SEO & Website Design

Optimization Tips When Rebuilding a Site

As you rebuild your website, I offer the following general tips regarding site structure as it pertains to Search Engine Optimization.

There are two sets of rules for optimizing websites.

One is for enterprise-level sites that expand to hundreds, or thousands, of pages, are supported by teams of professional technical and marketing people, and are funded by full-blown marketing budgets that exceed the annual income of most entrepreneurs.

The other set is for you and me, people who own and operate businesses that are built upon our own efforts, businesses that face daily hurdles that require our personal attention, businesses whose potential is dependent upon us.

The challenging reality is that we owner-operators compete directly online with the super-funded mega sites. The interesting outcome of this uneven competition is that we, the little guys, have the advantage!

By focusing upon, and measuring results based upon, our market niche and geographic locale, we the little guys can almost always overcome the nationally known brand names that thrive so robustly on the web.


Our set of optimization rules are headed by three enduring mantras:

Keep it simple, use html
Be generous in giving free information
Offer volumes of targeted, original, narrative text
(repeat each ten times before sitting down to envision your site)

Once those rules are firmly in your head, you are ready to start laying out your site. The most optimizable layouts are done in CSS. Eventually, we will all use CSS layout (or some evolutionary form of CSS) because the W3C is driving the industry in that direction and because CSS allows site designers to determine in exactly what order search engines read their page.

But, CSS layout is tedious for the beginner. Unless you are a site design professional you may not want to learn CSS layout for the one or two sites you will be managing. A table-based layout with a CSS style sheet is an acceptable alternative (at least for now).


It is still advisable to avoid Flash. I know, this is a statement that raises reactive screams from Flash admirers, and many of their objections are valid. But, I remain opposed to anything more than incidental use of Flash elements in most websites. My reasons are numerous. Flash is, at best, a black hole as far as search engines are concerned. Even with textual undercoding and search engines' new limited ability to read Flash text, it is still an absolute fact that the same page real estate could be put to better optimization use by placing text or a well-tagged graphical image in the same space. In addition, embedding Flash almost always introduces coding errors. Adherents say that the Satay method of embedding Flash is acceptable, but even this must be done with care and double-checking in order to avoid errors. But, my strongest reason for cautioning against Flash is that it is time-dependent. Flash demands that your viewer devote some specific amount of time viewing your message. Web readers often react negatively to attempts to control their time. Placing the same message in text or as a static image allows the viewer to stay or click at whatever pace they choose. Avoid causing viewers to leave your page in frustration - Avoid Flash.


There are three meta tags that still affect search engines. They are, in descending order of importance; title, description, and keywords. Proper use and formatting of these three tags can have a significant positive influence in your site's search engine indexing.

Title should load as much prime information as possible into the first five words and should extend to approximately 10 - 15 words. Ideally it should be structured so that ANY partial clip, four words, five words, seven, etc., would result in an informative statement about the site.

Description is similar to the title but is in paragraph form and extends to 20 - 150 words (although many would argue that anything beyond fifty words adds little or nothing to the value of this tag). The first five, seven, nine, and ten words must be good stand-alone descriptive statements.

Keywords are easy, a list of 20 - 150 words and phrases that relate to the page's main subject.

All three tags will change from page to page. Do not use one set of tags for all your pages. Make them topical and relevant to the page. Index page tags can refer to the entire site.


Producing a keyword/key phrase list of 150 search terms is a terrific business exercise. Simply by thinking through your entire business to find these terms you will refocus your thoughts and trigger creative business insights Then, as you begin writing content for your site, you will have these terms available for use in your narrative.

Validate all page code. Go to to validate code. This is the source, the W3C. Do not rely upon third-party validators. Until several months ago code validation was not important. Most site designers ignored the subject altogether. Virtually no one produced error-free code. Then, in late 2006 or early 2007, Google decided to support the W3C's standards by penalizing sites for not using valid code. It suddenly became nearly impossible to rank at the top of any categorical search unless your page was error-free.

Create pages that are interesting and valuable beyond just your marketing message. Give away free advice. Be sure that some of your pages are devoted entirely to communicating to the reader valuable insights into your area of expertise.


Explain in detail what geographic area you service. List city names, regional identifiers (San Ramon Valley, East Bay, Northern California), states, area codes, etc. Provide as much detail as you can logically include in a readable page (or even two nested pages).

In addition to your detailed Contact and Service Area pages, include on every page basic contact information, email, phone, and mailing address.

For highly technical pages, have a "dumbed down" version of the same page linked to the technical description. Remember, your potential client may not know the technical terms that describe their need. When they search for your services, they may be using generic, monosyllabic search terms.

And, this is a tough concept for most of us to digest, launch your site long before it is a finished product. Unlike print material, a website does not have to be perfect immediately upon launch. Many of the reasons for this are subtle and take a while to explain, but the most obvious reason is, frankly, no one is going to see your brand new fresh site until days or weeks after it goes live! All that traffic you are not getting now will still not be flooding to your site until many weeks after it is launched. Get the site up. Let search engines find and index it. Make revisions and corrections as fast as you can. But, PUT IT UP!

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