Search engine rankings. Those three words send chills down the spine of most Web marketers. Conventional wisdom holds that in order to compete with other sites for high search rankings, you have to hire a high-priced search engine optimization firm, or use pay-per-click search engines such as Overture.com and bid your way up the search results page. Either way, the bottom line is you now have to pay to get your site to show up in the search results, right?
Not necessarily. Many sites are designed using techniques that make it hard for search engines to understand their content. I call these design choices "roadblocks." There are several basic and easily implemented search engine optimization techniques that you can do in-house—a concept known in search engine optimization circles as building a search engine-friendly site. Removing search engine roadblocks from your site won’t necessarily vault you up the rankings, but depending on your industry niche, it very well could.
enginewatch.com.•Do not use dynamically generated pages, or if you have to, make sure the generated URLs are free of punctuation. If this isn’t possible, the only search engine that can index dynamic content is Google, so you’d better focus on submitting your dynamic content to it.•Make your site as flat as possible because search engines mostly crawl the top three levels of a site. Don’t build your site like this: www.yoursite.com/section1/section2/section3/section4 (which is a five-level-deep site). Instead, you should build it like this: www.yoursite.com, www.yoursite.com/section1, www.yoursite.com/section2, and so on. This way, each sub-directory is given the same position as the others, and all are only one level deep.•Make a site map page with text links to every page of your Web site. Submit this site map page to the search engines. This will help the search engines locate pages within your Web site.
The above guidelines can have a surprising impact on where your site ranks in search results. Most optimization firms would charge you plenty to redesign your site following these guidelines, so why not do it in-house first? If you don’t see improvement you can always hire an optimization firm, and you will have saved yourself some money.
Eric Wardis an online marketing and PR practitioner, and the publisher of URLwire. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.