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Search Engine Ranking - 'Getting it Right From the Start'

By: Carl Hruza

Carl Hruza operates a successful web promotion and search ranking business, and offers advice on all aspects of Internet Marketing and Promotion. Email Carl at or visit his site at

There are many ways that you can improve the probability of achieving higher search engine rankings for your web site. For most of us who already operate web sites, it can be a painful and costly process. Applying 'search engine ranking' techniques retrospectively can mean dissecting web pages and trying to add new elements to the page without 'upsetting' the visual appearance of the site. Having your web pages 'picked-apart' by 'search-engineers' is not a pretty sight!

For those just considering a new web site, or those considering an overhaul to their existing sites, you have a great opportunity, so don't waste it.

Most issues that adversely affect search engine ranking are built-in during the design, and are more difficult, often impossible to remove once the design is complete. If you are fortunate to be at the design stage of planning a web site, or preparing to rework your existing site, then there are a few simple things you should do.

Talk with your designer and ask them what steps he or she will implement to ensure your site is 'search engine friendly'. If you pre-arm yourself with a little knowledge of the subject, you can easily gauge from their reaction just how search engine friendly your site will be. Intervene if you think it necessary and take corrective actions before the fundamental design elements are

The basic elements you should review are:

Include all the important Meta tags on all pages. Keywords, Description and Title tags should be included as a minimum, and each should be set to focus on the content of the specific page, remaining where possible within the 'theme' of the site. Add 'robot instruction' tags indicating which pages should be indexed by the search engines and which should not. If you have pages that detract from the overall theme of the site, use the robot exclusion tag within the opening , to exclude search engines from visiting those pages. Avoid using 'Meta Refresh' tags that automatically direct the viewer to a different page. If you must use 'refresh' set the time to a minimum of 15 seconds, or use the robot exclusion tag described above. Design a navigation structure that allows search engines to crawl the important content pages from the home page. This can be done easily using transparent image files and setting them as hyperlinks. Remember that using Java, Flash software or 'Frames' to facilitate navigation, can often present a 'closed door' to search engines, preventing key areas of your site from being indexed.

Use the alt-image attribute and name images descriptively. Some search engines read the alt text and it can help, though marginally. Name pages using keywords. Instead of 'page2.html' use 'american-ginseng.html', if your site is about herbal products!

If your site uses 'Frames' there are important techniques to consider. Many search engines cannot navigate through the Framed section of a site, unless the Frames are prepared in a specific way. As a minimum, ensure your designer includes a detailed description about your business, products or services on the 'noframes' page, and ask them to research specific information about Frames and search engines. If the site design uses dynamic content pages as with ASP, consider designing additional pages that use static HTML. Having an 'about us' page in HTML is always a good strategy when using dynamic content or 'active server pages'.

If your designer is using Macromedia Flash software, to enhance the visual appearance of the site, make sure that your descriptive text is not created within 'movie' files. This is true for text within any kind of image file, the search engines cannot read it. Consider having two paths through the site 'Flash' and 'non-Flash'. Ensure your site has a good deal of descriptive content. This is the most important aspect for search engines and also for your visitors. Content-rich sites invariably fair much better than those with minimal text content. These are some of the basics to consider when designing or re-designing your web site.

Careful design and consideration to the basics is often enough to secure good page rankings with some of the leading engines. If your site design follows the above guidelines, it will be much easier to 'fine-tune' pages at a later stage if necessary.

If your site is already online then the above techniques can still be applied retrospectively, though making changes is always more difficult than getting it right the first time.

© Copyright 2000, Carl Hruza

Other Articles by Carl Hruza

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