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Search Engine Optimization - Basics

So you would like to learn what is search engine optimization (SEO) and how to do it.

Definition: Search engine optimization is the art of modifying a web sites content by rewriting the copy and restructuring the web pages to make them search engine friendly and helping to improve natural ranking on major search engines. A common goal of search engine optimization is to get top-ten web site ranking on major search engines using important keyword combinations that relate to the web site being optimized.

Search engines are in competition with one another and exactly how each one works is not publicized. Fortunately there are commonly know facts about what most major search engines like and dislike, which contributes to the basis of search engine optimization. Search engines all rank web sites differently resulting in varying levels of search results ranking among the many search engines. Fully optimizing a web site to the best of ones ability is very time consuming and is usually unnecessary. It is normally sufficient to fully optimize a few main pages within a site and ensure that other web pages follow proper standards in design.

Consequently, as a developer creates a web site, he/she must always keep in mind some of the basics of search engine optimization and implement those basics accordingly.

Please read on to learn more about how to optimize your web site.

Minimum Optimization

To set up a site to have a fair chance at good search engine ratings all pages on the site should minimally have the following attributes:

  • The page title must have relevant content.
  • Image tags should have relevant text in the "alt" attribute.
  • There must be textual content within the main web pages of the site.
  • The more robust the textual content, the more likely the site will rank higher in search engines.
  • Text included on a page MUST be in the form of ASCII text and not embedded within images.

Full Optimization - The Most Important Pages To Optimize

It is normally not necessary to fully optimize every part of a web site to result in good search engine rankings. Nor is it a sure thing that fully optimizing a web site will result in good search engine ranking. However, fully optimizing a few key pages along with some minimal optimization to the rest of the site can result in very satisfactory search engine rankings. The most important pages to fully optimize are generally the pages that are richest in content. It is natural to think that the home page should be the first choice for full optimization, however a clean professional looking home page may not be the best choice if it does not have much content.

Keywords

When it comes to search engine optimization, it is very important to think in terms of the keywords. Keywords are the basis of search engine optimization. Keywords simply are words that are used by a person in a search engine to find web sites containing relevant content. Good keywords properly used help to get a web site noticed within the search engine results. There are many factors in determining good keywords and combinations of keywords, and there are many different philosophies behind determining great keywords for any particular web site.

Keywords in and of themselves mean little in terms of optimizing a web site if they are used inappropriately or improperly – or even worse are recognized by the search engines as being used in a deceptive way.

Many people think optimizing a web site is simply a matter of determining some keywords and plugging them into the “keywords” meta tag of a web page, then submitting that page to one or more search engines. That method of search engine optimization was effective in the past, but not any more. Plugging keywords into the meta tag is now only a small part of the solution and if done improperly can negatively impact search engine rankings. It is important that the “keywords” meta tag gets a good set of keyword combinations, however it is even more important to have strong keyword combinations included within other elements of the page complimenting each of the other elements within the page.

When people search for web sites they are usually specific about the keywords used in search engines. The more specific the keyword combination, the more focused the search engine results will be to the end user. In fact, when a user starts out by using a generic keyword in a search engine, the search results are usually so generic that the end user will do more refined searches focusing on specific keyword combinations until they find web sites that are most relevant to their needs.

Determining the best keywords to use in the web site is probably the most important step in optimizing a web site for search engine ranking. Everything else in the optimization process uses these base keywords into some way. When determining keywords there are no quick and simple rules that will result in the best keyword combinations. However, a good rule of thumb would be to guess at what potential visitors will type into the search engine to find a web site and use those keywords as a basis for optimizing the page.

Remember that if you are too general with your keywords, you will be competing with a tremendously large number of web sites for search engine ranking, and the larger the competition, the less likely your web site will show up in search engine results. Consequently, if you are too specific with keyword combinations, very few people will actually use your chosen keyword combinations, thus resulting in poor search engine related traffic. A good set of keyword combinations usually falls somewhere in between general and specific to varying degrees either way depending on many factors.

Description

The description Meta tag is an important part of search engine friendly web pages. The description is not visible to the end user, however search engines look for it and many use it as the summary text in search result listings. As with any other element, the description is another place where keywords should be strategically included.

The description should only be 2 to 3 sentences long and the most important sentences should be first because search engine listings have a limited number of characters that will be displayed in the listing.

Domain Name

By far the most bang for the buck with keywords comes from the most likely used keywords being included in the web sites domain name. For example if you use the very general keyword of “cars” in any search engine you can imagine what web site listing will be at the top of the list - try it.

Unfortunately, for most web sites this is overlooked when registering the domain name for several reasons. One of the biggest reasons, in this authors opinion, is that search engine optimization is usually not thought about when choosing a domain name and by the time the web site owner thinks about search engine optimization the domain name is already well established.

Do not make the mistake of thinking if your domain name matches your most important keywords that search engine optimization should not be done! Just because a web site gets top ranking with one particular keyword, that does not mean other keywords or combinations of keywords should be dismissed. Remember, the more a web site shows up in search engine results, the more likely a web site will have a higher level of traffic.

Content is King!

The purpose of search engines is for end users to find what they are looking for. Therefore search engine developers cater to the end user and rank web sites by relevance. With this in mind, the most important information contained in a web page in relation to search engine ranking, other than in the domain name, is visible textual content within the body of a web page.

Years ago the most important elements for search engines were to populate the keywords Meta tag and description Meta tag with relevant keywords and the search engines would rank based on that. Now that the search engine companies have matured, they are smarter and have developed their search engines to work for the end user instead of for the web sites listed. It's the duty of the copy writer to create content rich web pages that are valuable to the end user if high ranking is of concern – which it should be!

Using exact keyword combinations within hyperlinks (ie. anchor <a></a> tags not JavaScript buttons) on a web page has proven to be very important in search engine ranking.

Site Map

Search engines need to have a direct path to other pages on the site through a series of hyperlinks. A site map in this context is simply a common set of links that is included on all pages of a web site that allows the search engines to easily navigate a site. Without a complete site map, search engines may not be able to find all the web pages on a site, which in turn will hurt ranking.

Web site navigation must consist of hyperlinks. This does not mean a series of buttons. Buttons use javascript for navigation and search engines do not follow links that are contained within javascript.

Common Myths

SEO is Simple: For a few sites this is very true. Any site that has their most important keywords included in their domain name and also has those keywords included within the content of the page has a high likelihood of ranking at the top of the major search engines with little or no effort. However, this is not the case for the majority of web sites. There are many web sites that need a full makeover in order to have a decent chance at high search engine ranking.

Search Engine Ranking Guarantees: A guarantee is an assurane of a particular outcome. Anyone who puts a little effort into search engine optimization can guarantee some kind of outcome. Be wary of guarantees. If a keyword combination used within a site is so specific that there is little chance any other web site would include it in their SEO efforts, there is an excellent chance that the keyword combination will result in the web site listing at the top of many search engines. Don't let the word gurantee get in the way of better judgement. To ensure a reasonable guarantee with a SEO company who advertises guarantees, make sure to agree on specific keyword combinations that will result in top ranking on major search engines.

Top ranked web sites do not need to be optimized: Do not make the mistake of thinking that just because one particular keyword combination results in top search engine ranking and that a web site could not benefit from search engine optimization.

Potential web site visitors use many different keyword combinations to search for web sites. Therefore, any web site that ranks high in the search engines on only a few select keywords could be missing out on a large number of potential visitors.

Optimize Your Site Now

Don't wait! Optimize your web site as soon as possible and submit it to the search engines to help drive new visitors to your web site in as little as 30 days.

Please review our Search Engine Optimization Services page to see how we can help you.

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