Owen Arts SEO

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Artist and illustrator Owen Williams had an established site which looked great to you and me, but not to Google. What could I do to fix it?

Owen had arranged a nice design, with three key pages for his main activities: illustration, storyboards and visuals. Each page had 16 thumbnails, and clicking on these opened a full page in a new browser with a good-sized image and no text to clutter matters. Unfortunately the site was almost unfindable on any major search engine, well down the page listings if it appeared at all. Owen had resorted to paying other directories for some listings and second-order visibility. This worked by getting him onto front pages for a few search terms, but only by links to the directory, and not to his own site.

Owen Arts main page for illustration

Tips to Improve Google Ranking

The main remedies were not at all novel, but I list them here in case you find them instructive to consider for your own sites:

  1. The <TITLE> tags for his four key pages were all identical. Search Engines prefer variety.
  2. There were no headings (<H1>, <H2> etc.)
  3. The image pages had practically zero text. Google has no truck with images; it only eats text, so was never going to find anything worth indexing here. Our short-term solution was to add a headline to each image, and repeat that in paragraph text below. Ultimately, we will flesh out some of these with more interesting text, as time allows.
  4. The images had no ALT text
  5. Pages had "spammy keywords" in the META statement: 266 keywords is way too much and may invoke a penalty by the engines. Keep them to ten maximum. (I don't have any faith that engines notice the keywords any more, given the past abuses, but it's harmless enough to add a moderate line of, them so why not.)
  6. Links to the image pages used Javascript, so engine spiders would not discover them. The solution here was to contrive an XML Google Sitemap and submit it, easy enough. I also needed to amend the Javascript and offer some "Back", "Home" and "Next" buttons to keep everything better connected.
  7. Somehow the site had that red-rag-to-a-bull: white text on a white background. Engines take that very amiss, being a spammy technique, and indeed there was no need for it. Bang, begone.

Phew. After that campaign of spring-cleaning, we had a ship-shape site which trundled up the Google rankings to nestle on the front one or two pages for some suitable search terms, despite an awful lot of competition.

I use SEOAdministrator to check rankings of my clients' sites once a week or more often. I notice that the rankings come and go like the tide, regardless of any changes made to a site. In Owen's case, you can find him (via google.co.uk) reliably with Black white pencil design and magic marker visualiser but with adobe illustrator bristol sometimes the site is at link number 5, and sometimes not even in the top 200. So beware of anyone who guarantees to get you (and keep you) on the front page of Google.

HTML, CSS, Google, SEO
Date: 2007

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