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Management Perspectives: Search-engine Optimization

Dec 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Don Kreski

The most important step in web development that AV companies never take.

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Ideally, each page will include the targeted term or terms in the title tag, meta description tag, keyword tag, headline, and depending on the length of the page, probably two or three times in the body copy. Search engines cannot read photos or any headlines set up as graphics, but they can read ALT tags attached to images. Search engines will also have trouble reading sites using exotic technologies such as Flash. The reason is that an all-Flash website has no text content to speak of.

“Google has recently announced that they are working with Adobe to find better ways to index Flash,” Grant says. “Still, search-engine optimization and Flash do not go hand in hand.” If you want to include Flash animations, consider mixing them into an HTML site rather than building your entire site with Flash.

Some experts recommend using the keyword in the page's address, or URL. Grant agrees that this can be valuable, but he warns clients not to rename existing pages.

“Web pages gain ranking over time,” he says. “When you change the names, those pages start at the very bottom as though they were brand-new in the eyes of the search engines.”

He also warns against trying to spam search engines by using a term over and over on a page or including hidden text intended for search engines but not users. “It's generally very easy to detect any kind of trickery,” he says. “And the danger is that you may end up not with a low ranking, but no ranking at all for your entire site.”

Building an optimized website is a lot like building an AV system: The best approach is to get an expert involved early.

“Still, 70 percent to 80 percent of our clients come to us post development,” Grant says. “It's a little more expensive, because we'll hand them a list of changes for their developer, but we can work very effectively this way.”

If you're optimizing an existing site, you will most likely change metatags and rewrite body copy, but leave graphics intact. Grant also looks at the cleanliness of the code. “The search engines will factor in errors in programming, even spelling errors,” he says. “The thinking is that a site with obvious errors is not a relevant site.”

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Spiders don't always index whole pages. Especially with very long pages, they may move on before they get to the end of the code. Therefore, Grant suggests that you place the most important elements close to top of the source code, minimize extraneous coding, and move certain types of code to the bottom of the page or even off page, if possible.

Search engines also consider how often a site is updated, thinking sites that are seldom touched are less likely to contain relevant information. Then, too, they will consider the position of individual pages within the hierarchy of the website, giving pages with direct links from the home page and crosslinks from other pages better rankings. So your navigation system is also important, and you may need to adjust your menus and internal links to reflect the importance of the keywords found on each page.

There is a limit, however, as to how far you can take this process.

“You have to remember that it's the users of your website who are ultimately going to pay the bills,” Grant says. “There needs to be a careful balance between making the site intuitive for the search engines and intuitive for your clients.”


Optimizing your website is the first step, but not the only step in marketing to the search engines.

“The search engines basically travel the Internet following links,” Grant says. “The more often they are linked to your website, the more often you will be indexed and the more credible your site will be in their eyes.”

Asking others, or paying others, to link to your site is very important and a topic onto itself. We will deal with it in an upcoming Management Perspectives column. After that, we'll look at pay-per-click advertising, which offers an addition to, or an alternative for, the optimization process.

Don Kreski is a marketing consultant who works exclusively in the AV industry. You can reach him at

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