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Sunday, May 28, 2006

Search Engine Optimization - Internal Techniques

To optimize for search engines, there are both internal and external techniques. Internal techniques are what you can do to your website and each individual page to optimize for search. External techniques are what you can do outside of your website to increase your results in search engines.

This entry I am going to focus on the internal techniques. The following list will explain the most important aspects and considerations that you must be aware of for your website to be properly optimized for search engines. There is one other tidbit about search engines, the big three Google, Yahoo and MSN all use different algorithms to calculate the importance of a page and thus the current ranking of the page. Since Google has the #1 market position at the moment, most people focus on what works well for Google.

1. Page Title - Each page must have an accurate, descriptive, and unique page title. This by far is one of the most important factors that search engines consider. The length of the title should not be more than 30-50 characters and must contain the keywords that you are trying to target. For Instance, if you want to attract buyers of used cars in Miami, FL, your title should be something like "Used Cars in Miami, FL - MyBusiness Name 1800-111-1111". This will place your targeted keywords in the earliest part of the title, while keeping your business name and phone number in the title. This will help with each listing on a search engine.

Research Must be done for each page's keywords. You must identify the targeted users of each page and then research the most common keyword phrases that are search for in the search engines. This will give you a list of keywords that you should use in the page title.

2. Keyword Density - After putting the correct keywords in the Page Title, you must concentrate on the placement of the keywords in the body of the webpage. Search Engines will "read" your webpages and count the number of words that are used, and the font used for those words. Usually if use use the H1, H2, or H3 tag in HTML (heading tags, which make the font bigger) it means that those words are important to the page. The frequency of words is also important to understand the importance of a page. The more frequently (but not overused) a word or phrase is used, the more important it must be.

In short, use the research that was used for the Page Title for your keywords, and use them to create the copy for your page. Use the important keywords more frequently and highlight those keywords if it makes sense. There are tools to give your reports about your keyword density of each page. I have a list of excellent SEO tools to help you out on the right hand side of the blog.

3. Site Map - Internal Links - Site Structure. The site structure of your website must include the correct internal links and a site map. The site map will help the search engine find all of the website pages, and will also help increase your internal links. Internal links should have appropriate and targeted anchor text (the text that is a hyperlink). Search Engines use that anchor text to help determine each page's important content. Internal links/Site Maps will help increase your link count to all of the individual pages in your website structure. The Search Engine's view each page as it's own separate entity and not part of a structure. So increasing the number of links to each page (without overdoing it, which SE's can figure out) will increase the importance of each page in your website according to the search engine.

4. Don't Over Optimize - This last item is important so that you are not doing too much work and actually hurting your placement. The search engine companies have realized that people are understanding the SE algorithms and taking advantage of the algorithm while making the actual content of the webpage useless. This has led to the SE companies to update the algorithm to penalize pages for overoptimization. In the end, make sure the copy on the webpage is human readable and makes sense for the user. The content must be useful to the user, and not just a bunch of keywords. Other techniques that people have used, like adding a bunch of keywords in a font color that matches the background color will be penalized as well. The goal was to try and have the keywords read by the search engine crawlers, but not users. A goal directly targeted at increasing the search engine ranking of the page.

These are probably the top 4 items that are most important for internal search engine optimization. I will go over the external techniques in the next post.

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