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4. Prepare Your Pages

Now that you have your keywords, you must apply them to the four elements of your pages that the search engine robots look at:

<TITLE>, <BODY>, <META> tags and URL.

<TITLE>

The page <TITLE> is by far the most powerful aspect.

Robots consider the <TITLE> of a page to be the most telling description of the content of a page.

Note: this does not mean the first major heading on the page itself, it means the caption which appears on the title bar of your browser. The <TITLE> of this page is "META Tags And Other Tactics For Search Engines"

It will look at this first, and if it finds a keyword here your page will be displayed above other pages which only have the keyword in the main body of text. Therefore, choose your <TITLE> keywords carefully. Use a few of the most powerful ones and don't make your <TITLE> as long as your arm just to fit all your keywords in (unless your site consists of only one page).

If you have plenty of powerful keywords and a good number of sub-pages, remember that each of those sub-pages has <TITLE> and META fields lying idle. Keep each sub-page <TITLE> short, with a different keyword or two in each. That way, whatever search string the user inputs, there will be one of your pages near the top of the list.

Changing your <TITLE>s regularly used to be a sneaky way to have your pages scattered all over a deep engine's results list. When the robot visited, it thought the new title represented a new page and gave it a new listing. This is becoming less effective now, as the robots become more sophisticated. Worth a try though, if you're bored.

Very important: your <TITLE> is what will appear as the clickable link on the results list. Remember that it's a human who's doing the clicking, so a listing at position #1 that consists of a long string of keywords might not generate as much traffic as a clear descriptive caption halfway down the same list.

The Alphabetical Issue

The deep search engines have never placed any significance on the alphabetical ranking of a page <TITLE>.

Once upon a time, it was important to have a high alphabetical listing for the sake of Yahoo! but in early 1997 they switched the output from alphabetical to relevancy, just like the deep engines. From that point on, the importance of having a low alphabetical title went straight out of the window. Bad news for people who had given their companies silly names like "!!@! Marketing".

Some standard engines still sort alphabetically, but these aren't worth worrying about. The only real advantage you'll get with a low alphabetical title these days is if you've placed your site in a Yahoo! category which has hundreds of listings, for example Web design services, and even then it would only affect people who are browsing the Yahoo! categories rather than using the search facility.


<BODY>

Keyword Density

The deep search engines sort pages in order of the density of keywords in the document. A simplified example: if my page contained just two words: 'london hotel' then a search for 'london hotel' would put my page at the top of the list because it has a 100% density of the keywords requested. In other words, it doesn't matter how many times keywords appear in the document, only the percentage. This also applies to the document <TITLE> (see above).

One way to capitalise on this is to saturate your document with invisible keywords. For example, I could type london hotel london hotel london hotel... a hundred times and enclose it all in <!-- comment tags --> but the search engine administrators got wise to this a long time ago, and they actively penalise pages that use this method, so I'd forget about this if I were you.

Penalties

If you want to know what it means to be 'penalised', this is explained in the January '98 issue of the deadlock Despatch which you can get by clicking the button at the end of this page.

Camouflaged Text: Bad Idea

Another trick that you should definitely not use is to "camouflage" long keyword lists against the background colour of your page. Infoseek has publicly declared that their robot excludes pages that have any text the same colour as the <BODY BGCOLOR. This has upset people who have done this as a part of their design, but there's a lesson to be learned. People are getting around this by using a slightly different colour which still makes their spam invisible, for example their BGCOLOR will be FFFFFF and their spammed keywords will be FFFFFE so the robot won't catch it. However, I would still advise against this because no matter how tiny you make the text, it's still going to produce an ugly gap on your page.

Keep 'Em High

The power of the keywords in the main body of your page diminishes as you go further down the page, so try to include plenty of keywords in the first few paragraphs of text. A <H1> or <H2> heading at the top of the page is a good idea. Always try to use heading tags rather than FONT SIZE whenever possible.


<META> Tags

If I have to repeat the answer to the following question one more time I think I'm going to be sick, so pay attention:

"Jim, I've constructed my META keywords perfectly, so why don't I have a top listing? The sites above me aren't even using META tags at all!"

META keywords will give you an edge, and it's important to have them. However, they cannot even lick the boots of page <TITLE>s and they also fall below page content keyword density in importance.

The above advice is written in invisible text: you will ignore it, just like everybody else.

Only certain engines recognise META tags, but these happen to be the important ones - Alta Vista and Infoseek spring to mind.

All of the deep search engines will store all the words on your page, but you can actually tell the META-enabled ones how to display your page in their results list, and also 'inject' keywords straight into the robot's brain. You're allowed up to 200 keywords, so include your whole keyword list.

Put META tags on all the pages you intend to promote ie. all the pages on your site.

Notes On META Tags:

Don't repeat the same keyword more than 7 times - I would recommend 3 times, to be safe - otherwise the whole lot is ignored and your page might even get 'penalised' (given low priority or even not included at all).

Don't list your repeated keywords next to each other, it's easier to see that you're spamming. For example, if you have 3 keywords do it like this:

web, site, promotion, web, site, promotion, web, site, promotion

Not like this:

web, web, web, site, site, site, promotion, promotion, promotion

Restrict your META description to 150 characters (including spaces). This is the optimum length to have the whole description displayed on all the search engines, without it being cut short.

A META description does not require keywords! Just make it appealing to a human. This text is what's going to convince them to click your listing, so think carefully about it. Have a different META description for each page on your site.

Describe your Web site, not your company. The name of the game is to get the user to your Web site. Once they've arrived there, you can describe your company to your heart's content, that's what it's there for. Always tell the user why they should visit your site. They're searching for a Web site, not a company's annual turnover.

Keep each META tag on a single line of your HTML code, without line breaks.

Your <META> text should appear in the <HEAD> part of your document, like this:

<HEAD>

<TITLE>Title</TITLE>

<META Name="description" Content="Write your description here">
<META Name="keywords" Content="Write your keywords here">

</HEAD>

Tagmaster software will write your META tags for you, straight into your pages.


URL

Here's a seldom-used tip: you do indeed have control over your URL whether or not you have your own domain name. Most people like to keep their URL short because it's cool, but they're missing out on the use of a powerful keyword, right where it counts.

Let's say you have a site on the subject of hotels and your URL is http://www.domain.com/john-smith/

Consider putting your site in a sub-directory like this: http://www.domain.com/john-smith/hotels/

This will give you three advantages: first, if you ever want to become a commercial webmaster you'll be able to make new Web sites in separate sub-directories; second, by using keywords in your pages and directories, you'll find that your site is easier for you to manage; third, you now have a keyword in the URL of every page, which can't hurt! For example, Yahoo! takes URLs into consideration in their search algorithm.


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