The following sections describe the technique you will use to optimize
your page content for the search engines. Page layout and design
considerations will be covered later in the chapter.

Your Keyword Strategy

The key to site optimization lies in your selections of keywords. A
keyword is a word or short phrase that describes your site's content
accurately and concisely. Site optimization is largely a matter of
selecting and using keywords carefully. When a search engine examines
your site it looks for keywords. Where does it look? Everywhere! While
you can designate specific words as "official keywords" using a meta tag
(discussed soon) the search engines don't really care about this--they
look at the entire content of the document when deciding the page's
keywords. More than anything else, the frequency with which a word or
phrase occurs on a page determines the weight it is given.

Needless to say, common words such as "the" and "and" are ignored by the
search engines. For this reason it is advisable to avoid common words in
key phrases. For example, "aviation history" is a better key phrase than
"history of aviation."

For each page you should decide on a single key word or phrase and use
it consistently throughout the page. Because of the way keywords work,
each page can have only one primary keyword. A search engine may well
pick up on other keywords for the page but they will unavoidably be
secondary. This is one reason why it is a good idea to place individual
topics each on their own page, as I mentioned earlier. For example,
rather than having a single "programming tips" page that covers both

Basic and Delphi it would be better to have a separate page for each

Don't Fake It

On learning that the search engines pay attention to the frequency of
keywords, some Web designers have tried various sneaky techniques to
fool them. One example is including HTML comments in the page with the
keyword repeated dozens of times. Another is to include an invisible
paragraph (white text on a white background) with the keyword repeated
over and over. Guess what? The search engines have caught on to these
tactics and if anything you will end up with a lower ranking. Yes, you
want to repeat your keyword frequently, but you need to do so in a valid
manner that is not detected as an attempt to trick the search engine
ranking process.

Page Title

Many people believe that the title tag is the most important part of
your optimization strategy. There are two reasons for this.

First, the title of a page provides--or at least should provide--a
concise description of the page and its contents. Because the title is
displayed in the browser title bar, Web page authors are hesitant to
load it up with extra irrelevant keywords or other junk.

Second, the page title is the first thing displayed in a search engine
listing. Take a look at Google, for example. Each listing in a search
result consists of the page title first, serving as the link to the
page, followed by a brief excerpt and the URL. It's the title that users
see first, and it is the title that will tempt them to click through to
your page--or will make them pass you by for some other page. Your page
title should tie in with your keyword strategy. Ideally the title will
contain your primary keyword or phrase. But a good title by itself is
rarely enough. If your page has a really odd and unusual topic, a good
title by itself may get you a high ranking on the search engines, but
for most of us the title is just part, albeit a very important part, of
your overall SEO strategy.

Your Text

Perhaps the most important part of the page is the text. After all, this
(along with images) is the content of the page and is what visitors will
see, and the search engines take this into account when ranking a page.
You want to write what is called keyword-rich text without having it
come across as stilted or artificial. There's no perfect formula for
doing this, and it can be a challenge, but it's an important part of
your SEO strategy. Let's look at an example. Here's a hypothetical first
paragraph for a page that deals with Visual Basic programming (the key
phrase of course is "Visual Basic").

I have always loved programming in Visual Basic since it was first
released. It is a powerful and intuitive programming tool that lets you
create sophisticated Windows applications quickly. VB is pretty easy to
learn also because it has a simple syntax and no complex rules. I highly
recommend it for people just getting started in programming.

The above paragraph is an example of poor text writing, at least from
the SEO standpoint. Let's see how it would look after an SEO expert got
through editing it.

Visual Basic has been my favorite programming language ever since it was
first released. Visual Basic is a powerful and intuitive programming
tool that lets you create sophisticated Windows applications quickly.
You'll find that Visual Basic is pretty easy to learn because it has a
simple syntax and no complex rules. I highly recommend Visual Basic for
people just getting started in programming.

Why is this second paragraph better? There are two reasons. First, the
key phrase is the very first thing in the paragraph and, since this is
the first paragraph on the page, it is also the first thing on the page.
Search engines pay attention to things like this! Second, the key phrase
occurs four times rather than just once. This was easily accomplished by
not using the abbreviation "VB" or pronouns such as "it" in places where
the full phrase could be spelled out.

Using alt Attributes

The <img> tag used to display images can include an optional alt
attribute that specifies text to be displayed if the image file cannot
be found. Many people omit the alt attribute from image tags because
they are confident that the image file will be available, particularly
if it is on the same Website. However, alt attributes can be part of
your optimization scheme. Spiders may not be able to look at your images
and determine the content, but they can read alt attributes. Each alt
attribute can provide the spider with a bit more information with which
to judge and rank your page. By simply using your keywords or key phrase
in all your alt attributes you can increase the impact of the page on
the search engines.

But is blind repetition of the same keywords a good idea? Maybe not.
Many search engines have caught onto the fact that some Web page authors
repeat the same keywords dozens if not hundreds of times simply hoping
to improve their ranking. By varying things to some degree you are more
likely to make an impression. One way to do this is to repeat your
primary keyword while including a different secondary keyword in each
attribute. For example, a fishing Web page could use "fishing trout" as

first alt attribute, "fishing bass" as the second, "fishing perch" as
the third, and so on. Another approach is to include sequential numbers
in the alt attributes so no two are the same: "fishing 1," "fishing 2,"
and so on.

Accessibility and the alt Attribute

Unfortunately, using the tag's alt attribute as an SEO strategy will
conflict with efforts to create a Website that is accessible to visual
impaired people. Such people often use specialized browsers that convert
the text on a Web page to speech, including the alt attribute of images.
To be effective in this context, the alt attribute must contain a good
description of the image that will let those who cannot see the image
understand the Web page. Such descriptions may work with your SEO
strategy, but if they don't then you will have to choose.

Using Meta Tags

You learned in Chapter 2 how meta tags can be used to include various
kinds of information n the head section of an HTML document. There are
two meta tags that have a role in SEO: description and keywords.

The description tag, as you might well expect, provides a brief
description of the page. Descriptions tend to be used by search engines
more when someone searches for your page not by keyword but by your
company name or URL. It's a good idea to include a brief--as in a short
paragraph at most--description for each page. For example:

Acme Sportswear provides a wide selection of men's, woman's, and
children's sportswear at hard to beat prices. Whether it is for skiing,
surfing, hiking, or scuba diving, Acme has just the sportswear you need.
Our convenient online catalog and ordering system makes it easy for you
to find and purchase your sportswear needs without leaving the comfort
of your home.

Note that the keyword--sportswear--was featured prominently in the
description, always a good idea. As a reminder, to create a description
meta tag you would put the following in the head section of the

meta content="Description goes here" name="description"

The second meta tag you need to know about is the keyword tag. Meta
keywords are thought by many people to be the most important part of SEO.
Unfortunately they are wrong. It's true that search engines used to give
a lot of weight to meta keywords, but it soon became apparent that meta
keywords were being heavily abused. The problem is that a Web page
author can include any meta keywords they like even if they have nothing
to do with the actual content of your page. Authors were including
popular meta keywords just to attract traffic. A page that sold vitamins
might include "Elvis Presley," "sex," and "free money" in the meta
keywords just in the hopes of attracting a few people who would stick
around to buy something. As a result, search engines stopped paying much
attention to meta keywords and started concentrating on the page's
actual content.

There's no harm in including meta keywords in your page. After all, a
few search engines still give them some weight, and they do no harm with
engines that ignore them. The syntax is:

meta content="keyword1, keyword2, ..." name="keywords"

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