An intro to Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
I'm going to assume that a fair number of my readers have a website, blog, or other web presence. Many of you have probably built a website or two. I'm going to give you some quick SEO tips that I have found to be most important.
Our resident SEO expert spends nearly every day researching the current trends in SEO. If you try to do the same, and you're the only one running your site, you won't have any time to improve your site and come up with new content. You need to determine the right balance of time to make your site a success.
- Define your goals - The first thing you need to do is ask yourself what the purpose of your site is:
* Are you trying to sell something online? * Are you trying to get leads?
- Is your site simply a place you direct people to for more information?*
- Focus on Google - Google is the by far, the most popular search engine. Most likely, you'll want to focus your attention on them.
- Make life easy for Google - If you expect Google to make decisions, you might not like the results.
- Avoid duplicate content - If you have the same content on more than one page, you may be penalized. At the very least, Google won't know which content to give you credit for.
- Make your HTML as simple as possible. A well formed XHTML design will go a long way.
- Optimize the way your pages look in the search listings - Google will only show the first 60 or so characters in your title, so keep that in mind. Make sure you DO use meta description tags in your pages, because Google WILL use those in it's listings. Remember, you're not just optimizing for the Google index, you also want your titles and descriptions to entice users to click on your result.
- Write original content - Google is looking for original content, and it has often been said that content is king. Even if Google isn't giving you points for original content, Google is looking for information that is relative to the times. If you're consistently writing good, original, and up-to-date content, Google will eat it up.
- Create a sitemap - Sitemaps allow you to give the search engines a "map" to all of your pages, which ensures that they'll be found as quickly as possible. It also gives you an opportunity to specify how often pages change. If you're using Wordpress, you can use an automated sitemap generator.
- Get relevant links - Google is built on a reputation system. When reputable, related sites link to you, Google will realize the popularity of your pages. The best way to get good links is to write good content. Another way is to make friends in the community, that have similar interests. They might be willing to add your site to their blogroll, or mention you in their content.
- Tell Google what to NOT index - You can create a "robots.txt" file that tells the search engines what they can, and cannot index. You want to filter out all of the pages that are not original content. For example, on this blog, I filter out everything except the front page, about page, and the posts themselves. You can see my robots file here. I have talked about using a robots.txt file to avoid duplicate content in the past.
- Use the Google webmaster tools - If Google is having problems indexing your site, you'll certainly want to know why. I check the webmaster tools daily to make sure that there are not any problems.
- Do what Google asks - Google publishes their recommended webmaster guidelines. You definitely don't want to do something that Google explicitly forbids. Your playing their game, you need to play by their rules.
- Have simple URL's - Your URL's should be human readable, and more importantly, should be simple enough that search engines won't get confused. Avoid URL parameters, and instead opt for path or page based names. For example, http://www.yoursite.com/posts/seo-tips.html.
If you have the time to take your SEO skills to the next level, there are immense resources available. The best way to find them is to simply do a Google search. The sites that do the best job with SEO should appear at the top!