You should already know that in order to get listed well in the search engines you need to employ search engine optimization. A lot of people don’t fully understand the the term SEO. They believe that it something that you pay a flat fee for, do it once and your done. This is definitely not the case.
This article is to give business owners and website operators an understanding of SEO best practices.
There are several “phases” of SEO that enhance your website in getting found, searched and ranked in the search engines. We will go over the first phase that I (and many other people) call “best practices”.
Before we begin, it is important for you to understand that there is no SEO silver bullet. It is a combination of many little things that all add up to a well seo defined site or page. A positive action of 1% here or 2% there, all add up in the end. Keep in mind my SEO motto “Every little bit helps”
Build your site right from the get-go
It is fairly standard now when building a new site or a re-design, to include seo best practices from the start. The days of omitting this step and still getting ranked are pretty much over. In other words, you’ve built a house, now you need to turn the lights on so everyone can see you.
HTML vs. CSS layout – This is what I call old school vs. new school. The old method of building a website with tables and font tags is out the window. CSS layout with DIV tags is now the norm. Why? There are many reasons, but mostly it’s over control and flexibility, and Google likes it too.
If your using a content management site like Joomla or Drupal, or blogging software like WordPress, you’re all set. These already utilize css layout.
Keyword Analysis – Let’s start with the first and most important step of determining your main keywords and phrases. This is essential for search engines to categorize your pages correctly. Many business just guess as to what they think are their main keywords. This is not a good idea. You need facts, not guesses.
There are many places and services on the Internet that provide keywords analysis. A good starting point is the free Google AdWords Keyword Tool. Some other paid services include WebCeo, Hubspot, and WordStream.
Once in your in one of these applications, start by typing in keywords that you think are important to your business or service. View the results. They will give you ideas of keywords that you haven’t thought of. You will also notice that phrasing words in a certain way will deliver better results than other variations. For example, “video” ranks better than “videos”. This is key to tipping the scales in your favor.
Now that you have your keyword analysis complete, it’s time to add them to your pages. Remember do not put all of these on every page. How would a search engine know the difference from page A to page B or C.
Title tags – The title tag is the line you see at the very top of your browser. This should include info about what is on that particular page using your keywords from your research.
Example (BAD): Ryan Video Media Group – Our Services Example (GOOD): Video production, video editing, Atlanta video production, video services – Ryan Video Media Group
Notice a few things, first I still include the company name. I’ve also added the regional term “Atlanta”. This will help in local searches.
Meta tags – These are list of terms used on THAT page. Meta tags have been abused over the years, so they don’t pull as much weight as they used to, but you still need to include them.
Example: video production, Atlanta video production, video editing, video shoots, full service video production.
Description tag - The description tag is just that, it describes what’s on that page. Since Google and other search engines use this in their results, it is a good idea to get your message out clear and concise.
Header tags - Header tags, also known as H1′s, H2′s, H3′s etc. are the HTML tags used to categorize your title and subheads. This is part of your body copy. General rule of thumb is to include the main keyword you used in the Title tag in your H1 so that the search engines will know exactly what this page is about.
Example: <H1> High end video production located in Atlanta. <h2>Over 30 years experience in commercials, music videos, and training videos
Alt tags – Alt tags are tags added to photos. This gives a description of what the photo is. If for some reason your photo didn’t load viewers would see the text that you included in the alt tag. It is also one more legitimate way to include an additional keyword to that page.
SEO optimized content – Good content is good content, and search engines know it. At this point you need to do a balancing act between writing keyword enhanced copy that people will read and spiders and bots will digest. It’s ok to throw in a couple keywords where you normally wouldn’t have to, but don’t over do it. Too many repetitive keywords on one page might flag you as keyword stuffing. A big Google no-no.
Add social media links – Having a social media presence is growing stronger and stronger, especially in the search placement. With the partnerships the search engines have with Twitter and Facebook, it is not surprising that more and more social links are replacing traditional placement.
Author Authority is the newest ranking factor to gain ground. Having a strong social presence increases your author authority.
Seo expert Danny Sullivan interviewed both Google and Bing executives at the end of 2011. One of the questions he asked was the weighting of Twitter users and links shared in their tweets…
Bing responded with:
We do look at the social authority of a user. We look at how many people you follow, how many follow you, and this can add a little weight to a listing in regular search results.
And Google responded with:
Yes, we do use [tweeted links and RTs] as a signal. It is used as a signal in our organic and news rankings. We also use it to enhance our news universal by marking how many people shared an article.
Danny also asked them “Do you track links shared within Facebook, either through personal walls or fan pages?” the reponse was…
Yes. We look at links shared that are marked as “Everyone,” and links shared from Facebook fan pages.
And Google said:
We treat links shared on Facebook fan pages the same as we treat tweeted links. We have no personal wall data from Facebook.
Now that Google+ is exploding, we are starting to see more social media results factored in to searches. Did you know when you are logged into your Google account and do a search, you will get a different result than if you were not logged in. Google factors in your social connections and plus one’s.
Social media results will be a game changer and will soon minimize traditional seo.
Add video – Adding video to your page is a great way to lower your bounce rate. Having a high bounce rate will actually lower your ability to rank well in that term. If someone searches on Google for “Your_Keyword” and retruns back to search again, Google will penalize your page for that term. Video can increase the time people spend on your page. Even if the viewer leaves without seeing another page, they don’t do it quite so quickly.
Outbound/inbound links – In a nutshell, it’s better to have more incoming links than outgoing. Both are important. Outbound links shows that you are part of the community (giving back with outbound links seems less spammy).
Inbound links are great and proves that what you have to say is important. Other think so, other wise they wouldn’t reference your page.
Creating a good link back strategy is more involved and needs a whole article unto itself.
Sitemaps – Creating an xml sitemap and registering it with Google and Bing is great for giving your site that push into their good graces. Xml sitemaps give the spiders and bots a first place to look and acts like a table of contents for yor site. Because your site will be crawled several time a month it is important to keep your sitemap up-to-date.
Creating and submitting a sitemap is fairly easy. Go to a site like xml-sitemaps.com and enter your url. It will give you several versions of the sitemap. Put the file named sitemap.xml in your root directory. Now go to the Google and Bing Webmaster tools and register your sitemap. It will ask for the full url of the sitemap, http://www.your-site.com/sitemap.xml.
For people using WordPress it’s a bit easier. Get the Google XML Sitemaps plugin and install it into your plugins folder. Once active it constantly updates based on your posts.
Starting with these seo best practices is mandatory in helping your website get searched and placed properly. It takes a little bit of time and effort but will be well worth it in the long run. Once your whole site is done, then all you have to do is continualy include these best practices to all new pages you create.
In futue articlces I will discuss more advanced phases of search engine optimization.
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