Thursday, May 8, 2008

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Tips and Tricks

Here are some SEO (search engine optimization) tips on how to get your band or music site to show up higher in organic searches (i.e. non-paid search results):

1. Think Like a Searcher

What words will your visitors be searching on when you want your site to appear in the results?

Pick keywords (and their synonyms) appropriate for your target audience to use in the content of your site. Focus on medium-specific to very specific terms so there won't be so many other results competing with your site.

Don't use your keywords too many times on a page or a search engine may consider it keyword spam.

2. HTML Elements

Use your keywords in your page TITLE, meta descriptions, in H1 tags, in bold (or strong or em) font, and as hyperlinked text. Use different appropriate TITLE tags on different pages.

Use your keywords in your image file names, directory paths, ALT attributes and TITLE attributes. Use keywords in anchor TITLE attributes.

Most modern search engines ignore the meta keywords tag which is notorious for spam, but that doesn't mean you should not use the meta keywords tag.

If your site has versions of essentially the same page, but with different URLs (like sort order, or different skins), use link rel="canonical" tags in your page headers pointing to a single primary URL. Search engines will apply page rank "votes" from all links to the various versions of your page to the single canonical URL. That increases its page rank density, meaning your canonical page link will appear higher in search results.

Also add other useful link and meta tags various services, like Facebook and iPhone, may recognize.

3. Keywords in URLs

Use your keywords in your page and image URLs if possible (see example below, both go to the same place). Keywords may be in the actual file names on your server, or you could use URL rewriting to convert URLs with keywords into server file names.

Google prefers keywords in URLs to be in lower case and separated by dashes (-), rather than spaces (which get rendered as "+" or "%20") or underscores (_).

4. Links to Your Site

Google gives your site extra credit for other sites that link to yours. Get other sites, blogs, and discussion forums to link to your site, preferably from hyperlinked keywords. So provide easy-to-copy deep-links or permalinks on each of your pages.

Syndicate your content (e.g. with RSS feeds) so links back to your site appear on other sites.

Provide common social bookmarking sharing links (e.g. Facebook, Twitter,, Digg, Buzz, etc.)

Find content-appropriate Wikipedia articles to link to your site as a reference.

Many search engines honor rel="nofollow" in link tags. If that attribute is present on a site's links, don't bother putting your links there - search engines may follow them to find your site, but they won't consider the link a "vote" for your page in their page rank.

5. On-Site Links

Hyperlink keywords on your own site to other pages on your site, or to your site search. This is why many sites now display "tag clouds."

6. Long Tail Text

Have lots and lots of pages with lots and lots of words. Not every page will get more than 1 or 2 hits ever, but in aggregate the search traffic adds up.

Use HTML rather than PDF or word processor files. Though some search engines will index document formats, some don't. Besides, proprietary document files are harder for visitors to access than HTML anyway.

7. Text Instead of Flash, Images, or AJAX

Render keywords on your site in text, not images or Flash. Search engines have no way of knowing what's in those files.

Search engines don't generally execute JavaScript, so any text available only from AJAX calls is not visible to spiders.

8. Traffic Reports

Monitor your traffic logs or reports. Your Home page may not actually be your site's front door. Make sure search entry pages are relevant to the search terms, and help users who first enter your site from a deeper page find other pages on your site.

Use your traffic reports to see what top search terms people use to find your page or site and update your pages to optimize for the keywords people are actually using to find your site - even if they're slightly different from what you first thought. If Google decides your site is the best place for keywords you didn't expect, optimize for those words. Ride the wave, don't fight it.

9. Spelling Variations

Include some common typos of your brand names and keywords so people who make the same typo in their search see your site in the results. (But see also tip #14.)

10. Make Dynamic URLs Look Static

Make site search look like regular pages with URL rewriting. Search engine spiders won't follow always dynamic or script directory links, or links with query string parameters, because they could result in an infinite number of pages, but if you make the spider think your dynamic page is really static, they'll index them.

For example, make a search URL that is really look like this: On Apache, you can do that with your .htaccess file:

RewriteEngine on
RewriteRule search/(.*) /cgi-bin/search.cgi?term=$1 [L]

The (.*) part means "take anything that appears here and put it in variable $1". The $1 part means "take whatever was in the first parentheses and put it here." The [L] means this is the last rewrite rule and the server can stop looking for other rewrite rules. Move the [L] to your last rewrite rule if you have more than one.

11. Avoid Frames

Don't use frames! Most search engines can't (or just won't) navigate to sub-frames. And if a searcher clicks through directly to one of your sub-frames, your site probably won't display properly.

12. Sitemaps

Implement a Google Sitemap.

13. Avoid Link Farms

Don't get your link on link-only pages or parked domains. Some search engines penalize sites that appear on these spam pages.

14. Don't be Devious

Use your keywords in real content. Don't put keywords in tiny fonts or in the same color as the background text. Some search engines penalize sites that use non-visible text.

No comments: