My Top Ten Tips on how to help your site look good to search engines such as Google, Yahoo!, and MSN. Search engine optimisation is not a form of ‘alchemy’ beyond mere mortals, as some SEO companies would have you believe, all it takes is research and time. My tips are based on four basic ideas: research your keywords; use your keywords wisely; make life easy for search engines; and make yourself popular.
- If you are still at the design stage of getting a website, make sure the designer is using valid code, such as XHTML and CSS checked at the W3C Markup Validation Service, and that they are aware of the legal issues around ‘accessibility‘.
- RESEARCH YOUR KEYWORDS — the words people use to look for your type of service/business. Think about all the ways people may phrase things differently. You should find at least ten keywords or phrases that are relevant to your site. There are free services such as the Keyword Suggestion Tool by Wordtracker.
- USE YOUR KEYWORDS WISELY: You need to use the keywords throughout your site, but don’t over do it as this can be considered spamming by the search engines. Use keywords in the <title> tag of your HTML page. Keep it to around 60-65 characters. This is what is written on the browser window’s top bar. It should include your business, club, or organisation name. Search engines put great relevance on what you put in the title tag.
The title for our home page is ‘Freelancealot.co.uk – Virtual Assistant, Transcription, Proofreading, Website Design’
- Your chosen set of keywords needs to go in the ‘keywords’ meta-tag of your HTML pages. If you have different services on separate pages, include five or six relevant keywords/phrases for that service in the meta-tag of that page. In other words, you can have a set of optimised keywords for each HTML page.
For example, our keywords would include: virtual assistant, virtual secretary, audio transcription, proofreading, website design, desktop publishing, etc. for our home page, but on our web services page we concentrate more on using related keywords such as ‘web site updates’, ‘web design’, ‘banners’, ‘webmaster’, ‘accessible websites’, ‘XHTML’, ‘CSS’, ‘valid website’, etc.
- Write a descriptive text of your business, club, or organisation around 25 words long that includes five to six of the top keywords/phrases, without making it sound like a cheesy advert. This needs to go in the ‘description’ meta-tag of your HTML page. Again, you can have a different description using a different set of optimised keywords (where appropriate) on other pages within your site.
For example, our home page description is: English Virtual Assistant providing professional audio transcription, typing, proofreading, copy-editing, desktop publishing, and website design and development. Plus voice overs, sound editing, music, and audio services.
- Include your keywords in the text on the page. Have a least 200-250 words of text on a page if you can. This text needs to be well-written and informative whilst including your top keywords. Don’t write just any old gobbledygook in order to use your keywords; your content needs to flow naturally and clearly layout your services/products for your visitors. Include key phrases in and around hyperlinks, for example: instead of ‘Click Here to find out more about our web services’, use ‘Learn more about our Website Design Services‘.
- Emphasised content — such as headings, sub-headings, and boldface text — are considered important by search engines. This means that keywords or phrases appearing in <h1>, <h2>, etc tags stand out to search engine spiders (‘bots’), as does text that has a <strong> or <em> tag around it.
- Use these keywords in the ‘alt’ tags in images and in the ‘title’ tags of links. But they need to be relevant to the image or link you’re using them in to comply with accessibility requirements.
For example, in our menu/navigation links we have the following: <a href=“secretarial.html#transcription” title=“Link to Audio Transcription Service”>Audio Transcription</a>
- MAKE LIFE EASY FOR SEARCH ENGINES. Include a robots.txt file in the main directory of your web server. This is a plain text file that basically tells the search engine spiders which pages or directories they should and should not index. You should also include a Sitemap, an HTML page listing all the urls on your website, then use a Sitemap Generator to make an XML site map file to submit to Google Sitemaps.
- MAKE YOURSELF POPULAR. Get as many complementary links to your site as you can. This requires research and time. Include a ‘links’ or ‘useful resources’ page on your site and swap links with other businesses, services, organisations, etc that are relevant and appropriate to your site — often referred to as ‘reciprocal links’ or ‘back links‘.
Freelancealot.co.uk has a links page that includes hyperlinks to virtual assistant networks, call handling services, suppliers of dictation equipment, and online dictionary and reference sites. One of these sites is MessageBase virtual office services and they include a reciprocal link to us.