Parsing SEO From the Ground Up – Part 1


Welcome to 2009, and a new year for the small business!  The bad news about the economy has all businesses– big and small, searching for ways to generate revenue.  Based upon all the expert predictions for the upcoming year, ecommerce looks like it might be in a position to grow.  Discount retailers have been somewhat immune to the effects of the economy, this means small businesses on the web should look for the customers looking for deals.  If you haven’t done so already, start thinking about your SEO strategy.  If you need some tips, take a look at this post from This article touches on the risks of relying on your web designer for SEO.  The advice should be taken seriously.  Yet, the web designer doesn’t get a free pass when it comes to SEO.  The web designer has a direct effect on SEO.  In this post– the first in a series, we’ll talk about web design and its relationship to SEO.

Web Design and SEO

Web design and SEO are two separate things.  Your web designer might not be an SEO expert, and your SEO expert might not be a web designer.  That being stated, your web designer can have a huge impact on the effectiveness of your SEO efforts.  That last thought seems to contradict my first statement about SEO experts and web designers being two different entities.  Let’s clear up the apparent contradiction, and discern how your web designers can either hinder or enhance your SEO efforts.

Search Engines Begin With the Parser

We all know that Google, Yahoo and MSN allow us to search the web based upon keywords.  The searcher types in keywords or phrases, the search engine returns results.  Your objective as a small business owner– get in the top three listed results for your chosen keywords.  Real simple concept (What’s not so simple is the algorithm these engines utilize to rank pages).  Did you ever stop and think about how all those urls actually were found and cataloged? How do the search engines know that a particular page actually contains content about said keyword?  It’s not magic, its parsing.

Parsing the Web for Better Search Engine Results

More commonly known as a web spider or crawler, the parser represents the lynch pin of SEO.  That being said, very few SEO experts or Web Designers actually know how these tools work.  The parser reads the HTML of each page it parses.  It doesn’t see the page as humans do via a browser, it’s only concerned with the HTML code that creates the page.  To see what the parser sees, simply right-click on a web page, and select ‘view source’ from the menu.


The source view gives a parser's perspective of your page content.

That’s how the parser views your page– but there’s more to it.  The parser doesn’t just read all the text within the page, it attempts to only read the content, with exceptions for following links and reading ‘alt’ tags for graphics.  The parser saves the text to be crunched by the formulas so your page can be ranked.  The parser follows link tags to the linked page and continues the process.

Not All HTML is Created Equal

So here’s the trick– some HTML parses more  easily than others. For example, ‘table’ tags don’t parse as easily as ‘div’ tags.  What does that mean?  That means if your designer utilizes tables to build your website– at one time a very common practice, there exists the chance that some of your content doesn’t get parsed.  It also means that if you have Flash based menus– some of those secondary pages may not be parsed.  No matter how well you’ve researched keywords or optimized your copy writing, if it doesn’t get parsed it won’t get ranked!

Protecting Your SEO Investment

Our discussion leads to a new set of questions.  You want to know how the parser deals with Flash, Active Pages (asp, jsp, php etc.) and AJAX. Those of you who have invested in a professional SEO expert want to know that you’re getting the most bang for your buck. In part 2 we will discuss web technologies like flash, active pages and AJAX.  In part 3 we’ll address how to confirm what the parser actually sees when crawling your site.


1 Response to “Parsing SEO From the Ground Up – Part 1”

  1. 1 Clint January 5, 2009 at 8:20 pm

    Excellent article! You really simplified the mystery and madness behind SEO and web design.

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