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Most site owners would like their intended audience, whether it is customers, prospects, potential employees, investors or anyone else, to be able to locate their website using Google, Bing, Yahoo or other popular search engines.
For the most part, getting to the top of the search results on major search engines is neither easy nor inexpensive. Companies often invest thousands of dollars per month for SEO (search Engine Optimization) services in the hope of driving new business, and even then, it is never easy or guaranteed. However, there are some inexpensive things that will make your site ‘search friendly’, and any site owner that cares even a little about being found on-line should pay attention to them.
Search vendors such as Google have one priority: They want to provide the best possible results to users who perform searches on their site. There are two primary components to this:
To vastly simplify this, relevance is concerned with the ‘topic’ of the page, while quality is largely inferred from the number of links from other well regarded sites to the site and page being considered. One of the reasons that SEO is so costly is that it requires getting good links from high quality third party site owners, and that is almost always labor intensive.
Making your site search friendly still requires some thought and attention to detail, but it is not nearly as time consuming and costly as SEO, since no one has to identify and contact third party site owners, write content for either their site, yours or both that they will find valuable, and persuade them to provide links back to your site.
Making a site search friendly is far easier. It simply requires organizing your content properly, and then providing cues to the search engines algorithm that will help it understand the topics covered by your site and its pages.
In the late 90’s, the ‘keyword’ metatag, for those of you who are familiar with it, was severely abused, and search engines pretty much ignore it entirely. Now, they consider other factors such as the page title, headlines and subheads. They also consider internal links and the ‘link text’ (the words you click on to link to the page) associated with them, and even ‘alt tags’ for images on the page (when you hover over an image, you’ll see this).
Most importantly, the search engine algorithms are much more sophisticated today than they were years ago, and it is much harder to fool them. They know which terms are typically related, and they will look for patterns in the text that may involve the number of times keywords and related terms are used and the proximity of terms to each other, using for comparison text that was written and evaluated by humans.
If the page title, headlines, subheads and body text all indicate that a page is about a certain subject (such as African elephants or plumbing supplies), that is a good start. Then, if internal links to the page from other pages on your site use link text relating to the same topic, it will send a strong signal to Google that the page is about that topic. Of course, comparable external links from a well regarded site (say, the NY Times, Yahoo or the Wall Street Journal) pointing to that page would be better, but that is far more difficult.
Creating a site that is search friendly requires strong cooperation between you and your web developer. You should work together to plan your site, so that each page relates to a topical theme. It’s up to you to ensure that your web developers understand your business, and the topics discussed on your site. Then, work in tandem with them to make sure that the signals each page sends to the search algorithms indicates the correct topics, and that the site as a whole, and its internal linking structure makes sense as well.