Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Effective Search Engine Optimization

Effective Search Engine Optimization is not just a case of optimising your meta tags and hoping for the best.

To get the most you're going to need to do some research, create targeted relevant content on your website, alter your code and generate links to your site. This all takes time.

It is not a 5 minute solution. To effectively optimize your website for search engines like Google you are going to need to carry the SEO (Search Engine Optimization) process on a regular ongoing basis. Whether that's everyday, every week or once a month is up to you. I would recommend starting on once a day.

First off some SEO Research basics:

What keywords do you wish to target?
Are they unique keywords or generic keywords which are highly competitive?
Who else is using those keywords in their websites - put your keywords in to Google and pick the top 5 website listings (or choose the 5 most relevant sites to you if the other results are full of directories)

How is each page structured?
Does it make you want to buy or generate an enquiry - there should be obvious calls to action?

Are there how to's, articles on the industry, blogs, forums or is it just a simple page offering nothing but a product or service?

Does each page avoid the use of frames?

Is Flash being used in conjunction with HTML or is the whole site built in Flash?

Is their HTML code (you'll need to use the menu options View > Page Source to see this) bloated with Javacscript and inline CSS code?

How is their copy written on the page - are the keywords too repetitive on the page?

Use Keyword Research tools to help you generate more keywords from your original keyword seed.

Moving on:

Ensure your keywords are incorporated into your Title tag and Description Meta-tags in your HTML code. Concentrate on no more than 3 to 5 keyword phrases in each tag.

Create original and compelling tags here, as you want them to work for you when listed on a search engine, this will help people to click on your site over someone elses.

Keyword meta-tag - place your keywords here, do not overdo it though, again aim for 5 keyword phrases here. Google ignores this meta tag (unless it sees a spamming attempt) however its best to use as you never know when this tag will come back into affecting page ranking.

Ensure you have at least 200 words on each page - this is a minimum.

People ask me all the time what the secrets of SEO are. Well one is making sure you have well written and keyword relevant text on the page to give a search engine something to work on (as well your for your visitors to read).

Don't forget you are writing for your visitors to the website NOT the search engine. So for the most effective website optimization do not repeat the keyword in the content. If it reads like spam then its likely it will be treated as spam!

Structure your content - use headings, white space, paragraphs, bold content, bullet points to name just a few and suitable formatting with CSS to make it as easy as possible to follow your content on the screen.

Now re-read your content. Is it unique? Is it informative? If yes then you are on the right track. If not then you're going to need to make adjustments.

Ignore Keyword Density tools - old news these days. Think instead about using your keywords and wrapping them around other words in the content - this is likely to do far better in the long run as search engines (especially Google) get more adept at understanding content.

Sorry but a 5 page standard smal business website is not going to do as well as a website with 30 pages of good targeted keywords within carefully written content (usually, there have been exceptions to this rule).

Once writing copy is complete you''ll want to check your coding. Is it bloated with Javascript and inline CSS? If so externalise these as seperate files and point towards in your code.

I don't go for table tricks in HTML coding, I do not need to as I can ordinarily bring links and content high enough up in the code that is liked well enough by Search Engines.

I ensure links are text based where-ever possible with Anchor Text (say I was a Wedding Photographer, instead of saying "Gallery" as my link I would use "Stunning Wedding Images here").

Images are usually ALT tagged - again I use a very short description to advise the reader of what the image is about. Do not stuff this tag with keywords - it will not be of any use when used like this.

Almost complete as you now have to go ahead and start link building. This is a tedious but compulsory process. Identify websites that can ally with you - ignore the thousands of web directories offering free submission of your site instead search for websites and blogs on your chosen field and request links to your site that will BENEFIT that other site's readers rather than compete with it.

Finally you will need to start recording your traffic to your website so ask your host to set up a reasonably advanced package (AW Stats for me springs to mind). You will need to monitor this regularly to check that your search engine optimization is working.

Effective search engine optimization as I have said takes time and IS an ongoing process in most cases. With a bit of effort and creatvity there is no reason your site should not be listed high enough in the search engines to start generating decent volumes of traffic.

Good luck and hope to see your site at the top of Google soon!