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How to improve your search engine ranking, and how to get your site listed on Google, Yahoo, Altavista, MSN etc in the first place.

Over the years I have been playing with web sites, I have picked up some tricks that get sites rated better with search engines. (also called "search engine optimization") is a good example of these tricks, although this site is only 16 months old (as of 15th July), we are a top 5 result on over two hundred key phrases with and pretty good results with the other major search engines (like Yahoo, MSN, Altavista etc).

How we did it is what follows now.

11 easy steps to better search engine ranking.

  1. Get as many other subject related sites linking back to you as possible, the more links to your site the search engines find, the better your ranking will be, and it really helps if the sites linking to you cover the same subjects. This is probably the number one way to get your site spidered regularly and ranked better. Give away free scripts, or stories or anything of value to someone, and submit the freebee pages to sites that will link back to you. It really works. It should also be noted that if the sites linking to you rank highly for the same terms as your site, it will help you much more then sites that are not well ranked for the same terms.
    For Example, our free scripts are listed on about a dozen very popular online webmaster resource sites, and that has done wonders for our sites popularity with Google and the other search engines.
  2. Page title and headings, most search engines ignore Meta tags like "content" and "keywords" now, (in fact only one engine I know of pays them any attention at all). Instead, they look at your page titles, your headings, and the content itself when deciding what to do with your site. So make them clear, short, and full of the keywords you'd like people to find you with. Move the content of your page as close to the top of your source code as you can and limit the size of your title and meta tags, huge titles or description tags will just confuse the issue and lower your ranking on the words you'd rather be linked to.
    Other things that will help are to move all CSS styles and JavaScript functions to their own files and call them from your pages. That has a couple of benefits, one it will speed up your pages by making use of the browsers cache, where only one copy of the stylesheet or JS file is downloaded for all of your pages, and from the search engines perspective, there is less code to wade through to find your pages content.

    Update I have found that with Google in particular, nothing is more important then the pages title, particularly if you are trying to get to number one, for a particular search phrase. So if you can, fit that phrase into the title of the page, and at least one other place.
  3. Use descriptive file names (for other then your index page of course. :-) Take our tutorials for example, although they have long names for a different reason, (our tutorial listing page uses the file names when creating the list) we have found they seem to help in determining the keywords we are associated with.
  4. Make the page small and fast, limit the images, and when you must have images, make sure they are as small in size as they can be and give them descriptive ALT tags with a keyword or two in them. Smaller pages are parsed faster and apparently preferred by the search engines (and most everyone else).
  5. Update your content regularly, pages that don't change will eventually be depreciated in favor of newer sites. If you can, add some dynamically generated content in your pages (like the random humor code in htmlfixit's page footers). Don't use JavaScript for dynamically generated content because most spiders don't parse and run JavaScript and therefore will not see it.
    The more your site is updated, the more regularly you will get spidered.
  6. Use valid HTML or XHTML, the search engine spiders are unlikely to know how to parse anything else, so having a page full of broken HTML is likely to hurt your cause.
  7. Think very carefully about what terms you want your pages to be ranked well with. For example, many terms will have a huge amount of competition and as a result it will be much harder to get ranked well for those terms, try and think about alternate terms that you can make use of that are less likely to have as much strong competition. A good way of helping your cause is to think of common terms and sentences that you think will be popular and work them into the headings and content of your pages.
  8. Don't try and fake it. If your meta tags and page title etc contain a heap of keywords that are not anywhere else in your pages, Many search engines will "fine" you for it, by lowering your ranking overall. So make sure that the text in your title and meta tags is also in your pages.
    On the same note, don't repeat words over and over in your meta tags, as this is considered "search engine spamming" and you will be penalised for it.
  9. Make use of your email. Setup a signature file for your email, and in it make a nice link back to your site with some descriptive text and keywords. Many mailing lists are archived online and having your site linked in the archives certainly won't hurt your ranking. You might also consider doing the same for any online forums you post to.
  10. Link to relevant resources. If a search engine is trying to work out what your page is about, and finds links on your site that are about the same things, it's much more likely to get it right. So find some sites that cover the same subjects you do, and link to them. I would probably not link to any top 10 results pages as it will probably help them more then you, but look though the sites in a search engine for the terms you want, and pick the best ones that are not in the top ten.
    (as a general rule, if one of them REALLY deserves to be in the top ten above the others, then you shouldn't compromise your content to gain hits.)
  11. Get your site listed at the Open directory Project keeping in mind the above tips on keywords and descriptions. Sites like these are often highly regarded by the search engines, so you can usually expect to see your ranking improve after your listed on dmoz.
    HTMLfixIT has at least one page on DMOZ, and from memory it is our tutorial index. DMOZ itself will not likely amount to many direct hits to your site, however many search engines give very high precidence to any site listed in DMOZ as it means that site has been reviewed by a human and is very likely to be exactly what it claims to be.

Follow those simple steps and your page will get spidered more often and rank better for your chosen keywords. It really works.

People often mention submission software and while it might help get you listed faster, it won't really help you with your ranking. I don't use submission software anymore, and If there are lots of links back to your page as per step one above. you don't really need to, you will get spidered and ranked automatically when any of the sites that link to you do.

Another tip is to stay away from FFA or Free For All site listings, they are not relevant links, and usually just collect your email address for spamming purposes. In fact some search engines may penalize you for trying to pollute their database by using FFA sites.

One last suggestion is to go to our "free scripts" page and download and install our free statistical hit counter. The stats counter collects allot of useful data about your visitors, but most useful of all from this perspective, it collects referrer information about how your visitors found your site. So a quick look though the referrer section will tell you what keywords and phrases were used in search engines that lead to your site. (that's how we know what search terms people have been using to find
Update: We have since released the "advanced statistical counter" and apart from collecting all the same stuff the free one does, it also gives you a breakdown of your Google, AOL, Altavista and MSN search terms, along with percentages and popularity for each.

I make a point, that once a month, I go though the search engine stats the counter generates, and look at the terms people are finding us with. Then I go though the page from the results and make sure it is optimized for that term, perhaps by adding the term to the page title, or emphasizing it in <h2> tags, or other such things. It really does work.

If you know any other methods that achieve the same results that we have not mentioned here, drop us a line with the "contact us" link in the menu and let us know.

For more information on search engine rankings, see the following pages:

- sitepoint
- searchenginewatch
- Open directory Project

So if you are ready to learn more:
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