Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Before we begin, we think it's important that you as a business owner know a little something about search engines. A search engine is a web-based program that searched the web, reading the pages it finds and attempts to intelligently determine what each page is about.

Note that the keyword here is reading. In order to determine what a page is about, the search engine must be able to read the text on that page. Think of your webpage as trying to tell a search engine what it is about. It is very similar to a person reading a book to another person over the phone. As long as you can read the words on the page, you can relay that information to the listening person.


What Is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?

SEO is the art of designing a website specifically to help improve the way search engines read that site. Each page of the website is constructed from the ground up to be search engine friendly, meaning virtually everything on the page can be understood and interpreted by search engine crawling software.

  • Content: The content of each page should be clean and concise. The search engines must be able to understand the information you are trying to convey. This means interlacing specific keywords into the content of the page, not just in "meta tags" as so many so-called SEO experts might tell you.
  • Styling: Website design is also important. Pages should be "clean", meaning keeping most of the design instructions separate from the content. This is most effectively completed using "CSS" or Cascading Style Sheets, which remove most of the layout elements from the HTML code, so search engines do not have to muddle through a lot of 'unimportant' to determine what you are actually saying. (It is important to know that search engines do not care what your site "looks like", they only care about what you are trying to say.)
  • Layout: Search engines also incorporate a "top to bottom" approach to determining the importance of the content of the site. Content closer to the top of the page is generally weighted higher than content located toward the bottom of the page.
  • Time: The longer a website remains online, the better the chances are of a search engine finding it and listing it. It has also been shown that over time, a website's page rank can also grow, even if no changes have been made to that site.
  • Links: Links to your site are of the utmost importance. Not just any links, but quality links. Quality links are basically built on two principles:
    • Linking Text: Search engines like to know where they are going. If the text of the link matches the text of the page linked to, the search engine knows the link is valid and again, is given more weight. This is why we make exclusive use of text based links on our site, and use highly descriptive wording to link to yours.
    • Linking Page Rank: The more important the page is that links to you, the more weight the link is given. One link from a highly ranked page is worth much more than a dozen links from low ranked pages. (This is why we put our Premium Links on the first and highest ranked page of our site.)

  • White Hat vs. Black Hat: As with just about everything, there is a right way and a wrong way to accomplish a task. White Hat SEO techniques use honest methods which are not designed to mislead your readers or search engines regarding the true content of your site. Black Hat techniques use a dishonest approach to gaining page rank quickly, often by hiding keywords under an image, or by camouflaging them with the same color font as the background, rendering them invisible. While such dishonest methods may at first show significant gains in page ranking, they may also lead to search engine black balling, meaning complete removal from a search engine's listings, a situation no serious web owner wants or can afford.

While this is not meant to be an exhaustive list of SEO techniques, it should help give you an idea of what to look for when you talk to a website designer to create your next site, or to update your current website.


Images Don't Speak

Let's go back to our original exercise of reading a book over a telephone. Now imagine trying to read a picture over the phone. You cannot hold the phone next to the image and expect the person to know what you are talking about without describing the image. The same holds true with search engines. They cannot read images. If you must have images on your website, you should always include descriptive text to accompany them.


How About Videos?

The same holds true for videos. While your viewers can see and hear everything on your videos, search engines cannot see or hear a word of it. If it is important that you place a video on your site, we recommend you duplicate everything you say with good old fashioned text.


What About Flash?

We've all seen them. Perhaps you have a flash site already. These are those wonderful sites loaded with animation and sound effects. In short, they look fantastic. However, based on what we've just learned, you should not be surprised that the majority of search engines CANNOT read them and the ones that can still have great difficulty interpreting them. Any text that is encoded into a flash page is just that: encoded, which means it is completely invisible to most search engines. To really get the most bang for your buck, you need to separate the text from the graphics.

As stated above, while the majority of search engines cannot read flash sites, some, such as Google(tm) can. This doesn't mean your existing site will register correctly. Just as with standard HTML sites (such as this site) any text that is embedded into an image remains invisible. Also, text that moves (slides across the screen) may be interpretted in duplication (read multiple times) which may possibly lead to a condition of 'spamming'. To know if your flash site is functioning properly, check with your web designer and have them SHOW you that your site has been properly optimized. If they are unable to prove your site is optimized, odds are, they don't truly understand it.