When one talks about search engines, Google is the one that generally springs to mind, however, there are many other reliable search engines that people use regularly such as Bing, Ask, Yahoo!, Dogpile and DuckDuckGo, so it is important not to focus all your efforts on just being listed on Google. Whilst it is commendable that Google are trying to eliminate spam from search results, their systems are not infallable and some genuine sites have been penalised during the processes. Having a presence on other popular or niche search engines can really help promote your website and increase traffic to your site. It is still important to ensure that your website is geared to attract search engines and that you stick to the rules. By structuring your site so that the search engines will recognise it and that their spiders can find their way around it in order to map and index it. This is why your content must be relevant and unique whilst containing a smattering of pertinent keywords. So, how do you know if your site is search engine friendly? Take a look at this article to help you decide.
While all these things may make the site look better, they do little to nothing in terms of search engine optimisation (SEO) without adding descriptive information about those resources which are visible to a search engine (but not necessarily visible to your site visitors).
It is important that your website can be found by people who are looking for its content, therefore you must serve content to search engine ‘bots’ in a way that they can interpret, analyse and identify how relevant it is to the search query.
For this to happen, you need to bring to the attention of the ‘bots’ important information about the page using various techniques detailed below – almost like a ‘signpost’ telling the ‘bot’ what the page contains. It will then compare what you tell it the page is about, with what it finds by itself, and run various algorithms to check if the page is in fact relevant. It also runs other checks to make sure that you are not trying to cheat the system using ‘black hat’ or ‘grey hat’ tactics to make your page rank higher.
It is also possible to add contextual information to your website which helps the ‘bot’ to understand the context of the information it is indexing, ultimately resulting in more appropriate search results pages when people are searching for topics.
Using a Sitemap
While search engines can usually find your pages by the way they are linked from other places on the internet, it is good practice to create a Sitemap which gives search engine ‘bots’ a list of the pages on your website – think of it as a map to find all the content on your site.
Sitemaps are not only important for search engines, they are also very helpful for people with disabilities who may need a simple interface to view your site structure and navigate around the site without using your menu structures. W3C Working Group Note on Sitemaps
A sitemap serves several purposes:
- Provides a structured list showing an overview of all content on your website
- Allows a visitor to quickly get an overview of your site structure
- Provides an alternative way of navigating your website, without the need for complex menu structures
- Provides search engines with a means of finding content which might not be available through your menu structures (e.g. landing pages)
Types of Sitemap
It is possible to provide sitemaps for specific types of information, including:
- Video Google help on video sitemaps
- Images Google help on image sitemaps
- Mobile URLs Google help on mobile URL sitemaps
- News Google help on News sitemaps
These specialist sitemaps allow you to provide information relating to the specific media type – for example with a video sitemap you can provide information about the running time, category and family friendly status; with image sitemaps you can specify the subject of the image, its license for use, and type of image. Click here to continue reading