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Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Introduction

This lesson we will be learning about the basics of search engine optimization and what it takes for your site to rated high by search engines. It always helps to be ranked high in search engines, especially for a company website.

There are many search engines out there, Google, Yahoo, MSN, ASK, but they all follow the same basic guidelines. If you've read the HTML 5 semantic tags tutorial (and if you haven't I suggest you do) then you should already be halfway to good SEO as good use of tags and naming conventions are half the battle. This tutorial will go a step deeper and show you the next basic steps of optimizing your site for search engines.

For this tutorial we will be using Google as our main example. Google is the most used search engine so optimizing for it will give your site the most view-ability.

Prerequisites

For this tutorial it is recommended that you have:


What is a search engine

First off, you must know what a search engine is in order to optimize for it. A search engine is a site that takes a keyword, or multiple keywords that a user inputs, and searches through every site it knows of and pulls back a set of results with the most relevant results showing first.

Sounds simple at first, but what makes SEO necessary is how the search engines decides what is most and least relevant. This is called the search engines algorithm.


Page Titles

One easy way to help your page ranking is to always set your page titles. A title tag tells both users and search engines what the topic of a particular page is and you should create a unique title for each page on your site, being a short word or two describing the page.

Don't use non-descriptive words for your page titles. It should be as descriptive as possible in a few words, ideally enough to fit inside the browser's title display bar.

Not only does this help your page ranking, but if your page appears in a search results page, the contents of the title tag will usually appear in the first line of the results.

Use heading tags appropriately

Another easy SEO practice is using header tags correctly. Every page of your site should have one <h1> tag. This tag is very important in SEO. The <h1> tag should be the heading for your page and unique to every page. This helps dramatically in SEO as it helps search engines rank your site.

The <h2> - <h6> tags should be used as heading's as well, but sub headings. You can have as many <h2> - <h6> tags as you want.


Metatags

You may have heard of the term metatags before. Metatags are a set of tags that go into the head of a page. These tags are usually used for SEO purposes but most are not used anymore. However there are a few that are still good to use and have an impact in your site's ranking. The syntax for the meta tag is as follows, where name will be different for each type of metatag:

<meta name="description" content="description goes here" />


description meta tag

A page's description meta tag gives Google and other search
engines a summary of what the page is about. Now you may think this sounds very similar to the title tag, and for good reason. The description tag is pretty much a extension of the title tag.
Whereas a page's title may be a few words or a phrase, a page's description meta tag might be a sentence or two or a short paragraph. Like the <title> tag, the description meta tag is placed within the <head> tag of your HTML document.

keyword meta tag

Keywords are rarely used in SEO anymore due to them being abused so much. However it is still good practice to use them. Keywords are words that are used to describe the page and are simply a list of... well keywords with each word separated by a comma.


Improve the structure of your URLs

Have you ever created a site where the name of every page was something like, page1.html, page1.html page3.html? That is very bad, not only will it turn out to be an organizational nightmare but it is horrible for SEO. Ideally your directories and file names should be descriptive enough to tell what the page or directory is just by the name.
Creating descriptive categories and file names for the documents on your website can not only help you keep your site better organized, but it could also lead to better crawling of your documents by search engines.


HTML site map page, and use an XML Sitemap file

This is something you may never have encountered. It is a good idea to create a sitemap page for your site. A sitemap is simply a page with a list of links to every other page on your site. This can be useful to your users but even more useful to search engines. This allows for search engines to easily categorize your pages.


Configure mobile sites so that they can be indexed accurately

This is something most people forget to do. A mobile site is different than a non-mobile site so there are a few differences between them, especially if there is a mobile and a non-mobile version of the site.

make sure your mobile site is searchable

Some mobile sites refuse access to anything but mobile phones, making it impossible for Googlebot to access the site, and therefore making the site unsearchable. Our crawler for mobile sites is "Googlebot-Mobile". If you'd like your site crawled, please allow any User-agent including "Googlebot-Mobile" to access your site.

switching content based on mobile or desktop users

if your site has the same URL for both desktop and mobile content, but changes it's format according to what the site is being viewed on. In other words, both mobile users and desktop users access the same URL (i.e. no redirects), but the content/format changes slightly. In this case, the same URL will appear for both mobile search and desktop search, and desktop users can see a desktop version of the content while mobile users can see a mobile version of the content.

However, note that if you fail to configure your site correctly, your site could be considered to be cloaking, which can lead to your site disappearing from our search results. Cloaking refers to an attempt to boost search result rankings by serving different page content to crawlers, than the page content that the user sees.
This can be avoided by simply making sure that the content the user sees is the content being crawled.


Quiz

Now that you've read the tutorial, take the quiz.