SEO Training - Lesson Two

SEO - the Basics

You know that search engine optimization (SEO) can improve the way your web site interacts with search engines and thus improve your overall rankings. But, there is more to SEO than creating good META tags and tweaking content. Here is a checklist for SEO to help you decide whether to outsource or do it yourself.

Strategy and Planning: Success in SEO is won or lost in this phase. Everything you do from this point on depends on a winning plan.

  • Establish Your Goals: Often this stage is overlooked - you know what you want, right? Well sometimes your goal can be virtually unattainable. You must research the competition to find out how much effort it will take to attain your goal. Look at the top sites for your desired keywords and set your sights on beating the weakest link. If the competition is too fierce - set your sights on niche keywords.
  • Select keywords: Use keyword suggestion tools to find out if your keywords are highly searched and on target. Select relevant keywords but don't try to target too many as this will dilute your site's relevance.
  • Create content around your keywords. Use the keywords you select (and variations) throughout the site's content. At this stage, don't worry about densities - just write content that is relevant and legible to visitors.
  • Architecture: Draw out a plan - how will each page in your site flow and relate to each keyword? Make a list of pages and the corresponding keywords they will target.
  • Link Plan: As you are researching, make a list of prospects for link partners.

Optimization: Following the plan you've laid out, each page of your site should have one to two target keywords.

  • Title: Create a unique title tag using the primary keyword for every page. The title should be no more than nine words and refrain from using stop words such as "and, or, the, etc."
  • META Tags: Create a unique META description for every page using the targeted keyword. Keep your description between 10 and 20 words and try to use any secondary keywords here as well.
  • Content: Make sure your content is written for humans - not search engines, but you want to it to be keyword-rich. Use your keyword at the beginning, middle and end of each page.
  • Headlines and Links: Use your keyword in a headline (H1 or Bold) tag within your page. Whenever you are linking to other relevant content within your site, use the corresponding keyword as your anchor text.
  • Images: If page uses images, use the keyword in your ALT attributes for the image.

Technical Checklist: The following list of items can improve or detract from your SEO efforts.

  • Unique IP Address: Having a unique IP address for your web site can improve your SEO.
  • Server Header: Make sure your server does not return a redirect or misconfiguration. There are tools you can use to check the information your server returns upon a page request.
  • Robots: Double check your robots.txt file to make sure you are not excluding content from being indexed.
  • HTML Validation: Poorly constructed HTML can prohibit part or all content from being indexed. Make certain your code is the best it can be.
  • Multiple Domains: Multiple domain names pointing to the same web site can sometimes be interpreted as "duplicate content" by search engines. Duplicate content can be penalized in rankings.
  • Conversion Tracking: It is critically important to track the effectiveness of your work. There are tools you can use (in addition to your web site statistics) that will help you determine what is working and what is not.
  • Ranking Checks : It is always good to have some tools to track your progress in achieving positions.

Off page factors: After optimizing your pages, it's time to concentrate on the factors outside your web site that affect your ranking.

  • Linking: Get quality links to your web site. Choose prospects based on their relevance to your site and then approach each site with a personal request for a link to you. Have your information prepared in advance based on the page you want a link to and the corresponding keyword for that page. Always opt for a text link using your targeted keywords.
  • Search engine submission: Once you obtain links coming to your site; search engines will find you. You can still submit your URL although it is better to concentrate on directories.

Be wary of any techniques that involve methods that can be deemed as "SEO tricks". These methods may sometimes produce short-term results; but if you get penalized or removed from search engines it could be a disaster for your business.

  • Hidden Text: Text that only appears to search engines and not humans is fairly easy for the search engine to spot. There are many different methods for "switch and bait" AND they are now being targeted and weeded out by the search engines.
  • Doorways: Although there are some legitimate uses for doorway pages; if you create pages (or domains) just for the purpose of targeting a keyword you will ultimately hurt your rankings.
  • Links: Getting thousands of links from unrelated sites or "link farms" will not help your rank and could hurt it.

SEO is not only about improving your rankings... it's about creating unique, relevant content that visitors will find useful. By following a few guidelines and a little common sense, the things that make your site relevant to visitors will also make it relevant for search engines.

© Anita Schott
Contributing Writer
Instant Position