In my colleague Matt Lester’s recent Search Engine Land column, he discussed ten tips for a more effective paid search campaign. For this article, I’ll follow up Matt’s advice with ten tips to help you develop a more effective search engine optimization (SEO) campaign. But before we dive into the tips, let’s briefly look at what SEO is and its key concepts.
SEO, quite simply, involves designing your website to improve its ranking in organic search results on search engine results pages (SERPs). And by optimizing for terms that your target audience will use to search, you will drive relevant traffic to your site that has a better conversion rate.
The key concepts in SEO (credit to Search Engine Land Features Editor Vanessa Fox for the inspiration on this) are straightforward: relevance, discoverability, and crawlability. Relevance means keeping to a topic and helping the search engine understand what your site is about (ideally it’s about one thing in particular). Discoverability means telling the world about your site. The technical details and environment may have changed, but search marketing is still just marketing. Get your website out there, communicate with the online world and your users. And finally, crawlability means making the site accessible. Search engines regularly send out automated programs called web crawlers, and it’s these crawlers that will visit your site and try to understand your content. Help the search engine crawlers find every page on your site and make sure they can understand what they’re seeing.
And now for the Top 10 SEO Tips:
1. Keyword research is the first step in SEO. Take the time to figure out what words are used by the people you want to visit your site, and then use these words on the relevant page. In particular, make sure you use these keywords in the first few words of your page title because this is the most important bit of the page from a search engine’s perspective.
2. Get trustworthy advice from SEO sources on the web. Unfortunately, not everyone knows as much as they say they do online and far too often SEO forums are full of bad advice; choose your sources well. A few we recommend: Google engineer Matt Cutts’ blog, Search Engine Journal, SEOmoz, and of course, Search Engine Land.
3. Look after your code. This means building a website that is easy for the search engines to understand. Your website should make use of up-to-date technologies like Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) to minimize the amount of formatting in the HTML page code.
4. Make navigation easy. You can do this by building clear text links to all parts of your site. Search engines can’t follow image links or clever animated links like Flash; they like their navigation plain and simple—and so do many users.
5. Get links from trusted, relevant sources. Links are like a vote for your site and you can’t rank well without them. Unfortunately, buying links or being indiscriminate in the places you link to and places you request links from is no longer a good way to raise the importance of your site; think quality, not quantity. Links must be relevant to the content of your site and they must be from reputable websites.
6. Build a sitemap page. Building a sitemap helps search engines discover every page in your website. The best sitemaps list the pages in your site along with brief keyword-rich descriptions of the page. If you have too many pages on your site, create as many sitemaps as you need and make sure they’re linked together.
7. Don’t forget the technical stuff. There is a lot happening technically in the background that can cause problems with the way the search engines see your site. For example, if you use a cheap web hosting company, you might be bundled on to the same web server as a pornographic site that Google really doesn’t like—guilt by association. Also, does your website use techniques that search engines don’t like, like certain types of redirection? If in doubt, ask your web design company.
8. Track your progress with a web analytics program. There are lots of options to use; Google Analytics in particular is easy to use, versatile, and it’s free. Web analytics can tell you a great deal about how people interact with your site and how much traffic the search engines are sending you.
9. Tell search engines where you are. You can do this by submitting your site details to search engines. This doesn’t guarantee a better position in the results, but it certainly helps. Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft all have a facility to submit a list of all the pages in your site.
10. Remember that content is king. Building great content and keeping it up to date is the key to SEO. Search engines love sites like blogs, which are highly topical and regularly refreshed. But always remember to put your visitors first—at the end of the day, even a site that ranks well and gets lots of traffic is no good if the visitors don’t like what they see.
As I said, these my top ten SEO tips. There are many others, but these are tried and true methods to get your company moving in the right direction… up to the top of search engine results pages.
Jim Newsome is the Search Manager for Kellysearch.com, a comprehensive online buyers’ guide and vertical search engine, with more than two million company listings from over 155 countries worldwide. The Back To Basics column appears periodically at Search Engine Land.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.