Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process getting your website ready to be found in organic webs searches. By organic searches, I’m referring to web searches that appear naturally as the result of a search for a particular keyword or phrase, rather than appearing in the sponsored links (pay-per-click advertising) section of a search page.
Frankly, for the first few years I was online, the thought of doing my own SEO made my eyes cross, and I was overwhelmed at where to start. I even toyed with the idea of hiring a specialist to do this for me, but never got around to it. However, over time, I slowly began to see a pattern emerging, and started to optimize some of my sites accordingly. One of the best days of my business was when I recently ranked #1 for a particularly competitive search term.
I’m not a search engine optimization (SEO) specialist, nor do I play one on TV. However, even a new business owner who creates and updates her own websites can implement some very basic SEO strategies to make her website appear higher in the organic rankings on certain keyword searches.
Here are the 11 strategies that I regularly implement on my sites for better SEO positioning:
1. Page title tags. This is the page information that you see in the blue bar of your browser in the upper left-hand corner when you visit a website. For best SEO, use your top 2 keywords in your title tag. The best way to do that is separated with a bar, as illustrated in this example: Internet Marketing | Web Marketing.
2. Domain name: If at all possible, use one primary keyword in your domain name. You will have a slight edge over your competition by doing so. If you already have a domain that you have used for some time, include a keyword in the name of files for your website pages. Example: http://www.yoursite.com/internet-marketing.htm if your keyword is Internet marketing.
3. Meta tags. These are descriptions on a web page that are not seen by most visitors except when looking at the page source code in their browser. While the keyword and description metatags used to be the primary way that search engines indexed sites, that is no longer the case. However, you shouldn’t ignore them entirely, as it is still worthwhile to include them as a part of your page description. For optimal SEO, your meta description and keyword tags should be no more than 150 characters each.
4. Header tags. Header tags are the HTML code that indicates a headline, like H1, H2 and H3 and show up as bolded headlines in your page content. The first 3 header tags are the only ones you need to be concerned about, and the primary header tag, H1, is the most important. Use your primary keyword one time in the H1 tag, 2-3 times in your H2 tags, and multiple times in your H3 tags.
5. Alt image tag: The alt tag typically describes an image in a floating text window when you put your mouse over the image if the image isn’t able to be displayed. The best use of any tag is to use your keywords in your image descriptions.
6. Content formatting. Search engines pay attention to formatted content, as in when text is bolded, italicized, and underlined. Make sure that you are bolding your keywords in the content of your website.
7. Keyword density. Keyword density refers to the number of times a keyword or keyword phrase appears on a web page. Rather than trying to focus on the number of times a keyword appears in the content of your page, aim for a more natural density by keeping your keyword phrases in mind as you write the copy for your page. Optimally, keyword density should be between 2% – 7%. There are a number of keyword density checkers available online to assist you with determining the keyword density of a page.
8. Anchor text. Anchor text refer to links on a page that connect your visitor to other pages. So, rather than telling someone to “click here” in the content of your page, include a keyword in your anchor text, as in “click here for dog training tips.”
9.. Inbound links. Reciprocal link exchange (you link to my site and I’ll link to yours) used to be a great way to attract the attention of search engines to your site. Now, search engines pay attention only to the quality and popularity of the site providing you with an inbound link that is not a reciprocal link. One of the best ways to get quality inbound links back to your site is to submit articles to high traffic article directories and submit press releases to paid press release services.
A second way to gain high quality inbound links is by listing your site in search engine-friendly directories in which humans review the listings. Google and other search engines place more credibility in the directories in which the listings are reviewed by real people than they do other kinds of directories. Consequently, these links are weighted more heavily and favorably in the inbound link evaluation process.
10. New content. Content is still king, so one way to increase your page rank for a search term is to write high quality articles containing one or two of your keywords in the title and posting those regularly (weekly is best) to your site. Search engines are always seeking good, fresh, content, so your goal should be to make your site into an information-rich resource for your industry.
11. Site maps. There are sitemaps that help a visitor navigate a site, and sitemaps that are expressly designed for the search engines. The two are not the same. To enhance your site, submit an xml sitemap to Google Webmaster Central and Yahoo Site Explorer. I use XML Sitemaps, www.xml-sitemaps.com to build search engine-friendly sitemaps on my sites.
Search engine optimization strategy is not a difficult as it appears. Take some time to do some keyword research for your site, and then spend another 15 minutes a day employing a few of these strategies until you have a well-optimized site. Why pay for visitors through pay-per-click advertising if you don’t have to?
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