Saturday, January 07, 2006

SEO to GO I. Travel Site Optimization

In some ways SEO is a lot simpler than most people think. As search engines have improved, SEO has become more intuitive, simply making sure you write information well suited to the topic. Despite this positive trend, search for travel remains of questionable value, increasingly leading to booking sites when you want information sites and (less frequently) the opposite.

Here are some very basic but fundamental ideas on how to optimize a site so it can gain it's appropriate rank in the search engines.

Overall this is a good guiding principle (write for the users), but it's also important to make sure your pages conform to the broadly accepted "search friendly" structures below plus what you'll read at the Google webmaster guidelines.

* Create real, original, and helpful content.

* Make sure the important words that represent the content of the page, the "keywords", are used fairly often on the page, appropriately, and in context. You can actually ruin a page's rank by "keyword stuffing" which is using important text too often. I suggest as a good very general rule to use the keywords slightly more (I'd suggest two times more) than you would in your normal writing.

* When naming pages use URLs that correspond to the subject of the page. e.g. a page about "Google in China" could be named "google-in-china.htm" or china-google.htm. Most SEOs recommend separation of words with hyphens over underscores but it's likely they are equivalent to most algorithms.

* Work to obtain as many "in bound links" to your site as you can. Buying links is no longer a good technique and even trading with other sites appears to be of questionable value. Ideally your site or article will be SO GOOD others will link to you. Yes, this is a VERY tough part of the game.

* Work to have the "anchor text", that is the linking text, from those inbound links match the keyword of the page it's linking to. e.g. the hyperlink to this article should look something like the following link: Travel SEO

* The TITLE TAG of the page should also reflect the important keywords. e.g. The title of a page about travelling to Nanjing China should be something like "Nanjing China Travel"

There are few "magic bullets" in SEO unless you've screwed up a technical item or do a really bad thing, get a penalty, and then don't understand the reinclusion process. More on those later.

In fact search engines have become so concerned about manipulations of their algorithms (search routines) that in my opinion the best SEO is now done internally by subject experts and NOT by hiring fancy self annointed "experts".

In fact I have a GREAT case study from my own company showing how expert SEOs are not of much (any!) help even with fairly substantial time and money, but more on my very interesting KeywordRanking.com experiment and experiences soon.

JoeDuck's Blog

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