Top SEO Technical Rules for Building a Search Engine Friendly Website

Top SEO points to keep in mind when designing a site to be search engine friendly.

SEO Technical Points

These are the basic SEO technical rules to keep in mind when building a website for which you hope to get good search engine placement:

  1. Remember that "search engines only index text", and that the first portion of a page is the most important as far as the search engines are concerned. Keep the page tightly coded, don't spread it out with "HTML Tidy" or dilute it with extra spaces, line returns, etc. Your mantra while building the site should be: "Search Engines Only Index Text".

  2. Make sure your server is set up correctly, with a static (unchanging) numeric IP address assigned to your site. To check, use this tool provided by Bruce Clay, one of the leading lights in the search engine optimization world. (Be sure to change the end of the line first to put in your domain name!):

    Put Your URL to Check in this box:

    Your site has to pass that test or else your site will "look" cloaked to Google.

  3. Use minimal JavaScript (none, if possible). Use minimal or no Flash. Search engines don't index either Flash or JavaScript very well, especially in flyout or dropdown menus. You can do a lot with CSS to emulate a flyout menu or dropdown menu that the search engines can read and follow. For details of how to set up a CSS-only flyout menu, see this site:

    If you absolutely MUST use JavaScript menus, don't put the code for them into the head of the page. Instead, put the Javascript in an external file (such as "myscript.js") and call the JavaScript from the external file, like this:

    <script language="JavaScript" src="myscript.js" type="text/JavaScript"></script>

    Search engines tend to ignore JavaScript, so if you call the external files they can easily ignore it (the searchbots don't call those external JavaScript files) and won't have to wade through hundreds of lines of JavaScript code to get to your TEXT, which is all that the Search Engines care about.

  4. Don't use nested tables to lay out the site. Instead learn and use CSS. Make sure the CSS is valid. Check the validity here: or use this box:

    If you absolutely MUST use tables to lay out the site,  you should use the "Table Trick" to put the code for the TEXT content of the page ahead of the code for a left-hand navigation bar.  See the table trick here:

    If you MUST use tables, put a summary attribute in the main table tag - it will help the search engines figure out what the table is about. Summary attributes work like this:

    <table summary="keyword for the page goes here">

  5. Declare a "doctype" at the very top of each page you write, such as:

    <!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01 Transitional//EN">

    Use either HTML 4.01 Transitional or XHTML 1.0 and keep the code valid. Check the validity of your HTML code on one of these two sites:

  6. Declare a character-set type in the <head> of every page, like this:

    <meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=windows-1252">

    or this:

    <meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=iso-8859-1">

    And then STICK WITH THAT CHARACTER SET--don't use characters that aren't in the character set you select. You can blow off one of the search engine robots by putting characters in your page that it is not expecting.

  7. Set up a site map that has a direct link to every page of the site on it. Make sure there is a text link to the site map from the home page. If you are using JavaScript menus this is absolutely vital as the search engines may not be able to follow the links to the rest of your pages from your home page - unless you have a plain text link to your site map from the home page.

  8. Set up a links page to link to other sites so you can reciprocate links with them. Link TO your own links page from the site map page only in order not to "leak" page rank.

  9. Make sure every page has at least 250 words of text on it. 500 words is preferable. Use the keywords for the page but don't stuff them in everywhere. Anywhere you can turn a pretty picture of text into actual text, do so. Use <h1> and <h2> headings where they make sense. Style them with CSS so they don't add ugly spaces to your pages.

  10. Don't use any deprecated tags (including the old <font> tag) to style your text.  Style only with CSS or valid HTML.

  11. Don't use frames to lay out your site - search engines can't index a site built in frames because all pages of the site look exactly the same to it. The search engines run into the same problem you run into when you try to "bookmark" a site built using frames you can't do it and neither can the search engines. A site built in frames has no chance in the search engines, even with a "noframes" tag - in my experience the <noframes> tags don't help enough to make it worthwhile to use them.

    So don't hide your site from the search engines with frames.

    "Virtual includes" work even better than frames to make it easy to separate out menus that are the same from one page to another, to put copyright notices at the bottoms of the pages, and so on, and virtual includes should be used instead of frames. See this link for details about Virtual Includes.

  12. Don't use JavaScripted automatic popup windows on your home page or on any page that you want the search engines to index.

  13. Don't require your visitors to accept a cookie when visiting your site - that will kill the Googlebot dead. Search engine spiders are non-responsive, meaning they can't interact with your site. All they can do is read text and follow links. That's all. They can't and won't allow you to set a session ID for their visit, so DON'T TRY TO MAKE THEM.

  14. If you must use a database to display information, make the links "search engine-friendly". Use no more than one variable in the URL. If you use two or more variables to pass information to your display pages, the search engines may not follow the links. They may follow one variable in a link, but not more than that. In other words, if you are selling green widgets from a page of your site, don't set up your site so the links look like this:

    Those long URLs with multiple variables are not always indexed by Google. Avoid using them! There are methods available, using either ASP or PHP, to pull the information from a database, but using keywords in the page names, like this:

    Which of those two page names do you think is more likely to come up at the top of the search engines?

There are many more fine "do's and don'ts" to keep in mind when building a site that is as search engine friendly as it can be--but THESE points will keep you from building a site that the search engines simply can't index.

If you have questions on any of these points, feel free to contact us.

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