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|Building the Perfect Page - Part I - The Basics|
Developing the perfect balance between user and bot.
I've been wanting to post this for quite some time now but did not have the time to put it all together. Well, here goes the basics...
<!-- Begin the Basics of Perfect Page Development -->
The page title element (some refer to it as the title tag which is incorrect) is one of the most important factors for ranking highly in the search engines.
Page title elements are normally 3-9 words (60-80 characters) maximum in length, no fluff, straight and to the point. This is what shows up in most search engine results as a link back to your page.
Make sure your Page Title Element (title tag) is relevant to the content on the page.
META Description Tag (Metadata)
The META description tag usually consists of 25 to 30 words or less using no more than 160 to 180 characters total (including spaces). The META description also shows up in many search engine results as a summary of your site.
Directories like Yahoo! and the ODP (Open Directory Project - dmoz.com) show the page title and description that you entered (and the editors modified) on their manual submission form.
Make sure your META Description Tag is relevant to the content on the page.
META Keywords Tag (Metadata)
For those search engines that are META enabled, the META keywords tag used to be one of the most important areas after the page title and page description. It has been abused by both marketers and consumers alike that there is very little weight given to the META keywords tag.
Don't fret over your META keywords tag. Utilize keywords and keyword phrases from your title element, META description tag, heading tag and first one or two paragraphs of visible content. Try to limit it to 15 to 20 words if possible.
Make sure your META Keywords Tag is relevant to the content on your page.
At least one heading tag <h1> should appear at the top of your page and be well written using prime keywords and keyword phrases.
You can use CSS to control the appearance of the heading tags. I prefer using external style sheets (file.css).
Make sure your Heading Tags are relevant to the content on the page.
Alt text is the line of text you see pop up (in Internet Explorer, see note below) when you place your cursor over an image. It also displays a text representation of the image when the user has images turned off in their browser (this is the intended behavior). It is highly recommended that you utilize this area as it is required under accessibility laws and, is indexed by the search engines.
Note: Internet Explorer (IE) will display alt text when you hover your cursor over an element that utilizes the alt attribute. This is incorrect behavior as the alt text is designed to be displayed when the user has their images turned off while browsing. Other browsers such as Opera and Mozilla will not display the alt text on hover.
Alt attributes are not to be stuffed with irrelevant keywords or phrases. The alt text should mirror the content of the image. If it is a graphic header, then your alt text should mirror the text in the graphic header.
Alternative text values should not exceed 80 characters in length. If more than 70-80 characters are required one should use the longdesc attribute as an alternative to alt text.
Make sure your Alt Attribute is relevant to the content for that image.
This area is overlooked by many when promoting a web site to the search engines. Many web sites utilize graphic representations of links. These are visually appealing, but the text in the image cannot be indexed by the spiders.
I always recommend an additional text navigation bar (SSI - Server Side Includes or Front Page Includes) somewhere on the page, usually at the top, right, bottom or left hand side. Link text should be concise, use keywords and phrases, and follow the same structure as the graphic navigation.
Visible Copy - Content is King
Content (visible copy) weighs heavily and is considered one of the primary areas of search engine optimization and marketing, hence the expression, Content is King.
Your content should be written in a way that grabs the users attention, while utilizing your targeted keywords and keyword phrases. There is a method to placement of the keywords and keyword phrases that will help your web site gain better placement in the search engines. Balance is essential and creating that balance takes knowledge and experience.
You should make it your goal to add at least one new page of content daily if possible. If not, then once a week is acceptable. You want to keep your website content fresh and give your visitors something to come back for on their next visit. Stale website content may not perform as well as fresh website content.
I strongly suggest that you utilize last modified dates on your pages so that visitors to your site know when the page was last modified and how fresh the content is.
Last modified: 2003-12-15T07:43:19-0800
Note: I utilize the ISO International Date Format [w3.org].
I've seen many of the search engines indexing file names and have found that using relative keywords in this area will play a role in your overall search engine marketing strategy.
Instead of naming your file pagename.asp, you would name it keyword-phrase.asp or page-name.asp. Always use hyphens (-) to separate the words in your file names, use all lower case for file naming, this includes images too.
Visitors to your site will appreciate the clean URI paths which are easy to remember and bookmark. Always try to provide the visitor with the shortest URI path.
This is not an area to stuff keywords. Files should be named appropriately as part of the overall theme and should be relevant to the on page content.
I've seen many of the search engines indexing directory names and have found that using relative keywords in this area will play a role in your overall search engine marketing strategy.
Be descriptive with naming directories. Don't get carried away, but make sure at least one keyword or keyword phrase appears in the directory name. Don't forget to use hyphens (-) to separate the words.
This is not an area to stuff keywords. Directories should be named appropriately as part of the overall theme and should be relevant to the directory content.
<!-- End the Basics of Perfect Page Development -->
There is much more to it than that! The above are just the basics and something that all newcomers may want to study carefully. There should be an understanding of page layout, positioning of elements and balancing the use of html markup.
I'll add more to this as time permits. Comments are welcome. Happy Holidays to those celebrating!
[edited by: pageoneresults at 5:14 pm (utc) on Jan. 22, 2004]
Just what's needed, POR.
Last evening I was thinking that what is needed is a crash course in basic, very basic SEO. Of course, you can't do basic SEO unless you have a sound page with which to start.
Good stuff, just when it's needed.
|all newcomers may want to study carefully |
Definitely. I have a strong feeling that many people were spoiled by G's sometimes seemingly over reliance on backlinks and anchor text. I think that much of the brouhaha caused by Florida was because it -- whatever the mechanism actually is -- unmasked pages in which on-page factors were largely ignored.
Now, with continuing changes at G and coming changes at Yahoo and MSN, good, basic practices are more important than ever.
A great start, certainly something on which to build.
Nice to have all the info thatís scattered throughout these forums in one nice well written post
|too much information|
Well, I thought I was following exactly that, but I do have one question to throw in to the mix.
With the file names, is it also ok to use an underscore to separate keywords? As far as I understood, the underscore was interpreted as a space when the keywords were broken down. Should I make a switch to a hyphen?
(Not a dificult switch now but could be a nightmare later)
Great post P1R!
|Should I make a switch to a hyphen? |
I would switch the directory and file names to hyphens. There are some good Bulk Renaming tools that make this a very easy thing to do.
|With the file names, is it also ok to use an underscore to separate keywords? |
I've never been a proponent for underscores. I've used hyphens since I first started back in 1996. Why? Well the first thing that struck me back then was that underscores were obscured in link text. To some users, it appears as a space in the link text and not an underscore.
Also, I've followed many topics over the years where the debate has risen on using hyphens vs. underscores. GG himself once stated that they preferred hyphens. Google also treats hyphens and underscores differently.
I would switch to a hyphenated structure as soon as possible. Actually, I would recommend no hyphens if possible. I've had a different mindset over the past year or so when it comes to naming files and directories. My goal is to provide the shortest URI possible while still making it SE and visitor friendly. Most importantly, I make sure it is relevant to the page itself.
|too much information|
|...underscores were obscured in link text. To some users, it appears as a space in the link text and not an underscore. |
I didn't think of that, but I know exactly what you mean. That's probably a good reason to switch regardless of what the SE sees.
Read a lot of tips over the last few months. One thing i wish i knew is how much benefit/weight certain things have.
Trying to make my pages html4 Strict, though currently Transitional. Does it really matter?
Also moving from table layout to css, having the main content in the html coming before the menus(quite large) etc. Worth while?
Have quite a few acronyms on some pages, and want to use the title(element/tag) so it displays the acronym in full. Will this be a problem,wil it look like iím spamming keywords?
Are the meta tags above the *only* ones i should use, seen some sites stuffed with all kinds of tags?
|Trying to make my pages html4 Strict, though currently Transitional. Does it really matter? |
Only from the browsers perspective. Transitional allows the use of elements that cannot be used in Strict mode. I always shoot for Strict when I can. You'd be surprised, most of your Transitional pages may already validate as Strict.
|Also moving from table layout to css, having the main content in the html coming before the menus(quite large) etc. Worth while? |
Most definitely! This appeals to both visitors and spiders alike. If the visitor is on a slower connection, they will get to see content first while the other elements are being loaded in the browser. The spider gets what it came for quickly!
|Have quite a few acronyms on some pages, and want to use the title(element/tag) so it displays the acronym in full. Will this be a problem, will it look like Iím spamming keywords? |
I am very fond of using the <acronym> element...
<acronym title="Search Engine Marketing">SEM</acronym>
Be sure to study up on the specifications for utilizing the <acronym> element. You should only use it on the first instance of each acronym on the page. Do not use it on all instances.
|Are the meta tags above the *only* ones i should use, seen some sites stuffed with all kinds of tags? |
From my perspective, yes. There are other pieces of metadata that you may use but they are more for assisting in grouping documents together, providing a table of contents, showing prev and next pages in a series of documents, etc.
Thanks for the great post. Really a great help for newbys like myself.
Dumb question: Why it is necessary to have the hiphen or underscore in the file name?
|Why it is necessary to have the hiphen or underscore in the file name? |
Using a hyphen to separate words in file names is suggested. Some spidering entities cannot index two words from a continuous string of text. For example...
In the past, the pagename would be treated as one whole word. As search technology improves, this may not be the case in the near future.
As it stands right now, I still believe that URIs are part of the overall equation in assigning relevancy to a page. Some will disagree with me but, I've got way to many pages out there that seem to tell me otherwise. So, the above would now look like this...
The hyphen represents a space for most spidering entities. In this case, we took a continuous string of text and broke it up into spiderable words.
Great post, POR - wouldn't change a thing. Looks like our experiences/methods are pretty similar.
Couple things to ask about:
|The page title element (some refer to it as the title tag which is incorrect) |
Why is that incorrect?
|Internet Explorer (IE) will display alt text when you hover your cursor over an element that utilizes the alt attribute. |
This may only be a Mac thing, but when I'm in IE, it will first show the text in the image's title attribute if such text exists.
We use the title attribute regularly for this purpose, but since it's also so ripe for spam I've never considered it something to be done for SEO purposes.
Brilliant post pageoneresult!
Hello all, may I first wish you Happy Holidays!
I have been lurking for a short while and I have gained alot of valuble insights, thank you all very much!
I have a question regarding content> I see that many people suggest continuously adding content and that Content is King. My company offers a service: I have a one page index that explains it, a one page order form and an automatically generated confirmation form. That's all folks!
I change the index rarely, perhaps to add more customer testimonials or revise currency rates.
I might add that my company/domain is KW1-KW2-KW3.com and that on G for:
KW1-KW2 I am #3
KW1-KW2-KW3 I am #2 (backlink) #3 and #9 (directory)
KW1-KW2-KW4 I am #1
KW1-KW2-KW5 I am #1 and #2
KW1-KW2-KW6 I am #3 and #4
I was actually a little better placed before Florida and then got totally knocked off G but I am really pleased (as you can imagine) things are pretty much back to normal.
My customers (when I, or my staff, meet them) often comment on the simplicty of the site and how fast it loads..
So, why should I add content?
Sorry for the long post!
Nice post POR,
all makes sense, though for me its the last two parts that are most important but as certain updates have shown, other things can become so much more important, though i think they are destined to be very minimally weighted.
Nice post pageoneresults
I think it is true to say that we all know the basic's ( or we should do)
it just nice to see it confirmed again
Welcome to WebmasterWorld, shuttle_guy!
Different sites obviously have different strategies and needs, all that you read here should be viewed as general guidelines applicable to most sites. If your current strategy works, I guess that it works!
Thanks for the post, POR. It's nice to get these 'recapping' posts from time to time just to make sure I'm singing off the same song sheet every one else is. It's kinda like skydiving with 'Post-It' notes of instructions stuck on my arm on the way down.
Shuttle_guy, welcome to WW. And congrats on the good positions for your site. As Mohamed_E points out, each site will have it's own sweet spot in terms of SEO'ing, and whereas the mantra 'Content is King' is applicable for most sites, it's obviously not needed in your situation. For now. ;) If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
Thanks for a good reading for over the holidays. We sometimes drift away and this will be a good time to refocus. A good early present.
Thanks for your comments everyone, there is more to follow as soon as I get all the references in place. Without the references, there is no validity to what I'm saying. ;)
|Why is that incorrect? (title tag) |
The W3C refer to it officially as the title element. I called it a title tag for years until sinking my teeth into the specs. All of those links that I posted above are like gold to me. If you study those and implement the suggestions, you are well on your way to developing the Perfect Page.
In reference to the <acronym> element, it is widely misused as there is an <abbr> element which is not fully supported. Many have taken the hackers route and use the <acronym> element for all instances of abbreviations and acronyms. I'm one of them. Until the <abbr> is fully supported, I'm not adhering to the specification and I should be. ;)
One thing I'd like to add is that, if you have the ability, you should remove the file extensions from the file names. Here's an earlier thread about this on WW:
I highly recommend following the link to the W3C article referenced in this thread.
Very good post. Valuable information for everyone. I have some questions.
1. What should be the maximum size of a page?
2. Is there any use of Description and Author tag?
|troels nybo nielsen|
Welcome to WebmasterWorld, pathak
> What should be the maximum size of a page?
The short answer is: as small as possible.
But "size" may be a more problematical term than many people think. Images may add heavily to the total size of the page that is actually shown in the browser of your visitors, but that does not need to be a real problem if you design your page in such a way that your text starts showing at once and
the images are added later.
On my websites very few pages are larger than 10k if you only count the text and the html markup. But it is also a question of the visual size on the screen. I do not want to force my visitors to scroll very much.
> Is there any use of Description and Author tag?
I think that what you call the dexcription tag is what pageoneresults calls meta description tag in the very first post.
AFAIK search engines do not take notice of author tags. But there may other reasons for using them.
Excellent post! Very useful.
|King of Bling|
> 1. What should be the maximum size of a page?
Try to aim for 40k to 60k for the overall filesize (images, text, and html). Fast-loading pages delight visitors and search engines alike :-)
>>>> 1. What should be the maximum size of a page?
This is another debated issue. There are many who believe that page size is not a factor in rankings.
|King of Bling|
The best Web sites load in about 10 seconds at 28.8 Kbps.
Your designers may have T1 lines or DSL or cable modems, but 93 percent of your customers don't. Plus, all sorts of things further slow down download times. But the bottom line is that nobody is going to wait more than 10 to 15 seconds for your page to appear. Want your site to appeal to most people? Well, most people still surf at speeds under 56K, have their monitors set for 800 x 600 resolution, and don't even know they can change that, much less how.
Short and sweet
Read my post....I was talking specifically about rankings...not usability.
>>>The best Web sites
According to who? ;)
|There are many who believe that page size is not a factor in rankings. |
I'm one of them! Although I do believe there is a point where page size could be a detriment. The thing I'm more concerned about is the text to html ratio of the page.
Crazy Chester, thanks and Welcome to WebmasterWorld!
|King of Bling|
Ager... my mistake. I was thinking both SE & Conversion
>>>The best Web sites -- According to who? ;)
That should read 'The Top-Selling E-Commerce Websites'.
I see you guys talk about the <acronym> tag, just curious if their are good advantages to using it, never heard of it till today! :-)
I have many acronyms on my page so do you think it would be worthwhile to switch them all over with approriate tags?
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