SEO for Couch Potatoes

So, it is good that finally the title of this blog post has moved your attention from television to something else. When you start learning about search engine optimization and how to implement that on your small website, you get confused and tend to lose focus a bit. It is all some alien talk for you and being a couch potato you are obviously not interested in learning new things that involves lot of reading and on top of that on a computer. So this article is for those lazy people who want to get it all concise and under one hood.

What is SEO?

Search Engine Optimization is both an art and a science packed together. According to SEO industry expert and leading technologist Danny Sullivan phrase “Search Engine Optimization” came to use during 1997. In good old days when spamming was not a big problem Search Engine Algorithms relied heavily on web-master provided data like meta description, meta keywords and index files and sitemaps. Ranking manipulation and abuse forced search engines to change their algorithms to rank ‘good websites’ before bad ones. Nowadays prominence of a website is calculated using complex mathematical algorithms that are not easy to manipulate. Google uses more than 200 factors to give a page-rank to a website and its ranking in search engine results.

What do you need to know about SEO?

When people talk about SEO and SEM they tend to mix things up a bit. Search Engine Optimization is different from Search Engine Marketing in many ways. One method costs you nothing if you intend to do it on your own and the other may cost you money every time someone clicks on your advertisement in search engine results. So what is your goal and why do you need SEO and why it is more preferable than paid Pay-Per-Click SEM programmes?

If you are a true couch potato and doesn’t want to move your lazy ass a bit and still want some good healthy traffic to your website that help you market your product, sell something or just get the traffic for the sake of it, SEO is not for you. PPP programmes offered by Google Adwords may be is the right solution for you but it is not free like SEO and in no way a permanent solution to get more traffic to your website. The day you stop your PPP advertising campaign traffic may reduce pathetically and it also doesn’t get you any long term “link juice” advantages.

Than why do we need SEM?

Google Advertising Professionals Program

Google Advertising Professionals Program

In some cases SEO can not help you because you can’t get your website on the first page of google or yahoo overnight. When time is more important than money SEM gives you better results compared to SEO. Say for an trade fair website SEO is not necessary at all. Trade Fair is going to run for 3 days and event is just 10 days from now than SEO can’t help you there, and it is also meaning less as website is going to shut down once the event is over. For a politicians election campaign SEM surely is a better solution compared to SEO.

It is also very useful when the return of investment ratio is very high and you are selling some product or service on your website. You are a hosting company and if you spend $50 a day and get 10 registrations worth $50 from that campaign it is better than waiting for SEO done and your website ranking higher than your competitors. When either “Time” or “Return of Investment” is more important than money SEM is right solution for you.

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XML sitemaps and SEO Guide

What are Sitemaps?

As defined by sitemaps.org, organization that standardized the sitemaps protocol, it is one of the methods to inform search enigne about the pages in your site. There are many ways to do that and Sitemaps are one of them. Sitemaps can be in various formats like html, php or the most popular format xml. XML sitemaps are widely accepted standard by most of the websites and are used on small as well as very large websites with thousands of links listed in sitemaps. It lists urls of a site along with othre meta information like the date published and the importance of the page within the sitemap or website. It also contains the information about how frequently a page listed in the xml sitemap changes and how to inform about it to various search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing, Ask, etc.

It is not guaranteed that using the sitemaps you get listed in all these search engines, it is just a method to remind them about the pages and whether they are updated/added or not.

Why Sitemaps standard is needed?

Sitemaps standard or protocol provide a basic communication link or channel between the search engines spider/crawler and the websites sitemap. Before the protocol html sitemaps were used and are not upto the mark as far as performance was concerned. Theoretically search engines need to use less processing power as they have the overview of the site available with them and can help to find them all the urls of a website with ease and risk of leaving the site before it is crawled wholely is reduced.

Sometimes important pages were left behind by the spiders and useless pages were indexed this was the biggest reason behind the stiemaps protocol first developed and accepted by google and than adopted by other search engines too.

XML Sitemaps Format:

Sitemap protocol is consisting of xml tags that are used as the basic structure of the sitemap file, and all the values (data) in the sitemap must be entity escaped and the sitemap file must be encoded in utf-8 format only. There are few other must haves that you need to keep in mind while writing your sitemap or creating a tool or plugin to create sitemaps automatically for CMS like joomla or drupal or blogging platform like wordpress. They are listed below as described on Sitemaps Protocol site:

  1. A sitemap must begin with an opening <urlset> tag and end with a closing </urlset> tag.
  2. You need to specify the namespace (protocol standard) within the <urlset> tag.
  3. Must need to include a <url> entry for each URL, as a parent XML tag and include a <loc> child entry for each <url> parent tag.
  4. All other tags are optional and support varies for different search engines like yahoo and google.
  5. All the urls listed in a particular sitemap must be from a single domain like example.com as an example.

For more information about sitemap protocol and sample sitemaps and xml tags please visit this link at sitemaps.org

Sitemaps standard and Search Engines:

Google Sitemap Submit

Google Sitemap Submit

In early 2007 all major search engines agreed to follow the sitemap xml standard adopted by google and created a website sitemaps.org to give more information about the standard and protocol used for the xml sitemaps. Yahoo is now accepting sitemaps in xml format along side its .txt format in yahoo site explorer. Bing also have started to accepting sitemaps in xml format after some initial testing for the format. Though sitemap can help find search engines hidden content but it should not be created and used for this sole purpose because it may send a wrong message to search engines and your site may get banned from search results too.

Before the sitemaps protocol was invented it was difficult to both webmasters and search engine spiders/crawlers to keep track and record of the various pages and links on the website but this protocol has made it very simple for site owners to create and update their sitemaps. There are various plugins available like Joomap for joomla and Google XML Sitemaps for WordPress self hosted blogs. This is a win-win situation for both webmasters and search engines as less resources are used to index the website and all the links from it with the help of this protocol.

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