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Because search engine optimization is a very broad subject, it is impossible to cover all of it in just one article. That is why the search engine related information at A Promotion Guide has been divided into multiple articles, each of which discuss one aspect of search engine optimization.

While this solution has many benefits, it also causes problems. It makes it easy to get lost in the details and fail to see the big picture. In short, there's the danger of not being able to see the forest from the trees.

The purpose of this article is to collect all the theoretical information on this site and turn it into practical suggestions. I'll attempt to list most of the various factors that determine the ranking of a page in search engines and estimate their importance or weight.

Rather than giving engine-specific advice, this article will outline a strategy that should work fairly well with all of them. Optimizing your site with this kind of "middle ground" approach is a good choice, especially if you aren't an experienced SEO.

On-page criteria
First, let's look at how the content of your page affects its ranking. Since you control the appearance of your pages, influencing the factors listed below is relatively easy. Due to that fact, page content only has a limited role in most algorithms. Yes, it is important, but reaching the top without paying attention to off-page criteria as well is extremely hard.

Page title
Currently, the title is probably the most significant part of your page as far as search engines are concerned. No search engine optimization process is complete until you've added your keyword to the <TITLE> tag.

Usually it is best to place the keyword phrase to the beginning of the title. Short titles containing around 3-6 words seem to be generally preferred by search engines. In longer titles, the keyword easily gets lost in the "noise", which causes the ranking of the page to drop.

If you're going for a two or three-word phrase, try to keep it together for maximum effectiveness. "Search engine optimization by Joe" beats "Joe is a search engine expert and optimization guru", if your keyword phrase is "search engine optimization".

It's not just for robots
The most challenging part is creating a title that is visitor-friendly and keyword rich at the same time. Not only is the title seen by those who visit the page, but it is also clearly displayed when the page appears in the search results.

Titles that are simply collections of keywords in bizarre order can get you to the top of the search results. However, they also tend to keep people from clicking your listing. It's hard, but try to strike a balance between search engines and humans to get the best results.

Headings
<H1> and <H2> headings also carry a lot of weight. While often ignored, they're a very effective search engine optimization tool. Their largest drawback is their large size, which makes it difficult to use a <H1> heading on some pages.

CSS can be used to reduce the size of headings, but only with great care. Extreme measures, such as the use of { display: none }, may get you banned.

Generally, I attempt to create headings that contain only the most vital keyword(s) and nothing else. This isn't always easy, as the heading must also make sense to those who read the page. Simply stuffing keywords inside the tag in random order is not going to cut it.

Body text
A well-optimized title and a good heading won't do much, unless the page also contains some keyword-rich body text. Preferably, your document should contain several occurrences of the keyword.

As many search engines place more weight to words found at the top of the page, so it's also very important that your keyword appears there. Again, you'll also need to make your writing seem natural. Nobody wants to read a page that is just one big list of keywords.

Using the keyword in bold, italics, underlined or in outgoing link text can also provide a minor boost. However, because it influences the readability of the document, be careful with this one as well.

Some body text optimization tricks
Just like with the title and heading, keeping long keyword phrases together in your body text is a must. However, if you can't do so, splitting the phrase up is better than not using it at all.

What about the number of keywords in body text? How often should you repeat it? If you're aiming at a 2-word keyphrase, start at somewhere around 1-3 instances per 100 words of text. Note that the 100-word figure includes all very commonly used words (I, he, what and so on).

META tags
The importance of meta tags has dwindled so much that many search engine optimization experts have completely stopped using them. Google completely ignores meta tags and other search engines don't place much weight on them either.

While the keyword tag is beginning to become fairly useless, the description tag isn't entirely dead yet. It still enables you to control the descriptions of your pages in FAST, Teoma and some other engines. Use it and strive to write an inspiring description that draws people to your pages.

Remember to read the Meta tags article for more information on the description and keyword tags.

Off-page criteria
Today, a large part of search engine optimization work involves manipulating off-page criteria. It is perhaps somewhat harder than influencing on-page criteria, but still far from impossible.

The number one rule of improving your off-page criteria is to have a great site. Good sites attract more links, which boosts their link popularity. They also have an advantage in search engines that use click popularity, because users are likely to spend more time on a site that isn't half-bad.

Link popularity
Here's some straight talk for you: Without good link popularity, your pages will never be able to compete under popular keywords. Having plenty of sites to point to your pages is extremely important for your ranking, especially in Google.

Yes, it's possible to compensate for a lack of links to a degree. Use all of the search engine optimization tricks listed above and you'll probably be able to beat pages that have more link popularity but are badly optimized. However, when your competitor has 6,000 on-topic links and you have six, no amount of optimization is going to make you pass him in the search results.

Thus, you'll need to build links in every way you can think of. Exchange reciprocal links, encourage your visitors to link to you, write newsletter articles and so on. Just try to make sure that when someone links to a page on your site, the link text includes your most important keyword. One more reason to include keywords in the headings and titles of your pages.

For more information about this subject, simply read my article about link popularity.

Click popularity
Safe to say, click popularity isn't nearly as crucial as link popularity. It has some weight in some engines, but isn't really a major factor in most of them. My general recommendation is to ignore click popularity at the moment and focus your search engine optimization efforts on other areas for now.

Still, click popularity is an interesting thing and learning the basics about it is a good idea. Search engine algorithms change all the time, so who knows if one day Google starts using click popularity in its algorithm.



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