March 9, 2010

Optimize Your Code for Search Engines


Hostway Team

By Monique Martin

You’ve worked hard to create a user-friendly Web site, but is it search-engine-friendly too? Search engine optimization (SEO) isn’t just about keyword density and links, it’s about what goes on behind the scenes too. Here are a few tips to help you whip your code into shape.

Title Tags

Crafting quality title tags is one of the best, and most overlooked, SEO tools. A title tag is what appears at the very top of the browser and is read by both user and search engine. Far too many pages have the dreaded “Untitled document” appearing in some of the best Web real estate available.

  • Fill it with keywords, but make sure they’re appropriate and not overstuffed.
  • Include your store or Web site name in the tag. This will help you build brand awareness.
  • It has to make sense. This is what your user will see when they’re on your site, and more importantly, how the page will be saved when they bookmark it. Bad title: Store product category one
    Better title: Men’s Boots | Hiking – Motorcycle - Western from Shoe Fly Shoe

Use the same SEO keywords from your page and play with them to create a good title. Commas are generally not recommended, so if your title has a few elements consider using a divider like the pipe bar | or dashes to set things off from each other.

Meta Tags

Meta tags are embedded in the header section of your code and provide information about that Web page to the search engine spiders. They aren’t the magic bullet for SEO they were once thought to be, but they’re still important. You should make the most of every opportunity to help the search engines index your page and meta tags are one of the easiest ways to communicate to the search spiders.

Description: This is what’s displayed in search engine results and is a major factor in indexing and ranking your site. A good meta description tag should be a well-crafted sentence of no more 200-250 characters. Keep the important stuff up front because it’s often truncated.

Keywords: There’s some question as to whether any of the search engines bother with the meta keyword tags anymore. Too many people were stuffing this tag with unrelated, hot topic keywords and it rendered the tag basically useless. But, better safe than sorry.

Even More Tags

Use your header tags wisely. These tags are the Reader’s Digest version of your page. Search engines love header tags, so make them count.

Don’t forget to alt tag your images, videos and flash. Without the alt tag those are just empty spaces to the search engines.

Validate Your Code

Error-free code makes the search engines happy. Be sure to validate your code. Eliminate open tags and give the bots the cleanest code you can manage. W3C has a handy validation tool you can use for free.

About the Author

Monique Martin served as chief operating officer for a successful online insurance marketing firm for five years.

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