Zoonini Web Services - ZooNews - Issue 9 January 2006

Happy 2006 to all, and welcome to the first ZooNews of the New Year! We hope you enjoy this issue of the monthly newsletter from Montreal Web design company Zoonini Web Services and encourage you to send us your suggestions and feedback.

-- Tip for Tat --

We've reached the final installment of our three-part crash course in search-engine optimization (SEO): linking strategies. (If you missed either of the first two parts, check out our tips and advice on optimizing Web content and Web design.)

We will look at three elements of linking strategies: internal site links, incoming links from relevant sites, and directory links.

Internal Links

Although it may not seem obvious, links within your own site can help boost your search-engine results. These include links in your site navigation and site map page, as well as links within the text of your site leading to other pages in your site. In each of these contexts, the words you apply the link to should include your targeted keywords wherever possible. For example, if you sell frozen fish and your homepage gives a product overview, take that opportunity to link any relevant keywords (i.e. "halibut") to the specific page within your site focusing on that particular fish, such as your page devoted to the mighty halibut.

Incoming Links

Another factor contributing to your search-engine ranking is whether other quality, relevant sites are linked to your own. For example, get your frozen-fish site listed with a link at as many food- and fish-related sites as possible. Search engines like to see incoming links from industry organizations and other sites that are relevant to your business in some obvious way; it gives your site added credibility. Other possibilities could include sites in related industries, such as dipping sauces and gourmet food stores.

Incoming links are also sometimes referred to as "backlinks" and are most valuable if the words being linked to your site include your targeted keywords. For example, a link from the words " XYZ High Seas - gourmet frozen fish" is more valuable than a link from "XYZ High Seas Inc."

Steer clear of so-called "link farms" – sites filled with unorganized links to masses of unrelated sites. Not only are these sites useless in terms of SEO, if a link farm is blacklisted by a search engine such as Google, your site's ranking could be negatively affected.

Another issue worth mentioning is that getting a spate of incoming links very quickly  – especially if your site is new – may cause your site to be "sandboxed" – flagged as potential spam and removed from the search-engine index until a human being can verify its legitimacy. Slow and steady is the recommended approach to building incoming links.

Directory Submissions

Submit your site to general and specialized directories, in the appropriate category. DMOZ (aka the Open Directory) and Zenome take free submissions but make no guarantee as to when your site will be listed. Yahoo! currently charges US$299/year to submit a commercial site to its directory, but submission to its search index is free.

Directories are organized within a hiearchical category system, similar to a library. Submit your site to the most appropriate category possible, since a human being evaluates each submitted site to make sure the category fits and the proposed description meets the directory's criteria. (In contrast, search engines are databases of sites collected by automated "crawlers" or "robots" that scour the Web for new sites.)

For our frozen-fish emporium, this category in DMOZ may be a good fit:

Business: Food and Related Products: Meat and Seafood: Seafood: Fish

In addition to general directories, submit your site to more specific directories such as regional listings (country-, province- or city-specific), professional associations and networking groups you belong to, and any other place where it makes sense for your business to be found.

You may be wondering, "So when do I submit my site to Google?" Well, if you've followed the advice in our three-part series – and now have a well-optimized site – Google will find it soon enough, and you don't need to worry about submitting it. If it makes you feel better, you may use their submission page.

Go Further

Hungry to learn even more about SEO? Luckily, there are a wealth of online resources to explore; here are a few good places to start:

And so...

Even if it's taken us three issues, we've really only scratched the surface of the constantly changing, sometimes controversial, topic of search-engine optimization. Although we haven't covered everything (for example, we barely touched the subject of paid listings) we hope this overview gives you a good sense of the SEO basics.

Many thanks to my colleague Charlotte Riley for allowing me to borrow from the handout she prepared for an SEO round table we led last fall.

-- GeekSpeak --

Earlier we spoke about the importance of putting keywords into linked text. Anchor text is the term for the linked text itself. For example, you may have noticed that in the past three issues of ZooNews, we linked the words "Montreal Web design company" in the intro paragraph to Zoonini's homepage, and I've done it again right here. These linked words show you how we might use keywords in anchor text to try to boost Zoonini's ranking for these particular search terms.

Another way to easily get more valuable anchor text links is to avoid putting links on the words "Click here." Why waste a valuable internal link on keywords as generic and meaningless as "click here"? Use the opportunity instead to include some keywords in the anchor text, for example by linking from the phrase "buy gourmet frozen food here" instead.

Got a technology term you'd like demystified in ZooNews? Send it to questions@zoonini.com.

-- Liftoff --

Last month we unveiled a new site for Montreal professional organizer Catherine Desjeunes's kaosZAPP. Featuring a colourful but clean layout, this site illustrates how keeping a Web design simple can often achieve handsome and effective results.

-- ZooBytes --

For over three years, I worked full-time at online search directory LookSmart, where I first met my trusted SEO partner Charlotte Riley. While evaluating thousands of sites during that time, we saw both the worst and the best, and learned what works and what doesn't. Since then, we've worked together to create well-optimized sites that achieve excellent results for our clients. Follow our advice to give your site the best possible chance at being found among your many Web competitors!

À la prochaine,

aka Kathryn Presner

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