Search Engine Optimization (How to Get Listed)

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is just one tool in the marketing toolbox. In fact there are more non-SEO activities you can do than there are SEO activities:

Off-line marketing: The use of business cards, advertising, flyers, networking and so on.

On-line marketing: Social networking, blogs, forums, email campaigns, newsletters and so on.

None of the above requires any search engine optimisation, in fact it is possible to rank very highly with a site that has ignored just about all the SEO advice you will find here and in any other articles. All they did was make sure that the website was popular and the search engines did all the rest.

But you can of course help things along the way by making life easier for the search engines to index your site without alienating your potential customers (with thanks to Black Knight at www.cre8asiteforums.com for the inspiration).

Caveat: There are no quick fixes. Building an effective website takes time – and sometimes even longer to get to the top of the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).

1. Do some research

Before you start, research SEO techniques. Subscribe to the various search engine forums on sites such as: SearchEngineWatch, Threadwatch, Search Engine Roundatable and Matt Cutt’s Blog.

Have a look at the many online tutorials and read the advice given by the search engines themselves:

Yahoo Guidelines, Google Webmaster Help Centre, Microsoft Guidelines

2. Build an Interesting and Informative Website

This might sound blatantly obvious but is usually the most overlooked part of any website. The key components of any website are the content and the navigation. If the information you provide is incomplete, inaccurate or uninspiring then your potential customers will feel dissatisfied and probably leave. And if your navigation is difficult to use then potential customers are again unlikely to spend any time trying to work out where to go next.

The search engine robots that index the site are no different to human visitors, they are looking for informative pages with a clear internal navigation system. If the robots perceive that the webpage provides value to your potential customers then the chances of an improved ranking increase.

If your site looks just like any other selling the same products or services then there is no incentive for the Search Engine to give you a decent rank in the SERPs.

More Information on Page Content and Effective Navigation.

3. Build Pages with a Logical Structure

Search engines can only ‘see’ text so if you use tables, layers, maps and images then the search engines can get confused as to which bits are important. You need to present the information to the search engines in a logical order: title, description, header, navigation, body text, footer. If you do this then the search engines will be able to connect together relevant information and give you an improved ranking accordingly.

More information on Building a Logical Structure.

4. Make Sure Your Keywords are Included on the Page

People search for information using keywords. If you want to be found for a specific set of keywords you need to make sure they are included on the webpage.

So make sure you include lots of relevant, keyword-rich content on your site and repeat them in the page title, headers, paragraph, alt and anchor text and so on. Make it quite clear to the search engines which words you consider to be important.

But do not think that repeating a keyword endlessly will boost your rankings in the long term, the search engines watch out for ‘keyword stuffing’ and penalise those sites that do.

You may also find that to add a particular keyword disrupts the flow on a page. The simple answer is to generate a new page that is focussed on your selected keyword.

Don’t change your keywords once you have optimised, once a page is indexed and ranked if you change your keywords then you will lose your ranking. If you want new keywords then add a new page.

More information on keyword placement.

5. Write Unique Page Titles

The page title is the information displayed at the top of every single search engine result. So make sure it properly describes the focus of the page and includes the primary keywords you want the search engines to index.

But make sure you do it in less than 60 characters as that’s all the search engines normally display. For more information on titles here is an excellent article from seologic.com.

6. Write Unique Page Descriptions

Search engines always display a snippet of information about the web page in their results. They often extract something from the page itself but you can entice them to display your choice of words if you write unique page descriptions. Keep the description below 160 characters and enhance the information given in the page title. A well crafted description provides value to your visitors, they can see in just a few words what you are offering and are more likely to visit the site. And it is this that will impress the search engines and improve your ranking.

7. Break up your Documents using Headers

Have a single <h1> that introduces the page and cascading arrangements of <h2>, <h3>, <h4> etc. They are an important source of keywords and indicate to the search engines where the divisions occur on your pages.

8. Use Anchor Text not Images

Search engines like google place great relevance on the links within and external to a site. If you really want to use an image as a navigation aid then make sure you include a text link on the page as well. Make sure that the actual words on the page (the anchor text) are in context. A link called ‘click here’ or ‘download’ makes no sense to the search engine spider. A link with the anchor text: ‘Download the Firefox Browser’ is much more relevant and will be indexed by the search engine spider.

9. Get Rid of Your Metatags

Get rid of all your metatags except for the description. None of the major search engines take any notice of them. The only one you need is the description (see point 6 above).

10. Clean up Your Pages

Do not fill your webpage up with lots of code. These pages do not use JavaScript, tables or formatting tags. All of that is controlled by Cascading Style Sheets. Check the source code of this page – it couldn’t be easier for a search engine to scoot around.

11. Validate Your Site

Whilst the search engine spiders can be quite intelligent there is no point in making their life more difficult. Make sure your site validates using the W3C tool: validator.w3.org or better still use the built in validator for firefox.

12. Build Links

Building links to and from other sites will enhance your search engine ranking potential. The more quality internal, outbound and inbound links you have the better the chance of a good search engine rank. But be aware of the dangers of link farms.

A link farm is loosely defined as a page that lists links for the purpose of achieving a high ranking. Free-for-all links pages are often considered link farms by search engines so be careful who you link to. Realistically, you can’t control who links to you, so incoming links should not hurt your site’s ranking. But you control directly who you link to so be aware that a search engine may ban or penalise your site for linking to a link farm.

This is a little test I’m running for the keywords SEO Salisbury.

13. Tricks and Shortcuts

Don’t get sucked into using ‘tricks’. If you know about a trick then it will not be long before the search engines catch up. If a technique seems a little dodgy then there is a good chance that one or more search engines will think so too and you can end up being penalised or banned.

For example, you can build a page that is optimised for the search engines that redirects to your ‘real’ page. It may work for a while but the search engines will catch up eventually and penalise you for doing it. The same goes for blatant keyword repetition, hidden text and multiple domains with identical content (a favourite of the adult industry). If you want to use tricks to get good rankings then don’t expect your site to have much longevity.

14. Be Patient

Be patient. It can take anything up to a month to even get listed and another couple of months to get properly indexed. So do not expect to see a high ranking straight away. No search engine optimisation and submission company can deliver on a promise to get top listing – it is not in their control to do so.

Summary

Build an interesting and informative website and make sure the pages have a logical structure with your keywords in all the right places. Embark on a link building strategy. Keep your pages tidy, validate your code and be patient.

And remember: content is still king. The search engines are under no obligation to include you in their databases so unless you actually have something of value to say don’t expect to see a listing on the first page of the SERPs.

DIY SEO at freshbananas.co.uk

Are you struggling with ranking, attracting visitors, generating leads or getting sales?

Or are you just stuck not knowing what to do next?

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