SEO In Web Design: Search Engine Optimization In A Nutshell

by Diane Dickler


Many articles and books have been written on Search Engine Optimization by experts and non-experts alike. And there are many debates on the various techniques of how to optimize web sites so that traffic is increased. But my purpose here is to explain what I believe are the important basics that you should know.

SEO is short for Search Engine Optimization. It is defined as the process of increasing traffic (the amount of visitors) to a web site. The higher a web site ranks the greater the chances that it will be visited by someone. You know yourself that when you go to Google and search for something that you generally view the first page that comes up and possibly the second page before you find something. So where a web site is ranked is essential for directing more traffic. SEO helps to ensure that a site is easily available to a search engine.

But, what is a "search engine"? A search engine is a software program that searches web documents (pages) for specified keywords and key phrases and returns a list of web pages where the keywords and key phrases were found. Google would be a prime example.

Typically, how a search engine works is by sending out a "spider" to retrieve as many web pages as possible. Then an "indexer" reads these web pages and creates a catalog based on the words contained within each web page. Each search engine uses a proprietary algorithm so that specific results are shown.

A "spider" or "webcrawler" , as it's sometimes called, is a program that automatically retrieves web pages and are used to send these pages to search engines. It's called a spider because it crawls over the web. Because most web pages contain links to other web pages, a spider can start just about anywhere. As soon as it "sees" a link to another page, it goes off and captures it.

You're probably asking yourself: How do I get my web site included in search engine queries?

A search engine finds information by accepting listings sent in by authors (web site owners) wanting exposure, or by getting the information from "web crawlers," "spiders," or "robots," programs that wander the Internet and store information about each page they visit.

They normally start with a catalogued list of links, which are usually the most popular or best web sites, and then they follow those links to find more links and are added to the database. Unfortunately this makes most search engines biased toward the more popular web sites. The web crawler might send back just the title and URL or it could send the entire page. If you're worried about these spiders and crawlers taking over your web site, check out Webcrawler for some interesting reading.

About Keywords And Key Phrases In SEO
It's very important to have your keywords and key phrases geared to the basic subject matter of your web site. Keywords are important, but key phrases can be vitally important.

Here's why: Suppose you have a web site all about classical music for children. Go to Google and type "music" (without the quotes) into the search area. You probably got about 1,080,000,000 results (as of this writing) with the top web sites being located within the first page or two. What do you think your chances are to being among them?

So to have "music" as one of your keywords would not be a good choice. It's too broad. But, what if you were to make a key phrase more specific to your web site by entering "music for children"? This time you got about 188,000,000 listings. And then even more specific, "classical music for children", where you'll get about 45,700,000 listings. And finally, "mozart for children" which gave you about 3,110,000 listings. So you see how this works? The more specific your keywords and key phrases, the more specific the results will be and your chances of receiving targeted visitors to your website will increase. This is especially important if you're paying for these clicks such as in PPC (Pay Per Click) advertising.

About The Title Tag In SEO
The single most important area of your web page is the title. The title is the headline or label of the web page. This is what you see in the top header of your web browser, such as Internet Explorer, when a web page comes up. Simple enough? You would think so but it's really not that simple.

How many web pages make up your web site? Each one should have it's own title. What should you put in a title? Well, for starters, check out what keywords and key phrases are most appropriate for what's on the particular web page. For instance, going back to the classical music for children web site, we see that "mozart for children" was used as a key phrase, but wait, you also have information about Beethoven, Bach, Chopin and Debussy.

Your first page, or index (Home) page will be where people are directed first. This is where you will be introducing yourself and your web site. This is where you will be generalizing about the music offerings by Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, Chopin and Debussy. So it would be logical to put "Classical Music For Children" as your title tag and then if you have each page thereafter more specific, such as "mozart for children", you would make that the title for that specific web page. So if you're one of those people that think "Welcome to my website" is a good title, think again!

About Domain Names In SEO
Equally important is your domain name. A domain name should also include a keyword of what your website is about. For instance, you want to have a web site about classical music for children. You've gathered all the information and written content for each page dividing them by composers. You now have a conglomerate of information about classical music for children. You could choose "" as your domain name, or "", or just "". Get the idea?

About Meta Tags In SEO
Meta Tags provide information about the document to search engines for inclusion of your website into their indexes. Although Google ignores the meta tags except perhaps for the description meta tag but the other search engines use them.

The two meta tags that search engines look for are the meta keywords tag and the meta description tag. We've already touched on the keywords, and the description tag is basically a key phrase description of your website. It should only be 10-20 words describing with keyword rich content but should read intelligible to the user. Each search engine is different in how it looks at each website, however, the keyword meta tag has been highly abused by some webmasters because they'll use unrelated words in order to attract more traffic. This is taking a quite a chance because some search engines will ban a website for "spamming" them with tons of highly unrelated keywords. But if used smartly and in conjunction with other things on your web pages, specifically content, then chances are the search engines will be crawling all over your site.

About Content In SEO
Content is king. We can't stress this enough. What you say within your website and how you say it is very important to search engines. Keep it rich with keywords and key phrases while making it easy-to-read and understand. Remember it only takes about 6-10 seconds to lose a visitor, so also keep it brief and to the point.

What Not To Do In SEO
Google offers suggestions and has some information on Search Engine Optimization Worst Practices if you're interested.

The time it takes to get included into the search engine's database is typically about 6-8 weeks. No one has control over how long this process takes. But what most people don't realize is that once a web site gets listed into a catalogued database, it won't be there for long unless there are regular updates to that web site. Search engines are very smart. They'll be checking their databases to see if web sites still exist and to see if they've been recently updated.