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How to avoid SEO Suicide

Jul26

Written by:
2010/07/26 12:20 PM RssIcon

SEO Suicide

A lot has been written on the topic of SEO or Search Engine Optimisation. Even myself, I have written a few articles on this blog concerning SEO. It is a hot topic at the moment. Whether you like it or not, you can’t avoid it.

Don’t believe me. Do a Google search for ‘search engine optimization’ and see how many results are displayed. For me, I got 1,100 000 000. For the exact phrase “search engine optimization”, I got 26,800 000. That’s a lot of results. Over 1 billion pages on the topic.  As much as you might disagree, SEO, Search Engine Optimization, seems to be important.

What is SEO or Search Engine Optimization?

Simply put, SEO is the process of changing your web page to make it easier for search engines to return your page for a given user search.

Wikipedia: “Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the visibility of a web site or a web page in search engines via the "natural" or un-paid ("organic" or "algorithmic") search results.”

If you want your blog, website or page to be found by a user using a search engine like Google, then you optimize your page so that you stand a great change in the billions of other pages out there.

Consider a user looking for information on SEO or Search Engine Optimisation. How do I get my page into the top results returned by the Search Engines so that the user can select my page to read? Well, simple, I write about Dogs. NOT

You got it I write about SEO, I use terms, words and phrases in my text or copy that directly or indirectly relate to SEO and Search Engine Optimization. The Search Engine robots will pick this up, index my page and then present it to the user searching.

How important is SEO to you?

Why is SEO or Search Engine Optimization important? Depending who you talk to and what type of site you have got, but generally 60% - 80% of typical website traffic comes from search engines.  That’s a lot of traffic. If traffic is important to you and your web site, then SEO and search engines are important to you.

On the other hand, if your site is a personal site, a site where you share photos with family and friends, or perhaps you are not interested in traffic, then SEO is probably not important to you.

But if traffic is important to you, and SEO and Search Engines are important to you, then you want to learn how to do it right. What to avoid and what to include in your efforts.

Avoid Too much Flash

Oh my, this is a touchy topic. Especially amongst the cream of the crop designers. They all impress their clients with fancy flash sites.  Flash is binary. Binary files cannot be read by search engine robots. While there are workarounds to this (a lot more un-needed extra work) and some inroads made to indexing flash sites, the fact still remains that it is very difficult to index flash sites.

Don’t believe me. Do some research for yourself.  Find a few flash sites. Then go to a Search Engine Spider Simulator. Input your flash sites, and see what results are returned. Then using your own website, input your website address and see what results are returned.

The other problem with Flash is its loading speed. Not everyone has a 20mb pipe into their computer to browse all manner of websites. Typically Flash sites are big bandwidth hogs. All the graphics, sound and motions have to be downloaded.
Think about it. My site has over 950 pages. Imagine downloading all that into a flash file.

There is nothing wrong with Flash. But as in all things, use it sparingly and in moderation. Use it when and where your site and content warrants it. Don’t over do it. Use it where you want an effect that you cannot do via other means, like CSS.

Avoid Excessive JavaScript.

Like Flash, JavaScript helps to improve the look and feel of a site. Many fancy things can be done with JavaScript. Many JavaScript scripts provide tangible benefits to the user of the site. I would not recommend you abandon the use of JavaScript all together. But once again, moderation is the key word here.

JavaScript can help users by providing menu systems that allow faster, easier navigation. JavaScript can provide form validation in the browser. JavaScript can be used to provide feedback to users by doing cosmetic things like swapping images, etc.

However, using JavaScript to provide content is an SEO and Search Engine killer. For example, if your only page navigation is provided via JavaScript, then you have committed SEO or Search Engine Optimization suicide. Search Engine robots do not and cannot follow JavaScript.

If you do make use of JavaScript as a menu or navigation mechanism, then you should also include somewhere on your site a static HTML menu. Like this site. Look at the bottom; you will see another menu, which is plain HTML, no JavaScript. Search Engine robots can now follow my menu structure to all my other pages.

Search engine crawlers that examine your site and index it's content are not web browsers. They are called robots because they are dumb and they just examine what they see. They do not execute JavaScript.

To test this out, turn off JavaScript in your browser. Can you still navigate around your site? Does your site still display proper content?

Avoid Image Text

As with Flash above, putting text into images is SEO suicide. Images are binary files. Search engine robots cannot read them. Avoid them at all costs if you want the text to be indexed by the Search Engines.

Creating a nice attractive graphic representation of some text might look nice, but are of no use to Search Engines. If you do decide to put your text into graphics, there still is a workaround that might buy you some grace. Use the images Alt attribute to put in the actual text of the image.

What is the ALT attribute? The ALT attribute can be used in an image tag to represent the text that should be displayed by the browser if the browser does not display the image.This way the Search engines will be able to index the alt text at least. Also use the text as the images file name. This will increase your SEO awareness.

Remember search engines do not use browsers to actually browse your site. They use Robots that cannot display text. Without the ALT text specified, who know what the picture represents. For all intents and purposes the image is a picture of your dog.

Avoid Bad Content

If I have said it once I have said it a thousand times. Content is king. Write for your readers, and not for the search engines. Write natural copy. Do not try and stuff your content with keywords in an effort to trick the search engines. Nothing beats SEO and Search Engine Optimization than good quality content.

Write related content. If you want your page to be found by users looking for information on SEO and Search Engine Optimization, don’t write about your pet dog or cats.

Avoid Copy and Paste

Nevermind the illegal aspect and the immoral nature of copy and paste, but just the fact that most search engines ignore duplicate content. The best way to commit SEO suicide is to copy someone else’s content.

There might be an instance where it is completely legal to copy and past content, as in product descriptions. The manufacturer might have given you the right to do so. But think of it. How many other vendors have done the exact same thing? Who do you think Google is going to display first?

Rather re-write the product description completely ensuring unique content and a better chance of being indexed by the search engines. Unique content is the Key to Search Engine Optimization and good SEO practices.

Homework

Here is some homework for you.
First, switch of JavaScript in your browser. Then try and navigate around your site. If you can get from one page to another, chances are the search engine robots can as well.
Second, use a Search Engine Spider Simulater. Enter your site, and study the results. Are you happy with them? Can you actually makeout what your page is all about?
Third, download the Lynx Text Browser. Then browse your site with it. Can you still navigate around your site? Most importantly, can you read the content of your site?

Conclusion

If you care about users finding your site, blog or page via a search engine, then you need to care about SEO and Search Engine Optimization. Test your site out. Make sure that you avoid items which will hamper the search engine robots in indexing your site and cling to those things which will give you a clear advantage.
 

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