Monday, March 21, 2011

Quality Website Guidelines, Developed With Google's Webmater Tools

by Tucker Stoffers

Design and Layout

Navigation - Every website has a different way of guiding their users. Make sure your website's navigation is easy, clear and concise. Here are a few tips:

• Link it up! Make sure every main and essential page has a minimum of one available link on each page.
• When all else fails, have a Site Map. Search engines need a site map to quickly discover the vast detailed world contained within your site (and not miss anything!).
• Do not over link any one page.

Content - Your content is one of the most important factors in it's importance in the eyes of the search engines as well as what actually happens on your site. Your content is what determines you conversion rate and how many visitors you are getting... not much that could be more important so try to remember:

• Have Purpose, the more useful your site is the more people will use and share it. Create quality content and tools that will help the people that find it.
• Determine relevant keywords for your site, and more importantly use them. Utilizing your keywords naturally through the site is the first step in the direction of having an optimized site.
• Use text instead of images to display important information. Search engines can not see images and as such have to rely on "ALT" tags to determine the images objective. As such the "ALT" tag doesn't have as much prominence as text. When you do use images for make sure to include "ALT" tags to ensure maximum optimization.
• Use your keywords in your links. When you are placing links throughout your site make sure the anchor text is relevant to the page it is pointing to.
• Make sure that your elements and ALT attributes are descriptive and and keyword rich.

Technicality

Userability - This may not be a word, but it should. The look and feel, the content, and even the prices and quality of your products and services are all useless if your visitors cannot view the site correctly or if the site takes too long to load (the internet makes for some very short attention spans). The following is some great advice to keep in mind:

• Use a text browser to review your site. Most search engine spiders see your site in a similar fashion to a text browser. Helpful little features like JavaScript, cookies, or Flash keep your site from being functional in a text browser, odds are the crawlers will have trouble too.
• Test your site using multiple operating systems and browsers. Google Chrome, Firefox, IE, Safari, and Opera should give you a full sampling on the browser side.
• Make sure your server supports the If-Modified-Since HTTP header. This allows your server to update the search engines on your content changes. Supporting this feature saves you bandwidth and overhead, some people call that a no brainer.
• Keep an eye your site's performance and load times. Every search engines goal is to provide users with the most relevant results and a great user experience. If your site's goals don't match yours your impressions may go down. Tools like Mozilla's Fast in co-operation with Google Webmasters can help your optimization and tracking efforts.

Quality Assurance

The Basics - Every website and business online would benefit from adhering to following basics. Much of these are a given, but with businesses struggling to achieve profit the illegitimate or "Black Hat" practices can seem enticing. Learn from the experience of others... they are not worth it! Google recommends asking yourself "Does this help my users?" and "Would I do this if search engines didn't exist?" when considering determining if the technique is black hat or not.

• Keep the user in mind when creating your pages, not the search engines. Deceiving your users or or the search engines by presenting different content to each is a term commonly referred to as "cloaking." Cloaking is one the oldest and most frowned upon black hat techniques.
• Avoid linking to sites known to be using black hat techniques, or your own ranking may be negatively affected.
• Don't use unauthorized marketing programs to submit pages, check rankings, etc. Such programs violate Google's Terms of Service.

Specific Guidelines - As much as Google loves to be shrouded in a cloak of mystery, they have made a few things cut and dry. Google is big on quality content, quality marketing techniques, and honest business practices. It will always be in your interest to follow these directives.

• Avoid hidden text or hidden links.
• Don't use cloaking or sneaky redirects.
• Don't send automated queries to Google.
• Don't load pages with irrelevant keywords.
• Don't create multiple pages, subdomains, or domains with substantially duplicate content.
• Don't create pages with malicious behavior, such as phishing or installing viruses, trojans, or other badware.
• Avoid "doorway" pages created just for search engines, or other "cookie cutter" approaches such as affiliate programs with little or no original content.

About the Author

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