SEO advice for google, yahoo, msn

Posted Wednesday, June 28, 2006

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Noticing that my logs were full of google and no other engine, I decided to try and improve my ranking in other engines as well.

You may have heard this one time and again already but valid HTML (with CSS for layout and presentation) goes a long way to boost your ranking, and provides many benefits in bandwidth, easy maintenance and compliance with accessibility regulations. Yet some things remain unclear: what is really important? Should one use meta tags, and which ones? And what about sitemaps?

Important tags

Page title

It will be used as link text, and is usually more prominent on serp than the snippet, url, or any other information.
It also weighs a lot in your ranking for specific keywords (at least with google).
Don't start with company name unless you know people specifically look for it.
It is recommended to be as informative as possible in as few words as possible.
Note that it will also be used when people bookmark your page, in the taskbar, alt + tab and in tabs. Page title does matter.


Deemed to have become 'the new commandline', URLs are a foundation of the web. Without the possibility of locating and bookmarking, we'd still be faxing invoices and stamping postcards.
Use clean URLs, avoiding ?th=ldfkgdlmk&lr=lksdjflk etc... when you can use modrewrite and cache managers to display /cadil_95.html (representing item 95, named cadil).
An immediate benefit is to be gained since keywords found in urls also weigh a lot in google's algorithm and appear bolded on serps.
Most search engine do not spider links containing '?' (google does, but it's good practice to not stick with only one client).

Meta tags (description and keywords)

Having been misused by early SEO techniques, google doesn't give them much weight in its calculations.
If used, the description tag will appear in google serps, instead of the usual snippet with keyword matches in bold text. So don't be too verbose, and make sure it will lead indeed push people into clicking on your link.
As for my website, I stopped using it because google snippets were far more informative than any description I could muster, especially since I blog about a variety of things.
If I were to use it again, I'd rather hide it from googlebot, which is not too good a practice so it's quite low on my priority list.

The keywords tag weighs almost nothing in google but other search engines still recommend using it. Read the official search engine instructions (linked below) if you want more educated advice than I could give you today.


If your site navigation is complex, improving it would be a good start, and providing a sitemap another good thing to do. A typical sitemap presents the users with all pages accessible, hierarchically organized. The hierarchy does not have to be that of your content management system, which usually provides a layer of abstraction.
Should you have hundreds of pages in one area or more of your website, listing them all in the sitemap is not necessary provided you list them all on one page (conveniently named 'archive' or any other meaningful name).
If your sitemap is good enough, search engines will use them and no other work is needed.
You might be a control freak like me though, and decide to provide a sitemap targeted directly at search engines. Google created a sitemap standard for itself while yahoo requires a plain urllist.txt file containing one url per line, though in practice the former is said to be able to use the latter's standard.

Search engine recommendations

Now, some advice recommendations from three leading search engines:

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