3. Use Keywords Judiciously
Using keywords effectively can make your site more discoverable. But overusing or abusing them can cause search engines to ignore you. Here are some tips for adding keywords to your Web pages:
- Optimize each page for one keyword (and its synonyms). When the entire context of a page is about a particular subject, search engines are more likely to see that page as relevant to its topic.
- Use keywords in the page's HTML title tag. Search engines place great importance on title tags when determining a page's relevancy to a query. Don't exceed 65 characters, including spaces and punctuation.
- Add keywords to the page's HTML h1 and h2 headings, and use the keywords several times in the body copy--the earlier, the better.
- Create a keyword-rich link elsewhere on your site to each page you're optimizing. For example, if you're optimizing a page about your résumé writing services, add a link to that page from another page on your site and use the term résumé writing services in the link text, rather than something generic like click here.
- Add keywords to your site's URLs whenever possible, as opposed to using generic URLs such as www.domain.com/?page_id=58.
- Add keywords to each page's HTML meta description. Search engines often (but not always) display that description underneath each link shown in search results. But don't bother with HTML keyword meta tags: Google doesn't consider keyword meta tags in Web search ranking.
- Don't go overboard. "Black-hat" tricks--such as presenting one page to search engines that's nothing but keywords, and another page to users--can get you kicked out of Google's index. It happened to a German BMW site in 2006.
4. Create 'Linkbait'
Editorial endorsements of your product or service from someone else, such as a high-profile blogger, can be pure SEO gold--especially when that endorsement includes a keyword-rich link to a relevant page on your site.
You don't have as much control over external links to your site as you do over the keywords you use, of course. Still, you can take some steps.
- Bloggers and other people with Websites frequently post links to great content. Make sure your pages have provocative, newsworthy, or extremely useful content--otherwise known as "linkbait." Spread the word about a new blog post, page, or article via social networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. (And by the way, search engines love blogs. If you aren't blogging, you should be.)
- Write an informative (puff-free) press release about your new product or service. Include a keyword-rich link to a relevant page on your site, and post the release on public relations sites such as PRWeb.com, PRNewswire.com, and PR.com. (Some PR services are free, while others charge.) With luck, your press release will get picked up by the media, and people will write online articles about you with links to your site.
- Contact influential reporters, bloggers, and others in the media directly. You'll increase your chances of coverage and perhaps get links that your competitors lack.
- When other sites agree to link to yours, suggest the keyword that you'd like them to use in the link text.
- Be generous in linking to other sites; the favor may be returned.
5. Make Sure Your Site Is Search Engine Friendly
If your site is already live, you can still do a few things to improve its "findability." Google's Webmaster guidelines offer specific suggestions for new and existing sites. Among them are the following tips.
- Use a text browser, such as Lynx, to get a sense of how most search engine bots see your site. This exercise can help you determine where you may need to make changes for SEO. You can paste a URL in the Lynx viewer to find out how the page would look when viewed with Lynx, without having to download and install the browser.
- Make sure that your site doesn't have duplicate content or multiple URLs pointing to the same page. Duplicate content can hurt your search engine ranking.
- Create an XML sitemap for your site and submit it to the major search engines; this gives the search engine bots a list of URLs on your site that you want them to index.
SEO isn't something you do once. You may rank third for a keyword search on Monday, and twenty-third for that same search two weeks later. So it's important to set aside time, ideally every week, to review your Google Analytics, fine-tune your keywords, and look for link opportunities.
Yes, SEO requires time, patience, and perseverance. But the potential rewards can be considerable. And it's a safe bet that your competitors are doing it.
SEO Sites to Bookmark
- Matt Cutts's blog
- Search Engine Land
- SEO Chat
- Search Marketing Expo conferences
- Search Engine Strategies conferences