What is SEO?
Search Engine Optimization is modifying your website to help return your site higher in Search Engine Results Page (SERP). This can be split into off site and on site SEO which I explain below. The Google Algorithm takes over 200 things into consideration when deciding the SERP and it’s believed to be updated or tweaked every two to three days. Due to the secrecy of the Algorithm most SEO analysis and tips are a result of experience, educated guesses and leaked code and is therefore open to interpretation. Nothing is set in stone and it’s constantly evolving, growing and updating.
Off Site SEO
This is the most important part of SEO but generally the part you have lease control over. It’s basically links that link to your website however the position of these links on other sites, the title and keyword of the link as well as the content and importance of the page their on, are all taking into consideration. I’ll explain the importance of these later but basically you want lots of links to your site from good quality well know sites of similar content.
On Site SEO
This is when you modify your own site to help it receive better SERP. It’s the part you have more control over so I will concentrate on it more.
A good example of a site with great off site SEO and terrible on site SEO is warez-bb.org. Everyone links to wbb saying it’s great but due to the content of wbb all its pages are hidden from Google.
An example of a warez site which probably has better on site SEO than off site is warezlobby.org. This site also gets a lot of traffic from Google but wouldn’t have near as many people linking to it. Instead it has good url’s, title, meta tags and other on site SEO techniques which help it which I will now explain.
This is the part that appears in the browser tab and also the part that appears in blue and underlined in Google. You want to achieve a balance between keywords and text that will catch the person’s eye on Google. It’s generally decided by the title of the post by the uploader or poster on your site. If there’s any uploaders reading this try and make your titles clean, legible with no fancy characters or dots between the words. This will generate more downloads for you. From a webmasters point of view you should have it so it’s not just the title. An example of where it used to be really bad was on HQ-Uploads where every title said “Free Rapidshare Downloads – HQ-Uploads” no matter what the post was. It’s amazing how many have “SiteName.com – Powered by vBulletin” for their index who really need to just give up now.
Also don’t have “Site Name – Avatar 2009 DVDrip” like insanecoders or worse again like just4freeplanet.com have. You want to keep the keywords, in this case Avatar 2009 and DVDrip as close to the front as possible. So it would be better to have “Avatar 2009 DVDrip – Site Name” like what warezlobby, realwarez etc have. If your site name isn’t keyword filled then don’t have it in the title as it will reduce its importance. Taking insanecoders as an example it would be better for them just to have “Avatar 2009 DVDrip” as their name is terrible from a keyword point of view. Their other possibility is to do something like what warezforums have where they have the tile of the post followed by chosen keywords although I feel they’ve a bit too many and some titles end up being too long.
Keyword Meta Tags
Keyword meta tags are not taken into account by Google however they are still read by Yahoo but very, very little importance is paid to them. Google however does read them and if you add too many keywords Google will penalise you for being an ass. Yes there that clever. It’s suggested not to have more than 10 keywords. Having hundreds of keywords will only slow the page load of your site. You want dynamic keywords that come from the content of your page. Having keywords like warez, download, free and rapidshare is pointless. The keywords must match words in the content of the page to work properly. You don’t really have to worry much about keywords just make sure you don’t have hundreds of them.
Description Meta Tags
This is pretty important. While Google does read and they are taken into consideration I think it’s more important as this is the text that appears under the title in SERP so you want it to be relevant and catch the attention of Google users. Google shows two lines of text taken from the Meta Description. Most forum SEO mods take the description from the content of the post. This is why uploaders should always have some relevant text in their posts. Not just a screenshot of imdb or a screenshot of an info file.
In the past there was more attention paid to this but it’s still taken into consideration when calculating the SERP. This is when the url is renamed to include the title or certain keywords. Eg sitename.com /showthread.php?p=227370 is renamed to sitename.com/movie/avatar-dvd-2009-227370.html Here more search keywords have being added to the url. They are usually taken from the title of the post. You want the keywords as close to the front as you can and as few stop words as possible. Therefore it’s not a good idea to have your site redirect to a folder like forum or board. Eg. sitename.com/forum or sitename.com/board as your introducing more stop words.
Images – General
Search Engines like Google can’t read images. They prefer text. That’s why you can add alt and title tags to images to tell not only search spiders but also the visually impaired what the images contain. This is a great way of adding extra keywords to your pages. Hover your mouse over any image in a post on HQ-Uploads.com and you’ll see text with more keywords. This is harder to achieve in forums as an uploader but one thing you can do is have the images named. Instead of having the images like tinypic.com/15eebg0.jpg you can use eg. theimagehosting.com/avatar-movie.546.th.jpg as this will allow you to add more keywords to your page. For webmasters you can add more keywords by having alt tags and suitable names for all your images. Eg have your logo called sitename-home.jpg instead of logo.jpg and have an alt tag that reads “sitename logo – more free downloads” or something similar. If you’ve a guest banner or custom icons add alt tags to the images and have them named appropriately adding more general warez keywords. Eg. download-music.jpg is better than forum8-icon.jpg. Everyone can see a forum icon indicating music or a movie but Google can’t.
Content - General
It’s hard to keep control of the content of posts as their generally made by uploaders but you should take far more care for the ones you post and submit to DDL sites. As these sites will have backlinks to the pages when you submit them if the content is good they have a far better chance of getting a high SERP compared to the posts in your forum.
You want to have some text describing the download. Eg. for movies have the plot, imdb link, actors, release group, genre, etc. This is important as people have trouble finding movies like Disney Pixar’s ‘Up’ so any extra help and keywords are useful.
For good examples of posts check out any by Mr-R-T on HQ-Uploads.com eg movies: contain description of movie, actors, imdb link, info etc. All stuff which could be searched by visitors. Remember words in bold are given extra importance.
Content – Keywords
Where keywords should be and how often coming soon!
Remember to submit your sitemap in the Google Webmasters area and in the Yahoo site explorer. Another thing you should add is a robots.txt file.
Server and Hosting
A while ago part of the Google Algorithm was leaked. It was the part concerning page load time and speed. It showed that Google took into account the page load time of a site, the location of the server and how often the site was down or site offline. Therefore it’s important to have a fast, reliable host with good uptime, not just for your members but also to achieve a good SERP
Dead links and Error pages
Nobody likes dead links but they do happen which is why you should have error pages to help members and search engines through your site. Most shared hosting allows custom error pages and you should have all the common error pages like 400, 401, 402, 403, 404 and 500. Google doesn’t like sloppy sites with lots of missing images, dead links, missing pages etc so try and keep them to a minimum and keep the site clean. I’m not on about dead coded Rapidshare and Hotfile links. I’m on about missing forum icons, button images, missing pages, etc.
Blackhat Techniques – Illegal stuff to avoid
Blackhat is the term given to modifying your website to get better SERP. This is generally in the form of showing something to Google which real people won’t see. The most basic example is having extra keywords on the page that are the same colour as the background. This means that people can’t see the text but search engine spiders can. This is known as keyword stuffing. Other examples include redirecting search spiders to different pages filled with keywords and links.
This is highly illegal and Google is always improving it’s algorithm to catch these sites. If your caught you will be banned by Google and it can take several months if not years to be white listed again. An example of a high profile site that was banned for keyword stuffing was the German BMW Car website which was banned by Google a few years ago.
Generally people who offer large amounts of traffic or visitors use Blackhat techniques. I’d strongly advise staying away from these as it’s not worth the risk.
In all my years as a webmaster I’ve yet to come across a site that has done this correctly so I’ve only bad examples to show. I’ll use Katz Forums as an example this time but it could be any forum.
The forum description is the text that goes under the forum title on the forum home page. Most people say something like “Movies go here” or something similar. It’s this text that’s used for the default meta description tag for the forum so it’s very important as it’s the only place where you can give information to the people using Google or other search engines.
Search engines give more weight and importance to links in different areas of the page. They know that navbars are at the top of the page and some links to similar threads as well as other navigation links are in the footer. This is, while also being more visible, one of the reasons why Katz makes new sites put the Katz button in the header as search engines give it more importance than the footer.
Search engines don’t just consider the text that the link refers to, it also considers the surrounding text. This is really useful in paragraphs of text. In a paragraph all the words are taken into account making the link a lot stronger and more important. This is why little importance is given to link exchange boxes in footers by search engines as the links are surrounded by other links which don’t relate to each other.
If a link has rel=”nofollow” then search engines don’t follow the link and go to the next one. This is used for pages you don’t want the spiders and bots to go to. Examples include the registration page, login page, forgot password, Advanced Search, Mark Forums Read, any reply or post new thread buttons or links, etc. Most of these rel=”nofollow” are included in default skins but as more and more people use custom skins they should check all links to make sure they exist where needed. Any Custom modifications you add you should also consider if you need a “nofollow”. Places where they should be added include Registration Banners, Donate links and banners, any login areas, shoutbox, etc.
If you don’t have a rel=”nofollow” search engines will follow the link and then discover the page is not to be indexed. This wastes the time search engines spend on your site and results in less pages indexed.
Other things you can add to links are title=”text” You’ll see this in the Katz Button where it uses the title=”text” or alt=”text” to add extra keywords to the links like “Rapidshare” and “Download” which are searched keywords. This helps add keywords to your links especially any image links.
Open Forum Sections
Everyone has their Guests section open to guests and search engines. Other sites have different opinions on the other sections. Some sites like them private which is find but makes it difficult SEO wise. Some sites have their download areas open but as they add new sections or modify existing ones over time some of the permissions get mixed up. You really need to spend an hour on your site looking at the different sections as a guest eg. on MechoDownload all sections are open with the exception of some random forums like Audio Books, TV Documentaries, Console Games and others which were obviously added at a later date but have the wrong permissions.
Some sites like to have the download areas open but the community areas closed to search engines thinking their more private. I find this one of the strangest things. These areas are the only areas on your site where every post and every reply is completely unique to your site. Most of the posts in the download areas are by Autoposters which are on every site and therefore there’s little chance of high traffic. Every post where a member helps a member, someone posts a tutorial, gives a suggestion or advice is unique to your site. When these tutorials or help topics are searched people spend a lot longer on the site reading the whole topic and referring to the advice given. On a download page they grab the links and leave. If the visitor reads the tutorial or topic and has problems their far more likely to register and reply as they’ve already spent a considerable amount of time on the topic and there are very few alternatives available elsewhere as it’s unique.
Nearly all sites have users online at the bottom of the site or a list of members who’ve visited in the last 24 hours. There can be hundreds in this list. As outlined earlier links in the footer have a lot of weight as they could be navigation. If you have your members profiles closed to guests as nearly all sites do you could have hundreds of dead links in a row all leading to a login page. No forum has a rel=”no follow” for members names so all links are followed. If you had to follow a few hundred links in a row and they were all dead you’d be pretty pissed.
It’s not just in the footer. Member’s names are in every post, index, forum, who’s online page, members list etc. That means that there are thousands of links that Google follows which it considers dead.
If you search as I do often an uploader or a member in Google you’ll nearly always be presented with Freshwap.net or WarezLobby.org as these are some of the only sites that have their Member Profiles open to guests and as a result get loads of traffic.
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