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Optimizing a Website to Attract Visitors: The Short Version

By Janeson Keeley, Website Consultant


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Optimizing a Website to Attract Visitors: The Short Version


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Questions to Answer

: These are the guides for defining the desired content of your site and identifying the terms that potential visitors might use to search for a site like yours.

  1. Who do you want the website to serve?
  2. What function(s) do you want the website to perform?
  3. How do you expect people to find your website?
  4. If you want people to find your website via search engines or pay-per-click ads:
    • What terms are people who are already using your site searching for? (If they are available, web access logs have this information.)
    • What search terms do you think prospective visitors would type in?
    • Survey your visitors to find out what they are/were looking for.
    • For what search terms do you want your site to rank highly in search engine results?
    • Keep in mind that more specific terms are better than more general ones for search engine ranking, but more general terms can be targeted through pay-per-click ads.
    • Evaluate current positioning in directories.
    • Determine what sort of budget you have available for search engine optimization, paid directory listings, and/or pay-per-click advertising.
  5. If you want people to find your site via links from other sites, what sites or types of sites might want to link to pages in your site?
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Overview of Search Engine Optimization Techniques

: By optimizing site organization, content, and navigation (architecture), a website can be constructed to be "search crawler friendly," which will improve the probability that it will receive high rankings for searches performed on the search terms identified above.
  1. Identify main areas and use these as the directories.
    • Have the main page in each directory be named index.html.
    • Use the first-level directory categories as navigational links on each page.
  2. Do not use directory structures deeper than two levels beyond the root (i.e., root > directory > sub-directory).
  3. Optimize page copy:
    • Identify the pages you want in each category. Having more short pages is better than having fewer long pages.
    • Write page copy that includes the search terms you have decided to target. Different pages can and should target different terms.
    • Aim to include 150-200 words of text on each page.
    • When possible, identify a label for each graphic that includes one or more of the search terms for that page. (These should be used in the ALT tag for that graphic. )
    • Write the page copy in short paragraphs or bullet points with headings, rather than as traditional long paragraphs.
  4. Optimize web page construction:
    • Include full meta-tags.
    • Title and description should include targeted search terms.
    • Keywords should include related words and possible misspellings, as well as targeted search terms.
    • Use text as much as possible.
    • Include as many intra-site links as possible.
    • Keep load time in mind. For graphics, be sure to include dimensions and consider saving as progressive scans so something will appear while the visitor is waiting for the rest of the site to load.
    • Optimize code as much as possible. Search engine spiders do not necessarily crawl the whole page, and large amounts of JavaScript at the top may prevent the spider from getting to the "good" stuff.
    • Use ALT tags for all graphics, including graphic links.
    • Use H1-6 tags for section headings.
    • Test the web pages in various browsers and versions of browsers, including those for the visually-impaired. (Pages that work well in these browsers also "look" good to search engine spiders.) (http://www.delorie.com/web/ has some handy tools for seeing how web pages look to spiders and in text-only browsers.)
    • Do not use frames. Active server pages and server-side includes are fine since the various files appear to the search engine spider as one HTML file.
    • Donít use a Flash presentation or relatively text-free "splash" page as the home page. Search engines cannot spider the information in a Flash presentation.

Summary



By performing an analysis of a website's purpose and function(s) before designing the site, and then using good web page construction practices, a website can be designed to:
  • rank more highly in search engines,
  • attract more visitors, and
  • keep visitor's interest
better than one where the content and construction functions are kept entirely separate.

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Janeson T. Keeley, Owner/Website Consultant

Roanoke, Virginia
Phone: 540-366-3222
E-mail: janesonkeeley@gmail.com

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