in SEO by Jeffrey_Smith

Today, I would like to share a powerful SEO technique (using server side includes SSI and alt attributes) to recapture a website from sagging rankings, orphaned pages, theme diffusion and supplemental results.

Alt Attributes and SEO: This image could be a link for the keyword butterfly

Using Alt Attributes and SEO: This image could be a link for the keyword butterfly.

This technique is particularly useful if you have a content-rich website (600 pages or more) replete with multiple pages to use for sculpting a collective goal. The two SEO tactics suggested later in the document are (1) virtual theming and (2) emphasis on the alt attribute of images to employ as optimized anchor text to add relevant internal links.

A few clients of ours have massive websites (with several hundred thousand pages) and while SEO for smaller websites can be a snap, working on robust sites with such girth often involve several teams which all need to “buy in” to the SEO process as a whole to embrace the required tactics and changes needed to revive dormant pages.

There is typically a development team, content team, usability team and various other departments all with a stake in the collective process with sites of this size. If you want to actually “get things done” vs. having meetings about your meetings to accomplish optimization in a reasonable time line, then managing expectations as well as project deliverables should be predicated on a lean task-flow model to get past unwarranted resistance or bureaucratic delays.

Not only does this require tact, but the simpler the solution the better; and there is no simpler solution that leveraging link equity from within your own website (since you can control which pages pass what anchor text and value to other relevant pages).

There is no better source for links than your own website, before you go out and try to compete with off page ranking factor (building links to your web property) you need to tend to the site architecture and internal links first.

So, what can you do to restructure the hierarchy of relevance and fine-tune which pages you want to rise to the top and reach the spotlight of search engines? The answer, use the alt attribute of deliberately placed images.

Using Images as Potential Links

Now let’s cover the specifics about the  two particular modifications (1) server side includes (SSI) and (2) alt attributes from images as anchor text to build subtle internal links.

Server side includes are sub segments that can be summoned or placed into any template. Granted that the entire website is not built on the same template, this will provide flexibility for optimization purposes as your site evolves.

For example, having a footer1, footer2 or footer3 (all with a different array of internally themed links) will allow you to mirror the type of content in the body area to ensure that the links leaving that page (to augment other site segments) are all based on continuity and are not all the same.

There are two reasons why this is important (1) shingle analysis and / or duplicate content and (2) creating a null set in various repetitive block segments (essentially search engines ignoring your includes and / or links because they occur with high frequency in the website). A block represents a partitioned segment of the website (header, footer, sidebar / column, etc. under this assumption.

For example, if you have 10,000 pages all using the same “me too” template, i.e, using the same navigation and the same links in the sidebar or footer, that is only going to skew your website with internal duplicate content.

The downside is, (a) after so many instances, search engines will simply stop indexing the same content and (b) you will need to exceed a higher threshold of words per page to differentiate the market focus of the page to “convince” search engine algorithms that your page should rank for a specific keyword or key phrase vs. the data dump / alphabet soup it appears as with so many similar elements.

Providing a contextual link from a relevant page to another relevant page is one of the most effective methods for improving SERP (search engine result page) position. Regardless of whether that link comes from an internal source (within the website) or from an external source (from another website) does not matter; what matters is the strength of the page providing the link.

So, What is the Solution?

Create server side includes that you can use at will within the template, instead of using more of “the same old new same” in your web design, vary your server side includes to pull things like (1) more targeted topical sub-navigation such as only linking to similar products or pages or category pages (just look at )instead of using a template across an entire website (2) use targeted ad blocks to link to your other preferred landing pages with targeted anchor text or (3) swapping out the footers to link to other related areas, sitemaps or other critical regions.

The beauty of this SEO tactic is the text and content on the page remains virtually unchanged and the only elements that are altered are adding a few images or link blocks for the sake of improving languishing link-flow in less traveled site segments.

The degree and extent in which you engage this strategy is entirely up to you, but you could essentially use this in tandem with a simple Google search operator keyword (replace with your own website and the keyword you want to improve the ranking) and add the new image or block segment / server side include to those pages to funnel link-flow to your preferred landing page a.k.a champion page for that keyword.

For a more in depth article on using this technique to create organic landing pages that rank like PPC landing pages, follow the previous link provided or read – Is Your On Page SEO Strong Enough?

Also read:

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About Jeffrey_Smith

In 2006, Jeffrey Smith founded SEO Design Solutions (An SEO Provider who now develops SEO Software for WordPress).

Jeffrey has actively been involved in internet marketing since 1995 and brings a wealth of collective experiences and marketing strategies to increase rankings, revenue and reach.

14 thoughts on “Using Server Side Includes and Alt Attributes for SEO
  1. SlimJim says:

    I just want to say, you have awesome SEO & blog post layouts.

    I noticed how you passed that link juice to/from your older blog post (very last link in your blog post – On Page SEO). ;)

    I have a ? for you. I’m in the startup stage of a new blog, the blog is a simple CMS site for downloading files (all legit), I have the same download text that leads to a single .zip file download per each page.

    I plan on adding a new image to replace the download text, & a no-follow to the .zip file URL, also add some keyword to the Image-ALT. If I add the no-follow will the keywords have any weight, or would the whole Image-ALT be pointless because of the no-follow?

    I should be around 8-9k webpages when finished.


  2. Hey Slim Jim:

    Glad you noticed that little tactic I use for revitalizing tiered content deep in the blog. Deep linking from new posts always brings a barrage of new rankings as a result of infusing fresh link flow to old posts (via the RSS feed) and those who link back via trackbacks.

    Depending on the popularity of the post, it generates its own backlinks (I have seen up to 1K for a page from this method alone).

    Sort of makes you think about building or acquiring natural links vs. the brute force method. It is really a matter of the size of your RSS footprint.

    Love the question about the new download / considerations. It almost seems like a moot point about the anchor text on the download buttons (unless you want the zip files to rank).

    Similarly, if you are linking to PDF files, make sure to nofollow or link back from the PDF to get the link equity back (in you pass it via do-follow).

    If you are bolstering on page content, where you wanted to get a little more punch for your on page, you could consider making an in page #anchor with keyword rich text (much like #top) was used back in the day.

    That way, the page for each download has an internal link (linking to itself with a preferred anchor) and then omit using alt on the download button itself.

    All the best…

  3. SlimJim says:

    Thanks, Jeffrey

    The reason I asked that ? was, I’m looking at the Google Cache (text-only version) for a few of my webpages.

    I noticed how the Alt-Text (keywords) show as text/content, so I was thinking regardless of the no-follow in the .zip url, the Image Alt text should still show in the Google Cache (text-only version) which is what the Google spider is really crawling, so at the very least it could give my page more text content. Do I have this correct or am I way off base. ;)

    I still might try a couple of pages, see how it looks in the Google Cache, then make the call.

    My real problem is I need more text content/keywords per download page without looking like spam, pretty urls will only get me so far. :)

  4. The alt attribute keywords do contribute to on page relevance for that page, so, you can use it to add more text / relevance.

    To increase on page potency try minimizing links leaving the page (as all links show as text as you mentioned) or adding more content per page to distinguish each page more (for a higher relevance score) for the pages main keyword.

    Other wise, use a common image or images in the template for all of your download pages that consolidate ranking factor to your main cyclical pages or main category page.

    If you are going to have thousands of pages, you may as well use them to consolidate a few major champion pages (which you can do with all in title or all in anchor relevance) from changing titles or links…

  5. I’m glad that I came across your site. I have read a number of your articles and they were all an excellent read and very informative. Thanks :)

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