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SEO techniques

SEO or search engine optimisation is a technique to make a website display and read better to search engines such as Google or Yahoo.

SEO is hugely important to making a website standout, and is increasingly becoming the most important part of developing content for a website.

This article will focus on how SEO is important, what it constitutes and how to improve a website SEO.

This article is not a guide covering every base within search engine optimisation, it is simply an introduction to it.

How search engines work

Search engines are clever. Using a program called a spider, search engines traverse a website by finding links to other pages on the website. When it does this it creates an 'index' of the website. Next, it will crawl through the content on the website and attempt to analyse it.

An alternative to this method to indexing the site is to provide the search engine with a sitemap. The sitemap already should include all the links within the website. By searching the sitemap, one step is removed from the crawling process.

The importance of SEO

SEO plays a huge part in how content is written, what HTML elements are within a webpage and how the webpage presents itself. By definition, SEO is the method conforming webpages to the way that makes them syntactically correct. The aim of SEO is improve site rankings, increase awareness in search engines and to drive visitors to the website.

By following web guidance tips and making a website search engine friendly, a website can reach the number one spot in the search engine. To achieve this, a website needs to contain relevant information, and the syntax on the website should be interpretable by the search engine.

What constitutes a good website?

A website that has conformed to the search engine optimisation rules will be one that does several things. First off, search engines cannot easily traverse a Flash based website. In fact, a search engine may have some difficulty traversing any kind of plugin. So the first step in optimising a website for search engines is to avoid plugins such as Flash.

The second and arguably most vital requirement in optimisation is to utilise meta-data. Search engines often look straight at meta-data for the information they need, but that does not mean that they will not read the content first. Most search engines penalise websites that have keywords that are not included in the content. This means irrelevant keywords will be ignored and the search engine will not associate that keyword with the website.

Giving a page semantic meaning

A webpage with images is not as descriptive to a search engine as it would be to a human. For instance, a search engine cannot decipher a picture of a rabbit or hamster unless something has been given to the search engine as well as the image. Search engines particularly look for the alt attribute on image tags because this should be a descriptive textual explanation as to what the image is. HTML5 requires the alt attribute on the image tag. Without an alt attribute or an image with an empty alt attribute, the image will be completely meaningless to the crawler.

Links absolutely must conform to the structure defined by the W3C. For instance, a link such as:

<a href=”goto:pagex.html”>Go to page X</a>

This link will not function as an ordinary link to a search engine. Similarly, the following link will also not appear as a valid link to search engines:

<a href=”javascript:alert(‘Hello’);”>Go to page X</a>

Although the previous link style is completely discourage anyway, it is still important to note that this will cause issues for search engine crawlers.

As well as this, search engines will ignore links with fragment identifiers such as:

<a href=”#section1”>Go to section 1</a>

As a result page-specific URLs should include a hash mark in front of the URL. Internal links can also be simplified, for instance:
https://www.jamiebalfour.scot/about/me/

Can internally be referenced as
/about/me/

This also makes it easier to distinguish between internal and external links.

Using headings

Headings are an important part of developing good SEO. Heading break up content into smaller chunks and they also represent a more substantial importance to search engines in terms of keywords.

Heading structure should be go from top to bottom getting smaller. For instance, the first heading should never be anything but a h1 element. For instance, the following code is not inline with this rule:

HTML
<!doctype html>
<html>
	<head>
		<title>Sample</title>
	</head>
	<body>
    <h3>Title</h3>
    <h1>Title</h1>
		<p>Hello world</p>
	</body>
</html>
    

However, the following would rectify the situation:

HTML
<!doctype html>
<html>
	<head>
		<title>Sample</title>
	</head>
	<body>
    <h1>Title</h1>
    <h3>Title</h3>
		<p>Hello world</p>
	</body>
</html>
    

There are certain other restrictions on headings. Namely that the h1 element should only be used once.

Content light websites

A content heavy website is one that has too much content on one page. It is advised that webpages like this are split into smaller, more sizable chunks that are more specific and fit for purpose.

As well as this, obtrusive sites whereby the user has to click through several pages, popups or elements to get to the page they are or content they are looking for are penalised as of January 2017.

Sites should be succinct and trying to avoid making the user think when they are trying to find out something.

Page purpose

Page purpose is much simpler than the other mentioned topics because it is simply about defining a purpose for the page and ensuring that the content within the page also enforces this purpose.

For instance, search engines may penalise a webpage that has the title "Why monkeys shouldn't be subject to laboratory testing" should be talking about monkeys in testing and not entirely about selling some product related to cars.

Pages should aim to serve users, not the owner of the website. This is crucial to making a website not a spam site.

Higher traffic ranking

Pages which appeal to users are more likely to obtain a high ranking from Google due to higher traffic. As a result, these pages will have a higher ranking in terms of SEO too.

In order for pages to obtain a higher rank, the page will need to appeal to users, attracting users to the page. A page with more views that come from other websites such as search engines will receive a higher page ranking.

Backlinking

The process of creating backlinks involves making a website more popular to related websites or websites that have related content.

For example, a website about rabbits such as rabbithealth.com would be somewhat related to the website saveafluff.co.uk, so by backlinking from the latter website, the former would receive additional traffic from the latter website. This is called backlinking and the more backlinks a website has the higher it will rank in terms of SEO.

Another, somewhat more malicious method of backlinking is to post into comment sections on websites. By inserting a link to the subject website into the comments section of the website, it creates a backlink to the website. This effectively drives traffic to that website.

Valid pages

This is pretty self-explanatory, a website should use valid HTML, CSS and be free from JavaScript errors. That's not to say that having a few <p> tags that haven't been properly closed is disasterous to a website, but it should be avoided where possible.

The reason that valid code should be achieved where ever possible is that valid code is easier to parse than code that is not. This is all down to the way that XML is parsed, since HTML is a subset of XML (or rather XHTML is). An easy way to ensure that the code is completely parsable is to transform the HTML into XHTML.

Conclusion

This page does not serve as a comprehensive guide to the techniques of SEO but it does give a rough idea of what SEO actually is, the purpose of SEO, how to achieve make a site search engine friendly and why it is so crucial. Google provides more information on what makes a website search engine friendly and covers a lot more bases than this article does.

Perhaps the most important thing to note from this article is that SEO and Flash do not work well together and is completely discouraged nowadays. Stick to using HTML5 and CSS for content and JavaScript for interaction.

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