I have always told people to be wary of SEO services.
Some time ago, an acquaintance in my local blogosphere, “Lasse G. Dahl”:http://www.lassedahl.com/, wrote an article on Search Engine Optimization, in Norwegian, titled “Søkemotoroptimalisering”:http://www.lassedahl.com/b/20040511_1.
søkemotoroptimalisering is the literal translation of
Search Engine Optimization, a business area smaller companies in my local market, Norway, are trying to exploit, and as such, there is rather fierce competition for the word.
Yet, Lasse’s blog entry has become the number one result in Google when you search for søkemotoroptimalisering.
His guide to SEO is clean and short, and filled with sound advice, and goes something like this:
* Create valid HTML. “Valid” in both a syntactical and semantical sense. Use only CSS for visual formatting. Use tables for tabular data only, and don’t use any unneccesary elements.
* Configure your server correctly. Make sure that your server sends both the correct mime type and character set for your documents.
* If you are using your own domain name, get one that is *relevant* to the content on your page. If you are selling PCs, “pc-sales.com” is a better choice of domain name than “supercoolstore.com”.
* Feel free to use appropriate
elements. While they may not affect your search results directly, they may provide search engines with more readable results.
* Do not link to irrelevant pages, or create long links of lists devised to fool the search engines. Search engines do not like these, and you may even be blacklisted. Publish relevant content and trust that those looking for relevant content _will find you_.
* Use relevant titles for your documents. The search engines use your title to display the title of your search result, and as such is important. Search engines are also known to put more emphasis on the content of the title element. However: Do not treat your title element as a keyword container, and list every word you want to be searchable on, since search engines may very well punish you.
In addition to the advice Lasse gave, I’d like to add a few items on my own:
* Search engines have a tendency to put more emphasis on content early in the page – this means that you should _avoid long navigational lists and sidebars before your content_ – incidentally, this will also make your pages more friendly for mobile devices and screen readers
* Use *strong* and _emphasized_ text carefully. If your entire page is a long piece of strongly emphasized text, the search engine can’t decide what’s important or not.
* When linking, both to internal and external pages, use proper, relevant link text. _Avoid “Click here”, or similar text at all costs_. Relevant link text helps search engines determine the relevance of a given page. Relevant link text also _optimizes the reader’s experience._ Write link text that can be read out of context.
* Read “Google Information for Webmasters”:http://www.google.com/webmasters/guidelines.html – and pay special attention to the *Quality Guidelines*. Do not ever try to cheat search engines using cloaking, sneaky redirects, or similar techniques. Don’t adapt your content for the search engines.
* _Don’t hire Search Engine Optimizers._ You will be far better off if you hire _accessibility experts_ or _usability experts._ Said experts are actually able to improve the _quality_ of your web site. A usable and accessible website will, in the end, draw visitors. Including those coming from a search engine.
* If your site is in English, and some of the words you consider to be keywords have different spellings in British and American English, provide a list with alternative spellings.
* If misspellings are common for key parts of your content, include a list of these misspellings. People may type “Thialand” by accident, or write “Progidy” instead of “Prodigy”.
* Finally: *Content is king.* If your site is both _accessible_ and _usable_ and has _quality content_ people are more likely to not only visit, but they are also more likely to link to you if run a high-quality web site. That will, in the long run benefit you.
There _is no shortcut to becoming a search-engine winner_ – free beer only exists in fairy-tales and Open Source Software. No matter what the Search Engine Optimization crowd tells you.
*Update:* Roger Johansson has written a guide on the “Basics of search engine optimisation”:http://www.456bereastreet.com/archive/200502/basics_of_search_engine_optimisation/ that covers some subjects this guide does not cover. It’s well worth a read.
h3. Alternative spellings
* *Search Engine Optimisation* (British English)