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Break Through the Frustration of Optimization

“I am an artist,” the man proudly proclaimed. “I don’t care,” the critic proudly responded. “The frame is too large, the colors are dark and it will not match my furniture,” the critic further explained.

Many times web developers experience a similar scorn but not always from humans. A site has been designed with an interface that pops with beautiful GIFs and JPEGs, dazzles with Flash and functions like a charm with JavaScript. The search engines do not care. The content, the keywords and the tags do not correspond with the criteria of the search engines. Therefore, you are ignored.

It is a struggle between art and science that frustrates many. The responsibilities of web developing — the art — clash with the role of the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) — the science. That is why some companies and development firms are designating web developer and optimizer as two distinctive jobs.

Yet many smaller companies and shops still have the web developer fulfilling both roles. The problem is that optimization is becoming challenging and competitive. So here is some information to help start the optimization before, after or during the developing.

Content

It’s all about the text.

Remember that optimization is all about the text. Search engines are text driven but there are still some basic HTML tags to keep in mind (i.e., h1, h2, meta tags, title tag). SEO helps improve search engine results but does not guarantee top ratings.

Patience and realistic goals will keep the frustrations low. Search engines have to crawl a site to determine what a site is about. This takes time, usually about a month, before crawls and indexing are completed by the various search engine spiders.

Take time to think (a lot) about the purpose of the website. Write down a lot of stuff in a word processing program even if it sounds silly at first. Then edit what you wrote. Edit some more, get some feedback and then start working on the keywords and keyphrases that identify the unique quality of your website.

Keywords and Keyphrases

Keywords used to be easy. Those days are gone. Keywords are highly competitive. Using two-word or three-word, maybe even four-word, phrases makes optimization less frustrating. A keyword phrase (keyphrase) helps identify the uniqueness of a website.

The keyword “game” will generate about 1 billion(!) results. The keyphrase “card game” will generate about 50 million results. That is a difference of approximately 950 million. The keyphrase “magic card game” will generate about four-million results. Time will need to be spent finding unique keyphrases but the benefits of narrowing the results, with multi-word phrases, provides a better chance of being noticed.

Keyword Density

The density formula is D = WC/KC (D = density; WC = word count; KC = keyword count)

For major keywords target 3-7% density
For minor keywords target 1-2% density

Keyword density measures how relevant keywords are in a page. The formula density = word count divided by keyword count will provide a general idea of the density percentage. For major keywords try to keep the density between three and seven percent. For minor keywords keep density between one and two percent. Try to optimize between five to ten keywords per web page.

Avoid the unethical practice of keyword stuffing. You will be penalized and possibly banned from the search engines which is worse than doing no optimization at all. Keyword stuffing uses various techniques but it is basically stuffing a page and/or meta tag with several occurrences of a keyword or keyphrase.

Keyword stuffing will result in being banned from the search engines.

Meta Tags

The meta tags are important although some will disagree. Meta tags have fallen out of favor because these tags used to be the magic solution to optimization. Not anymore. Keywords and content are more beneficial in getting a web site in top rankings. However, meta tags are still important. Meta tags are a part of the HTML and are used by most search engines to find a description of your website.

Therefore, no question about it, use the meta tags for description and keywords. Place these meta tags below the title tag on your page.

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The keyword meta tag helps you keep track of the keywords and having these meta tags give a small boost to search engine ranking. While it is true that meta tags do not perform the magic they once did it is better to have the tags than to have none. Think of meta tags like vitamins. Vitamins are not necessary for being healthy but vitamins do provide a healthy boost.

Title Tag

The title tag should be unique for every page because every page will or should have different information regarding your website. Therefore, some pages will have some but not all of your total keyword list. For example, let’s say that your web site provides information about card games; one page has data about magic card games and another discusses bridge card games.

The title tag of the page with information about magic card games could have a title like Magic Card Games available at ourwebsite.com. The bridge card games page would likely have a title of Bridge Card Games at ourwebsite.com.

The name of pages should also have keywords like magic_card_games.htm or bridge_card_games.htm.

Developing websites is fun. Optimization can be a chore. Yet by focusing on content, keywords and tags you have a good start to decreasing the frustration of optimization. Granted there is more to optimization than the items addressed in this article but these are the items that can be and should be tackled first.

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About the Author: Lawrence Roth in an independent web developer who owns and maintains rothline.com. Lawrence has worked on various e-commerce and website projects. Lawrence writes articles and stories to submit to online publications.