07 Feb, 2010

SEO basics for beginners

Posted by: drobs In: Google search engine|MSN Bing Search Engine|Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

Search engines are probably the most important tool for internet marketing so you need to know how they work to successfully SEO and bring the all important traffic to your website.

How do they work? Every search engine works slightly differently, but they have a basic structure in common. They maintain a large amount of information on all the websites that they find. This is called indexing.  They store some images of the pages themselves and they classify the site in terms of the type of information that it contains and a measure of how useful the page would be for someone searching for information on a certain topic.

The index created by the search engine is fed information from the internet using a software tool which has several names. You will see references to a web crawler, spider, or webbot and they all mean essentially the same thing. This is a tool that moves across the web, visiting web pages and reading their content in order to populate the search engine index. If you have a site that is not in a search engine index there are several ways of getting the search engine to visit and index it. You can go to the search engine and manually enter your web address and request a crawl. This is not always an effective way of getting a visit. The other way is to build links with existing sites. When the bot from the search engine next visits the existing site, it will follow the link to your site and discover it.

There are in fact several parts to search engine searchbots. The Googlebot has two main components. Freshbot is the part of the crawler that finds new sites. Another component, Deepbot will then revisit the new site and do a more in depth analysis of the site. It is common for only a small part of your site is initially listed in the index. A deeper crawl will find the rest of your pages along as you have structures your site correctly.

If you have information on your site that you do not wish the search engine to index, it is easy to indicate to the searchbot where you want them not to look using follow and no follow commands in the meta tags of the page. Passwords are another way of keeping searchbots out.

When you are building your site, you must consider how your pages look to searchbots in the same way that you do for your human visitors. Searchbots cannot cannot read images for example, so any data in an image will be missed by them so alternative text should be produced for images, that will be picked up. Many sites use Java to generate menus. The searchbot can miss all the links in that menu because it is an image, not text. Similarly, drop-down menus are very useful for humans, but are invisible to bots. The crawler will navigate your site using the links that it finds. Having a clear structure is an important part of web design for this reason. If you really want to avoid any linking problems, you can present the search engine with an XML file called a sitemap, which will guide ir around your site.

Searchbots have none of the human abilities to read a page and quickly determine what it is about, and if it is useful. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is concerned with presenting pages, so that it is clear to the searchbot what the page is about and that it is worth ranking well in the index. This is done by a thorough understanding of how the searchbots read pages and also a current picture of what specific search engines are looking for when they are analysing the quality of the content on a site. As with any new and rapidly changing technology where there are fortunes to be made and lost, SEO attracts some of the best and some of the worst people involved in the internet. Be wary of anyone who cannot show you a clear track record, and avoid anyone who offers you a guarantee of a top ranking in a short time.

Good SEO companies gain their business from their own ability, i.e. the get the best search engine results for SEO. They do not need to cold call so beware of emails offering the earth through their SEO services.

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