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Search engine optimization - part 1


About this mini guide

Although this mini guide describes mostly "evergreen" methods of website optimization for search engines, some of these described methods could be outdated. Since search engine ranking algorithm is changed on a daily basis, and after every search engine update something other is favored, take these examples and methods as information only. Don't follow them, research.


How to optimize directories and file names for search engines

What to use - hyphens or underscores? Or dots, or plus sign, or slashes, what can be used to replace space in domain name, directory or filenames?

Think like search engines. If you own search engine and when you want to give relevant results for visitors, will you tweak ranking algorithm to exclude spammers. Yes.

And that is the secrets of good ranking. Monitor spamming techniques and avoid using the same on your sites. Those methods can work some time, but, when everybody starts to use exactly the same method, that will trigger spam filters and your site will sink with other spammy sites.


Domain names

Spammy domain names (keyword-keyword-keyword-keyword.com) are history. Search engine spam filter is triggered whenever domain name contains more than two or three words separated with hyphens. Keyword in domain name is still important, what is not important is, there is no difference if words are separated with hyphen or joined in one word (myspace.com and my-space.com) Use domain without hyphens, with keywords included.

To all who are asking questions about dots in domain names. It is not separator like hyphen is. keyword.domain.com is not the same as keyworddomain.com. "keyword" is the subdomain of domain.com and has less weight for search engine ranking than keyworddomain.com. Keyword in subdomain doesn't have weight as before, only large sites can benefit from subdomains (see about.com)

Yes, it is possible to make "keyword1.keyword2.domain.com" subdomain, just enter keyword1.keyword2 as subdomain name (where available) instead of one word subdomain. But, again, that is subdomain keyword stuffing, and soon or later that will be considered as spam.

Subdomain feature was abused from spammers too, but still can be used. Say, instead of two words domain. Things are changing daily, no wondering if that becomes popular again. One problem is that most of one-word domains are already taken from cybersquatters. So, it is almost impossible to find a good looking one-word domain what can be combined with subdomain.


With WWW or without WWW in domain name?

www.yoursite.com and yoursite.com are two different sites, that is how search engines are still looking at your domain. Always use www.yoursite.com in linking. Using Mod_Rewrite you could add 301 redirection to .htaccess (if apache server) to redirect requests for yoursite.com to the www.yoursite.com. You will be surprised how many pages will be redirected to WWW version. That will boost Google page rank for your site, too. This below is tested and it works.

RewriteEngine On
rewriteCond %{http_host} ^yoursite.com
rewriteRule ^(.*) http://www.yoursite.com/$1 [R=301,L]

Add above to .htaccess file and TEST it. Enter domain without WWW, and you should be redirected to www.yourdomain.com.

(Other examples of domain redirection you can find on domain name redirections and How to set preferred domain pages)


Directories and filenames - hyphens or underscores?

http://www.mykeyword.com/my_keyword2/my_keyword3.html
http://www.mykeyword.com/my-keyword2/my-keyword3.html
http://www.mykeyword.com/mykeyword2/mykeyword3.html

Which one is looking natural? Last one? True.
There was difference between hyphens and underscores and that was subject of many debates and articles. The fact is, that todays there is no difference between these two separators, at least using google search, keywords in file name separated with underscores are bolded, what means that Google considering underscore as separator, not as part of the word (in fact, it is part of the word). End of debates. I know, now starting about what is better... You can see that underscores are used on this site. That is not used to get better search engine position, that is because I am using that for years.

If you are in doubt, use hyphens (dashes) to separate word in page name. However, many dynamic websites are using htacess and mod_rewrite to generate search engine friendly URLs, using title of page as page name (hyphens used as separator).


Other files

All other files linked from HTML pages could be named to give little boost. So, you can name CSS and JavaScript files using keyword, but take a care that name(keyword) is related with those HTML pages.


Dynamic pages

Although dynamic pages can be indexed todays, urls with many parameters and especially sessions can be a problem. Session id in url could cause duplicate content problem. If your dynamic pages are not indexed, however, if you want descriptive and url with keywords, you can use htaccess and mod_rewrite to transform that ugly url to the search engine friendly url. Use keywords in parameters, or use Mod_Rewrite (apache server) to make "static" pages, i.e. spiderable site. Avoid sessions.


Natural path

In these examples below, there is no doubt for visitor where to look for something.

http://www.searchengines.com/tweak/title.html
http://www.apples.com/green/without_worms.html
http://www.hondacars.com/engine/parts.html

Here is logic (I hope, these are only examples) used instead of keyword stuffing. Using keywords in url and filename, but logically, can make happy search engine and visitors (if content is useful).

These urls below (examples only, not real urls) are examples of irrelevant path (url) and keyword stuffing (second example) without any benefit for user, behind those urls you can expect only unuseful content.

http://www.mymusicmp3.com/mp3/movies.html
http://www.cell-phone-phones.com/cellulars/cell-phone-cellulars.html

I think that you don't need additional clarification.


Who is the winner here?

Visitor is looking for recommended wheels for his Honda car.

http://www.wheels.com/recommended/hondacars.html
http://www.wheels.com/hondacars/recommended.html
http://www.hondacars.com/recommended/wheels.html

All three will get visitors, maybe the last one has little advantage. With word honda in domain name it is looking like official site and page name reflect exactly what visitor is looking for.

Along with displayed title and description, url is displayed too. Naming directories and files using keywords and logic, can help you to get more targeted visitors than sites with better position at search engine results pages (SERPs)

Keyword in URL could help you to get better ranking, but, keep in mind that you need to impress visitor, not search engine.

So, go into their skin. If your site contains useful information for visitor, he will stay on site, if not, he will back to search engine. He is tracked and search engine then knows that your site has nothing to offer. Bad for you.

Few more examples, only for little better understanding:

body.com/hand/finger.html
or
body.com/hand/finger/nail.html
or
domain.com/problem/solution.html

Sometimes, site url displayed on search engine, if it is informative, can tell visitor more than description displayed. Think about that, then start to build sites. Pen and sheet of paper. Think. Write. Draw.





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