How to optimise your website for Search Engines (SEO)

How to optimise your website for Search Engines (SEO)
Reading Time: 7 minutes

Review 1 –

This is the first of my SEO site reviews for willing victims. The aim of these reviews is to help out the owners of the websites, but also to give everyone else an idea of common SEO problems and a few tips on how to fix them.

These reviews are carried out free of charge, out of the goodness of my heart and are not a complete SEO review but they cover some of the main points.

Any feedback from other SEO gurus would be appreciated.

  • Website:
  • Live since: 2004
  • Description: A brochure style site promoting yoga holidays and yoga retreats in Italy run by Karin Montali at Scuola Yoga Camerino, Le Marche.
  • Chosen keywords: yoga italy, yoga in italy, yoga holidays, yoga vacations, yoga retreats, yoga breaks, yoga holiday, yoga vacation, yoga retreat, yoga break, yoga weekend, yoga weekends, yoga workshops, yoga workshop, yogareis, yoga vakantie, yoga august, yoga summer, karin montali, le marche, italy, scuola yoga camerino, yoga italië

First impressions

This is a cute, site with a very simple design and around 15 pages in total.
There are some nice touches (the quotes, gallery and favicon), but the site is a little basic compared to its competitors.

From a non-SEO point of view I think it would benefit from:

  • A Home page – This should be called ‘Home’ and have an overview of the site contents. Move the content currently on the ‘Home’ to a section called About.
  • Larger navigation – currently it’s difficult to read and difficult to roll over and select. I’d go for a straightforward double line navigation and perhaps even repeat it at the bottom of the site in HTML.
  • More imagery – when planning a holiday it’s often the pictures that sell it, although the site has a gallery it would be good to see imagery integrated into the overall site design.
  • Media – perhaps a video or two of the yoga classes in action uploaded via YouTube.
  • Single font – A personal niggle but rather than mixing up san serif and serif fonts I’d stick to just one.
  • A proper Contact form – that’s a LOT more prominent (top navigation please) it took me a while to find it. The single action you want from this site is people getting in touch, so make it easy for them.
  • Language chooser page – I’d also suggest adding some minimal HTML copy to the language chooser page as currently this is not adding to the SEO value at all. Or at the risk of sounding radical I’d do away with this page, and host each site on it’s own country relevant URL (then have a flag toggle for countries at the top of all three sites).


Current rank

The site is not up there on the first page for many chosen keywords:

  • Yoga holidays Italy (SERP 14)
  • Yoga italy (SERP 36)
  • Yoga camerino (SERP 1 – this is due to the URL)
  • Karin montali (SERP 2)

I’d suggest adding some longer keyword phrases and making use of other pages to employ a long tail strategy.

Use this nice little tool to check your results.

Google page rank

3 out of 10
Lets get this one out of the way early, Google page rank irritates me, I don’t think it counts for much but since it’s ready to available to non SEO types it’s often brought up as a key metric. The only site I’ve ever seen with 10 out of 10 is

Both of Karin’s competitors score 3 as well.
Why not read an extremely unreadable article about how page rank is calculated?

Server header

HTTP/1.1 200 OK – Good result. We’re looking here for any nasty redirects as search engines prefer 301 redirects (permanently moved) to 302 redirects (temporarily moved).

Link popularity

  •    170
  •          146
  •      357

A great result from Sunflower retreats. Commons sense dictates that more links pointing to your site the better. If you can’t persuade friends to add you to their websites, set up your own little social network using Facebook pages, Twitter, Digg, Delicious or whatever other sites are relevant to your demographic.

Search engine saturation

Not a bad result when compared to its competitors, Sunflower retreats has been around for 5 years long that our
site, so you’d expect them to have more pages here. Aim is to get a good spread across all websites.

  • Total     47
  • Google/AOL/HotBot         48
  • MSN                 0
  • Yahoo!/FAST/AltaVista     1

  • Total                 116
  • Google/AOL/HotBot         115
  • MSN                 0
  • Yahoo!/FAST/AltaVista     1

  • Total                 35
  • Google/AOL/HotBot         7
  • MSN                 1
  • Yahoo!/FAST/AltaVista     27


Title Tag

The title tags are unique for each page but could be longer, squeezing in a few more keywords. Opinions differ but aim for around 60 characters max and place important keywords at the beginning.


Other than the Introduction page, all the other pages are missing descriptions. It’s important to put these in. Opinions differ but aim for around 160 characters and keyword saturate to around 7% but ensure you make descriptions legible to humans (for those all important search results). Descriptions should also be unique for each page.  There is also a small typo in current intro description (retreat should be retreats).


The  meta info on each page is quite limited, I’d recommend a more complete meta tag in for each page e.g.

<TITLE> see below </TITLE>
<META HTTP=EQUIV=”CONTENT-TYPE” CONTENT=” text/html; charset=iso-8859-1″>
<META NAME =”verify-v1″ content=”??=” />
<META HTTP-EQUIV=”author” CONTENT “xxxxxxxx”>
<META NAME=”copyright” content=””xxxxxxxx”>
<META NAME=”expires” content=”Never”>
<META NAME=”ROBOTS” CONTENT=”index, follow”>
<META NAME =”robots” content=”noodp”>
<META NAME =”classification” content=” “xxxxxxxx”>

Keywords in meta data

Although Google ignores keywords Yahoo still likes them. Although the index page has keywords, the rest do not, these should be added. Generally stick to around 120 characters (or around 20).

I’ve always been convinced that plurals don’t really matter (or are a bit of a waste when you’re so limited) but this interesting article suggests otherwise:

Also prepositions don’t really add much value, so ‘Yoga Italy’ will be judged the same as ‘Yoga in Italy’.  As mentioned above, more complex keyword phrases would I think yield better results.

Keyword density

This refers to how many times your keyword appears in your content, not just the body copy but the headers, bold, links, alt tags, etc. Opinion differs but I’ve always aimed for a keyword saturation of around 7-10%.

For the word yoga – the first page of the site slightly over does it in terms of keywords, title and navigation elements, but has no keywords in bold, headers (H1, H3 etc) or hyperlinks within content.

I’d suggest reviewing all the content with that revised keyword list in hand and making sure that subs, bold and contextual links are added.

Alt tags

Alt tags are in place for most images (don’t put them on spacer graphics) but they are not keyword saturated. Instead of “Excessive enthusiasm is of short” try ‘Yoga holidays in Italy’. Basically it’s good to ensure graphics have meaningful, keyword friendly alt tags, but don’t over do it. Keep buttons function for users with their images turned off.


The navigation uses jscript for the drop downs, which is a bit of a no-no in SEO terms. Also there aren’t really enough terms to justify it. I’d have a straight HTML navigation with sub menus when you click.

Internal links

None of the graphical or HTML links are broken which is good news.

External links

I only found three external links. Spiders like sites that aren’t dead ends, so having lots of links out to friends (who reciprocate of course) will help you. Make sure all external links open in a new window.

Site speed

The site is well optimized and loads quickly 0.63 seconds at 256 Kbps.

Code cleanliness

Running a code cleaner on the page unsurprisingly reduced it by only 1.02% (removing a few white spaces and some redundant code). The page doesn’t have a heap going on but still it’s a good result. Spiders like nice clean, unpadded code.

Code validation

116 warnings found, mostly for minor things that most coders wouldn’t give two hoots about, but the more errors a spider finds the more angry he gets. Let’s not annoy him, lets be anal and fix up all those silly missing attributes.

It’s good to ensure pages meet W3C guidelines – you don’t need to use ‘strict’ doc type for transitional is fine but the site must validate using


It’s there but looks a little strange. I’d probably recreate this just to be safe.


It’s such a small site it might not seem worth having an xml site map, but it doesn’t take five minutes to create one and every little helps. Learn how to create one.

The site should also have a user site map (a simple page of HTML links) just to make it easier for users to navigate.


A few other quick recommendations:
1)    Register the .com, .de and versions of the URL.
2)    Add a custom 404 error, not for SEO purposes but just because it’s more professional.
3)    Name images using keywords, instead of item2.jpg, how about yogaholiday.jpg.
4)   Add a print-friendly button and an ‘add to’ button in the footer (see my footer).

So there you go, a brief SEO review (you call that brief!!)

Arguments rage across SEO blogs about which of the factors above is the MOST important but I believe that in the complex world of Search Engine Optimisation, it’s all about time and effort.

The more you investigate, research and fiddle the better your results will be but aren’t theremore important things to do in life? Get out and enjoy the sunshine, stroke a dog, eat a big bowl of pasta or get a foot massage?

Speaking of which, I’ve got to dash, I’ve got a yoga class.

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