Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Search Engine Optimization (SEO): Advanced Techniques

Introduction


Search engine optimization is ever changing and evolving,
so it’s important to keep up with optimization trends and
techniques. In the previous articles in our SEO series we
dealt with the basics of search engine optimization as well
as some tips & tricks of the trade. In this article we will
explore more advanced techniques and discover why they are
important. Be warned though, this is the stuff that can get
very time consuming and the results are likely to be less
dramatic. However, the effort may bump your ranking just
enough to move you off the second page to the always coveted
top ten and first page.


Be Social


This may seem like a no-brainer but not everyone realizes
the power of the social networking sites. If you want to
drive traffic to your site then social networking websites
like Twitter and Facebook are excellent places to go. Not
only do you receive the benefit of “getting the word out”
about topics on your website, you also get the immeasurable
bonus of having more unique links to your website which we
all know is a great boost to rank. Power to the people!


Mapping the way .. XML style


In our previous article on SEO we discussed briefly the
importance of having a sitemap page to make it easier for
search engines to crawl your website. Now we’ll take it a
step further by showing you how to generate an XML sitemap
file.


XML sitemap files provide search engines a much greater
insight into how your website is structured so that they can
determine how to catalog your pages, how often to crawl them
for updated content and how you prioritize your pages. If
you have never seen or used an XML file don’t be frightened,
they really are not that complicated and you can create them
in any simple text editor such as Notepad. The most
important thing to remember is that every tag in and XML
file must have an accompanying close tag.


When creating your XML you first need to define the basic
structure. That basic structure is really very simple:




<?xml version=”1.0″ encoding=”UTF-8″?>
<urlset >
</urlset>

That’s it. You are now ready to define your sitemap. Just
remember to keep everything between the <URLSET> and
</URLSET> tags. You will now need to include the
following elements for each page that you want in your
sitemap (they are both required):



  1. <url> – This tag simply defines the start of a new
    URL definition. All of the specifics for the URL are inside
    the opening and closing <url> tag.

  2. <loc> – This tag defines the location of the page.
    It must be a complete page path such as
    “http://www.MyDomain.com/index.html”. Relative paths like
    “/index.html” may not be understood by search engines and
    therefore get skipped. The limit here is 2048
    characters.

An example of a complete basic XML sitemap
file would look something like:



<?xml version=”1.0″ encoding=”UTF-8″?>
<urlset >
<url>
<loc>http://www.MyDomain.com/index.html</loc>
</url>
<url>
<loc>http://www.MyDomain.com/aboutus.html</loc>
</url>
</urlset>

Pretty simple, right? Now for the more interesting
options, and they are all optional:



  1. <changefreq> – This one is short for “change
    frequency”. It defines how often the content changes for the
    given page. The valid options for this tag are: always,
    hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, yearly and never. The
    definitions are pretty obvious with “always” meaning the
    content changes every time the page is loaded all the way
    down to “never” which means the page has been permanently
    archived. Understand that this tag defines a suggestion not
    a command on your part and search engines are in no way
    obligated to crawl your page according to what you define
    here. Also, be smart about what you choose. If you’re
    thinking “always” or “hourly” will in some way improve your
    rank, it won’t.

  2. <lastmod> – This stands for “last modified”. Using
    the date format YYYY-MM-DD you indicate the last time the
    page was updated. You can also tack the time onto the date
    if you like but it is not required.

  3. <priority> – This is an interesting option. Here
    you can define the priority of your page in the overall
    grand scheme of your website. Search engines can then use
    this to determine which pages to crawl first when they
    return to your website. Valid values are 0.0 to 1.0 with 0.5
    being the default. Of course, 1.0 is the highest priority
    and 0.0 is the lowest. Again, don’t simply put 1.0 on every
    page thinking it will help your rankings, be logical.


An example of a fully defined XML sitemap file would look
something like:




<?xml version=”1.0″ encoding=”UTF-8″?>
<urlset >
<url>
<loc>http://www.MyDomain.com/index.html</loc>
<lastmod>2009-08-25</lastmod>
<changefreq>weekly</changefreq>
<priority>1.0</priority>
</url>
<url>
<loc>http://www.MyDomain.com/privacypolicy.html</loc>
<lastmod>2009-01-03</lastmod>
<changefreq>yearly</changefreq>
<priority>0.2</priority>
</url>
</urlset>


Once you have completed your XML sitemap file upload it
to the root directory of your website and name it
sitemap.xml. Search engines can now find and use your
sitemap file. In many cases, such as with Google, you can
also submit your XML file directly to the search engine and
they will send a crawler out to your website shortly after
your submission.

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