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Optimize Your Entire Site For The Search Engines

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Reader question:
I read somewhere that every single page on a Web site should be optimized for the search engines. I do not have the time to optimize my entire database-driven site, but my site still relies on search engine traffic for business. If people do not have the time or the budget, what are the best optimization strategies to implement? What do you consider the minimum number of pages to optimize?

Answer:
I like this reader question because it communicates how much time and effort it takes for a search engine optimization professional to optimize a site. For some pages, the optimization process can take as little time as 15 minutes. For other pages, it might take over an hour, or even more. Regardless of time, optimization has never been a “quick fix” process. To truly do a thorough job, search engine optimization takes time and resources.

That being said, there are ways to streamline the whole optimization process. Here are a few tips:

Focus on primary text, not secondary text.

Primary text is the HTML text that all search engines index and use to determine relevancy. Examples of primary text include the HTML title-tag text, headings, paragraphs, ordered/unordered lists, and hypertext links.

I tend to focus my energies on the titles, headlines, and first 200 words of a document because those words appear in the first browser screen when people click on a link to a page. When visitors view any page on your site, they should be able to answer the question, “Does this page appear to be focused?” with a “Yes” answer.

Furthermore, visitors should give the most appropriate answer when you ask the question, “What topic does this page appear to be focused on?”

When you ask these two questions, make sure that you are asking actual site visitors/customers, not your site designer or a company employee. Your designer and employees will not purchase thousands or millions of dollars of your products and services – your customers will. Usability tests and/or focus groups are very helpful in this instance.

Use hypertext links wisely

One of my pet peeves is seeing breadcrumb links as title-tag text. I understand why Web developers use this strategy. They want a page to appear focused, and breadcrumb links are one way to make a page appear focused.

However, with search engine optimization, developers often do not understand the true purpose of breadcrumb links. The main reason to use them is to communicate a visual, vertical hierarchy of a Web site. Breadcrumb links help visitors more easily form a mental model of a Web site architecture. If visitors are confused as to what page they are viewing on a site, they should be able to click on a breadcrumb link to help reorient.

Breadcrumb links are also beneficial for cross-linking related pages.

However, breadcrumb links do not make good title-tag content. Reason? All pages would begin with the word “Home”. Like this:

Home > About Us > Company History

This particular title-tag would contain no keyword-rich text. If I had to select text to use from a page’s content, I would probably use the first heading tag, which brings me to my next tip.

Learn to write heading tags with keywords

Many content management systems take the first heading-tag content and use it as content for the HTML title tag. If your copywriting team knows how to write headlines (a) using targeted keyword phrases and (b) using around 40 to 69 characters, great! Your site probably just needs to be tweaked a little.

If not, then you will have to one of two strategies. You can re-train your copywriting staff to learn how to write search-engine friendly copy. Or you can make sure your content management system has a separate, unique field so you can write separate, unique title tags.

Start small

I always break my sites down into templates. I have one or two templates for Category pages. I have one or two templates for Product pages. And so on. I find the Category and Product pages that focus on my most important keywords, and some good niche ones as well, and optimize those.

I usually optimize 20-25 pages at a time. It makes database-site optimization a bit more manageable. Quite often, I only have to optimize 75-200 pages to get desired results.

Credibility pages

Not every page can be naturally search engine friendly. In fact, I would be surprised if every single page on a site ranked well.

However, just because a page cannot rank well doesn’t mean that you should not include that page on your Web site. In fact, the purpose of Web page might be to generate trust, credibility, and professionalism. I call these types of pages credibility pages.

One example of a credibility page is any page written in “legalese.” Realistically speaking, the only people who search for “legalese” are attorneys, and attorneys might not be your target audience. However, the “legalese” can be very important for generating trust.

Two credibility page examples are a Legal Disclaimer and a Privacy Policy. I always like to link to a Privacy Policy on any online form, whenever a site visitor is typing in confidential information, such credit card numbers. The Privacy Policy might state that the information on the form will not be distributed to third parties. In fact, I always recommend that all ecommerce sites have a well-written Privacy Policy.

Suppose a site is in the medical field. A Legal Disclaimer might state that the advice presented on a Web site is not a substitute for a physician’s visit and professional consultation.

Would you expect either of these pages to rank well in the search engines? Of course not. The purpose of these pages is not to rank but rather (a) protect the Web site owners, and (b) to generate trust.

If I were to optimize these pages, I would put “Company Name – Privacy Policy” (without the quotes) in the HTML title tag and leave it at that. These particular credibility pages need to be on a site to communicate trust, but the do not need to be optimized for the search engines.

Related articles:

  • SEO Corner – Writing Title Tags for the Home Page
  • Location of Global Navigation for Optimal Search Engine Indexing
  • URL Structure and Search Engine Optimization
  • Web Site Architecture – Part 1
  • Web Site Architecture – Part 2
  • Web Site Architecture – Part 3

    Shari Thurow is Marketing Director at Grantastic Designs, Inc., a full-service search engine marketing, web and graphic design firm. This article is excerpted from her book, Search Engine Visibility (http://www.searchenginesbook.com) published in January 2003 by New Riders Publishing Co. Shari can be reached at shari@grantasticdesigns.com.

    Shari Thurow Answers SEO Questions: Click Here For Free Answers

    Optimize Your Entire Site For The Search Engines
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    • http://www.houstonlawyersdirect.com Houston

      Great article Shari; this has been very helpful!

    • http://www.bulgariasfinest.com Jim Lawlor

      Great article, I feel it is important to build strength to all pages not just the homepage and to concentrate on low competition keywords as I can get them to the top very easily

    • http://www.giftexposure.co.uk Dave

      Agreed a huge mistake is concentrating solely on the homepage

    • http://www.rankbetterseo.com/seo-success.php best seo company

      You cant just optimize a few page and expect those pages to rank  well. Each page needs to feed off the other.

    • http://www.business-sale.com Chris

      Adding strength to sub pages will help the homepage

    • http://www.car-scrapyards.co.uk Oliier

      Every page of a website is important, each one has the ability to rank highly. there each page should be fully optimised.

    • http://web-designer-s.com/ web site design tips

      This is a nice article on topic ‘how to optimize your entire site for the search engines’. I have implemented many of advices mentioned in this article. But I have only few visitors on my web site.

    • http://www.orangedwarf.com orangedwarf

      Thanks Shari for all the valuable tips! Posted also on another place my worry that whatever you do, to a certain extend, you will need a participation in AdWords for a high ranking!? Have seen terrible sites ignoring SEO recommendations throughout, with only a few external links and with little relevance but participating in AdWords and having granted a high ranking (5!).
      While also observing good sites like http://www.orangedwarf.com who are not participating in AdWords and having a low (pagerank 0!).
      Comments please.

    • http://www.sightseeingtourslondon.com/original-london-sightseeing-tour-p-32.html Original London Tour

      Really nice article, I didnt really considor breadcrumb links being beneficial for cross-linking related pages and seo. I will have to do this more.

    • http://www.hotelinaclick.com/Thailand/hotels_in_Bangkok.html Hotels in Bangkok

      People still spend so much time optimising the homepage when actually they should be looking deeper into their site as generally those are the pages people actually want to look at. Nice article on how to improve their optimising technique.

    • http://www.smartin.in Kerala seo

      Optimizing and managing the entire site structure for SEO would be a difficult task . I usually take more care on post SEO than keyword SEO in my Kerala based blog .