Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is relatively straight-forward if you know what to do and you take the time to do it (or have Focal Point eSolutions help!). Results aren’t quick but your site’s ranking will slowly but surely rise over time if the following Seven Steps to Great SEO are executed correctly.
1. Choose Effective Keywords or Key-Phrases
Choose two or three highly targeted keywords or key phrases for each page of your site, including your Home Page. Keywords should be narrowly targeted keywords or phrases, and if possible, competition on the internet should not be too large.
Google has two free keyword tools (links included below) that help you discover keywords that may be worth targeting in your content.
2. Create Unique Content Using Keywords
Publishing keyword-rich original content is absolutely crucial to ranking highly. Transform your list of carefully selected keywords into pages of unique web content. Write pages of at least 200 words of unique text, incorporating your chosen keywords.
Search engines must find and “read” keyword rich copy on your pages so they can properly classify or index your site. The frequency (or density) of keyword usage is also important. For best results repeat each keyword or phrase, or variations of the phrase, 2 to 4 times within your copy (depending on its length). Be sure to put it at least once in a headline using h1 or h2 HTML tags. More is not better. A higher keyword density than this can often cause search engines to penalizing your site. Never use “invisible text” or text on your Web pages that is the same color as the background. It will also result in search engine penalties.
Your website content should be written first for real people, and second for search engine crawlers. For your website to be successful you need to keep both in mind.
Don’t just tell the customer you have a great widget at a great price. Tell them what that widget will do to make their lives better, easier, safer, more important. If it saves them time, improves results, etc. – tell them that, and briefly tell them how. Show then the Benefits, not the “features.”
Nine good places to use your keywords:
1. In your page title. This is what appears at the top of the browser window when someone visits your website.
2. In your page description. Visitors don’t see this, but the search engines do. This is the two lines of text that appear below the main title in search engine results.
3. In your page URL. Use keywords, not strings of alphanumeric characters, in the URLs of each page of your site. Search engines will index them much better and display them higher in search results. Creating page URLs with keywords helps those pages rank higher. Simply insert the linked-to page’s targeted keyword phrase into the hyperlink whenever possible. Here is a good example from Allrecipes.com: Allrecipes.com/Recipe/Fettuccini-with-Salsa-Cruda-and-Feta/Detail.aspx
4. In the headings and subheadings. Make it easy for your readers to very quickly see what your page is about by using lots of headings and subheadings.
5. In the first sentence and your first paragraph. Make sure your important keywords appear first — the earlier, the better.
6. In the last paragraph. Also use your keywords at the end of your content.
7. Elsewhere in the page copy. When keywords fall naturally throughout your article, consider bolding them. But don’t go overboard with it or it will become a distraction.
8. In your text links. Instead of linking to words like “click here,” use your keywords in your link anchor text.
9. In the ALT tags on images. The search engines can’t understand images. With every image, include a bit of text called the ALT tag and use your keywords in that text. Title tags on images are important as well.
3. Title Tag Optimization
This is what the title tag on Dell.com looks like:
<meta name=”title” content=”Dell – Official Website – Learn about Dell’s laptops, desktops, monitors, printers plus computer electronics & accessories. “>
HTML title tags are critical because search engines use them when deciding what a web page is about. Using descriptive words and phrases in your Title tags helps both people and search engines better understand the focus of the page. Include your most important keywords in this tag.
Space is limited (use a maximum of 69 total characters) so don’t include your company name unless you really think it needs to be there. Do not use the Title tag to display irrelevant information such as “Home Page.” Think of it more as a “Title Keyword Tag” and include words that users would likely search for to find the product or service or other information on that page.
The Title tag is the most important tag to optimize on your webpage because:
- Search engines place a lot of importance on the words used in the title tag when determining your page ranking and keyword indexing
- They are used as the title for your search engine results listings, giving a critical “first impression” to search engine users.
- They are used as the bookmark heading when someone bookmarks a page in your site.
Here’s a simple method for writing title tags that will boost your rankings:
- Start the title with the top keyword or phrase for which you are trying to get high rankings. Be sure that the keyword is well used on your webpage so the Title Tag is clearly relevant to the page as a whole.
- Insert a hyphen or double-colon to separate the initial keyword from what comes next to help make the title more readable.
- Then describe the webpage in five words or less while using all or part of your target keyword or phrase again.
4. Description Tag Optimization
The Meta Description Tag is the next most important tag, since search engines frequently use it as the description for your page’s listing. A good example of a meta description’s use of keywords is found below:
<meta name=”description” content=”McDonald’s in the USA: Food and nutrition info, franchise opportunities, job and career info, restaurant locations, promotional information, history, innovation and more.” />
Here is what you should do to optimize your description tags:
- Create a unique meta description tag for each page that uses its keywords.
- Create “meaty” description tags that accurately describe the page and product to search users and respect the character limits noted below.
- Include words that users would most likely search for to find the product, service or information on that page.
Here are a few guidelines to follow when writing description tags:
- The entire tag should be no longer than 156 characters
- It should briefly describe the webpage and entice users to click on your listing
- The keyword should be used no more than two times
Note: The Keyword meta tag is not given ANY consideration at all by Google or the other major search engines; many websites no longer use this tag
5. Eliminate Broken Links and Error pages
Broken links that produce “Page Not Found” error messages are harmful to your site. They reduce search engine crawling efficiency and accuracy, meaning that some of your content may not be listed (or indexed) in search engine databases. They also “dilute” your site’s overall search engine rank. Plus, they are one of the easiest ways to lose potential customers. Broken links and error messages create a highly negative and unprofessional impression to visitors, frequently causing them to leave and not return.
Create a Custom 404 Error Page A good 404 error page advises visitors that they’ve hit an invalid URL, and then provides other links to direct help them to their intended destination.
Use 301 Redirects If you move or rename pages, use 301 redirects to automatically transfer them from the old page location to its new permanent home.
6. Submit an XML Sitemap
Submitting an XML Sitemap is the best way of being sure search engines have information about your entire website. A sitemap is the best, fastest and only guaranteed method of informing search engines about every page of your site. Updating and resubmitting your sitemap on a weekly basis will increase its effectiveness even more.
7. Build Links to your Website
One of the most important elements (of the more than 200) that Google considers when ranking your site is the number and quality of links pointing to it. The general idea is that the more sites indicating that your content is valuable by linking to it, the better. As long as these links come from sites deemed to be of quality or authority (high search rank), the better your own search rank will be.
Be very careful about buying links! You can be penalized for participating in most link buying schemes, or having links from sites that Google has blocked, such as sites involved in link selling, sites with malware, or any other activity in violation of Google’s guidelines.
A common legitimate link building activity is directory submission. Submission can range from just your name and homepage URL to an extensive business profile. Always make sure any content you post to directories is unique, readable and human friendly. Never submit strings of comma-separated keywords or duplicate content that will be seen as spam. It is always best to list your site only in the most important, authoritative and reputable directories.
There are many other ways to quickly develop high quality links that work, including: professionally syndicated press releases, syndicated business listing services, submitting articles to or commenting on blogs and forums, starting your own blog, getting local government (.gov), educational (.edu), or business association links by working with those organizations, submitting product reviews and answers on sites like Yahoo! Answers and writing submissions in related forums and user groups. Another important link building activities is participating in Social Networking activates such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
However, by far the best way to get quality links to your site is by writing good content. If it’s original, informative and interesting people will want to link to. If you haven’t got the skill or time necessary to write great keyword focused content and work to get it posted on important sites, check out our Top Listing Program. It’s an effective, low-cost alternative to trying to do it all yourself.