10 Critical SEO Tips

By Wesley E. Warren
Director of SEO for Vexcom Inc.

Our company Vexcom provides Search Engine Optimization services for several high end web sites and small and medium businesses. Many times these clients are also having their site redesigned and they ask for some guidence on how to have their web designer prepare the site for maximum SEO benefit. I have put together this list as a great Primer for getting a new site together.

1) Create unique individual HTML pages for each section page of the site.

Many clients have flash sites and the pages are all embeded within the flash movie. While Google did recently announce a partnership with Adobe to allow them to extract text out of Flash movies, this is still not nearly as effective as having actual unique HTML files with standard text. If the client wants to keep the Flash site as it is, they should create an HTML version of the site for Search Engines.

2) Create unique Titles, Meta keywords and Meta description for every page in the site.

This is a no brainer, but many designers will create a dreamweaver template, or just copy a page over and over to make up the sub pages and leave the same exact title tag and meta data in place. The HTML TITLE tag is probably the single most important SEO criteria for a pages placement in the SERPs.

3) Implement valid HTML 4.01 (or XHTML) and valid CSS 2.0

Good code makes it easier for search engines to spider your site, broken code can ruin the attempt of the best search engine spiders to accurately index your pages. Use w3.orgs validator http://validator.w3.org/ to ensure you have proper code in place.

4) Make sure each image uses a descriptive ALT attributes.

Google has some great examples of proper ALT tags. Since search engines can not yet describe photos or graphic images, the ALT text helps the spiders classify the content on your page. Additionally, the ALT tag was orginally created in order to allow blind users to be able to read the description of an image. The ALT value should be descriptive enough to accurately describe the image without having too much information. A single sentance is a good rule of thumb, anything more may be considered keyword stuffing. Never use images or flash for large amounts of text.

5) Make sure there are HTML links for every page. (Not JavaScript or flash)

Again with the Flash. Many times web designers will create a flash menu system that the search spiders can not follow, so the inner pages of a site will never get indexed. Javascript menu's can also create a similar problem. If you want to use javascript or Flash menus, you can, just make sure you also put standard HTML links somewhere on the page (like in the footer of each page).

6) Always put CSS and JavaScript in a separate file not embedded in the pages.

The code to content ratio is very important. You should always have more content than code. WYSIWYG editors (like FrontPage and Site Builders like GoDaddy Site Tonight) are notorious for stuffing a huge amount of useless tags and extra code into HTML pages. This is all garbage to the spiders who are just hungry for good content, which is well written, descriptive copy. All your CSS styles and Javascript functions can be kept in separate files and linked to your document using the SRC attribute. See linking to Style Sheets.

7) Create a site map that lists every page in the site.

Make sure there is a link at the bottom of every page to the site map. It makes it easier for users to find information on your site and it makes it easier for spiders to index all your pages. You should also create a sitemap to submit to Google Sitemaps to ensure that all your pages are being indexed.

8) Make sure there is a privacy policy page, link to it on the bottom of every page.

Its important to have a privacy policy to let your users know how you will treat their personal information. It also scores you points with search engines.

9) Make sure there is a copyright on every page with the © symbol and the word copyright.

This serves two purposes. 1. It protects your work legally from being plagiarized. and 2. It shows the search engines that you are using original content and that you care about your content. For SEO it is important that you have unique content. There are sites out there known as "scraper sites" that will copy your content and re-publish it as their own, the copyright helps protect you from this.

10) Use SEO friendly URL's - for example:

You want to use keywords that describe the content of your page in the file names. This will create SEO friendly links which help your ranking. Dashes between words seem to work better than underscores.

Use: www.mysite.com/html/red-electric-outdoor-widgets.html
Not: www.mysite.com/html/red_ele_outwid.html

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