SEO Expert Guide - Sitewide Optimization (part 4/10)

In parts 1 and 2 you learnt how to develop your online business proposition and how to generate a list of key word ingredients for your site optimization activity. You were also introduced to our mythical Doug (who sells antique doors, door handles, knockers, door bells or pulls and fitting services) in Windsor in the UK.

Now it is time to start your optimization activities and I am going to start with a hard message. If you already have a site and this is the first time you have seriously looked at SEO, then I would recommend starting again from scratch! Build a new site from the top-down and - when you are done - migrate across from your old site to the new. Don't worry about losing custom or links from other sites - there are ways to avoid that I will show you in the (final) part 10.

(a) Domain name Optimization

A newsflash for you. By far the most effective way to optimize keywords is to have them in the full URL for your page. The highest value part of that URL is the domain name itself.

I know what you are thinking. All the good domain names have gone by now. Well, you might be surpised (as you will soon see with Doug). Your second concern might be that you would prefer to use your business name as your URL. We will deal with both these concerns (in reverse order).

Try typing "search" into Google and you might expect to see Google put themselves first in the results, or Yahoo. It is search.com that ranks highest however! I rest my case. Domain names matter (whatever nonsense you might read on SEO forums).

Try http://www.laserpointers.co.uk and see what you find. If you dig about a bit, you'll find that the company behind this site (and several others) is Blue Sky Marketing.

At http://www.blueskymarketing.co.uk you will find their company website, but guess which of the two sites gets a top five ranking at Google UK for a search on "laser pointers"?

The bottom line is that (after you have done every other piece of optimization right) your domain name selection is perhaps the only area where you can further differentiate yourself from your competitors. As such, it may be your only realisatic chance (in this every more mature market) to achieve a top 10 ranking for some of your key search terms and - believe me - the traffic (and business) impact this has is literally amazing.

Now for the "all the good domain names have gone" issue. Doug makes a visit (as should you) to the excellent Keyword Domain Name Search Tool and, although plurals are out (pity), he finds the following two options are both still available for his top-selling product and biggest possible traffic draw:

http://www.antiquedoorknocker.com; and
http://www.antique-door-knocker.com

If you use your top three keywords as a combination, you too are likely to find a decent available domain (unless you are operating in a highly competitive area like real estate).

So which of these two should Doug choose? To hyphenate domain name or not? There is more disagreement on this amongst web masters than almost any other issue in SEO. In practice, this means that there is evidence supporting both options.. and, as such, you choice isn't critical. However, on balance (and without boring you with the details), I would suggest you do hyphenate in the domain name if you have a choice (if only to help with your page titles; more on this later).

(b) URL name Optimization

You'll remember I suggested a separate page for each product, service or key piece of information. Well, I would also have a seperate directory for each product or service category (limiting the directory name to two, hyphenated key words). As such, Doug settles on three directories, covering his three main categories:

http://www.antique-door-knocker.com/door-hardware/
http://www.antique-door-knocker.com/antique-doors/
http://www.antique-door-knocker.com/door-fitting/

I wouldn't go down to sub-dirctories below this unless you have a particularly large number of products in your catalogue (and therefore recognisable sub-categories). Too many key words will reduce the overall density of any one word within the whole URL.

(c) File extension Optimization

For your (page) file name, I would use up to three key words, again hyphenated. For the file extension I would always opt for static .html file extensions where possible. Dynamiclly generated file extensions (that include "?" or "%" in the query string) have been shown to confuse search engines.

Extending Doug's example, he comes up with 45 different pages under hardware, of which the following five are examples:

../door-hardware/brass-door-knobs.html
../door-hardware/iron-door-knobs.html
../door-hardware/door-bell-pulls.html
../door-hardware/door-bell-chimes.html
../door-hardware/brass-door-knockers.html

In some cases, he has duplicate products on different pages. For example, everything on the door chimes page also appears on the door pull page. Doug disdcovered during his key word analysis phase that Americans tended to search on chimes, whilst brits used pulls. Thus he needs both covered at this level.

(d) Navigation, Internal Links and Site Map Optimization

It may be a shock to some (particularly those who focus on Page Rank too much), but your home - or "index" - page has very little SEO value. A well ranking root index page is the exception rather than the rule. My advice is to treat the homepage as a pretty site map - pretty becuase it should impress human directory reviewers and a site map so that it directs search engine robots quickly to your sub content.

For opimizing the site map, imagine a droopy banana sat at the top of your page (drooping down the left hand side). This banana zone is where both human eyeballs and search engines will look most. Make sure your links use key words only for anchor text and link directly to your second and third levels. A truncated example version (for Doug) would sit in the top left corner of his home page - and look like this:

Door Hardwares Brass Door Knobs Iron Door Knobs Door Bell Pulls Door Bell Chimes Brass Door Knockers Antique Doors Edwardian Doors Victorian Doors Door Fitting Surrey Door Fitters Middlesex Door Fitters

More value is ascribed to internal links (with good anchor text) than many people seem to realize. I am often surprised at how many people spend ages trying to secure inbound links from other sites (more on this later) but have no decent, keyword-rich navigation within their own site (where, after all, everything is under their own control).

Search engines uses the anchor text on inbound links to determine the relevance of the target page. In fact Google even has a special operator: 'allinanchor:keyword', which picks up text only from within the anchor text of indexed pages. Try comparing any straight search in Google with it's allinanchor equivalent. For example, "swimming pools" versus "allinanchor:swimming pools".

You'll probably notice that the top-ranked straight search site is invariably the top-ranked allinanchor site (whilst others further down the list may vary substantially). Don't neglect to focus on this area in your SEO strategy!

Next we turn our attention to page optmization...

Navigate the guide

Previous : SEO Expert Guide - Keyword Analysis (part 3/10)

Next: SEO Expert Guide - Page Optimization (part 5/10)

About the author:

David Viney ([email protected]) is the author of the Intranet Portal Guide; 31 pages of advice, tools and downloads covering the period before, during and after an Intranet Portal implementation.

Read the guide at http://www.viney.com/DFV/intranet_portal_guide or the Intranet Watch Blog at http://www.viney.com/intranet_watch.

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