Are you looking to show up on page one of Google search results? Then you will need to make sure your website is fully optimized for organic search.
Follow the best practices below and you will begin to improve your search engine results page rankings. Keep in mind, search engine optimization is not rocket science and you don't need a PhD do to it effectively.
To win at the SEO game you need common sense, curiosity, basic analytical skills and the motivation to put in the time needed to do it effectively. Below are the top 20 search engine optimization best practices. These are proven techniques for improving your search engine rankings and follow the guidelines from the major search engines.
The SEO Top 20
- Determine your keyword strategy.Find out which search keywords are important to your business and customers. Use keyword tools like www.keywordspy.com, www.spyfu.com, www.ispionage.com and www.compete.com to determine the keywords that are relevant to your business and market. Enter your competitor’s website URLs into these tools. Make sure you leverage multiple tools since each has their own unique sampling methodology and each will produce different results.
- Based on your SEO keyword competitive intelligence. Build a list of the top 25 to 100 search terms and put it in an Excel spreadsheet. Prioritize this list.
- Verify there is enough search volume on the selected keyword search terms to warrant optimization. Use Google’s free keyword tool to validate traffic on your search terms: https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal
- Enter each of your top search terms into Google and Bing and see what comes up. Look at both the organic search results and the paid search ads (the ads on the top of the page and side of the page). Pay attention to the order of the search results and ads. The top five are your SEO competitors. For your top keywords run a Google traffic analysis to see what the average bids are for these keywords: https://adwords.google.com/select/TrafficEstimatorSandbox
- Install Google Analytics on your website. http://www.google.com/analytics/ If you’ve already done this, use the data from: Traffic Sources > Keywords to find additional keywords you may want to optimize.
- Once you’ve developed your keyword strategy, you can begin your on-page keyword optimization. Start by optimizing your HTML page titles tags with keywords. Hopefully, you are using a content management system such as Wordpress or Drupal which allows easy manipulation of these tags without hacking HTML code. Keep the number of characters in the title to under 66. Important Note: your home page title deserves special attention when selecting keywords. Google tends to give your homepage greater weight, so select your homepage keywords carefully.
- Optimize your HTML meta tags. Specifically, optimize the Description and Keywords tags. While Google does not use these for search ranking, the description tag is often displayed in search results and having a concise and coherent description tag can result in more clicks and traffic. Limit the length of the description tag to 25 to 30 words.
- Optimize your page URLs with keywords separated with hyphens. Keep the characters in the URLs lowercase. Having a concise and coherent page URL can boost clicks and traffic. Hopefully you are using a content management system such as Wordpress or Drupal which allows easy manipulation of URLs so they are human readable.
- Optimize your page HTML H1 heading tag with keywords. Only use one H1 tag per page.
- Optimize the first sentence on each page for SEO keywords. Sometime Search engines ignore the description meta tag and use the first sentence as the page description when displaying search results. Structure the first sentence accordingly.
- Optimize image alt tags for SEO keywords.
- Optimize image file names, media and links for keywords. For example, put keywords in the names of images on pages.
- Submit your site to the major search engines. Create an XML site map and make sure the search engines can find your site map. Even better, leverage your CMS engine’s ability to automatically update your site map every time you post content to the site. Use Google’s webmaster’s tools to verify your sitemap is being read correctly: http://www.google.com/webmasters/
- Put up an HTML sitemap that lists all the pages on your site. Put an html link at the footer of each page of your site so the Search Engine Crawlers can easily find it.
- Create valuable and relevant content that can be easily indexed by search engines. Publish your content in HTML format instead of Adobe PDF and Flash. Valuable content that is locked in these formats can not be easily crawled and indexed.
- Create a blog for your website and publish content regularly. Optimize your blog content for SEO. Put keywords in the Blog titles.
- Use social networking to promote your blog content. Every time you publish a blog post, send out a notification on Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin. Use Bitly.com to track clicks back your website and determine if your content is being viewed and going viral.
- Make sure your robots.txt file is configured correctly to include and exclude the appropriate directories and files on your website. This file instructs search engines on how to crawl your website.
- Avoid building your entire website in Flash. Sites that are based in flash are much harder to optimize for SEO. Instead, use a Content Management System like Drupal or Wordpress and use Flash for accenting certain pages.
Know of SEO techniques that are more effective? Feel free to post your suggestions.