Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

You may have gotten emails claiming that they can make sure your website is on the first page of all the major search engines. Quite a trick if they could do it. This page will explore how much of that is true, and what you can actually do to improve your website's chances of being found on a web search.

First, one warning. If you got an email claiming they could improve your search engine ranking, the only thing you know about that company is thay they use spam. So if you click on their link, even to get something like a “free assessment” of your website, you have already given them something of value. They can now sell your email address to another spammer as someone who is likely to click on a spam email. Please, just don't do it. If you really have a lot of money to spend on search engine optimization (these companies charge a lot for what they do), at least try to find out which is a legitimate company and contact them.

What is SEO?

To us, SEO means two things. There are certain techniques that can help you get the search engine ranking that you actually deserve. Both Google and Bing have suggestions to web designers and developers about how to do that. And there are plenty of articles on the Web about how best to design your website for search engine optimization.

What SEO companies try to sell you usually goes beyond what you deserve to how to take advantage over websites that are actually better and more useful than yours. This is not what Google and Bing (and Yahoo and others) want. Actually, they want to give priority first to those who pay them for advertising, but after those, they want their other customers, the users of the search engine, to find the best site to answer their question.

This sets up a kind of arms race between search engine companies and search engine optimization companies. The search companies change their search algorithms frequently. This means that the SEO companies are always trying to figure those algorithms out, and how they can trick them. The search companies then figure out how the SEO companies are getting around them, and change the programs so that the SEO company tricks are nullified, or even penalized.

SEO Titles

Every page should have a Title Tag. This is the short description that most browsers put up in the title bar, usually along with the name of the browser. The first part of the title may also appear in the tab when you have more than one page open at a time. Keep it 50 to 60 characters or less. Browsers and search engines will chop off more than that. Many search engines will use the Title Tag as a heading in the SERPs.

SEO Descriptions

A meta description can be supplied for each page. If it is present, search engines like Google and Bing will usually use that in their SERPs. If not, the search engine will extract some text from the page, which may or may not be what you'd like searchers to see when searching for your site. Keep this description no longer than 150 or 160 characters. More will be ignored.

SEO Keywords

There is such a thing as “meta keywords”. Some people still place them in the HEAD of the page. Almost all search engines ignore these, and those that don't may actually use them to penalize your page if those keywords do not show up on the page. So we recommend not using them.

But when SEO people talk about keywords, they may not be talking about these keywords. They may be talking about key words, important words that are in the Title, the Description, or early in the text of the page. If you'd like people to find your page when they are searching for Corozal, then consider including it in the Title, the Description, and/or early in the page. But don't try to include a bunch of words from a thesaurus; search engines are smart enough to know that a resort and a hotel are basically the same thing, as are rooms and suites.

Be the Best Site

Everyone would like for their website to rank highest in SERPs. The search engines have a different goal. First, they want to service their advertisers, so they will rank them first, usually giving you a clue that they are paid advertisers. After that, they want to list, in order, the pages that are most likely to answer the visitor's questions. So if you're in a highly competitive business, like a hotel/resort or tour business, your best hope is to BE the best site for your target audience. Give them good information, besides just marketing your services. Make your site someplace that other related businesses will link to as a service to their customers. Find ways to give more to site visitors than your competitors are giving.

Make Frequent Changes

Search engines will usually give some priority to sites that look like they are active, changing something at least once a month. Older sites may look like they are abandoned (many are). So find a way to make at least a small change, on at least your home page, fairly often.

Resources

These sites have some good, current information:

SearchEngineWatch.com

MetaTags.org

Hobo-Web.co.uk

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