SEO for Beginners – Search Engine Spiders

Previously we talked about some of the basic concepts of Search Engine Optimization.  As we saw, SEO really is not as complicated as it seems.  Mostly it is a matter of understanding how search engines work and understanding how search engine users think.

We also touch briefly on the fact that search engines use bots called spiders to scour the internet day and night to index and rank websites.  So, obviously, it is pretty important that your website is set up to a) be easy for a spider to “read” and b) tell spiders that your website is important for users to see.  How do we do that?

Spiders essentially “read” a website the same way that you or I would.  They start at the top and read left to right, line by line down the page.  Whenever the spider comes across a link it triggers another spider being sent to assess the website that is linked to.  This process is continued throughout the site.  Everything that the spiders encounter is recorded.

Basically, your goal is to make your site as easy for the spider to navigate as possible.  One of the most important ways of doing this is making sure that you include text links to important pages in your site.  You can do this in the body, but you should definitely include this links at the bottom of every page whether you link in the body text or not (you’ve probably noticed that most sites have a kind of directory at the bottom of pages – this is why).  One of the most important links to include here is the link to your sitemap.

However, not all information on your website is going to help you.  In fact, you will probably have pages that you don’t want spiders to include at all, like your contact page.  For this reason you will want to set up a robots.txt file to tell spiders which pages should be skipped.

Once you have your site set up for easy navigation by spiders it is time to address relevancy – telling search engines that your site is important.  After all, search engines are evaluating millions of sites and billions of pages.  Basically, in determining the importance of a site, a search engine evaluates several aspects of a page in the following order:  the URL, the site’s title, the Description Meta tag, the content of the site, and any anchor text used for in-site links.

The title and Description Meta tag are both part of the <head> tag.  When titling a page you want to select a couple of strong keywords or phrases that are relevant to what the page is about.  You don’t want to overdo it on keywords because that will trigger red flags that your page may be spammy.  Just use two or three words that say what the page is about.  Keep in mind that this is what internet users will see as the reference link in the search engine results, so it needs to be intelligible.

If you’ve used search engines at all, you are probably familiar with the little blurb about the site that appears under the reference link.  This is the Description Meta tag.  It is just a short synopsis that tells spiders and users what the reference link actually links to.  Use a couple of readable sentences that use your strongest keywords/phrases.

Now you want to address content.  Your content should be informative, keyword rich, and, most importantly, original.  We won’t rehash creating content as we have covered that aspect elsewhere, just keep in mind that this is your chance to draw in internet users that might not actually be looking for your product or service, but are only searching for information.  Once you draw them to your site,  you have a chance at turning a browser into a buyer.

The last component is the anchor text that you use in links.  This aspect is really basic.  If you link to another page on your site, use one or two keywords that relate to what that page is about as the text for the link.  In other words, use link text that makes it clear what is being linked to.

This aspects of your website are the baseline of what determines whether or not your site is deemed important by a search engine.  So, the more care you put into your title, Description Meta tag, content, and anchor text, the better you will rank.  You don’t have to be a pro to make a quality site.  Of course, it is always better to get help if you are struggling.  A bad site will cost you a lot more than an SEO consultant will.

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