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Search Engine Optimization in Joomla!

Search-engine optimization, or SEO, refers to the process of preparing your website to be spidered, indexed, and ranked by the major search engines so that when Internet users search for your keywords, your website will appear on their results page. Proper search engine optimization is a crucial step to ensure success and should be undertaken with care and diligence.

This article by Brandon Dawson and Tom Canavan, takes a look at Search Engine Optimization and how it can be used in Joomla! to build a successful website.

What is SEO?

Search-engine optimization, or SEO, refers to the process of preparing your website to be spidered, indexed, and ranked by the major search engines so that when Internet users search for your keywords, your website will appear on their results page. Proper search engine optimization is a crucial step to ensure success and should be undertaken with care and diligence. It should also be noted that SEO is an interdisciplinary concern, combining web design functions with marketing and promotional concerns. If aimed properly, SEO would be a powerful weapon in your arsenal.

Proper SEO is:

  • Optimizing META data
  • Optimizing page titles
  • Optimizing page content
  • Selecting proper keywords
  • Testing your optimizations
  • Promoting link popularity
  • Using standards-compliant HTML
  • Optimizing image ALT tags
  • Using a logical website structure
  • Validating your content

Proper SEO isn't:

  • Keyword spamming
  • Hidden text
  • Cloaking content
  • Link-farming
  • Excessive content or site duplication
  • Paying for questionable links

Structural Optimization

Optimizing your site's actual structure and presentation is the most immediate approach to SEO. Since these factors are under the immediate control of the webmaster, they represent a foundational approach to the SEO problem. Once you've optimized your site's structural components, you can optimize the promotional aspects of SEO, which we'll discuss momentarily.

Items That Search Engines Look for in Your Site's Content

It's important to remember that today's search engine rankings are determined by highly sophisticated algorithms. Trying to stay one step ahead of the major engines with bad tactics is not only a very bad idea, but also a waste of time. Well written content will win repeatedly. Giving the search engine robots a well prepared sitepage contributes in promoting your site.

Three items that many search engine robots look for are:

  • Relevant page titles to your content
  • Relevant keywords and descriptions (META tags)
  • Relevant, keyword-rich content, presented in clean and valid HTML

Take a note of the recurring theme—"relevancy". If your site is relevant in terms of what the user is looking for, you will achieve respectable search engine rankings without any additional promotion. However, this is not a place to stop, as search engines correlate your site's standings among your peers and competitors by evaluating certain external factors.

External Views of Your Site by Search Engines

Search giant, Google, likes to describe its proprietary algorithm, known as PageRankTM, by discussing how the external factors can accurately define your site's relevancy, when considered along with your site's actual content. Most search engines today follow this formula in determining link popularity. Some popular items that are used to measure are:

  • How many websites link to yours
  • Where they link in your content
  • What words are used in the actual link text (i.e. the description of the page)
  • The topical relevancy of the sites that link to your site

The power of web search lies in the search engine's ability to provide accurate and relevant results that someone can quickly use to find the information they seek. More importantly, the other end of the search process guarantees that the visitors we draw from search engines are truly after the information or services we provide. Another way to look at it would be it's the right message, but the wrong person.

Thus we see that our interests, the interests of the search engines, and the interests of web surfers actually coincide! If we tune our content properly, and connect our content with similarly relevant content, we can expect to be rewarded with targeted traffic eager to devour our information and buy our services. If we try to deceive the search engines, or common people, we deceive ourselves. It's that simple.

Optimizing META Data

Metadata is the data about the data. It's the section where you define what a search engine should expect to find on your page. If you've never taken note of META tags before, then take a brief tour of the Web and view the source code of several websites. You'll see how this data is organized, primarily into descriptions and keyword listings.

Joomla! provides functionality for modifying and dynamically generating META tags, in the Site | Global Configuration | Metadata dialog, as well as within individual articles via the META tab on the right-hand panel.

This is where the dynamic aspect of metadata becomes important—your main page will have certain needs for proper META optimization and your individual Joomla! content articles will require special tuning to make the best of their potential. This is accomplished though key words and phrases scattered through out the text. Keep in mind that each search engine is different; however keeping ratio of about 3 to 1 for keywords and META (keyword) in the top 1/3rd of the page is a decent rule of thumb.

Using the Site | Global Configuration | Metadata dialog, is pretty straight forward.You can enter descriptions, keywords and key phrases that are pertinent to your siteon a global level.

You should select the META keywords based on the keywords appearing in your content with the greatest frequency. Be honest and use META keywords that actually appear in your content. Search engines penalize you for over use of keywords, known as keyword stuffing.

Title Optimization

What's in the actual title of your page? The keywords you insert into your site and article's titles play a huge role in successful search engine optimization. As with META tags, the key is to insert frequently-used, but not stuffed, keywords into your title, which correlate the relevancy of the site's title (what we say about our site)with the metadata (how we describe what it's about) and the actual content, which is indisputably "what the website is about".

Content Optimization

Writing clear content that uses pertinent language in our intended message or service is the key to content optimization. In your content, include naturally-written, keyword-rich content. This will tie into your META tags, title description and other portions of your site to help you achieve content relevance and thus higher search engine rankings.

One note of caution—while we use our best keywords frequently within our text; we should not cram these words into our content. So don't be afraid to break out the thesaurus and include some alternative words and descriptions! Good content SEO is about achieving a balance between what the search engines see, and what your readers expect on arrival.

Keyword Research and Optimization

Researching our keywords not only gives us an idea of how our competitors are optimizing their websites, but also gives us a treasure-trove of alternative keywords that we can use to further optimize our own sites.

There are several online tools that can give us an idea of what keywords are most typically searched for, and how the end-users phrase their searches. This provides avital two-way pathway into the visitor's minds, showing not only how they reach the products and information they seek, but also how they perceive those items.

For our example, we'll use Google's freely available keyword suggestion tool for its AdWords program, and use Joomla! itself as our intended optimization candidate.See for the keyword tool. The following example will demonstrate the AdWords tool and how it helps you determine good keywords for your site.

The three key pieces of information as seen in the previous figure, which help us inmaking a decision about keywords, are as follows:

Keywords: This column indicates the keyword whose Search Volume and Advertiser Competition we want to check.

Advertiser Competition: This is graphical indicator of how many ads are in rotation for this keyword.

Search Volume: Graphical indication of how many people in the world are searching this keyword for a product or service.

As we see from the example, when we search for the keyword joomla we see a lower Advertiser Competition than content management system, but a higher SearchVolume. If we then examine open source we see a heavy Advertiser Competition, but the same Search Volume as joomla.

What this means is that if we advertise in the crowded keyword space—"open source", we can expect a lot of competition. Changing our keyword to Joomla! would give us less competition and about the same Search Volume. If we advertise something related to Joomla! then that would be the best choice. However, if we were advertising a tool for open source, we would want to spend our money on the keyword "open source". The last take away from this is if we are selling a joomla template, you see from the figure that there isn't much competition (at the time thiswas taken), but a healthy amount of Search Volume.

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