What is SEO -the basics of website optimization
What is SEO?
Search engine optimization for websites -not really all that scary
Maybe you've heard the term during an office water cooler conversation or maybe you've seen a reference to it online. Maybe you even know enough that it has to do with marketing your website in the search engines. For most people, SEO means performing some crazy, juju-voodoo magic on your website with the ambitious goal of ranking your website in the top positions.
Let me just say that it doesn't have to be that complicated and there is very little voodoo on hand here. There's an entire industry built around SEO and countless, never ending discussions about the finer details of the practice. But the core "best practices" of SEO are easy to learn and implement if you know specifically what you're doing.
My definition of SEO:
SEO is short for, and officially translated as Search Engine Optimization. Search Engine Optimization is the practice of "optimizing" elements within your website and related to your website so the search engines will consider your content more relevant to a user's search inquiry.
The basic elements of SEO:
The practice of search engine optimization consists of a couple core elements. If you feel like getting technical and spending every waking moment talking about the finer points, tricks, and new theories and developments you surely can. There are many great sites devoted to SEO and the finer points. Without a doubt though there are 4 main things you should focus on when optimizing your website in the search engines.
SEO is useless without research. If you know what people are searching for specifically you'll have a much better time and find yourself to be far more successful in the long run. Spend time researching the specific words and phrases that your customers and clients might use to find you. This data is available in many forms for free (Google keyword tool) and from many affordable services (Wordtracker, Keyword Discovery) so there's no excuse for skipping this critical step.
Essentially you need to know what people are searching for, not what you think they're searching for. There's a big difference between someone typing "SEO training" and someone typing "Learn search engine optimization" for example. One search might have 10 queries a month, the other might have 1000. Do your homework before you even start your website and it will pay off handsomely as your site grows.
Optimize your page content for the search engines:
Use your specific keywords and phrases in your content and write naturally. It's as simple as that. Don't try to stuff your page with the same word over and over because that will almost guarantee that you'll get banned from Google. This is the most basic type of search engine spam and they hate it.
The search engines are smart and getting smarter every day. They want good content that's relevant to a user's search inquiry and it's getting harder and harder to fool them. Take your time and write great, relevant content that revolves around your target subject and then turn around and write some more. You should use your keywords several times and in several combiations throughout the document and use proper English, punctuation and check your spelling. It all figures into Google's opinion that you're presenting high quality, useful, relevant content.
Optimize your code for the search engines:
If you're not a technical person this might sound like a daunting task and one that might give another website the leg up if you've neglected your geek hat in the back of the closet. I say "Don't fear the code" my friend! There are many things that you can do without being a computer scientist if you just know what's most important. For example, use your keywords in your page title. It's at the very top of every HTML page and it begins with
. For obvious reasons search engines pay close attention to the page title because it summarizes specifically what the subject of the page is.
Make sure the subject of your page is coded with an H1 tag. This is fairly easy to figure out and if you need help there is surely someone who will help you with this easy task. Essentially all you need to do is label your article title like this
Subject of your article
. H1 tags should be used once on a page because they tell the search engines what this page is about. Use this tactic wisely and it will serve you well.
Make sure that you've named your images with the alt tag if they're relevant to the content. Everywhere there is an image on your page you should include the code "alt="image-name-here" so the seach engine spiders can learn more about your content. It makes very clear sense that if you have a page with the title of "Apple Types" and the page contains several images named alt="Red Delicious Apple" and alt="Granny Smith Apple" that Google would find this highly useful and relevant.
You should also consider what you name everything that appears in the address bar including your website address, directories and file names. A page that lives at genericname.com/dir007/pageab6.html is a terrible path to a page. It tells you nothing about what you'll expect when you arrive there. But myproductname.com/product-type/specific-product-name-here.html is a far superior way to present your page.
Link to others, get others to link to you and link throughout your own site
Links are very important to SEO on many levels. A link essentially says that you think something is important. It's a referral, suggestion, recommendation or directive to look at something else that's relevant or related to the content you're presenting. Links can essentially make or break a competitive SEO campaign so take the time to link to others and get high quality links back to your site. In addition, link to other relevant sections of your site from within your content if it makes sense and will improve the readers experience.
As you can see, SEO is not difficult in theory. The difficulty comes when you don't know the basics in intimate detail and you don't spend the time to do it right. If you can take the time to think through things, do a little research and follow these simple guidelines I think you'll find that you'll be pleasantly pleased with your immediate success.
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