Old site owner in need of guidence

I’ll try to keep this short and to the point as best I can. I founded a company and started a website in 1997, which at the time, was the only site that sold interior stair parts for the construction of wood & iron staircases to the public. Since 1999 the site has been stairparts.net Our customers then and now consist primarily of DIY homeowners with some carpentry skills as well as general contractors, custom home builders and architects. We completely changed our site (with proper redirects) from an informational site to an ecommerce site about a year ago. Since then, our rankings have gone way down for target keywords, hence our sales. I have tried to throw money at the problem in terms of SEO. I have been looking to taking on the SEO myself. Any advise? Does stairparts.net suck from a SEO standpoint? What about the SEO software and web services? Are any of them any good? Thanks in advance for any direction.

My 2 cents, you’re better off hiring an SEO consultant company than to buy an SEO software which you don’t know how to use properly.

Hi Stairdale, and welcome to the forums.

I’ve had a quick look at your site and there are certainly things you could do to improve it for search engines. The coding of your site is very out-of-date, using tables to achieve the layout. More importantly, you have text in images in your header, which means that search engines are unable to read it. All they see is an image; they can’t read the text within it. All images should have alt text specified in any case, for the benefit of human visitors who, for whatever reason, are unable to access the images. This has the added benefit of making those images accessible to search engines, too. The first image does have alt text, but only on the home page and it is the name of the site, not the equivalent text of the image, and the second one has none at all.

Try viewing your site with images turned off and see how much information is missing.

A human looking at your site can see which text is a heading and which is a paragraph, but a search engine cannot; it’s relying on the HTML to tell it. Search engines generally give more weight to terms that appear appropriately in heading tags - <h1>, <h2> etc. - but your site doesn’t have any. Adding these will not only help search engines make sense of the site, but will also benefit users with assistive technology, such as screen readers.

My advice would be to overhaul the site and bring the coding up-to-date before you do anything else. If you need help with that, then you can post in the "Design Your Site" forums and we’ll be happy to help. There are also useful references for [URL=“http://reference.sitepoint.com/html”]HTML and [URL=“http://reference.sitepoint.com/css”]CSS.

Hope that helps.

Technobear,

You’ve given good advice (as usual). However, could I pick up your point about making sure the keywords appear in header tags. I used to think that was important, but lately I’ve been hearing otherwise. For example, see para. 4 in this article: 16 SEO Tactics That Will NOT Bring Targeted Google Visitors.

I don’t necessarily believe everything I read about SEO, but the above article is by Jill Whalen, who has consistently given good advice. I’d be interested to hear your comments.

Mike

Thank you. :slight_smile:

Actually, that’s not what I said. My point was that using headings correctly helps search engines - and others - determine the structure of a page. I didn’t mention keywords.

Interesting article in your link. Perhaps we should make it mandatory reading on this forum. :wink:

These might help too:

Google Rating Guidelines (2011): http://www.seotrainingsw.com/2011/10/googles-search-quality-guidelines-pdf/
Google Webmaster Guidelines: http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=35769#1
SEOMoz Web Developer’s Cheatsheet (2009, but still very relevant): http://www.seomoz.org/user_files/SEO_Web_Developer_Cheat_Sheet.pdf

Thanks for the clarification. But what you said was:

Search engines generally give more weight to terms that appear appropriately in heading tags - <h1>, <h2> etc.

I’m not clear how “giving more weight to terms” is different from keywords. But I take your point about the tags helping determine the structure of the page. I always try to use those tags in a consistent way, for that reason.

Interesting article in your link. Perhaps we should make it mandatory reading on this forum.

I think all of her articles are worth reading. I recently started to subscribe to her newsletter, and have found it very useful.

Mike

OK, I’ll try again - but I’m not sure I’ll explain any better this time. :slight_smile:

The site in question uses a table layout, with no heading tags at all. Therefore, search engines have to guess which, if any, of the cells holds the most important/relevant information. What’s currently being displayed in the results is the (very brief) <meta description> text, which suggests there’s a real problem here. Placing a heading says “This is the start of a section” and by implication, the next paragraph or two is related text - rather than the navigation, an advertisement or whatever. My understanding is that search engines are smart enough to recognise related terms, so “Everything you need to build the perfect staircase” would be helpful in this site, even though it contains none of the actual keywords. The following paragraphs would go on to enlarge on this. “Buy from us - we’re the best” is likely to be less helpful, as the terms are very vague and general.

There is, of course, nothing wrong with including keywords in the heading, provided they’re the best words for the purpose and not chosen purely for SEO purposes - hence my use of “appropriately” in my original post. Unfortunately, there are people in these forums who see everything as an opportunity for keyword stuffing.

So what I’m trying to say is: use terms that are clearly related to the topic of the page/site in your headings, for the benefit of human visitors and bots alike.

Technobear,

Thanks for that. I did’t really mean you to take so much time to explain it, but I’m sure others will appreciate your explanation as well.

We don’t really disagree. It was just a question of my understanding what you meant.

Mike

[ot]

That’s OK. I thought we were both on the same track. I’m very good at knowing what I mean, but not always as good at expressing it :lol:, so feel free to ask for clarification at any time. :)[/ot]