Module 5 - Helping Search Engines Understand Your Site (Video)

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SEO Basics Course. Module 5

Helping Search Engines Understand your Site

OK lets recap!

In Module 1 we looked at SEO Scams and Cons so you can avoid the companies that could cause your website considerable harm.

Module 2 covered personalized search so you don't make the very common mistake made by many website owners and think you have good rankings when you don't!

In Module 3 we saw how Search Engines go about deciding who should be in their Search Results Pages and in what order they should rank.

Module 4 was all about how you can decide what you want to rank for in the SERPs so you don't waste your time trying to compete with much larger players or ranking for phrases no one searches!

Now we need to get our heads around the way search engines discover and read websites.

Search Engines send robots out onto the internet to read, or in jargon terms to crawl, pages of websites

Every day millions of new pages come into existence

and its their job to find and understand them.

And every day millions of pages disappear. Search engine robots have to keep up with this as well.

There are also plenty of pages which try and fool the search engines robots that they are something they are not

but their story doesn't end well.

If your SEO is not up to scratch search engines won't understand your site and may mistake it for spam. SEO makes it clear to search engine bots what your website and pages are about so you won't end up on the wrong end of their wrath.

Helping search engine robots is 'On-page SEO' work and the first step is to create a structure that they can understand.

Let's take a sample site about carpentry with a home page and a navigation menu to three pages of content. This site really exists by the way at and we will be using it throughout the course.

The best way to understand if a website has a good structure is to think of it like a book.

A book has a clear title and ideally a website should to.

A book has a table of contents making it easy to find topics or categories. A website should have clear navigation to the main content areas.

A book is divided into clear sections. The pages of a website should achieve the same objective.

Books help you find specifics via an index or glossary.

A website should offer a method as well.

Lets start with the title, by looking at a few examples

Jen's cafe ... hmmm ... Jen's Vegan and Wholefood Cafe

Ali and Sons ... hmmm ... Ali and Sons London Plumbing Services

Bob's Blog ... hmmm ... Bob's Health and Lifestyle Blog

These are good keyword rich names that search engines can latch onto. Now lets move on to structure.

It doesn't matter what your website is about, it should always have an obvious and easy way to navigate to the main sections or pages. This won't only help your visitors but it also helps search engine robots find and identify the key pages or areas of your site.

Jen's cafe navigation menu is well thought through Its on the left hand side where many people expect the navigation to be, It includes key information her customers will need such as her location and contact information and she highlights a service others may not offer, ordering online. This also makes it perfect for search engines.

Ali and Sons have designed their navigation menu with care. Using icons as well as text makes it really fast for visitors to scan the options and find the products they need. Each menu element is well described and is clearly to a section of the site so that will help search engines understand the product range better.

Bob has obviously given a lot of thought to his navigation menu. Its at the top which is a popular place for navigation menus so easy for both bots and real people to find. It highlights the main sections and topics of his blog. Information most visitors don't need, such as how to contact Bob, are moved out of the way to the bottom of the page.

And what about our sample site. How to be a carpenter makes it extra easy to get around the site with their navigation. Like Jen's Cafe it is in a common place on the left. The options are to clear sections of the site and are ordered in a way that makes sense for someone looking to learn as well as for a search engine bot looking to crawl.

But what about this final point, the site search feature? Do search engines really use these. No, but they can follow users so if someone carried out a search for 'wood' on our carpentry site they might see a page like this. A search engine could decide to remember this results page and add it to their index.

To do so though it has to be indexable. In other words every search must create a unique url. In our example this would be a good url when someone searched wood on our carpentry site. If your site always ends up with the same url when you carry out a search, something like this, search engines have no unique way to identify it and so can't add it to their index.

Now what about other pages? In our example site the page about Tools might have links to a page about power tools and a page about hand tools. The page about types of wood might have links to a page about hard woods and a page about soft woods.

We'll cover ways we can show search engines how these fit into our structure in a later module.

And what about the domain name of the website? Does this matter. In our example our domain is called If someone used a search engine and searched 'How to be a carpenter' that does not mean our website would show up. Search engines call this an 'Exact Match domain'. When the domain name exactly matches the search.

Search engines won't give you any boost in the rankings just because you have an Exact Match Domain however you will see ranking improvements if your domain includes one or two fundamental keywords which are clearly reflected in the content of your website but

301 redirect alert. 301 redirect alert. Do not change any part of your url unless you know how to add 301 redirects. I repeat. Do not change any part of your url unless you know how to add 301 redirects

she's right! 301 redirects tell search engines where you have moved your content to if you change any part of your u,r,l. If you don't do this and you have an established website you will probably lose any rankings you have.

There are plenty of tutorials on the web which will show you how to do 301 redirects and you won't always need technical or programming skills. Never forget your 301 redirects if you change your urls!

OK, key to our learning for this module is that we have an accurate title for search engine bots and a clear navigation to help them find our key content and understand the basic structure of our site.

So how do we make the individual pages shine. That's in the next module!

Has this video highlighted issues with your SEO work or with a website you are working on but you don't know how to resolve them?

There are simply too many ways a website can be built for us to offer a comprehensive how to part to these tutorials however we would recommend the following steps.

Google it! If you know what platform your website is built on (say XCart or Wordpress) just try googling what you need. For example "How to make WordPress urls SEO friendly" to find out how you can make changes to the urls of your WordPress based site.

You'll be surprised how often issues have already been resolved by others and sometimes they have even created plugins so you can make the changes you need to without needing any technical skills.

If this doesn't resolve your issue you probably will need the help of a programmer. In this case see the 'Need Help' link below this video or in the module text for options.

That was module five, helping search engines understand your site. Next up Module six, optimizing a page for a keyword phrase ,and, as they always say at the end of these videos, if you like what you saw, remember to subscribe.