Neglected Opportunities to Place Better in the Search Engines

There are three frequently neglected opportunities to place well in search engines that are missed entirely by many website designers:

1. Neglected Headings

Headings from <h1> right on down to <h6> are often entirely missing from websites. Text within such headings is given very high treatment in the search engine algorithms in a search for those keywords.

But many web designers replace headings with graphics that contain text because they "look cooler". At the very least you should put in ALT tags (containing keywords, of course!) describing those graphics so that someone cruising with his browser set to turn the pictures "off" (you can do this by changing a setting on your browser) will still see what the picture is about, AND so the search engine algorithm will pick it up as an ALT tag and can then factor it into higher placement for that keyword. Graphics without ALT tags are ignored by search engines.

Headings also cause a lot of trouble in the pixel-specific HTML layout that a lot of designers like to do. Headings force a line break, they are subject to the whim of the user's font size as set in his browser, and it's difficult to put background images and colors into headings so they display the same way in both Netscape and Internet Explorer. Headings make it harder to do an exact layout; however, they are apparently VERY heavily weighted in the search engines. This is something that requires balance between the amount of graphics and the use of headings in a site. Having no headings at all is a big mistake. THIS page (the one you are looking at now) has several graphics and tons of headings and does well in the search engines as a result.

So the rule is: Wherever possible, put keywords into headings in the form of <h1> tags (big headings) on down to <h6> tags (little bitty headings).

2. Neglected Text

The text on the pages of your website must also contain your keywords. It also helps if you repeat those keywords *several* times at different places in the text. Some uninformed web designers try to "spam" the search engines by making really, really tiny text that just repeats the keywords many times, or by making a decorative design out of repetitive keywords, or hiding overly repetitive keywords as white text against a white background. This is not good design because it is considered "spamdexing" and the page will be kicked out of the search engine sooner or later. Don't do that--just write some good text and repeat the keywords a few times in it. If you need some help writing text--that's one of the services we offer. You can contact us here.

Keywords found in text on a website are weighted heavily by the search engines and for that reason text should not be entirely omitted from the site. We've seen too many sites where there is hardly any written text in favor of a few pictures with some cryptic captions. Although it may be true (to quote the old saying) that "A picture is worth a thousand words," to a search engine a thousand words are worth a great deal more than a picture. Good graphics are great and very important, but are no substitute for text.

In the HTML code for the page, the text should be as close to the beginning of the page as possible, because there is a limit to how far down into a page a search engine spider will go to try to find text. It is generally agreed that this is 3kb. That's only about 80-100 lines of code. So make sure your text comes before some really long JavaScript menu in the code for the page, or else the search engine won't make it far enough into the page to index the text. They'll never see the text if it is buried way down at the end of the code.

There's a trick of the <table> one can use to keep your menu bar on the left side of the page (where most people put a navigation menu) and still have the text of the page come first in the code. Normally to display to the left, the nav bar has to come first in the code. But not if you use this table trick.

You'll find a lot of keyword-dense text in THIS website.

3. Neglected ALT Tags

Put ALT tags on all the pictures on a website. Wherever possible, put KEYWORDS in the ALT tags. Don't go wild with this and don't mis-label any pictures. But if it's a picture of an Alfa Romeo Alfetta hood ornament--label it so, not just "hood ornament". The search engines will place the site slightly higher in a search for "Alfa Romeo Alfetta" if you do. Routinely we find on existing websites that not enough thought went into the captions of the ALT tags. Many sites don't have any ALT tags at all.

The ALT tags for all the navigation buttons also need to describe exactly where that button takes you. For example, to the "Alfa Romeo Alfetta Photo Gallery". The search engines can USE that little mention of "Alfa Romeo Alfetta" to give the site higher placement.

You'll find all the pictures in THIS website have ALT tags that tell you something about the picture, and wherever possible the ALT tags also give the search engines some relevant keywords to index that will point to our site. As an example, slide your mouse over the divider image below this paragraph.

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Back to Design page.

These are the three most overlooked opportunities for placing well in the search engines. Don't neglect them.

Neglected Headings

Neglected Text

Neglected Alt Tags

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