The Forgotten Fundamentals of SEO

Introduction:

Firstly, thank you for taking the time to view my SEO hints and tips e-book on the often forgotten aspects of SEO. This book was written from the collective knowledge and information gathered by Chris Diprose, owner and manager of Kanga Internet. Kanga Internet is located in Melbourne, Australia, and they focus on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Web Development for the Joomla Content Management System (CMS).

The Forgotten Fundamentals of SEO

With Search Engine Optimization, there are many unknowns, educated guesses and knowledge gained from personal and associative experience. Google, Yahoo and MSN keep their cards close to their chest to reveal how their ranking systems work. They tell the community trickles of information on what things can affect search engine results, how they can be improved and what to do in

certain situations, but mostly knowing what to do to achieve good results is achieved by studying and hard work. Like other SEO consultants, I have gathered information from various sources and constantly worked on improving customer results. 

Edition 1 of this e-book is intended for people looking to improve their websites from the ground up. I address SEO design fundamentals, which you must consider before embarking on any text and keyword analysis. I hope you find these hints and tips useful.

The Website Revelation What owning a website means.

As a Web Developer and SEO consultant, I deal with many existing website owners looking to modify or improve their websites. I also deal with many people looking to start their web presence with a new website. There is often a common theme; a misunderstanding or an attitude. I call this a misconception of reality, as the reality of what the Internet can do for a person’s business and what they think it can do differ massively.

Often it is presumed that by simply owning a domain and having a website built and published on the Internet, thousands of people will magically find the website, visit it and buy their products. “If you build it, they will come” should be removed from the vocabulary as soon as possible if you adjust attitudes to the underlying search technology. As a business person in the real world, it is obvious that it

would not happen outside of the Internet either, so what is so different online? Maybe it was the Technology boom 10 years ago that caused a rift in understanding or maybe the buzz that caused the meteoric rise in the stock prices of Tech Companies; I can hear the thoughts of the small businessman, “surely this can be replicated for my business” in answer I would say, “well, it is unlikely, but you should be able to achieve some results over time.”

It is most important when taking on a project like Search Engine Optimization for a website to know that it is important to be committed for the long haul. It is no small task, and sufficient funds must be allocated to the project. Delivering deadlines must be correctly scoped against required changes to meet client expectations. The key points of responsibility to the SEO project are knowing

that there are big changes near the start and during setup, but the changes do not stop after setup; there are continuous ongoing refinements to the design and system over time. In this regard, I find it important t manage expectations and set realistic long-term goals on what a website can be expected to achieve and in what time frames those goals hope to be met.

So what should your goal be when delving into SEO for your website? Well, everyone’s goal is the same; improve page rankings, visits and hits and finally gain more sales through the website.

When it comes to SEO and achieving these goals, you have to have principles, and my main principle is, “Good websites get good ratings and bad websites get bad ratings or none at all.” As time goes on, with the improvement of search engine technology and the refinement of search engine results, this statement becomes truer and truer. I believe in results through “white hat”(reads; “Grey Hat”) principles and methodologies.

What are “white hat” principles? I would compare it to doing things the honest way and the right way without risk. To develop a good site, promote good linking, have good informative content and keep working on it and then you are on the road to good rankings through “White Hat” principles.

So, why should you do things the “white hat” way? Well, search engines do have some understanding of artificial intelligence. They soon catch on to websites spamming or linking to websites with no relevance and bad cross-linking. It’s about being smart, in for the long term and wanting your business to grow organically and naturally.

So how do I improve my site and make it optimized for search engines naturally? Well, that’s why you’re here! So let’s run through a few things you should do on your websites from a fundamental level.

Domain names:

When choosing a domain name, choose one relevant to the product or service you will provide, which is as simple as possible. There are considerations of branding and product/service provided that should go into this choice. The involvement of marketing personnel and product understanding is required, but consultation with your SEO professional is also advantageous. I would say take some time

and choose wisely in this step. Keep it simple and easy to remember; often, saying it out loud will make it clear whether a simple man can understand it.

It is a strongly held belief by many SEO professionals that buying a domain that is older and that has been around for a while means Google will not sandbox it. What’s the sandbox effect? Well, it refers to what Google does to a website or domain that is new or relatively unknown by Google. In many instances, Google’s Sandbox effect relegates the new domain to sub-optimal inclusion in search

results. Regardless of the site’s optimization, it lowers the relevance and ranking of the website to the term searched. Consider this very important if you can use your old business domain name.

If you buy a new domain name, keep it relevant to the product or service sold or offered on the website. Keep it close, relevant and simple. Relevance is primary.

Location-specific domain or international domain ( .com or com.au)? I think dot coms are better, mainly because they appeal Internationally, but if you want to, you can keep its location specific and to your region, then consider purchasing all similar higher-level domains, yourdomain.com and yourdomain.com.au, if you can.

Choosing a Host:

Fast, reliable, and gives you all that you need and want. Preferably gives a unique IP. Again some SEO professionals believe this can also have a detrimental effect on Google rankings, but from my experience, it sometimes does and sometimes doesn’t. I had had some sites come in with high PR rankings on shared IPs and others. When I shifted to a new IP, the site’s PR jumped, so this is still a bit of a mystery regarding Google rankings. I guess a consideration.

Traffic considerations: When choosing your host, ensure the plan you are on can be expanded so that any new increases in traffic can be accommodated accordingly.

Site Design:

There are several fundamental things to consider when modifying or designing a website.

Flash:

Flash has been popular for a few years now, and I truly believe it has its place. It is a great way of showing many products or services in a small area, has a great visual impact if done properly and can set a friendly tone for the website visitor. Also, I’m not too fond of flash; it can be a nightmare regarding search engine optimization.

What you should know about flash; a search engine cannot read it as the search engine cannot read the text or the images contained within it, nor can it interpret what is in the pictures being shown.

I would suggest not making your whole website flash when it comes to flash. If you are designing a new website and want to use flash, use it in high-impact areas to capture the attention of your intended audience but use it sparingly. It is important to ensure that as much text content(to a maximum discussed in my next book, generally 300-500 characters) is available on the webpage and in simple HTML.

Frames:

Many older websites were designed with frames. Frames are where the main home page is a frameset page that includes several other pages into it. This makes the page hard to index in search engines and should be avoided. While Google now indexes framed sites, it is important to note that most other top search engines still cannot follow frame links. They only see the frameset page and ignore the

rest of the inner frames. This presents an SEO problem to us because it is highly likely those inner pages contain our content keywords. Nowadays, this is not a huge issue as it is so uncommon for a designer to use frames, but the easiest way to resolve the issue would be to enforce a no-use policy on frames.

Page Layout:

According to research, the Googlebot trawls web pages from left to right and top to bottom. So given this little tidbit of information, it is clear that you should put our most valuable keywords and information on the left and near the top. Of course, this is a blanket statement and does not consider design principles and beautification. Just keep it in mind during the design of the page layout. Position your move relevant keywords to the left of the page and near the top.

Good HTML Coding:

Many HTML generator programs out there bloat HTML to the point that it is 3-4 times larger than what it would be if you hand-coded it. Please keep it simple, use a text editor, and edit your HTML the old-school way; until an HTML generator tool is worthy of use. If you can’t code HTML, search the Internet, find a decent, free e-book and learn how to do it.

Javascript:

This is very popular among many web development professionals for menus, popups, scrollers etc. I suggest using simple plain HTML menus or as little Javascript as possible on web pages. Many small JavaScript menus are slim on JavaScript code to reduce this issue and make it almost negligible. Don’t over-clutter your site with JavaScript, as it increases page size and page load times, and the search engines won’t understand it.

Image Sizes:

Keep them small and use only what you need to. This is essential for decreasing page loading times and getting information onto the user’s screen as soon as possible.

Overall page size and loading:

The overall page size is an important factor. It should load quickly and be easily trawled. You should be fine if you have followed the HTML hand coding, used minimal javascript, used simple table layouts and had good image sizing. Much evidence supports the fact that Google and probably the other search engines also do not like to scan huge files, so keeping your overall HTML page size below 25k is my suggestion.

Dynamic URL’s & page/file names:

Dynamic pages are roadblocks to high search engine positioning. Especially those that end in “?” or “&.” In a dynamic site, variables are passed to the URL, and the page is generated dynamically, often from information stored in a database, as with many e-commerce sites. Normal .html pages are static – they are hard-coded, their information does not change, and there are no “?” or “&” characters in the URL.

Pages with dynamic URLs are present in several engines, notably Google and AltaVista, even though publicly, AltaVista claims their spider does not crawl dynamic URLs. To a spider, a “?” represents a sea of endless possibilities – some pages can automatically generate a potentially massive number of URLs, trapping the spider in a virtually infinite loop.

As a general rule, search engines will not properly index documents that:

  •  contain a “?” or “&.”
  • End in the following document types: .cfm, .asp, .shtml, .php, .stm, .jsp, .cgi, .pl
  •  It could potentially generate a large number of URLs.

To avoid complications, consider creating static pages whenever possible, perhaps using the database to update the pages, not to generate them on the fly.

Slightly Off Topic Thoughts:

The topics covered here are not considered SEO topics completely, but this section is very important in terms of the overall objective of increasing sales. Take these things on board, consider them, and consult with your designer and marketing team. Make educated and informed choices on these topics when considering your audience and your website objectives.

  • Screen Size:

Over 65% of all screens in the World are set to run at the 1024×768 resolution. Of the remaining percentage, 13% run at 800×600, 20% run at larger sizes, and 2% are unknown. So this affects the way you design. It would be my suggestion always to design for the smallest user to visit your site, but often I find 800×600 restrictive, so I tend to design for slightly larger. Not large enough to make an 800×600 user angry but large enough to make it look good on larger screens. I weigh up my target users and my intended amount of content and find some happy medium. I generally design for 1000×620 as this is the perfect amount of real estate for a 1024×768 user when they have the browser top bar, status bar, and Windows taskbar.

Colors and themes:

One important aspect of marketing – selling – is the use of color. Meanings are attached to colors like meanings are attached to words.

  • Gold is the color of wealth and prosperity.
  •  White is the color of pure innocence and cleanliness.
  •  Pink is the color of femininity and softness.
  • Green is the color of natural things and freshness.
  • Red is the color of danger and stress.
  • Blue is the color the calmness and intelligence. The majority of the World selects blue as a favorite color. It often represents “trust.”

The use of color to establish an image or a brand is common in the marketing community, yet when you visit the websites of many search engine optimization professionals, it’s obvious that color significance plays no part in their web optimization. Some of the colors I found on SEO websites:

  •  Baby Blue is a color that implies weakness.
  • Red is a color that implies risk or danger.
  •  Orange is a color that implies a cheerful “levity.” Orange is one of Americans’ least favorite colors.

Although the color selection is off-topic for SEO, I would consider it a very important factor in what SEO is trying to achieve, in the end, for your website to sell more products, creating loyalty to your brand and customer impact. Color research is something you should seriously consider. In summary of color choices, I would suggest studying and learning more about your customers, researching color choices and their relevance to your underlying products and making informed choices on these in collaboration. If in doubt, I suggest sticking to safe and trusted colors with safe eye-pleasing designs.

Gifs for logos & jpg for pictures:

Ensure you use gifs for logos and background placements and jpg for photos on your website. This helps reduce the size and improve the clarity of the website overall.

Browser:

It is important to ensure your web page works in both IE, Firefox and Opera. Testing other browsers is also advantageous, but these are the main three in use nowadays (2007). I think quoting stats on the browser breakdown is irrelevant as you need it to work in all browsers. W3C cross-browser compliance is great for this.

So, this brings us to the end of Volume 1: Fundamentals of SEO Web Design. There are many things to consider when designing or modifying a website to make it more SEO friendly. I have a few more volumes left in SEO for websites.