to them.

Title Tag

Title Tag

This is important. The 4 largest engines (Google, Yahoo, MSN, Ask) all see the title as valuable and its recommended to use the keyword or phrase youre targeting for this page, in the title. No need to get crazy here, just place the phrase youre targeting at the beginning of the title tag.Youll want to include some supporting text with it, but keep the overall number of characters in this tag under 70 to be safe.

A good title tag would look like this:

title>  Garden tools: lifetime warranty mydomain.com we help you around landscaping and gardening tools for you.

In the above example, the keyword gardening tools is placed near the end, following pointless information. The spiders see keywords near the front as having more importance than those near the end of a statement. Not a big different here, but SEO is a game of inches, not miles. Never lead with your name. The engines dont care what your name is, they simply want to return the best results for searchers. Tag lines are the same thing  leave them out of the title tag.

Description Tag

This is the next tag down the code in the backside of our Content Cube. Its purpose it to describe whats on the page in more detail than the title allows. As with the title, youll want to put in the keyword near the beginning, limit needless repetition and be as clear and factual as possible.

Heres an example:

description> Professional gardening tools sold at discount prices. Lifetime warranty on all Mybrand gardening tools.

URL and domain

Now we get to the URL and domain. Debates rage over whether having the keyword in your domain and URL matter and to what extent this matters. Your domain should be chosen, first and foremost, with regard to making it easy for users to recall. Use a domain name with hyphens, mis-spelled words and slang saying will make it harder for them to spread the word about your website.

If you can snag a domain, with a relevant keyword in it, and its easy to recall by your target audience, go for it. Its not going to make or break the SEO deal, but having the keyword in your domain wont hurt.

Next is the URL which is created when you go to a web page. This is the path followed to reach the file the content lives in. This path may be direct or go through folders  both of which provide opportunities to include relevant, related keywords into the mix:

In this example, we can see gardening tools in the domain and garden rakes in the URL, too. If we had a folder to differentiate a specific brand of tools, the URL would look like this:

 

We can now see that the rakes page resides inside the folder called Mybrand. This is great for when users search for something like Mybrand garden rake. Again, this alone will not vault your page to the top of the rankings for a given search, but it doesnt hurt.Stay away from too much repetition here, too:

 

Not only is this needless in most cases, but when you start burying content several folders deep, the spiders sometimes wont index the pages. In the example above, wed be fine, but any deeper and it would be pushing it. The unofficial limit seems to be right around three levels deep. Ideally, youd want the pages as close to the root of the domain as possible  nothing in folders, everything one click away from the main page.

While were on this topic, lets discuss how to space words in a URL. Use a hyphen ( – ) or a dot ( . ).  Do not use the underscore ( _ ). The underscore is not seen as a word separator, which is what we want when using a keyword phrase  we want each word seen individually.

After all, theres no such word as gardentools is there. The engines are getting better with this, but its best to get into the habit early when building your site or updating it and stay with the hyphen or dot

Content

This is the meat of your page. The actual words youve placed there which users will read, fall in love with and share with all their friends. This is the reason why other sites link to you  your content. Without content you have an empty shell which users and spiders alike will avoid.

You always want unique content  content you have created yourself based on experience or knowledge, or content produced for you and used nowhere else online. Should you opt to take a shortcut and copy someone elses content, the engines will notice and penalize you.

Press releases and RSS feeds fall mostly outside this, but youre not given any credit for the content either, so if its the only thing on a page, dont expect that page to rank well for its phrase.

Make your content grammatically correct, ensure its easy to read and use contrasting colors for the text and background. Dont think youre going to place white text on a white background and get away with it  the spiders see it and users dont. Thats an old black-hat spammer trick and youll be penalized for doing it. In fact, the spiders are smart enough to know that humans cannot easily read yellow text on a white background, just like bright blue text on a black background poses a challenge to human eyes. Stick with black and white for the cleanest appearance.

Youll want to have about 1200 – 1300 words of text to make up your content . So really, thats not much when you think of it.

Of course, you can add more if the topic requires it or you want to include more detail for users.

Keyword density

Keyword density

When placing keywords in the content itself, youd like them to be as close to the top as possible in the paragraph information. Use the keyword your targeting when it makes sense to  dont repeat it unnecessarily.

The goal it to show that the title, description and keyword tags were on-topic for the page. Youd like to shoot for a keyword density of about 5% – 8%, but this will vary by engine and topic. The best rule of thumb is dont sweat the density, and make sure the content READS well.

If you want to easily calculate your keyword density, do the following: Count the number of times the keyword/phrase appears in the content. Count the number of words overall which make up the content (includes any captions under images, text links, etc. Divide.So, if we had 250 words overall, and our keyword appeared 8 times, the math would be:8 / 250 = 0.032 (Multiply this by 100 to get a percent) = 3.2%. In this example our keyword density would be 3.2%

Wed want to try to add the keyword or phrase a few more time into he content if possible. If grammatically it starts sounding odd, dont worry about raising the density. Make sure to use the h1, h2, etc. tags while building the page.

Placing the keyword/phrase in the h1 tags shows the engines this is the content topic. The content them exists to back this up, with the keyword sprinkled lightly about as mentioned above.

Images

We cover these in greater detail elsewhere, so well stick to the basics here. Watch the overall size and quality of the image to keep the file size down. Bigger file sizes mean slower load time for the page and poorer user experiences. Unless you are offering high quality screen backgrounds for users, trim those images down. Use thumbnails on the actual page itself and link them to the larger version if you like. This will ensure users have a quick loading page, the overall file size for the page stays low and that you can still offer the larger picture to those who want to view it.

Dont forget to fill in your alt tags properly, either. These are gold in helping get images ranked well for image searches. Mind where you place your images on the page, too. Mingle them with content. Images attract eyes and you want to place links to other pages of your site near them. Or, better yet, place ads near them. (We cover this in another section)

Alt Tags

While this is covered in detail elsewhere, well cover the basics here. Make sure you fill these in properly. No keyword stuffing, and be accurate and factual in describing the image itself. Place the keyword near the beginning of the text. A simple sentence is best  this is not the place for a novel. Dont place 1 x 1 pixel images on the page and litter the alt tags with keyword, either.

Outbound Links

These are links which are leaving your website and pointing at another website. Youd typically have these as part of a link exchange agreement, or because they provide access to useful items for your users which you do not list in your own content. A garden tool website might have handy links to outlets which sell seeds and soil, for example. Be aware that if you have an outbound link on your page, and that page has any PR value, it will bleed some of that value to the outside page. (We cover link building in greater detail elsewhere)

Navigational Links

These will be text-based, image-based or Javascript-based (drop-down style menus). I personally recommend text-based linking to make it as easy as possible for spiders to crawl your site.

Spiders may also crawl the links in image-based navigation, and image-based buttons can be labeled with alt tag information. The actual URLs will define the locations of where these links end up internally. Because many websites have different content groups, it makes sense to have sectional index pages. In our garden tools website example, you might have a section for rakes, one for shovels, one for lawn ornaments, etc. each of these would have one page dedicated to showing the links to all other products, articles and information on this vertical. So the rakes page may contain links to pages featuring fan rakes, landscaping rakes, leaf rakes, garden rakes, etc. Putting links to all these in your main navigation will make for a cluttered appearance and often confuses users.

This type of content depth is where Javascript-based drop-down menus shine. They allow users to scroll over main topic areas (Rakes for example) and see a drop down of all the types of rakes available  one click gets them directly to the section they want. Javascript-based items will not be fully crawled due to the spiders inability to actually get all the way through this coding.

If you are using Javascript-based navigation, make certain to have a well-defined sitemap links from your main page so the spiders can see all the content and index it.

The Code

The main thing to remember about the code of the page itself is to keep it clean. If you are an expert programmer, you may be able to hand-code everything. If thats the case, youre probably not reading this information, though. While there are many ways to actually build web pages (hand coding, using Dreamweaver, using FrontPage, etc.) they all need to have code that validates. Thats important to the engines.

Having code that validates means that everything will run properly for a user when they request a page. The page will load properly in all the basic, current browsers and wont crash things trying to load an item.The best way to learn more about this is to visit the World Wide Web Consortium. ( w3.org ) they have a long list of things to cover, but more importantly, they offer a free code validation tool which will tell you exactly where any problems are. Be ready though, because when you start down this path, you WILL learn about coding web pages  itll happen as you try to figure out how to fix that pesky error that wont go away!

The tool is here: validator.w3.org Youll also want to take a few minutes to run each page through a header-checker tool. This handy device lets you see what codes are returned when the page is requested. Youre looking to see the 200 code (means everything is OK). I usually make this my first stop. If a page returns anything unexpected, I run it through the code validator to see whats up. Heres a great header checker: http://www.rexswain.com/httpview.html 

Finally, heres a list of the codes themselves.

Header Codes:

100 Codes: Information 100 Continue  101 Switching Protocols 

200 Codes: Success 200 OK,  201 Created,  202 Accepted,  203 Non-Authoritative Information,  204 No Content,  205 Reset Content,  206 Partial Content.

300 Codes: Redirection 300 Multiple Choices,  301 Moved Permanently,  302 Found,  303 See Other,  304 Not Modified,  305 Use Proxy,  307 Temporary Redirect.

400 Codes: Client Error 400 Bad Request,  401 Unauthorized,  402 Payment Required,  403 Forbidden,  404 Not Found,  405 Method Not Allowed,  406 Not Acceptable,  407 Proxy Authentication Required,  408 Request Time-out,  409 Conflict,  410 Gone,  411 Length Required,  412 Precondition Failed,  413 Request Entity Too Large,  414 Request-URI Too Large,  415 Unsupported Media Type,  416 Requested range not satisfiable,  417 Expectation Failed. 

500 Codes: Server Error 500 Internal Server Error,  501 Not Implemented,  502 Bad Gateway,  503 Service Unavailable,  504 Gateway Time-out,  505 HTTP Version not supported. More information can be found by visiting: https://www.w3.org/Protocols/rfc2616/rfc2616-sec10.html 

Frames

Dont use frames. What are frames? Ever go to a website which has scroll bars INSIDE it? You know, youre looking at the website and realize it looks like a window within a window. You can scoll up and down in just one portion of the site.Thats a site made using frames.Its a way to showcase information inside a space. Its also a VERY effective way to hide content from spiders. They cannot see into the frame. They cannot get into the frame, either. Anything residing inside a frame will not get indexed. Dont use frames. If your current site uses frames, time to rebuild  seriously. Youre dead in the water for SEO.

Subdomains

A subdomain is basically like another whole website. Subdomains have been targets of spammers, so be careful when using them. Subdomains look like this:

The subdomain replaces the www in the URL. Youd want to use subdomains when you have topically RELATED content to display, but content which is not on-topic for the actual website itself. Seeds are related to gardening, though the sites main focus is gardening tools.One really great thing about subdomains is because they are actually part of the main website, they avoid any sandbox penalties Google applies to brand new websites.

You can use keywords to name the subdomain, but this was the trick spammers used to use  create endless numbers of subdomains off of one already indexed website to get the newer pages ranked quicker. Avoid doing this and stick to using a subdomain when it makes sense.If you already have a website, and wish to expand the focus to a related topic, the subdomain might be the way to go rather than simply creating new folders and adding new links into the existing nav.

The new, subdomained website are can have its own look and feel, layout, etc. while still remaining topically relevant to the original site. Cross-linking between the main website and the subdomain will not give you any benefits, so just place links where they make sense between the two.

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