Understanding Web-Site Optimization


Web-site optimization is all about creating a site that is discoverable by search engines and search directories. It sound simple enough, but there are many aspects of site optimization to consider, and not all of them are about the keywords, links, or HTML tagging of your site.

Does hosting matter?

That question comes up frequently when a company or individual is designing a web site. Does it matter who hosts your site? The answer is no, but that’s not to say that domain hosting is unimportant. Elements of the hosting have a major impact on how your site ranks in search results.emails database

One of the biggest issues that you’ll face with domain hosting is the location of your hosting company. If you’re in the United States and you purchase a domain that is hosted on a server in England, your search engine rankings will suffer. Geographically, search engine crawlers will read your site as
being contradictory to your location. Because many search engines serve up results with some element of geographical location included, this contradiction could be enough to affect your ranking.

The length of time for which you register your domain name could also affect your search engine ranking. Many hackers use throw away domains, or domain names that are registered for no more than a year, because they usually don’t even get to use the domain for a full year before they are shut
down. For this reason some search engines have implemented ranking criteria that give priority to domains registered for longer periods. A longer registration also shows a commitment to maintaining the web site.

Domain-naming tips

The question of what to name a web site is always a big one. When selecting a name, most people think in terms of their business name, personal name, or a word or phrase that has meaning for them. What they don’t think about is how that name will work for the site’s SEO. Does the name
have anything at all to do with the site, or is it completely unrelated?

Have you ever wondered why a company might be willing to pay millions of dollars for a domain name? The domain name business.com was purchased for $7.5 million in 1999, and was recently thought to be valued at more than $300 million. Casino.com went for $5.5 million and worldwideweb.com sold for $3.5 million. What’s so important about a name?

Where SEO is concerned, the name of your web site is as important as many of the other SEO elements that you concentrate on. Try this test. Use your favorite search engine to search for a topic, perhaps “asphalt-paving business.” When your search results are returned, look at the top five results. Most of the time, a web site containing those words will be returned in those top five results, and it will often be in the number one slot.

So, if your company name is ABC Company, but your business is selling nutmeg graters, consider purchasing the domain name NutmegGraters.com, instead of ABC Company.com — ABC Company may not get you in the top of search rankings, but the very specific nature of your product probably will. And both the content of your site and your domain name will attract crawlers in the way you want. Using a domain name containing a keyword from your content usually improves your site ranking.

A few more things that you should keep in mind when you’re determining your domain name include:

Keep the name as short as possible. Too many characters in a name mean increased potential for misspellings. It also means that your site address will be much harder for users to remember unless it’s something really startling.

Avoid dashes, underscores, and other meaningless characters. If the domain name that you’re looking for is taken, don’t just add a random piece of punctuation or numerology to the name to “get close.” Close doesn’t count here. Instead, try to find another word that’s relevant, and possibly included in the list of keywords you’ll be using. For example, instead of purchasing www.latestdatabase.com, try to find something like www.latestdatabase.com.

Opt for a .com name whenever possible. There are lots of domain extensions to choose from: info, biz, us, tv, names, jobs. However, if the .com version of your chosen domain name is available, that’s always the best choice. Users tend to think in terms of .com, and any other extension will be hard for them to remember. Com names also tend to receive higher rankings in search engines than web sites using other extensions. So if your competition has www.yoursite.com and you choose to use www.yoursite.biz, chances are the competition will rank higher in search results than you.

Again, it’s important to realize that domain naming is only one facet of SEO strategy. It won’t make or break your SEO, but it can have some effect. So take the time to think about the name you plan to register for your site. If you can use a name that not only reaches your audience but also lands you a little higher in search results, then by all means purchase it. But if no name really seems to work in the SEO strategy for your site, don’t get discouraged. You can make up for any domain-naming issues by implementing solid keyword strategies, tagging strategies, and other elements of SEO.

Understanding usability

Usability. It means different things to different web site designers. It’s also been at the top of every user’s requirements list since the Web became part of daily life. When users click through to your web site from a search results page, they want the site to work for them. That means they want to be able to find what they’re looking for, to navigate from place to place, and to be able to load pages quickly, without any difficulties.

Web-site users are impatient. They don’t like to wait for pages to load, they don’t want to deal with Flash graphics or JavaScript, and they don’t want to be lost. These are all elements of usability — how the user navigates through and uses your web site. And yes, usability has an impact on SEO.
Especially from the perspective of your site links and loading times.

When a search engine crawler comes to your site, it crawls through the site, looking at keywords, links, contextual clues, meta and HTML tags, and a whole host of other elements. The crawler will move from page to page, indexing what it finds for inclusion in search results. But if that crawler
reaches the first page and can’t get past the fancy Flash you’ve created, or if it gets into the site and finds links that don’t work or that lead to unexpected locations, it will recognize this and make note of it in the indexed site data. That can damage your search engine rankings.

Navigation knowledge

When you consider web-site navigation, there are two types: internal navigation and external navigation. Internal navigation involves the links that move users from one page to another on your site.External navigation refers to links that take users away from your page. For your navigation to be
SEO-friendly, you have to use both types of navigation carefully.

Look at a number of different high-ranking web sites. How is the navigation of those sites designed? In most cases, you’ll find that the top sites have a left-hand navigation bar that’s often text-based, and some have a button-based navigation bar across the top of the page. Few have just buttons down the left side, and all of them have text links somewhere in the landing page.

The navigation for many sites looks the same, because this plan works. Having a text-based navigation bar on the left works for SEO because it allows you to use anchor tags with the keywords you’re using for the site. It also allows crawlers to move from one page to another with ease.

Buttons are harder for crawlers to navigate, and depending on the code in which those buttons are designed, they might be completely invisible to the crawler. That’s why many companies that put button-based links at the top of the page also usually include a text-based navigation bar on the
left. The crawler can still move from page to page, but the user is happy with the design of the site.

The other element you see on nearly every page is text-based links within the content of the page. Again, those links are usually created with anchor tags that include the keywords the site is using to build site ranking. This is an effective way to gain site ranking. The crawler comes into the site,
examines the linking system, examines the content of the page, compares these items, and finds that the links are relevant to the content, which is relevant to the keywords. That’s how your ranking is determined. Every element works together.

Take the time to design a navigational structure that’s not only comfortable for your users, but is also crawler-friendly. If it can’t always be perfect for the crawlers, make sure it’s perfect for users. Again, SEO is influenced by many different things, but return visits from users are the ultimate goal. This may mean that you have to test your site structure and navigation with a user group and change it a few times before you find a method that works both for returning users and for the crawlers that help to bring you new users. Do those tests. That’s the only way you’ll learn what works.

Usability considerations

It’s not always possible to please both your site users and the crawlers that determine your page ranking. It is possible, however, to work around problems. Of course, the needs of users come first because once you get them to your site you want them to come back. On the Internet, it’s extremely easy for users to surf away from your site and never look back. And returning visits can make or break your site.

But the catch is that in order to build returning visitors, you have to build new visitors, which is the purpose of SEO. That means you need search engines to take notice of your site.

When it seems that users’ preferences are contrary to crawlers’ preferences, there is a solution. It’s a site map. And there are two types of which you should be aware. A basic site map is an overview of the navigational structure of your web site. It’s usually text-based, and it’s nothing
more than an overview that includes links to all of the pages in your web site. Crawlers love site maps. You should, too.

A site map allows you to outline the navigational structure of your web site, down to the second or third level of depth, using text-based links that should include anchors and keywords. An example of a site map for the Work.com web site is shown in Figure 3-5.

When a site map exists on your web page, a search engine crawler can locate the map and then crawl all of the pages that are linked from it. All of those pages are then included in the search engine index and will appear on search engine results pages. Where they appear on those SERPs
is determined by how well the SEO is done for each individual page.

A second type of site map, the XML site map, is different from what you think of as a site map in both form and function. An XML site map is a file that lists all of the URLs for a web site. This file is usually not seen by site visitors, only by the crawlers that index your site. There are more specifics on XML site maps in Chapter 16.