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malevolent design weblog

This blog is now defunct, but you can find more stuff over at my personal site

Finishing Touches: Search Engine Optimisation

SEO has acquired a bit of a shady reputation over the years. If you run a commercial web site, chances are you’ve been approached by firms offering “guaranteed placement” with a “money-back guarantee”, and if you took them up on it then, well, you’ll probably understand why people who use that kind of wording have given the industry a bad name.

Here are the basic technical optimisations applied to this site:

  • Use lean, semantically-rich markup (<h1> for main page heading, <h2> for subheadings, no layout tables, etc.)
  • Don’t rely on JavaScript or Flash for important content or links.
  • Try to avoid multiple URLs pointing to the same content.
  • Use permanent redirects if pages are moved.
  • Ensure page <title>s are sensibly structured and worded.
  • Put the content’s markup first in the source and keep the <head> short.
  • Use clean, human-readable URLs, with words separated by hyphens.

That’s all there is to it, there are no big secrets, and it does work. I’m getting some good search results rankings, even for pages with no inbound links, often seemingly due to combinations of page title, main page heading and folder name. Keeping the markup clutter-free and in the right order may not make a noticeable difference in most cases, but avoids any risk of the important bits not getting indexed (and is good for download speed and accessibility anyway).

So no “guaranteed placement”, and there’s a lot more to SEO than how a site’s built, but if you’re not covering the basics then you’re certainly throwing away free traffic.


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