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Search SEO guidelines

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SEO is a vast topic and a lot of books have already been written about that subject. The goal of these guidelines, however, is provide recommendations and solutions to improve the visibility of web sites. There is no method better than another, but following these recommendations should help increase online content exposure in most SERPs.

SEO recommendations: How do I make my data more search engine friendly?

The relevance between a search term and the search engines indexed content is decided by the content itself. If it is rich and of good quality then it will rank better. References from other sites are another very important factor used by most search engines to validate the credibility and authority of a web site.

Most search engines have well defined guidelines and recommendations regarding SEO:

Google http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?answer=35769&&hl=en
http://www.google.com/webmasters/docs/search-engine-optimization-starter-guide.pdf
Bing http://onlinehelp.microsoft.com/en-us/bing/hh204434.aspx
Yahoo http://styleguide.yahoo.com/resources/optimize-search-engines/seo-basics

They all describe the same basic principles.

Content guidelines for SEO

  • Make a site with a clear, fairly flat, hierarchy (i.e. each page should only be one to three clicks away from the default page) and text links, preferably using simple and static URLs. Complicated URLs (e.g. long URLs with multiple variables) and URLs that change frequently are difficult to index as link destinations.
  • Make sure that each page is accessible by at least one static text link. If you decide to use dynamic pages (i.e., the URL contains a "?" character), be aware that not every search engine spider crawls dynamic pages as well as static pages. It helps to keep the parameters short and the number of them few.
  • Keep the links on a given page to a reasonable number and make sure they aren't broken.
  • Limit all pages to a reasonable size (e.g. Bing recommends covering one topic per page. An HTML page with no images should be under 150 KB)
  • Use only well-formed HTML code in your pages (Use validating tools like the W3C Markup Validation Service).
  • Add a semantic information to the structure of your code by using appropriate HTML tags like headers or paragraphs (e.g. <h1>, <h2>, <p> instead of <br/>...)
  • Create unique,
    ief but descriptive (keyword-rich) text for the <title> (Page title contents are displayed in search results) for each page.
  • Use the <meta> description attribute tags to provide a summary of the page (Search engine might use it a snippets for the page).
  • Use ALT attributes and make sure they are descriptive and accurate.
  • In the visible page text, include keywords users might choose as search query terms to find the information on your site.
  • Don't load pages with irrelevant keywords
  • Avoid hidden text and hidden links
  • Try to use text instead of images to display important names, content, or links. Don't put text you want indexed within images.
  • Add a Sitemap.xml file with links that point to the important parts of the web site.
  • Use Rich Snippets whenever possible (e.g. Images of protein structures as Thing, Training courses, conferences and workshops as Event and Group leader and senior staff pages as Person). Rich Snippets lets you mark up a much wider range of item types on your pages, using a vocabulary that Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo! can all understand (For more information, refer to the Google Rich Snippetsdocumentation)

Technical recommendations for SEO

  • Make use of the robots.txt file. You can use this file to prevent web crawlers from crawling specific files, directories or irrelevant pages (e.g. search results pages).
  • Monitor your site's performance and optimize load times
  • Test your web site to make sure it appears correctly in different browsers
  • Use a text browser (e.g. Lynx) to examine your site, because most search engine spiders see your site as text browsers would (Most search engines don't like Javascript, cookies, session IDs, frames, DHTML or Flash)
  • If you site uses AJAX, make sure it supports either Google's AJAX crawling scheme with HTML snapshots or use Hijax and progessive enhancement

How to influence discovery

  • Use the free Webmaster Tools available for most of the main search engines to get a better control of the indexing.
  • Promote new content (e.g. using social media), but avoid artificial backlinks (e.g. spams, cloaking, redirects, automated queries)
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