Search Engine Optimization

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Asa Computers
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Search Engine Optimization and web site promotion

Step 3 - The Meta Tags

The fabled Meta tags are important to getting good rankings, and on many search engines, the page title (often truncated) and the Meta Description tag are what gets displayed.

Meta tags go in the {HEAD} section of the HTML page (the same section as the {TITLE} tag). The Meta Description tag should contain a short description of the web-page. Guess what? You've already written one for the {TITLE} tag! So just edit that to make it totally human readable (and perhaps a little shorter), and you're done. The format of a Meta description tag is simple. It looks like this:

{META name="description" content="whatever you want to place here"}

So, in our example, we might use:

{META name="description" content="Real Estate in Wilmington, North Carolina - Buying, Selling & Renting of Houses, Homes, Apartments, Commercial Property and Office Space"}

My advice on the length of this description is keep it between 100 and 200 characters. Remember: the description tag should be written for humans to read. It should not be a list of keywords!

The other Meta tag is the Meta Keywords tag. What you do is take your keyphrases, and enter them in the order you think is most appropriate, separated by commas. Don't repeat a keyphrase, and don't repeat any individual word more than 5 times or so. This may mean that you can't use some of your better keyphrases.

The reason why you don't want to repeat any particular word more than 5 times is that some search engines may penalize you for doing this. Search engines aren't as sensitive to keyword repeating as they used to be (most of them ignore extra repeats), but play it safe. The exception is common "noise" words like "the", "in", "a", "and" and so on. Most search engines ignore them. Leave them in, but don't worry if you have more than 5 of any of them.

If you've got a lot of keyphrases that really are relevant to your site, the best thing to do is build "theme" pages devoted to a particular keyphrase or set of keyphrases. This is good for you, good for your visitors, and appreciated by the search engines. Use the most important keyphrases on your homepage.

Some people get confused about whether to use commas between phrases, and whether to capitalize keywords. The truth is, some search engines pay attention to the commas, some don't. But the ones who don't treat them as "white-space". So just use commas as appropriate, but don't waste a character putting a space after the comma. Similarly, just capitalize words as you might expect people to normally use them. Most search engines will ignore the capitalization, but it can't hurt to help out those that make note of it.

If you want to get really fancy, play the cunning comma trick. The search engines that don't pay attention to commas sometimes pay attention to sequences of words. So if you can put two keyphrases together with a comma between them, and the last words of the first keyphrase coupled with the first words of the next keyphrase make up one of your keyphrases, then you've gotten 3 keyphrases for the price of two! Normally, however, this is difficult, so don't waste too much time over it.

Keep your keywords meta-tag length between 200-400 characters. Unfortunately, this means you may not be able to include all of your key phrases in your meta keywords tag even if you don't repeat a word too often. The theme pages concept deals with this also. After pruning away, our sample keywords tag might look like this:

{META name=keywords content=real estate in wilmington north carolina,buying real estate in wilmington north carolina,selling real estate in wilmington north carolina,renting real estate in wilmington north carolina,real estate broker in wilmington north carolina,new hanover county,south-east north carolina,house broker,apartment broker,home sales,apartment rental}
Step 4 - The first paragraph

The first paragraph of your page should recapitulate and expand upon everything in your title and meta tags. You need to have all those keyphrases in it. However, since this is going to be read by people, it needs to be written with them in mind. This is where you introduce yourself to your visitors, so you want to make a good impression.

Try to put this first paragraph as close to the {BODY} tag as possible. Avoid putting graphics or other HTML in front of your first paragraph as much as you can. I don't have a banner ad on my homepage for this reason. Also, use the {H1} or {H2} tag to emphasize your opening sentence (but make sure it looks tasteful!). Bill Phillips might use the following opening paragraph:

{H2}Are you interested in buying, selling or renting real estate in Wilmington, North Carolina?{/H2}

If so, you've come to the right place. My name is Bill Phillips, and for the last 10 years, I've specialized in helping my clients find the perfect home, apartment or commercial space in beautiful New Hanover County. Please allow me to be your guide.

Step 5 - Don't Go Overboard - and whatever you do, don't put up spam pages!

You clearly want to have your important keyphrases on your page more than once, because this is what gives the search engines a clue as to what your page is really about. But you don't want your keyphrases to appear too many times, because that might make the search engines think your page is a spam page trying to rank highly for a particular phrase.

The question then becomes, how much is too much? And the answer is, nobody knows for sure, and it's going to be different from search engine to search engine. Rumor has it that Google likes pages with less than 13 repeats of a keyphrase, for example.

My advice is to try and keep the number of repeats of important phrases down to 10 or less; this means all instances, in title, meta tags, and the text of the page. Sometimes this simply isn't possible, because the phrase is so integral to your topic, so don't get paranoid about this. Just keep it in mind.

There are certain classes of sites and pages that the big guys consider spam, and either won't list, or will penalize. The major indexes consider the following kinds sites to be spam and will not list them:

  • Affiliate sites with same or similar content but a different site designs.
  • Mirror sites. Submitting mirror URLs to different categories is also considered spam. Multi-lingual sites are acceptable as long as the URL resolves to the appropriate language.
  • Sites that use redirects or any type of bait-and-switch practice. Using frames to hide a real URL, commonly referred to as "poor man's cloaking," is also considered spam.
  • Sites whose sole purpose is to drive traffic to affiliate links or sites that contain these types of links.
  • Sites without original content.
  • Sites that are repeatedly resubmitted (over 5 times) without being accepted.

In addition, the major search engines are actively penalizing/banning sites that employ the following techniques:

  • Web pages that are built primarily for the search engines and not your target audience, especially machine-generated pages.
  • Pages that contain hidden text and hidden links.
  • "Great quantity and little value" pages.
  • Link farming and link spamming, particularly free-for-all (FFA) links.
  • Cloaking, a practice in which the search engine and the end user do not view the same page.
  • Sites with numerous, unnecessary host names (i.e.,, etc.)
  • Excessively cross-linking sites to artificially inflate a site's apparent popularity.
  • Affiliate spam

People who repeatedly submit spam sites to the big guys have not only been blacklisted, but in some cases, their previously submitted (and legitimate) sites have been removed. So be nice to the Indexes, and they'll be nice to you. And credit where credit is due: Chris Sherman's SearchDay Newsletter is the place to find out what works - and what doesn't - with the search engines.

The article below has been reprinted with permission from