SEO 101

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Search Engine Optimization 101

This page is designed to help you understand Search Engine Optimization. The first section is dedicated to exactly what Search Engine Optimization is. The second section is designed to give you a firm foundation of Search Engine Optimization by providing you with the basics of how search engines actually work. The third and final section goes over some of the more popular SEO techniques when building a website. Due to the competitive nature of the Search Engine Optimization industry, we are unable to give you any of our own in house developed techniques. For further information on SEO you can check out our SEO Myths & Facts page which lists a number of myths and facts related to Search Engine Optimization. With that out of the way it is now time to begin exploring Search Engine Optimization.

What is Search Engine Optimization?

SEO or "Search Engine Optimization" is when a website is created with the specific purpose of showing up high in search engine results when specific keywords are looked up.

Understanding Search Engines

Search Engines are programs designed to provide web surfers with a list of websites containing information about a specific topic being looked up. The list of relevant websites is then listed in order of importance dictated by the algorithm of the search engine. A search engine algorithm is a mathematical equation used by search engines to determine the how important or relevant a webpage is to specific keywords being looked up. Although search engine algorithms are very complex, the overall concept is quite simple.

Search engine algorithm is made up of very specific criteria. When a person uses a search engine to look up a specific topic the search engine goes through every webpage it has ever indexed that contains those keywords and quickly matches each individual page up with its algorithm criteria. As the algorithm goes through your site and compares it to its criteria, points are either awarded or in some cases subtracted based on what is on your site. A simplified example would be when you decide to purchase a car. You are now the search engine and what you want is your algorithm. The first thing you do is figure out what kind of car you want. In this particular case we will go with a sports car. Now you have just narrowed your search for a car from every type of car to just sports cars. Next you might have a name brand preference. Again you narrow down your search and in this particular case we will say you are looking for a sports car made by an American company. Now that you have narrowed your selection down it is time to use your own algorithm to select the perfect car. The easiest way to do that is to make a list and give each car a number based on criteria between 1 and five.

  • Color
  1. Car A = 5 ( It's red and red is your favorite color )
  2. Car B = 2 ( It's yellow and yellow is not a color you like )
  3. Car C = 4 ( This car is blue and you like blue.. just not as much as red )
  4. Car D = 5 ( This car is also red )
  • Price
  1. Car A = 3 ( This is a very expensive car. You can afford it but pricey )
  2. Car B = 5 ( This car is very inexpensive. You can afford easily )
  3. Car C = 1 ( This particular car is ridiculously expensive )
  4. Car D = 2 ( This car is a bit more expensive than car A )
  • Speed
  1. Car A = 1 ( This car is very slow )
  2. Car B = 5 ( This is the fastest car of the bunch )
  3. Car C = 3 ( This car is respectable in the speed department )
  4. Car D = 4 ( Fast car.. just not the fastest )

Of course when you purchase a car you have a lot more criteria than color, price and speed however for this example we will keep it simple. The next step is to tally up the points for each car.

  • Car A = 9
  • Car B = 12
  • Car C = 8
  • Car D = 11

According to your own personal algorithm car B is the best choice. This is how search engine algorithms work. The main difference is that you know all the criteria of your own personal car purchasing algorithm but with search engines no single person knows all the criteria or the points system associated with those criteria. Every search engine has its own unique algorithm so what works for one search engine may not work for another one. I'm sure now you are probably wondering why even attempt to SEO a website if nobody knows the criteria they are building a site to adhere to. The answer is simple. Over time a lot of proven SEO techniques have been developed and a more and more of the common criteria that each search engine algorithm contains is becoming public knowledge.

Of course the next question is how does a search engine compare billions of websites and return the result in a matter of seconds. The answer is indexing. Search engines have robots that crawl the internet site by site following links and as they do so they send information back to the main database. When you perform a search on a topic you are actually just querying a database. Because the search results are actually information inside a database, it is not uncommon to have old results for websites or web pages that no longer exist. Some search engines do not have robots to do indexing for them. Instead they use the DMOZ database which is a massive database of websites. Submitting your website to DMOZ is free and is highly recommended.

SEO Techniques

Now that we know what Search Engine Optimization is and have an understanding of how search engine work it's time to get into how to use that information and make your website show up high in the search engine results page.

Search Engine Optimization Research:

The first thing you need to do is research and planning. You can't build a house without blueprints and plans and the same goes for building a Search Engine Optimized website. Take some time and look at competitive websites by using Yahoo and Google to search for the keywords you want your website to be found under. When you are doing this research, pay attention to the content of the website, the meta tags on the pages, and how the site is laid out. Use Google and Yahoo because chances are each search engine will bring back different results and this will give you a more accurate barometer of your competition.

Search Engine Optimization Layout Design:

Once you have done your research, you then need to create a layout for your site. You take the information you obtained via your research to determine what links or pages your site should contain as well as how much content to put in your site. The rule of thumb is to always make sure you have more content. Remember, the search engines are indexing your page. They don't care what it looks like just what it contains. With that said a website that contains more content in the eyes of a search engine is more important and relevant to that of a website with less content. Another important aspect of laying out your new Search Engine Optimized website is the number of images and size of each image. When you use a large number of images or images that have a large file size, you are taking up value able content area and increasing the amount of time it takes for your website to load in a visitor's browser. Some search engines actually use load speed as a criteria in their algorithm. One of the most important elements of your layout is the links. Whenever and where ever possible use text links. Search engine robots can follow text links very easy and the actual text that is used for the link ( also known as the anchor text ) is compared to the location it links to. The relevance of the link and the number of links are all parts of every search engine's algorithm.

Constructing a Search Engine Optimized Website:

Assuming you have your layout and all your content ready to be inserted into your website it is time to start the actual construction. One of the known factors in the search engine algorithm is content text to code ratio. This is the ratio of code on your webpage compared to the actual content text on the site. The higher the ratio is in favor of the content the better it is for your ranking. One of the best ways to lower the amount of code in your webpage is to use a CSS based site. By using CSS, your website will be more cross browser compatible, have less overall code within the page, and load much quicker. If you do not know CSS then I suggest you learn it. Now knowing CSS is not going to single handedly ruin your chances at a high search engine result ranking, however it will not help you in anyway. It is possible to build Table/Cell based webpages that are search engine optimized. One thing you should always be aware of when constructing your search engine optimized web page is your alternate text. Alternate text is an alternate description of images on your site. Not only does it make your site more accessible, it also gives you another opportunity to add a couple keywords.

Adding Content to Your Search Engine Optimized Site:

With your site all planned out, laid out, and constructed it is now time to add your content. The best way to create content for your website is to use a good word processor program like Microsoft Word and type it up there. This will allow you to do all your spelling and grammar checks before placing the content into your webpage. Once you have put in your content, you should then do a keyword density analysis. This is where you use a free web based tool to check the ratio of specific keywords in relation to the rest of the content on your webpage. For instance, if you make a website about books and use the term "books" 10 times and have a websites that contains 10,000 words your keyword density is .001% which is very bad. A good keyword density is in the range of 5% to 8%. Less than 5% is not usually enough if the keywords are popular, and over 8% could be viewed by search engines as keyword saturating. There are a lot of keyword density tools available on the internet to choose from. My personal choice is located at http://www.seochat.com .

Check Your Site For Errors:

Your site may have a great keyword density, be CSS based, have easy navigation, and be full of content but you are still not done. The next thing you should do it check to make sure there are no code errors in your site. Despite the fact your site looks fine on all the major web browsers, that does not mean it is error free. Here is a perfect example. The best place to check to see if your site has errors is to visit w3c.org. Enter the URL of your webpage into the "validate by url" field and it will give you the results. If you have any errors on your page it will list them in order so you can go back and correct them. If your site passes validation you will receive a congratulations and some code you can place inside your site that verifies that your site is XHTML compliant. ( Every page on WebDuck Designs has been validated for CSS and XHTML and the official seal is on the bottom right corner of every page. ) Did you validate your homepage? If so now you need to validate every other page in your site. Remember search engines index every page so any errors will be found.

Link Check:

You are almost done. Now you need to check and make sure every single link on your website works. All search engines hate broken links so the last thing you want to do is have your site contain something search engines hate. If you have a broken link but don't have a place for it to go to yet then I suggest removing the code that makes it a link.

Meta Tags:

In the world of search engine optimization no single topic is debated more than meta tags. What I don't understand is why people spend so much time debating the importance of meta tags when the fact remains that if you do it right meta tags can only help your site. You are probably wondering why I left meta tags at the end and/or didn't include them in with the site construction. The reason is properly made meta tags can only be made after your content has been added. The words you use within your meta tags HAVE to be present within your site's content at least once. If not it looks like you are trying to keyword saturate and search engines will penalize you in their results. There are two main meta tags to concentrate on.

  • Keywords - Keywords are a list of words or phrases separated by comas. Make sure you are very selective with what words you use because you have a limit of 250 characters and the words MUST be present within the content of the webpage the meta tag is in.
  • Description - Make your description a nicely formatted sentence or two describing your site. Make sure to incorporate a keyword or two if possible. You should also make sure your description is different for each particular page

Title Tag:

How many of you have seen the title of a site similar to this "Welcome to WebDuck Designs"? Well that is a perfect example of a bad page title. A good page title contains keywords. Unless someone is searching for your particular website, having your company name in the title is useless. Look at the title for this page for an example of a good Search Engine Optimized title.

Final Tweaking:

It will take a while for search engines to index you and place you high on the rankings even with a perfect SEO site. After about 30 days you should check your site statistics and make minor tweaks in your site's content by adjusting keywords and overall content.


As you can see from above, building a search engine optimized website is relatively easy but requires a lot of time and effort. Some of the other things you can do to help increase your search engine ranking include back linking and pay per click advertising. Search engines reward sites that have a large number of relevant inbound links. The more links you have to your site from similar sites the more important search engines think your site is. As far as the pay per click goes, this is a double edged sword. Most of website owners prefer to use SEO a website to avoid having to spend the money on pay per click. For new websites sometimes it is a good idea to actually do some pay per click for a couple of months to help create some traffic. Web traffic is also an important criterion in the search engine algorithm. The more traffic your site gets the more important and relevant your site seems to the search engine thus the higher you will rank in the results.

If you are having issues with SEO or just don't have the time to invest in creating a properly optimized website then you may want to consider having WebDuck Designs build one for you. You can check out our SEO page for pricing and details.

Still looking for more information about Search Engine Optimization? WebDuck Designs online learning center, WebDuck University, has video courses and tutorials to to teach you all the basics of SEO.

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