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Search Engine Optimization Checklist

(Thu Jul 12th, 2007, by John D Ross)

To be an expert in search engine optimization (aka SEO) is more than simply a skill - it requires constant monitoring of the requirements of the individual search engines and this is an ongoing task better left to those dedicated to this.

But as a website owner / builder there are certain aspects of SEO that you can ensure you are following and our checklist will help you get good search engine rankings so necessary if your website is to be found by surfers.

1. Monitor your Stats

If you use cPanel, there is a Stats link on the main page. Check that the search engines are able to index all your pages. Click on the Error Log icon in your Control Panel to see what pages are causing problems and correct the problems. Your stats will also show you what search terms visitors are using to find your site and these keywords are the clue to what words you need to use. If you have a Google Account, activate Analytics. It provides really good statistical data.

2. Navigation for the Search Engines

Your site must have a robots.txt file, a sitemap.html file and a sitemap.xml file. These files are all supported by major search engines and ensure that the search engine bots / crawlers index your site content completely while avoiding those directories and files that you do not want them to index. In addition, in your links on your pages, make use of the tag: rel="no follow" which most search engines honor.

3. Open a Google Account

The reports you get in your Google Account are invaluable and better still they are free. These reports also allow you to monitor how long it is taking Googlebot to access your pages, so you know if your page content is too large or if there are server speed problems. You page should load in under 15 seconds. If the search engine crawlers are unable to call your pages up quickly there is a good chance users are experiencing the same slow load times and it is an established fact that most surfers move on if they have to wait longer than 15 seconds.

4. See What The Search Engine Sees

The search engine does not see your website as it appears to you on the screen; it is important that your site is targeting its keywords correctly. One of the best ways to determine just what your site looks like to a search engine crawler is to go to this search engine simulator URL and enter the full name of your main page: This tool will also give you keyword density details.

5. Use HTML for all your navigation links, not javascript nor images

One of the most common mistakes in website design is to use images for site navigation - your site navigation is basically valueless for search engine crawlers and they will not be able to follow the links to the pages.

6. All Images Must Have an ALT Tag

Include a descriptive ALT text using your keywords as not only is this important for accessibility for vision-impaired users but search engines cannot 'see' images and hence have no idea what they are; the ALT tag will explain the image to them.

7. Use Flash sparingly, if at all

Search engines cannot index text or content within a Flash file. So whilst Flash can do a lot for your website presentation, from the SEO point of view it should be used very sparingly (we would recommend not at all) and certainly only on non-crucial content pages.

8. Each page must have its own, unique < title> tag.

The TITLE tag should not be your website name ... it should be the main keyword describing the content of that page. For example, if the page is about selling blue widgets, then that is exactly what should be in the Title tag. Whilst Google does not place a lot of emphasis on the meta tags it does use the TITLE tag, so these tags need to be carefully structured.

9. Each page must have its own, unique tag < meta name="description" content="xxxx">

Google does not place a lot of emphasis on the meta description tag but all other search engines do.

10. Each page msut have its own, unique tag < meta name="keywords" content="xxx,yyy,zzz">

Google does not place a lot of emphasis on the meta keyword tag but all other search engines do.

11. Your page content should follow a structure similar to this:

Assuming your main keyword is "blue widgets" and your secondary keywords are "blue metal widgets", "blue plastic widgets and "blue fiberglass widgets" Include at least one instance of your keyword in the < H1> tag

Your keyword needs to be the first words the search engine sees and it should o be in the 1st paragraph twice (once bold, once in italics), then again in the last paragraph. Your secondary keywords (and main keyword) need to be sprinkled through the content, so that in the end you have a keyword density of approximately 5%. Check your density here:

12. Don't use frames

Search engine crawlers / bots will have trouble getting to your content and indexing individual pages of a frames-based layout; it is better to avoid frames if at all possible.

There are many more aspects to SEO which we will deal with in the coming days, but the points above give you a good starting point.

To see an example of "successful SEO", visit and into the search box enter "hosting for dog websites" ... yes, it's us! We are #1 out of 2,600,000 websites for that keyword phrase. This is what you need to aim for. Spend time working out the keywords that will bring you visitors, then optimize your pages accordingly using the above details as a guide.

About the Author providing website hosting solutions for the dog sites of breeders, owners and friends of The Dog since 1997, together with the free webtools and details necessary to ensure website building success for our clients!