#1 on Google, and ok, maybe Yahoo!
That’s what we Internet marketers want – and we all compete for it.
Here are some SEO guides I go by when optimizing a website.
Keep in mind though you should always first make sure your website is designed well for human navigation and readability; explicit SEO is secondary (implicit would be you’re just so awesome people naturally link to you – Tip #27).
Remember, Googlebot doesn’t buy from you, humans do.
When thinking about search engine optimization, I always design with the notion that search engine algorithms change over time. Therefore, even if something today doesn’t have a huge impact on SEO but it seems logically it might, I use it when possible. I try not to assume, but always plan.
SEO Tip 1 – Using Keywords and Phrases in Your Content
Search engines crawl your website’s content, links, and headers to look for keywords and phrases that match what a user typed in the search engine box.
So if someone goes to Google and types “how do you catch butterflies” and you have an article with that exact phrase in your content (or even better, title or header), you stand a decent chance of getting indexed well for that search term, though this might not mean you’ll be indexed at the top.
They say Content is King.
Web crawlers love to spider your content, so a large portion of your SEO will take place there. Keywords and keyword phrases are your best bet. Read more here.
SEO Tip 2: The Use of Subdomains
A little less known SEO trick is the use of subdomains. Subdomains use their own DNS and are indexed differently than normal directories contained in a website.
There are a few ways to make use of subdomains for SEO purposes, but most notably is the use of separating unrelated content from each other.
If you blog about blog training and all your SEO goes toward phrases like, blog training, starting a blog, how to start a blog, etc., then you don’t want your site to rank for content which might include things on your site which aren’t related specifically to teaching people how to blog.
For example, you might offer tech support on WordPress.
You don’t want your blog to rank for “tech support WordPress”, right? You want to rank for, “learn how to start a blog”.
So what you could do is set up a subdomain on your website and stick all that WordPress tech support stuff over there. And since Google basically considers a subdomain like a separate website, your site’s SEO will stay focused.
SEO Tip 3: Permalinks
Anyone who blogs knows what I’m talking about. A permalink makes your web address look pretty and understandable by humans (as well as Google). So for example, the following two links point to the same article on my blog:
You see, the first link tells Googlebot ?p=3629 is an important keyword relating to our About Us page. The second link, however, tells Google “about us” is an important keyword relating to our About Us page.
Which do you think someone is going to type in Google’s search box?
?p=3629 or about blog training classroom?
SEO Tip 4: Get A Google XML Sitemap
I wrote an article awhile back called, Is A Google XML Sitemap Necessary?
In it, I talked about how a XML Sitemap doesn’t necessarily affect your search engine rankings unless your site is not being indexed well. I think since it can’t hurt, go ahead and get one just in case a key page on your website is having problems getting indexed.
Obviously, if the page isn’t getting indexed, it won’t show up in a search.
And if you remember what I said a littler earlier, I always design with the notion that search engine algorithms change over time. Therefore, even if something today doesn’t have a huge impact on SEO but it seems logically it might, I use it when possible. I try not to assume, but always plan.
SEO Tip 5: Optimizing Your Webpage’s Title
This is probably one of the easiest things you can do which gives you a HUGE search engine ranking advantage, but so many people get it wrong. Each of your pages should have their own title and when possible, put a keyword or phrase in there.
Let’s look at the following two title examples.
Let’s just say for a moment that my target keyword phrase is, Web Hosting.
- BTC Hosting – About Us
- About BTC Hosting – A Full Service Web Hosting Company For Bloggers
The first example does not have the keyword phrase in it while the second one does.
*Tip: Try to write your title so it not only contains your keyword in it, but also entices someone to click it to read more. Your article might be in the number one spot in search engines, but if your title doesn’t entice people to click, what good is it?
SEO Tip 6: Include <meta> Tags
For the most part, Google pretty much ignores the famous <meta name=“keywords” tags.
But other search engines, such as Yahoo!, still might reference these tags to help digest and index your website. Plus you never know what the future of Google and search holds for us, so don’t forget to omit these.
On another note, Google as a proven track record of tweaking their indexing algorithm. One day they may start referencing the keywords tag again in some new way to index and rank your website, so you might as well drop them in your code.
SEO Tip 7: Use the <alt> Attribute for Images
When you use images on your site, be sure to include the <alt> tag. Many times, people do an image search in search engines and these tags will all of a sudden become important parts of your website’s code.
Plus, Web crawlers can’t crawl images, but they can crawl your <alt> tags.
Once again, I’d like to stress the importance of designing for humans and not search engines. For example, people who are blind typically have Web browsers speak content to them and for images, will read the alt text.
Just describe the meaning of your image and that usually will have a SEO impact.
SEO Tip 8: Check Your Template’s Uses Of The <h> Tags
The header tags (<h1>, <h2>, and <h3>) are important to Web crawlers. What you put between them ranks higher in importance than normal content – hey this reminds me of only reading the bold print back in my college days.
If you run a script on your Web server, such as a blog, forum, or image gallery, it may be that your h tags are being misused by your default template, so double check that your titles are in the correct header tags.
Your article’s title, for example, should be in a <h1> tag.
SEO Tip 9: Flash Sites Look Nice, Index Poorly
Flash sites can be fun, but you gotta be careful when designing an entire site in flash because spiders currently have issues when crawling and understanding flash sites and menus.
SEO Tip 10: Avoid Duplicate Content
I’ve got that article for you right here.
SEO Tip 11: Use The Correct TLD For Your Website’s Target Country
TLD stands for Top-Level Domain and refers to the .com, .uk, .ca, .gov, etc. that you see at the end of domain names.
I’ve written about this before, so be sure to check that article out if you’re not sure how to use the correct TLD for your country or target customer’s location.
Using the correct TLD for the country in which you plan to do business in is of high importance when it comes to search engine optimization.
For example, if you own a landscape company based in London, England, you’re going to want your domain name to end in the .uk TLD. When someone from the UK goes to the UK version of search engines and types in “landscape companies,” they will most likely be taken to .uk websites.
It is not necessary to find a web hosting company in a specific country to obtain a particular TLD, though some TLDs come with restrictions, such as .gov.
As an example of the many TLDs that are out there, you can view the TLDs BTC Hosting offers for domain names here.
SEO Tip 12: Keyword Domain Names Rule!
When signing up for a domain name, keep in mind domain names weigh heavily on SEO and could get your site indexed near the top of the SERPs (search engine results page).
I always say design for humans, not search engines; however, if you can come up with an easy to remember domain name which includes a keyword for your website, that’s gold. For example, if you do landscaping in Las Vegas, a great domain name to have is lasvegaslandscape.com.
My brother happens to own a Las Vegas landscape company (guess who does the web work) and no, his address is not the one listed above; however, I still managed to incorporate those words.
The address is modernlandscapelasvegas.com and happens to be listed #1 on most search engines, including Yahoo!, Google, and Ask for the search term las vegas landscape company. I mention this only to show you that all these tips do work (well okay, it may be number one or two).
SEO Tip 13: Get Your Site Listed In DMOZ
DMOZ, The Open Directory Project (ODP), is a Web directory you can list your website’s URL in. We’ll talk more about Web directories in a moment.
First, just take a look at its PageRank.
As of the writing of this article, it’s an 7 out of 10 – not so shabby. Second, and probably the biggest reason for getting your URL referenced in DMOZ is the fact that its directory is downloadable and search engines, such as Google, download it and use this directory for searches.
Needless to say, that then is a great place to have your link submitted to.
SEO Tip 14: Use The <title> Attribute For Links
This one I’m bad about and forget to use all the time. When creating links, it’s a good idea to use the <title> tag.
This tells the Web crawler, such as Yahoo, what this link might be about and what it can expect to find if it follows that link. Here’s the example code:
<a href=”http://blogtrainingclassroom.com” title=”Blog Training and Classroom”>
At this moment, SEO-wise this probably has very little, if any, value for you. However, every search engine is different and it’s impossible to say if none of them use the title tag to help index your site.
Plus, you never know what Google and Yahoo might decide to change next time in their algorithms. We just might find that one day this attribute weights heavily in your search engine optimization.
SEO Tip 16: Using WordPress? Use a SEO Plugin
If you’re using WordPress (which I presume you are), the All-In-One SEO Pack Plugin has long been known to be the plugin to get for optimizing your WordPress blog for search engines.
A couple of the other popular ones include:
If you have a premium theme (i.e. one you paid money for), check to see what kind of SEO options your theme comes with. These days many premium themes come with SEO options already built in.
SEO Tip 17: Link Exchanges And Getting Linked To
Most, if not all, search engines use hyperlinks to help determine a website’s reputation. The more relevant links pointing to it, the more votes that are cast to increase its PageRank.
Wait… let’s back up for a moment.
Notice how I said the words, relevant and reputation?
These words are SUPER important to Google. Remember that.
Okay so if you’re starting a new website, one way to help search engines find you is through exchanging links with other similar websites. So if you provide landscaping services in Phoenix, Arizona, try finding and exchanging links with similar websites in your area, such as a gardening tips website based out of Phoenix, Arizona.
Do be careful, though.
There is a whole topic on how you need to be careful buying, selling, and exchanging links. You can read more about it here.
Skelliewag has a great article on how to attract links. It’s good to note, though, that one way links pointing to your website are the best kinds of links SEO-wise (i.e. similar websites that link to you but you don’t link back).
SEO Tip 18: Directory Submissions To Bring In Some Backlinks
A Web Directory is a place that lists websites under sub categories and is where you can go to submit your website’s URL.
It’s kind of like a Table of Contents of websites.
Most web directories probably won’t provide you a strong backlink, DMOZ is pretty good though. Make sure you submit your link to the category which relates to your site.
A couple issues you might run into with directory submissions…
- Many of them require you to provide a reciprocal link (i.e. a link on your website which links back to them). If this is the case, I typically will avoid that directory because you don’t want your site to start looking like a link farm in Google’s eyes (not to mention one-way links are better than two-way reciprocal links).
- Some directories will require you to pay a fee
SEO Tip 19: Name Your Website’s Directories and Files Wisely
As mentioned in Tip #12, domain names are of high relevance in SEO, so don’t forget this rule when naming files, subdomains, and subdirectories on your site.
For example, if your blog is about dog training, then you’ll probably want to rank for keywords like “how to train a dog to sit” or “teach your dog to fetch”.
So when you write articles then, make sure they are filed under a category which uses a relevant keyword, like “Teaching to Sit”.
You could even do this with the directory your blog is stuffed into.
So if your blog is about dog training and the blog’s URL is http://doggiecourse.com/blog, then perhaps you could put your blog in a “dog training” directory, rather than /blog.
So it might look like this: http://doggiecourse.com/dogtraining
Keep in mind, though, that the word “blog” has meaning in it and of itself. Although it’s not a great keyword for dog training, it does signify something to the human reader. It says, “This is a blog!”
SEO Tip 20: The 411 On Keyword Density?
Some people have this notion of the more times you mention your keyword, the more weight it will carry and the better indexed your page will be for that term. On the other hand, others say after you reference a word once or twice, the repeated references have no SEO value.
My take is to simply add as many keywords or keyword phrases as sounds normal. Write your article, read it, and if it sounds like a chopped up mess of keyword stuffing, revise it.
Make your article read for humans and Google will like you.
SEO Tip 21: Feed Googlebot New Content
What does Google want?
It wants to be the number one search engine, right?
So as a user… which search engine would you want to use? The one which returns the latest and up-to-date information on a subject or the one which returns an article which was written in 2003?
Of course this doesn’t necessarily mean the 2003 article isn’t still relevant and Google does have a few checks in place to do its best to make sure that 2003 article is still relevant. But for the most part, if your website is a living breathing resource center (rather than a stagnant website), then Google will be interested in what you’re saying.
SEO Tip 22: Write a Press Release
If you’ve got something you want to announce to your community or the world in general, why not write a press release about it?
By writing a press release, you can secure your website more link juice by linking your press release back to your website or specific article/page.
There are LOTS of website which you can submit your press releases to. Here’s a nice directory listing.
Note: PRWeb is probably the most popular.
SEO Tip 23: Don’t Be Too Concerned with <NoFollow>
Don’t be too concerned (SEO-wise) about leaving links in places where your link will have the NoFollow attribute assigned to it; that link will still have some SEO value.
In my experience, some nofollow links still slip through the cracks and provide your website with a backlink. Also, remember that you want your link building campaign to look like it all is happening normal in the eyes of Google.
So what is normal?
Normal is something like:
- You don’t receive hundreds of links over night after an article has been published (unless you have a very authoritative website for which this might be normal, like Yahoo! News)
- You get a mixture of dofollow links and nofollow links
- The link text which links back to your site or article are not all the same
Get the point?
Link building should look normal. And normal websites which aren’t trying to manipulate Google often times receive nofollow backlinks.
SEO Tip 24: The Best Way To Leave a Link In a Comment Section
As bloggers, we often times visit other people’s blogs and leave a comment, and once-in-a-while we might even sneak in a link embedded in our comment.
When leaving links in a comment section or new forum thread, there are two ways to leave a link – see example below (links open in a new tab).
- Directory Submissions For Attracting Backlinks
Both lead to the same place, however the second one is much clearer to readers and straight forward for our pal Googlebot to digest. As in Tip 24, the nofollow tag won’t necessarily give you a backlink credit, but by linking to your article in such a way like the second one shown above, you’ll be actually be doing two things:
- Helping the site owner who’s article you are commenting on achieve better SEO because now their article has a targeted keyword link (higher SEO value)
- Providing an extra keyword-rich link back to your website, even though it’s a nofollow link.
Just make sure if you link to one of your articles from within someone else’s comment section that the article you are linking to adds more value to the article you left a comment on.
SEO Tip 25: Don’t Just Link To Your Home Page
Just remember, we want deep linking.
Think about it for a moment. How does Google figure out if your website is relevant and reputable?
For the most part links, right?
Whose site seems more relevant and reputable (and natural)? The one with 500 links all pointing to the home page or the one with 500 links sprinkled throughout and all pointing to various areas of the website?
SEO Tip 26: Article Marketing
This is the time-tested way to get quality backlinks to your website. The idea is that you write X number of articles which relate to whatever page or article on your site you want to link back to and then submit them to article directories and Web 2.0 sites.
Do not confuse article submissions with Web directory submissions (see #18).
Web directories are websites which index links to various websites out there on the Web (see DMOZ for an example). Article submissions are when you submit articles to various article directories.
Let’s take a look at an example of how article marketing works.
I wrote a blog article a while back called, PopUp Domination WordPress Plugin. The article is a quick overview of a WordPress plugin called PopUp Domination. The plugin is not free, it costs money to buy and use.
After posting the article on my blog, I worked at getting it pushed up to the top of Google by generating some backlinks to it. To do so, I wrote a number of similar, but different, articles on the PopUp Domination WordPress plugin (that was my keyword phrase I was targeting).
Even though each article was on the topic of this plugin, they didn’t link back to the plugin’s home page, they linked back to my article.
See an example here.
Article marketing is a great way to generate backlinks to your website and/or specific articles you want to promote (we teach more about how to use article marketing effectively and which sites I like to use in the Blog Training Classroom).
SEO Tip 27: Be Awesome!
People like to link to awesome stuff.
If you provide top notch information, products, or services, which:
- Solves people’s problems (the bigger the better)
- Satisfies a need better than anyone else
- Eliminates people’s insecurity or fears better than others do
People will just naturally link to you.
Because you’re awesome and you get it done better than anyone else.
SEO Tip 28 – Optimize Your Meta Descriptions
I’ve noticed something.
When you put the keyword phrase that someone types into Google in your meta description tag, Google bolds it.
What do you think?
SEO Tip 29 – Optimize Your Site for Speed
Google likes people to use their search engine, right?
Do you think people would like to continually use Google if every website it returned took 20 seconds to load while Ask’s search engine only returned websites which took .5 seconds to load?
Google like’s speed and if your site is fast, it’ll like you.
SEO Tip 30 – Be Mindful of Your Comment Section
Comment sections can kill an article’s SEO.
Let’s say you write a highly optimized post on the PopUp Domination WordPress Plugin. You’ve got your title all optimized, keywords and density are set, everything.
Then your comment section takes off.
What happens when your comment section contains more content than your original post? And what happens if the chatter that goes on there strays off the subject matter?
Comment sections are typically not good for SEO.
If you need to keep an article optimized, it might be wise to close down the comment section for that article, like I did for this optimized article here.
Bonus Tip: Starting a Blog? Use WordPress, not Blogger
Matt Cutts, you know – that guy who works for Google, said it himself…
WordPress is a “fantastic choice” for SEO. In fact, Blogger is owned by Google and yet one of the head guys over at Google uses WordPress.
Googlebot image credit: lauradahl