Archive for May, 2009

Always use the ALT tag

The ALT tag, sometimes referred as the alternative tag, goes inside image codes to tell search engines what the image is about. An example of an ALT tag is:

<img src="moon.gif" alt="Picture of the Moon"/>

Many people forget to add the ALT tag to images, and some ignore it altogether. This is a mistake because the ALT tag is used by search engines not only to identify images but also for keyword density purposes.

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The Google Blogoscoped blog has an interesting article covering the basics of search engine optimization. There are some basic guidelines for making your blog more search engine friendly, with tips about writing original stuff, making the posts accessible and spreading the word about your site.

The most useful part, however, is the final checklist on SEO techniques that should be avoided, check it out:

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The Meta Description Tag (placed between the head and /head tags) is used by some search engines to create the snippets of text that you see right below the results on search queries. It does not carry any weight in the search algorithm of Google, but it does carry a certain weight for Yahoo and other smaller search engines so you should not neglect it altogether.

One problem with the Meta Description Tag of most websites is that it is static. People usually include a general description about the site, which is suitable only to the home page. Should a visitor find an internal page (say a single post) through a search engine the tag will be the same, containing no information about the content of that internal page whatsoever. You can use the SEO tools listed here to check the quality of your meta description tags.

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The “301 Permanent Redirect” is the most efficient and search engine friendly method for redirecting websites. You can use it in several situations, including:

  • to redirect an old website to a new address
  • to setup several domains pointing to one website
  • to enforce only one version of your website (www. or no-www)
  • to harmonize a URL structure change

There are several ways to setup a 301 Redirect, below I will cover the most used ones:

PHP Single Page Redirect

In order to redirect a static page to a new address simply enter the code below inside the index.php file.

header("HTTP/1.1 301 Moved Permanently");

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It is always a good idea to be updated on the factors that search engines use to determine search results and rank websites. SEOMoz released a very detailed document titled “Search Engine Ranking Factors V2”, which outlines the views of 34 SEO experts regarding how Google’s algorithm works. Below you will find the Top 5 positive and negative factors on the study:

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The WebConfs website has a very useful list of “Best and Worst Practices for Designing a High Traffic Website.” Basically they collected all the major factors that might affect the search optimization of your site, attributing a score to them. The score ranges from -3, which is very bad for your site, to +3, which is very good. Below you will find a summary of the most important factors:
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Most bloggers make use of SEO techniques like robots.txt, nofollow links, and AdSense section targeting to properly direct (or block) the attention of search engines. Earlier this month, Yahoo unveiled the newest addition to this list with the introduction of robots-nocontent.

This new attribute allows bloggers and webmasters to deemphasize areas of a page as irrelevant content. All you do is add class=”robots-nocontent” to your HTML like so:

Navigation, menus, boilerplate text, ads, etc.
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The implementation of a suitable robots.txt file is very important for search engine optimization. There is plenty of advice around the Internet for the creation of such files (if you are looking for an introduction on this topic read “Creat a robots.txt file“), but what if instead of looking at what people say we could look at what people do?

That is what I did, collecting the robots.txt files from a wide range of blogs and websites. Below you will find them.

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I love rankings, what can I say. After I published the “Top 25 Blogs About Blogging” list I thought that someone would replicate it for the SEO sphere. But no one did, so here we go again.

This list was made using pretty much the same algorithm (only small modifications were made, mainly due to the fact that SEO blogs are more popular). Once again the list should be useful because it is based on objective factors. There are many “Top SEO Blogs” lists around the web, but most of them are based on the preferences of the author.

The Top 25 SEO Blogs list, instead, ranks the blogs according to their Google Pagerank, Alexa rank, number of Bloglines subscribers and Technorati authority. Each factor has a score from 0 to 10, and the maximum score for each blog is 40. Details about the algorithm can be found below the table.

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If you are just getting started with search engine optimization there are probably many terms that make you scratch your head. Thinking about this problem the guys over SEOMoz decided to publish the “Complete Glossary of Essential SEO Jargon.” Some of the mentions are straight forward, others are not. Below you will find my favorite ones:

Cloak: The practice of delivering different content to the search engine spider than that seen by the human users. This Black Hat tactic is frowned upon by the search engines and caries a virtual death penalty of the site/domain being banned from the search engine results.

Doorway (gateway): A web page that is designed to attract traffic from a search engine and then redirect it to another site or page. A doorway page is not exactly the same as cloaking but the effect is the same in that users and search engines are served different content.

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