21 Essential SEO Tips & Techniques

Businesses are growing more aware of the need to understand and implement at least the basics of search engine optimization (SEO). But if you read a variety of blogs and websites, you’ll quickly see that there’s a lot of uncertainty over what makes up “the basics.” Without access to high-level consulting and without a lot of experience knowing what SEO resources can be trusted, there’s also a lot of misinformation about SEO strategies and tactics.

1. Commit yourself to the process. SEO isn’t a one-time event. Search engine algorithms change regularly, so the tactics that worked last year may not work this year. SEO requires a long-term outlook and commitment.

2. Be patient. SEO isn’t about instant gratification. Results often take months to see, and this is especially true the smaller you are, and the newer you are to doing business online.

3. Ask a lot of questions when hiring an SEO company. It’s your job to know what kind of tactics the company uses. Ask for specifics. Ask if there are any risks involved. Then get online yourself and do your own research—about the company, about the tactics they discussed, and so forth.

4. Become a student of SEO. If you’re taking the do-it-yourself route, you’ll have to become a student of SEO and learn as much as you can. Luckily for you, there are plenty of great web resources (like Search Engine Land) and several terrific books you can read. (Yes, actual printed books!) See our What Is SEO page for a variety of articles, books and resources.

5. Have web analytics in place at the start. You should have clearly defined goals for your SEO efforts, and you’ll need web analytics software in place so you can track what’s working and what’s not.

6. Build a great web site. I’m sure you want to show up on the first page of results. Ask yourself, “Is my site really one of the 10 best sites in the world on this topic?” Be honest. If it’s not, make it better.

7. Include a site map page. Spiders can’t index pages that can’t be crawled. A site map will help spiders find all the important pages on your site, and help the spider understand your site’s hierarchy. This is especially helpful if your site has a hard-to-crawl navigation menu. If your site is large, make several site map pages. Keep each one to less than 100 links. I tell clients 75 is the max to be safe.

8. Make SEO-friendly URLs. Use keywords in your URLs and file names, such as yourdomain.com/red-widgets.html. Don’t overdo it, though. A file with 3+ hyphens tends to look spammy and users may be hesitant to click on it. Related bonus tip: Use hyphens in URLs and file names, not underscores. Hyphens are treated as a “space,” while underscores are not.

9. Do keyword research at the start of the project. If you’re on a tight budget, use the free versions of Keyword Discovery or WordTracker, both of which also have more powerful paid versions. Ignore the numbers these tools show; what’s important is the relative volume of one keyword to another. Another good free tool is Google’s AdWords Keyword Tool, which doesn’t show exact numbers.

10. Open up a PPC account. Whether it’s Google’s AdWords, Microsoft adCenter or something else, this is a great way to get actual search volume for your keywords. Yes, it costs money, but if you have the budget it’s worth the investment. It’s also the solution if you didn’t like the “Be patient” suggestion above and are looking for instant visibility.

11. Use a unique and relevant title and meta description on every page. The page title is the single most important on-page SEO factor. It’s rare to rank highly for a primary term (2-3 words) without that term being part of the page title. The meta description tag won’t help you rank, but it will often appear as the text snippet below your listing, so it should include the relevant keyword(s) and be written so as to encourage searchers to click on your listing. Related bonus tip: You can ignore the Keywords meta tag, as no major search engine today supports it.

12. Write for users first. Google, Yahoo, etc., have pretty powerful bots crawling the web, but to my knowledge these bots have never bought anything online, signed up for a newsletter, or picked up the phone to call about your services. Humans do those things, so write your page copy with humans in mind. Yes, you need keywords in the text, but don’t stuff each page like a Thanksgiving turkey. Keep it readable.

13. Create great, unique content. This is important for everyone, but it’s a particular challenge for online retailers. If you’re selling the same widget that 50 other retailers are selling, and everyone is using the boilerplate descriptions from the manufacturer, this is a great opportunity. Write your own product descriptions, using the keyword research you did earlier (see #9 above) to target actual words searchers use, and make product pages that blow the competition away. Plus, retailer or not, great content is a great way to get inbound links.

14. Use your keywords as anchor text when linking internally. Anchor text helps tells spiders what the linked-to page is about. Links that say “click here” do nothing for your search engine visibility.

15. Build links intelligently. Begin with foundational links like trusted directories. (Yahoo and DMOZ are often cited as examples, but don’t waste time worrying about DMOZ submission. Submit it and forget it.) Seek links from authority sites in your industry. If local search matters to you (more on that coming up), seek links from trusted sites in your geographic area — the Chamber of Commerce, local business directories, etc. Analyze the inbound links to your competitors to find links you can acquire, too. Create great content on a consistent basis and use social media to build awareness and links. (A blog is great for this; see below.)

16. Use press releases wisely. Developing a relationship with media covering your industry or your local region can be a great source of exposure, including getting links from trusted media web sites. Distributing releases online can be an effective link building tactic, and opens the door for exposure in news search sites. Related bonus tip: Only issue a release when you have something newsworthy to report. Don’t waste journalists’ time.

17. Start a blog and participate with other related blogs. Search engines, Google especially, love blogs for the fresh content and highly-structured data. Beyond that, there’s no better way to join the conversations that are already taking place about your industry and/or company. Reading and commenting on other blogs can also increase your exposure and help you acquire new links. Related bonus tip: Put your blog at yourdomain.com/blog so your main domain gets the benefit of any links to your blog posts. If that’s not possible, use blog.yourdomain.com.

18. Use social media marketing wisely. If your business has a visual element, join the appropriate communities on Flickr and post high-quality photos there. If you’re a service-oriented business, use Quora and/or Yahoo Answers to position yourself as an expert in your industry. Any business should also be looking to make use of Twitter and Facebook, as social information and signals from these are being used as part of search engine rankings for Google and Bing. With any social media site you use, the first rule is don’t spam! Be an active, contributing member of the site. The idea is to interact with potential customers, not annoy them.

19. Take advantage of local search opportunities. Online research for offline buying is a growing trend. Optimize your site to catch local traffic by showing your address and local phone number prominently. Write a detailed Directions/Location page using neighborhoods and landmarks in the page text. Submit your site to the free local listings services that the major search engines offer. Make sure your site is listed in local/social directories such as CitySearch, Yelp, Local.com, etc., and encourage customers to leave reviews of your business on these sites, too.

20. Take advantage of the tools the search engines give you. Sign up for Google Webmaster Central, Bing Webmaster Tools and Yahoo Site Explorer to learn more about how the search engines see your site, including how many inbound links they’re aware of.

21. Diversify your traffic sources. Google may bring you 70% of your traffic today, but what if the next big algorithm update hits you hard? What if your Google visibility goes away tomorrow? Newsletters and other subscriber-based content can help you hold on to traffic/customers no matter what the search engines do. In fact, many of the DOs on this list—creating great content, starting a blog, using social media and local search, etc.—will help you grow an audience of loyal prospects and customers that may help you survive the whims of search engines.

Need more advice and guidance on the tips above? Be sure to see our other SEO resources:

Note: This page was first created on June 28, 2007 and has been updated since then to keep it current.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | SEO: General

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About The Author: is Editor-In-Chief of Search Engine Land. His news career includes time spent in TV, radio, and print journalism. His web career continues to include a small number of SEO and social media consulting clients, as well as regular speaking engagements at marketing events around the U.S. He recently launched a site dedicated to Google Glass called Glass Almanac and also blogs at Small Business Search Marketing. Matt can be found on Twitter at @MattMcGee and/or on Google Plus. You can read Matt's disclosures on his personal blog.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn



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  • http://www.luckylester.com Lucky Lester

    22. Do analyze your competitor’s efforts – there are reasons why they are sitting at the top of the search engines.

  • amanda_m

    23. Make sure your site is completely CRAWLABLE.

  • http://www.smallbusinesssem.com/ Matt McGee

    Thanks for the comments, Lester and Amanda. The crawlability issue was #7 in last week’s column, Amanda. I was trying this week not to just list the flip side of that list. :-)

  • http://koraska.com justablink

    24. Be sure and sign up for the free local listings offered by both Google and Yahoo, and optimize your listings as well to show up on the map. Local searches often come with a map showing in the results, so get your site on it.
    In addition, Yahoo local listings often have a rating system, showing up to five red stars. Have previous clients rate your services, so your local listing will stand out among your competitors. Very few people take this extra step, and your listing will stand out.

  • http://htttp://www.fresherwebsites.com fresher websites

    Great article & summary of SEO issues, I forwarded it on to some of my clients.

    May I add a couple of points?

    1. If appropriate, modifying the search terms with an area can really cut down the competition. E.g. ‘seo services london’.

    2. Ensure that the visible content (page text, headings, etc.) is consistent with invisible content (title tags, alt tags, page description, etc.)

    This may seem obvious, but many new to SEO (myself included 3yrs ago) have a tendency to stuff keywords into hidden tags, without sufficient support in the visible page text.

    I think it’s important to remember that one of Google’s primary functions is to provide relevant, informative results to searchers. Part of this is weeding out the guys who are pretending to be something they’re not.

    When optimising your site, it’s always good to aim for ‘what you see is what you get’.

  • http://www.robstroy.com Rob Gunayan

    Isn’t spying on your competitors’ keyword strategies a SEO technique? For me it is, tracking up what your competitors are doing on their site is a good technique and KeywordSpy can do that because KS will give you an opportunity to immediately track down your competitors and gather keywords for the promotional campaign of your online business.

  • http://www.ZenithExpert.com zenithexpert

    5. Have web analytics in place at the start. You should have clearly defined goals for your SEO efforts, and you’ll need web analytics software in place so you can track what’s working and what’s not.

    Can someone recommend web analytics software? Is Googles Analytics good enough, or is there something better? thanks…

  • http://www.ipadhype.com.au Michelle

    Know what you want to achieve before you start.

  • http://twitter.com/Edwinchia Edwin Chia

    wow! very powerful stuff on SEO , I can only think of a few than so many like you.   Have you missed out back link?  Back link is important too. 

  • BravoI

     I use Clicky. Its a !great! service! It even tells you while a visitor is online (real-time). Please use this affiliate link of mine when signing up. http://getclicky.com/66547044
    Thanks!

  • http://twitter.com/Usa_Job New Jobs in Usa

     Important to remember that one of Google’s primary functions is to
    provide relevant, informative results to searchers. Part of this is
    weeding out the guys who are pretending to be something they’re not.

  • Marcin Krakowiak

    Nice Article!
    I’ve just discovered the new SEO too-it’s Colibri and it’s awesome-it can track my website position on every Google,it also find my competition or even suggest it, monitors Facebook, Twitter mentions and backlinks to my website.Most functional-highly recommend!http://colibritool.com/ 

  • http://notionage.com/ SEO Singapore

    I been reading a lot of articles and blogs regarding this topic, top 10 tips, top 5 essential techniques for SEO, this article is the one I find it covered the most essential and yet not too difficult to understand tips for SEO leaner. Thanks!

  • http://www.facebook.com/muzammilcfa Muzammil Hussain

    SEO is free with software but most useful method is Google award for more detail visit us Visit free Seo software

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/GQILAFTA2U6QNVM2VASLYC3WOA Angelina

    Great tips, It is useful for us, thanks to share with us….India tour

  • http://www.isol.co.in/ IntegratedS

    Thanks a lot for the tips, I think that even if beginners follow these they will be able to make head way.

  • synchronous

    Great article….This post will help to learn lot of things regarding SEO

    http://www.srinagarhouseboat.net/

  • suriya cabs

    Really a great tips you have provided

  • praneeth kumar

    Thank’s for the tips, this are basic and very useful tips in seo task

    http://www.agarwalpackers.in Agarwal Movers and Packers ,

  • Tracy Mc Manamon

     I came across a few videos titled “SEO Tutorial” or something of that sort. They are good for beginners and it all stresses on the need for targeting sites that have a good page rank. It says it is far better to submit your posts in a handful of high quality sites with good page ranks than in hundreds of low ranking ones. And I couldnt agree with you more when you say that patience in SEO is a virtue which needs to be cultivated right from the beginning.

  • aliciadathe

    These are great tips. Thanks!

  • synchronous

    Thank you so much for sharing such useful information 

    http://www.lelachotel.com/ 

  • Joe Cunningham

    A couple Q’s:
    I’m new but have been studying up as much as I can.  There’s tons of info out there.

    -How do you know who to trust?  I just feel overwhelmed with conflicting info.  Got a crap ton of books at the lib and gonna sift through those with a grain of salt.  I’ve been looking at the copyright dates as to how much salt to add – online and off.

    -What are the best ways to increase back links?  I went from posting on as many blogs as I could to developing a Facebook campaign and PPC (stalled due to approval).  So far no leaps just trickles.  And do I get on the phone and call up business and trade links?  This just seems black hat and I don’t want my site penalized.

    -What are the best tools to use?  I’ve been using Google Ad Words, Keyword Spy (free), Google Analytics, and signed up for the trial of “SEOmoz” & I’m using the free “Rank Tracker” but I want something comprehensive, easy, & free if possible or at least reliable and useful so I can spend my $ in the right place.  Recommendations would be great.  I have been using tools that say one thing, and then get to other tools that say another.

    Thank you!  Just a mess of info out there.  And I’m gonna keep looking but you were the first on the SERP for SEO tips so I’ll start here.  Hope this stirs some answers and I bet my Q’s have been answered just still looking.

    Hey, throw another 2 in there – what the heck.

    -What’s a concise plan of action.  I’ve re-planned my work a million times as I educate myself.

    -And how good is outsourcing aspects of this?  I don’t want to buy links.  This seems black hat by all good standards.

    Thanks again.  Answer away!

  • http://www.techlikes.com Palla Ramarao

    These are the common tips which are found everywhere on the web. But now with the advent of Google Panda, SEO has changed a lot. Read these 3 SEO tips to overcome the Google Panda effect.

  • http://twitter.com/jvscepunov Vlad

    Thanks allot,Lots of really valuable info, appreciate for sharing with us.I just came acros with a new killer SEO strategy which gives super fast results in getting lots of traffic and ranking, all based on good relationships with your strongest websites in your niche. After I saw this video I Love all of my competitors more than ever, Bless them!I think everyone who would like higher rankings and faster results will be happy to see this video to this link http://seohowtoguide.org
    Have Fun!

  • http://jokestream.blogspot.com/ ανεκδοτα

    great tips! It seems a lot of factors distribute in the final results. SEO is like a building.. it needs all kinds of technicians. I’d like to add 2 more parameters: Right use of keyword implemented  htags and balance between follow and nofollow internal and outbound links 

  • http://bestseoproduct.com/how-to-do-seo-on-your-own/ How to do seo on your own

    Outclass post

  • HDpixels

    This is really help-full post thanks Matt McGee.

  • Chintan Bhavsar

    I have bookmarked this post will share this to my friends as well. I would like to say thanks for sharing such a wonderful SEO points with community.

    SEO Outsource India

  • Chintan Bhavsar

    I have bookmarked this post will share this to my friends as well. I
    would like to say thanks for sharing such a wonderful SEO points with
    community.
     

  • Raja Sekar

    Hi this tutorial is more benefits to those build a new website for doing SEO Concept and depends upon this step by step processing also like this i have another site you can visit http://www.seoservicesdelhi.org

  • B V Sai Aravind

    gud

  • lauraine 2012

    Thanks for sharing your info. I really appreciate your efforts and I will be waiting for your further write ups thanks once again.
    Video squeeze page| Flash Video Player

  • http://www.geekywriter.com/ Romy Singh

    Hello Matt,

    Thanks for all awesome SEO suggestion.  SEO is must for any website owner to get ranked in search engines and this post will help them to climb some ladders of SEO successfully. So thanks for sharing your SEO point.
    One that i would like to add is,”Follow The Right Tactics, Do The Right Things To Get Right Rankings In Search Engines.” I’ve seen many people wearing many colored hat that don’t shoots them like black, gray. So we should avoid using those hats, instead of those use all these tactics of this post. 

    Romy Singh,

  • Ahsan Habib Arafat

    Wow! It’s awesome blog post here…. really very interesting for
    reading…..

    new & used office furniture
     

  • danieltetreault

    Dear Search Engine Land:

    Not to be too cheeky here but am I losing it or what? I am looking for 21 essential SEO tips. I only see 18! Is there another button to press? My favourite point is the one that SE bots don’t sign up for newsletters or purchase products online. Nice point.

    Daniel Tetreault.
    Victoria, BC

  • NKR Rony

     I am agree with you and  this article is must read who is looking for SEO tips.Thanks Matt for sharing the tips.

  • http://www.intlock.com/website-optimization.asp website optimization

    Thanks Matt for these great SEO tips.This article covered all important SEO tactics.

  • Matt McGee

    Wow, that was weird. Looks like some of the code got jumbled in the article itself. But I think it’s all fixed now. Thx for noticing Daniel.

  • HMPV

    I think you must know that your website position is where 
    then you must see that how can fix it ?
    in last you have good 

    I think you can use http://www.codevc.net
    or 
    http://www.Seomoz.com
    or …

  • HMPV

    I think you must know that your website position is where then you must see that how can fix it ?
    in last you have good 

    I think you can use http://www.codevc.net
    or 
    http://www.Seomoz.com
    or …

  • http://www.facebook.com/dann.knevitz Daniel Knevitz

     I found this amazing seo tool… i dont know if it is the kind of thing you show up…

    http://wawrank.com

  • http://doctormoneymaker.com/ Nate Lee

    Hey… just wondering, I started my website about a month ago and have been following pretty much all of these tips and I’m not really seeing any results… How long until I start seeing my website gain some search engine traffic?

  • http://www.agentsofvalue.com/seo-link-building/ Roy Van Rivero

    I think something has been overlooked – isn’t it important to include local listing to our SEO effort? I think it is beneficial most especially for websites targeting a specific geo-location.

  • jocodester

    Hi everyone, I want to share this to you, especially for the newbie’s out there how to start in SEO and how to survive. This update includes Google penguin. here’s is the link http://jocodester.blogspot.com/2012/06/search-engine-optimization-tips-and.html

  • http://profiles.google.com/wasimaiqbal Tanisha parvaiz

    Good Discussion, Learnt a lot about SEO, good knowledge sharing source, thanks  searchengineland.com

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