Monday, May 4, 2009

Search Engine Optimization - Part IV - Redesigning Your Site

How Does Google See My Site?
Click on the "Google Webmaster Tools" link in the "Helpful Web Tools" toolbox to the right. Once there, click on the "Statistics" link, then click on the "What Googlebot sees", and scroll down down to the "In Your Site's Content" section. This will tell you, based on the content of your site, the keywords that Google uses to rank your site in priority order.

Your goal over time will be to make this list look very similar to the keyword list you have come up with.

Re-Categorize Items
Look through the categories you currently have on your website. They may appear to make sense to you, but they need to make sense to your customers, and more importantly, they need to help searchers find your site.

Take a look at your keyword list. As I said before, this list will help you throughout the rest of this process, so make sure to put a good amount of time into developing it. How do the categories that you use on your site correspond with your keyword list? Most likely your categories will be on every page in your site, so make sure they are items near the top of your keyword list.

Reformat Your Pages
As we discussed previously, Google gives more prominence to words that appear closer to the top of your pages, and words that appear more frequently. This can explain why Google has ranked certain keywords very high for your website that do not match your keyword list goals.

For example, if you show shopping cart information on every page of your store, Google will give more weight to those words, such as "cart" or "quantity". Those are not the words you want Google to recognize your site for. Be very careful about what you put on your site, and where. Everything should have a purpose.

Given Google's keyword list for your site we retrieved at the beginning of this article , you can begin to see the types of changes that need to be made, and you can start giving priority to certain words over others. You will also want to add some items to your site, and remove others.

An important concept to keep in mind is that Google cannot "see" your web page, it can only read the HTML code that makes up the page. Web pages allow us to put elements visually at the top of the page, but these same elements do not have to be a the top of the code. If you are able to edit your HTML code, you can put the most important elements at the top of the page code, but place them visually wherever you want them to be.

Since you will want to promote some keywords, and demote others on your pages, it will be important to have a structure that will allow you to separate the order of the information in your HTML code, and the order of the elements visually on your screen. If you are able to edit your HTML code, you can do this using cascading style sheets (CSS). See the "HTML Tutorial" and "CSS Tutorial" links in the "Helpful Web Tools" section above to the right.

If someone developed your site for you, have a discussion with them about how you can move those elements of your page that are more important to the top of the HTML code without moving their visual placement. However, if it does not matter where your elements are visually, than you can just order the information on your site the same visually, and in the HTML code.

If you cannot edit your own HTML code, don't worry. There is still a lot you can do. I suggest that you familiarize yourself with how to create HTML code. Then, go to your online store and select the "View Source" menu option. This will show you what the HTML code for you pages looks like. From there you can experiment with the type of information you put into your ecommerce solution and how it affects your HTML code.