How To: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Basics

The holy grail for any web master or website developer is to see their website on the first page of results on today’s most popular search engines. With the presence of over 108 Million websites out there (Netcraft.com), with more emerging daily, it becomes increasingly difficult to make your website more distinguished than others of the same category.

I would like to go over some basic concepts and steps that are crucial to achieving the ultimate goal of climbing the ranks within search engine results. I can in no way guarantee top search engine results (as many web masters have established such a strong presence on the web, and pay large sums of money to keep their websites on top), but I can increase your chances of being included within relevant search results.

Keywords:

The heart of all search engines rely on keywords and key terms in order to associate their results with your website. Web crawlers and search engines will scan your main (index) page and all sub-pages linked from there and gather a list of the most reoccurring words, titles, headings, and links. It then attempts to create a relevant connection between those words and terms and will categorize your website.

This is a simple concept but includes the horrifying task of coming up with a list of keywords you should include on your website that is unique from your competitors. These keywords and terms should be unique but still common enough that users will often use them in a search engine to find a website like yours.

Search engines use mathematic algorithms in order to come up with the relevancy of your website to the user’s desired destination, so this fact leads many web developers to load up pages with keywords and terms all over the pages. They will hide the terms so that they are the same color as the background, or will include them repeatedly out of context.

This is a big NO-NO!

Today’s search engines are much “smarter” than you probably could imagine. They will see you try to trick it and will blacklist your website (which is not our goal).

The method I often use to ensure I use the right keywords is to use tools such as Google’s adWords keyword tool to check how often a certain keyword or term is search and how competitive it is. Using this tool, you can test out many different keywords you have in mind, see how popular they are, and how many other websites are using this term.

Page Content:

All of a page contents is scanned by the search engine. Be sure to follow the keyword guidelines stated above, and avoiding the pitfall of keyword overuse, will help you here. One major tip on helping your site rankings is to make sure your main keywords are present within the first few lines of content on your page. These words are interpreted as the most relevant to the current page by search engines.

Spreading the Word:

One of the most crucial aspects of web marketing is not just relying on your keywords and quality of website to gain the highest rankings on search engines. Today’s top search engines actually take into account how popular your existing site is. This means that your website will be evaluated on how often it is visited, and how often it is linked to from across the Internet.

This means that you will want to find a means of having other well established websites include a link to you website in some way. The best way to do this is to offer a banner, or link exchange program. This way you can have a mutual agreement that you will reserve a space (advertisement area, or links page) for users to be able to click and visit their website, while they will do the same for you. This will improve both websites’ statistics, which means that you have to choose your affiliates wisely. You do not want to increase your competitors rankings. Pick a site that is somewhat relevant to your topic, and will risk costing you any traffic.

Keep Your Code Clean:

In order for a crawler to efficiently evaluate your website, you have to ensure your code is clean. I would like to now distinguish that clean is in no way the same as pretty. It does not matter what tabs or white space you have in the code of your web pages. You could have all of your code on one line for all the search engine cares.

You will make it easy for the search engine to gather information if your HTML (hyper text markup language) and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) are validated. HTML and CSS have gone over many transformations over the years evolving to the current standards, XHTML 1.1 and CSS 2. Many programmers still prefer to use older versions of these languages, which is fine, but you have to make sure the code is consistent. You cannot start in one version of the language and digress into another.

The best way to verify this is to use the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) validation tools:
HTML Validator
CSS Validator

Meta Tags:

In the HEAD tags of an HTML document, you will see META tags. these are used to identify a document, and in our case will contain keywords and a description. META tags are mostly overlooked in today’s most popular search engines, but several crawlers may still use them.

There is an attribute, keywords, which (you guessed it) lists the relevant keywords and terms associated with the current page. All terms are separated by a comma and should be listed by most important first. Some rules of thumb for keywords are: start all keywords with a capital letter, do not use words that are not in the body of a document, do not use a word more than three times, and limit this element to a maximum of 268 characters.

Another important META tag attribute is, description. Here you will provide a brief summary of the current age on your website. The rule of thumb is to keep this element as brief as possible (25-30 words).

Conclusion

Combining all of these techniques, and specifically tailoring them for your website will have you rising in ranks in no time.

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