Improving Your Website's Search Engine Rankings

If your site isn’t in the first few pages of search engine results, it will be difficult for potential customers to find you, so it pays to make your site search engine friendly. There are many ways to improve your rankings, but the following are among the most important.

Clear Title Tag

Most search engines look at the title tag in your page’s HTML code to work out the type of content, so make sure the tag is relevant. Put the name of the site on the index or home page, and give the other pages meaningful tags such as Product List – Your Company. For example, the tag for the Articles and Resources page at this website is: <TITLE>Domain Name Related Articles and Resources | Smallbusiness-Domain.com</TITLE>. It’s specific, and includes the company name as well.

Note that the title tag is not the title of the page as you see it in the browser, but is in the HTML code. The website building tools provided by most hosting companies allow you to view and edit the HTML code, or you can use one of the many free resources available.

 

Clear Navigation Links

Search engines can only find your website’s pages if they can understand the links, and fancy JavaScript links or links within Flash files are not understood by all search engines. If you want the fancy links, that’s fine, but include HTML navigation links as well so the search engines can find them. A site map with a link to it from your home page will also improve your site’s ranking.

No Hidden Text

Hidden text (text not displayed on screen) is frowned on by search engines, who will rate down any website using it. You are unlikely to put hidden text in your own code, but if you are using a free hosting company, you may find they insert advertisements and hidden text. Free web hosting companies derive their revenue from the adverts, so the best option is to use a reputable web hosting company. There are many offering web hosting at extremely reasonable prices — see our Comparison table.

Add Text to Images

Search engines only understand text, so always include a text description of your visual content such as pictures, videos and flash files. If you’re coding in HTML, always add something like this: <img src="productX.jpg" alt="Picture of product X">. The description “picture of product X” is what the search engines see and index. If there’s no description, they see nothing.

No Duplicate Content

Make sure all your website’s pages are different and the same content doesn’t appear under different URLs. If you’re manually designing your website, this is unlikely to happen, but if you’re using any automated system such as a content management service or blogging software, you can end up with the same content referenced under different URLs.

The search engines think your website is important if it finds lots of links to the same URL, so having duplicate content means each page has fewer links to it. Another problem is that some software applications add a session ID to the URL, which means each visitor links to your page with a different ID, and hence a different URL. One way around this is to use cookies instead of session IDs.

Validate the HTML code

If your HTML code has errors, the search engines might have difficulty deciphering what your site is about. If you’re using a web hosting service’s site building software, this should not be a problem, but it might still be a good idea to test the code through one of the many free HTML and CSS validation packages available. You can find a list here.

Following these guidelines will make your website friendlier to the search engines. They won’t necessarily make your website #1 on Google’s first page, but they will certainly help.