Building the Perfect Page - The Basics - Part I

Building the Perfect Page is a series of topics discussing the basics of web page development. Here are the primary areas that will be discussed...

TITLE Element

The page TITLE element (some refer to it as the title tag which is incorrect nomenclature) is one of the most important factors for ranking highly in the search engines.

Page title elements are normally 3-9 words (60-80 characters) maximum in length, no fluff, straight and to the point. This is what shows up in most search engine results as a link back to your page.

Make sure your Page TITLE Element (title tag) is relevant to the content on the page.


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META Description Tag (Metadata)

The META description tag usually consists of 25 to 30 words or less using no more than 160 to 180 characters total (including spaces). The META description also shows up in many search engine results as a summary of your site.

Directories like Yahoo! and the ODP (Open Directory Project - show the page title and description that you entered (and the editors modified) on their manual submission form.

Make sure your META Description Tag is relevant to the content on the page.


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META Keywords Tag (Metadata)

For those search engines that are META enabled, the META keywords tag used to be one of the most important areas after the page title and page description. It has been abused by both marketers and consumers alike that there is very little weight given to the META keywords tag.

Don't fret over your META keywords tag. Utilize keywords and keyword phrases from your title element, META description tag, heading tag and first one or two paragraphs of visible content. Try to limit it to 15 to 20 words if possible.

Make sure your META Keywords Tag is relevant to the content on your page.


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Heading Tags

At least one heading tag <h1> should appear at the top of your page and be well written using prime keywords and keyword phrases.

You can use CSS to control the appearance of the heading tags. I prefer using external style sheets (file.css).

Make sure your Heading Tags are relevant to the content on the page.


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Alt Attribute

Alt text is the line of text you see pop up (in Internet Explorer, see note below) when you place your cursor over an image. It also displays a text representation of the image when the user has images turned off in their browser (this is the intended behavior). It is highly recommended that you utilize this area as it is required under accessibility laws and, is indexed by the search engines.

Note: Internet Explorer (IE) will display alt text when you hover your cursor over an element that utilizes the alt attribute. This is incorrect behavior as the alt text is designed to be displayed when the user has their images turned off while browsing. Other browsers such as Opera and Mozilla will not display the alt text on hover.

The alt attribute should not to be stuffed with keywords or phrases. The alt text should mirror the content of the image. If it is a graphic header, then your alt attribute should mirror the text in the graphic header.

Alternative text values should not exceed 80 characters in length. If more than 70-80 characters are required one should use the longdesc attribute as an alternative to alt text.

Make sure your Alt Attribute is relevant to the content for that image.


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Hyperlinked Text

This area is overlooked by many when promoting a web site to the search engines. Many web sites utilize graphic representations of links. These are visually appealing, but the text in the image cannot be indexed by the spiders.

I always recommend an additional text navigation bar (SSI - Server Side Includes or Front Page Includes) somewhere on the page, usually at the top, right, bottom or left hand side. Link text should be concise, use keywords and phrases, and follow the same structure as the graphic navigation.


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Visible Copy - Content is King

Content (visible copy) weighs heavily and is considered one of the primary areas of search engine optimization and marketing, hence the expression, Content is King.

Your content should be written in a way that grabs the users attention, while utilizing your targeted keywords and keyword phrases. There is a method to placement of the keywords and keyword phrases that will help your web site gain better placement in the search engines. Balance is essential and creating that balance takes knowledge and experience.

You should make it your goal to add at least one new page of content daily if possible. If not, then once a week is acceptable. You want to keep your website content fresh and give your visitors something to come back for on their next visit. Stale website content may not perform as well as fresh website content.

I strongly suggest that you utilize last modified dates on your pages so that visitors to your site know when the page was last modified and how fresh the content is.

Last modified: 2010-10-02T08:45:32-0700

Note: We utilize the ISO International Date Format. FrontPage users are welcome to use the following customized webbot to display the International Date Format.

Last modified: <!--webbot bot="Timestamp" S-Type="EDITED" S-Format="%Y-%m-%dT%H:%M:%S%Z" -->

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File Naming

I've seen many of the search engines indexing file names and have found that using relative keywords in this area will play a role in your overall search engine marketing strategy.

Instead of naming your file pagename.asp, you would name it keyword-phrase.asp or page-name.asp. Always use hyphens (-) to separate the words in your file names and be frugal in their usage. Use all lower case for file naming, this includes images too.

Visitors to your site will appreciate the clean URI paths which are easy to remember and bookmark. Always try to provide the visitor with the shortest URI path.

This is not an area to stuff keywords. Files should be named appropriately as part of the overall theme and should be relevant to the on page content.

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Directory Naming

I've seen many of the search engines indexing directory names and have found that using relative keywords in this area will play a role in your overall search engine marketing strategy.

Be descriptive with naming directories. Don't get carried away, but make sure at least one keyword or keyword phrase appears in the directory name. Don't forget to use hyphens (-) to separate the words. Minimize the use of hyphens and focus on single word paths.

This is not an area to stuff keywords. Directories should be named appropriately as part of the overall theme and should be relevant to the directory content.

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There is much more to it than that! The above are just the basics and something that all newcomers may want to study carefully. There should be an understanding of page layout, positioning of elements and balancing the use of html markup.

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