Stevens Design Studio Leads Round Table Discussion

On January 7, 2004 Stevens Design Studio led a round table discussion for the Affiliated Chambers of Commerce of Greater Springfield on the topic of Search Engine Optimization. The following is a brief synopsis of our presentation.

Is Your Website Showing Up?
When designing or redesigning your website it is important to understand how search engines work and how best to optimize your site. Why? On average, over 300 million searches are made each day on search engines. Is your website appearing in the search results?

Search Engine Optimization
Optimization is the process of making a website "search engine friendly." There are three critical components that must be present:

  1. Text Component: Text that is on your site and in the code.
  2. Link Component: How your webpages are linked and how you link to other sites.
  3. Popularity Component: The quality of links from other sites is more important than quantity.

How Search Engines Work
Search engines work by analyzing and cataloging keywords found in the content and meta tags of your website. Search engines use an algorithm to assign weight to each keyword they find. Selecting which keywords to target is the first step in your optimization strategy. Once your keywords are selected, including them in your website is the next step. It is important to note that how your keywords are included plays a role in the weight search engine algorithms apply to them. For example, words included in page headings have more importance than standard text.

Website Design Rules
To give your website the best chance of acheiving a high search engine placement there are some general rules to abide by.

  1. Easy to Read. Take into account different browsers and operating systems. Make sure your site looks good and functions properly on each. If a directory editor from Yahoo! comes to your site and it doesn't function properly, odds are your site will not be included.
  2. Easy to Navigate. Your audience should know where they are and where they can go at all times while they are visiting your website. If a directory editor can't figure out your navigation scheme, chances are your site will not be included.
  3. Easy to Find. Your individual products and services should be easy to find when visitors arrive at your site. If directory editors and search engines can't find your products they will not be added.
  4. Keep Layout Consistent. A consistent website layout helps visitors feel oriented and comfortable doing business with you. It also allows you to add your keywords consistently across your site (for example, in navigation schemes).
  5. Quick to Download. If your page takes too long to download when a search engine requests it, your site may not be added to their database.

Realistic Expectations
Even the best optimization strategy will not lead to always having the top search results for selected keywords. Having a goal of high placements over time is a more realistic strategy. Search engines constantly update algorithms because they do not want the same site showing up in the first position all the time.

Paid Listings
Paid listings appear as sponsored links or sponsored results at the top of search engine pages. These positions are not the result of excellent search engine optimization. These positions are the result of website owners bidding on keywords to have their website appear in these top positions. The price of their bid determines their site placement. Overture Premium Listings and Google Adwords are examples of paid listings.

Move to the Top
Every website developer should incorporate search engine optimization into their website, since only a small percentage of website owners will find it cost-effective to pay for top placement. Let your website's design and integrity move you to the top.

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