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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

SEO: What's Under The Hood?

In Keyword Placement, I talked about using keywords in metatags and content to optimize your website. Now we're going to extend the strategy a bit further. Remember that you can highlight keywords within the text on your page. To make your site more search-engine friendly some of these keywords into links going further into your site. This will tell Google, Yahoo and MSN and other search engines which have found your home page that there's something else to look at.

Why do I need links to optimize my website?

Google, Yahoo and MSN and other search engines like pages with lots of links. Inbound links are best (those are links from other sites to your page) - and will improve your PageRank quickly, but cross-linking of pages within your site is also good. Cross-linking shows that different pages of your website are relevant to each other - and relevance is a big factor in improving PageRank. If you know what you want to do with your site, this will be an easy step to take.

Why do I need a sitemap?

A sitemap is one of the best ways of letting the search engines find the rest of your site. You should have a link to it off your home page and it should contain links to all the pages you want the search engines to find. A sitemap makes it easy for search engines and users to find everything on your site.

If you have a big site, this can take a while, but luckily there are lots of free tools that will do it for you.

Freefind provides a sitemap and free (ad-sponsored) search box for your site. Their free service will create a sitemap page, which you can customise to suit your web template. They will also search your site at specified intervals and update the sitemap. If you use the search box, they will also provide statistics about what visitors to your website searched for. The ads are quite unobtrusive, but if you don't want them you can upgrade to the paid service.

You can also create a special Google Sitemap (here's why) and upload it to your server. Two free online services are:

You can also download Google's own Sitemap Generator.

How else can search engines find my site?

Some search engines look for a special file called a robots.txt file. This stays on your server and tells it which search engines can search your site and which can't. The reason to have one is so that you can block any search engine bots that bring spam in their wake. (This is only a basic level of protection, which relies on spam bots respecting the boundaries you have set.) However, you can also specify which folders search engines are allowed to spider just in case you're storing anything confidential on your server.

You can create a robots.txt file here then upload it to your server. It also provides an example of a robots.txt file.

How can I use this on my blog?

Even if you don't host your own blog, you can use some of these techniques to improve its position in the search engines. You can certainly highlight certain keywords and link them to other posts you have made - and you can do an index post, which links to all your posts (or to all posts in a certain category). Haven has a good example here. If your webhost is providing your blog software, then you can also use a robots.txt file.

On-site links, a sitemap and a robots.txt file are all useful tools in search engine optimization, but there's still more you can do to get your site noticed. In part four, I'll look at strategies and tools for search engine submission.

Related posts:
How I Put My Site On Steroids
How To Optimize Your Website: Keyword Research
How To Optimize Your Website: Keyword Placement

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