Thursday, October 27, 2005

Search Engine Optimization & ALT Text

I'm sure you've seen this feature on web pages before. You hover your mouse over a picture or link and a little yellow text box pops up by the mouse pointer. Usually it tells you something about that which you're hovering over. Did you know that search engine spiders can actually "see" that text? Well, they can, and you should remember that when you're optimizing your site for maximum traffic.

Let's say you have a site about macaroni, your favorite pasta, and even have some pictures of macaroni and various cooking implements on various pages. The first thing you need to know is that search engine spiders cannot read or see your pictures. While your human visitors like the photos, to the search engine each picture on your page is just so much wasted space. UNLESS, that is, you use ALT text.

The ALT text basically gives the photograph an invisible caption. That's roughly all it is. Most of your visitors won't even see it unless they hover for a second or two over the images with ALT text. The secret to getting these working correctly for your site and actually having them help with your search engine rankings is to make sure they use proper keywords.

If your site is about hiking and you have a picture of a mountain, your ALT text should contain a keyword or two that is appropriate to your site. It should say "hiking equipment" or something similar. It doesn't really even have to be appropriate to the photo. A lot of people just put in keyword heavy text regardless of what the photo's subject matter is.

If you don't know how to use ALT text, do a Google on it and search for "alt text for images" or something like that and you'll find some good links.

Coming soon...

The Truth About META Words

Friday, October 21, 2005

Anchor Text and SEO

Alright, I sort of lied when I said we'll get off the subject of SEO. We're still in the general area with today's post, but that's okay 'cause in the end you'll have improved traffic and that will spell the difference between failure (penury) and success (the opposite of penury).

Today's lesson is about anchor text. First of all, what is anchor text? As opposed to navigation links, which are pretty much stagnant from page to page and cover broad topics, anchor text is sprinkled throughout your content and leads to more detailed subject pages.

You probably already knew that so I'll jump right into proper formatting that will not only help you with search engine rankings but will also allow your human visitors to track with their journey through your site a bit better.

Let's say you're writing a tutorial about a lengthy topic and you want to break it up into 2 separate pages. Well, instead of having a link at the bottom of the first page that says "Click here for the next page" or "Part 2" or, the worst of the bunch, "Next," you should have anchor text that says WHAT the next page is exactly.

For example, let's say your topic is fishing. The first page is about rods and the second is about...uh...I'm not really a fisherman...fishing line, I guess. At the bottom of the first page, you should have anchor text that reads "Part 2 - Fishing Line." Pretty basic huh?

Search engines like this. They like full descriptions with subject matter and, again, content. Yes, even your anchor text can act as content, and it should. That way, if you've got subject pages about a specific subject AND have anchor text related to that same subject, people searching for that topic will find you a lot more easily.

Plus, your human visitors will know exactly what they're getting themselves into when they click into your next page. That gives comfort and trust. And do you know how you build lifelong customers? Yup...comfort and trust.

Okay, but this is about blogs. We bloggers don't really have subject pages, right? Or do we?

We do. First off, you should set up your blogging program to list each post as its own page. You may write about concrete, fishing, racecars and horses in different posts on the same blog, but each post should be titled correctly. That way, even those individual posts will be seen by search engines as individual site pages. Instead of your main blog home page coming up on Google (which people will then have to wade through to find the appropriate post) Google will start to list the inner blog pages, post by post and topic by topic.

Everyone will love you.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

The Dangers of SEO Submission Companies

Alright, I know I've been talking a lot about Search Engine Optimization recently, and that this may seem off topic. But really it's not. SEO is important for every site and if you expect to make any money with your blog you best heed the things you read about here.

I'm soon going to get off the topic of SEO altogether but NOT before I make one last recommendation. There are companies out there that promise to give you #1 placement in search engines, or who say they will submit to 6,000+ search engines for a flat fee. Before you go and spend your money on these make sure you know what the real numbers are.

First off, there are only 3 major search engines: Yahoo!, Google and MSN. Those are the search engines you want to rank highly on because that's where the searching is done. Now, having said that, it is also important to note that many of the smaller search engines are actually part of that Royal Triumvirate. Yahoo!, for example, is a composite of other smaller web search indices. Or rather, the smaller search engines use Yahoo!'s results themselves. If some company promises to put you in 6,000 search engines (which I'm not saying they can't do) what's really going on is they're putting you in all the little tiny search engines that 1) people don't use or 2) are part of the Big 3 anyway. Don't waste your time or money with this.

Second, nobody can promise you #1 placement for your web pages or blog. You have to be GOOD at what you do. You have to have great content that is regularly updated, good links (both interior and exterior), have pages with properly formatted anchor text and ALT text, etc. These are only a few of a large number of factors involved with high search engine rankings. We'll get to them all on this site, but suffice it to say that unless a search engine submission company is going to totally rework, rewrite, redesign, and basically mangle your website, they're not going to be able to get you in the top spot. Nor do they have to in order for you to get the droves of visitors that you're looking for.

That's it for SEO for now. If you've had good or bad experiences with this sort of thing please leave a comment and let others know what you've found.

Coming up in future installments...

Properly Formatted Anchor Text
ALT Image Text

In the meantime I give you the same old message:

Content is King! Keep writing. Your blog has to shine to keep visitors coming by (that's your future cash right there!) and to make search engines happy (there's more future cash right there too!)

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Content is King

You've no doubt heard this from many various sources already, but without good website/blog content, Google and the other Search Engines are going to throw you right out of their indices and headfirst into the nearest snow bank. Without content, you're going to be pretty much ignored by search enginges and humans alike.

Let me explain, starting with your human visitors, your protoplasmic line. It's easy to see that visitors to your website had better like what they find, because if they don't there are another 16 bazillion websites out there. For that reason, it may be harder to get visitors to start liking you and paying you regular visits since it's so easy for web surfers to just keep on clicking and find better sites. This means your content has to sparkle. You want to grab people by the napes of your neck with either good writing, meaningful and relevant content, or both.

As for Search Engine Optimization and how good content factors in, there is increasing evidence that the robots that search engine indices send out to find sites actually prefer good writing. That's right, even they can tell the difference between good writing and bad; meaningful content and a page full of hash.

Keep cranking out your good pages with good design and sexy layouts and all that, but remember that you also have to provide content and meaning in your pages. That will get the Search Engines to like you, which will increase traffic, which will in turn like you too since you're providing them with CONTENT.

Content is king! You may not have heard it here first, but you heard it here again!

Friday, October 14, 2005

Search Engine Optimization for Blogs

Without a doubt the most important thing you can do to turn your blog into money is to create content, as this is the ONE sure way to achieve Search Engine Optimization.

Search Engine Optimization means making your site Google-friendly, or Yahoo!- friendly. See, nobody is going to just "stumble on by" your blog. The internet is a mind-bogglingly huge place and people know this, so the way they get around is by asking search engines for related sites. Google and Yahoo! and all those search engines are going to be reponsible for bringing you traffic, so you have to do all you can in order to make those search engines (SEs) happy. This is where content and Search Engine Optimization comes in.

Let me explain why content is so important. Google provides a service: bringing ACCURATE results to people who search its database. The way Google verifies for itself that your site is worth indexing is by sending out a little data-grabber called Googlebot which "reads" your site.

If your site is about Muppets, the Googlebot better find actual content about that subject in your page's content. If it does, it will run back to Google's database and include your site therein. The next time someone searches for topics about which you've written on your site, you can be posted on Google's search results pages.

Trust me, this is a very good place to be. Billions of searches are done on Google and other search engines and if you can get yourself high up on the listings, you're going to be generating a huge amount of traffic for FREE.

There is a lot more to Search Engine Optimization of your site, and we'll get to that, but the best thing you can do is keep generating good content on your site. That way, once people start looking for what YOU write about, it'll be there waiting.