Twenty Basic Tips for SEO Newbies

If you have a website and are trying to earn a living from it, then you need to know Search Engine Optimization. SEO is key to driving more visitors to your site. More visitors means more business, so you definitely need to read on.

As with anything, you can take it to the limit and hire an expert in the field, but there are things that you and your web designer should be doing to optimize your search engine rankings. Here is a list of 20 things you can do now, to increase traffic to your website.

  1. Use a keyword tool such as Google Adwords Keyword tool. Input the term you think is appropriate and Google will provide you with other key words and phrases that users search for that are related to that term. You can then integrate these keywords and phrases into the text of your site. Take care, however, not to stuff your text with keywords in an unnatural way, which can count against you.
  2. Content dominates. Web crawlers love ever-changing content, so update your site regularly. Post good, well-written material that is unique and be sure to include your keywords within the content. Consider a blog, if your site content won’t change frequently. Spiders LOVE blogs!
  3. Content may dominate, but links rule. I mean really rule. In fact, some say that the number of quality backlinks you have to your site is Google’s #1 factor for returning you first in search results. With that in mind, make sure to get your site listed in numerous trade directories, associations, colleague’s websites, etc. Be sure the locations of your backlinks are quality ones, and relevant to your site.
  4. If you like image maps or Java script drop-down menus, be sure to include text links in another location on your pages. Web crawlers can’t decipher your images and they require real text to follow.
  5. Page titles are important! Title each page individually according to its subject matter. Title tags should be keyword focused, and if you insist on putting your business name in it, put it at the end. Keep titles under 70 characters.
  6. Write articles. As usual, be sure to include your keywords, post them to your site, and then post them to article sites (GoArticles.com is a great one!). You will be amazed at where your articles will end up after a few months, all linking back to YOU!  Be cautious however, of the dreaded “duplicate content” issue. Google likes original content, so if you post your articles in numerous places, try to change it up a bit, so you’re not penalized.
  7. Hyperlinks within your site should be written with the proper keywords, i.e. “green t-shirts” and not “click here”.
  8. Go easy on the Flash. Spiders cannot crawl flash animations, so keep them to a minimum, especially if the animation contains text that you want your visitors to read. Integrate that text into the page as well.
  9. Make sure that external links to your site link to the actual domain, i.e. http://www.redroses.com, and not http://www.redroses.com/index.html.
  10. Renew your domain name promptly! Domains that are about to expire, or even less than one year remaining can be considered spammers by some search engines, and this may hurt your rankings.
  11. SEO is not a oneshot deal. Since searches, and searcher’s needs, change quickly and frequently, expect to work on your optimization regularly, in order to get the best results, daily if possible. Getting crawled initially can take weeks, and getting high rankings can take months, sometimes a year or longer, depending on how much effort you put into in. Nothing ventured, absolutely nothing gained, in this case.
  12. Use captions with your images. No brainer, and use ALT tags with them as well. Include the words “picture” or “image” in your ALT tags, as searches will often be for a keyword along with one of those words.
  13. Use an XML sitemap. You can get one of these from Google as well, but I like XML Sitemaps. Type in your URL, download the .xml file that it creates and upload it to your website. Sitemaps provide very crawl-worthy text for hungry little web spiders. For more information on this read Using Google Webmaster Tool to Verify Your Site & Submit a Sitemap.
  14. Don’t forget your videos. Even though search engines can’t crawl video, they can still help you in your SEO, not to mention increase your conversion rate (the number of visitors that convert into people who contact you). Upload your video to any one (or several) of the video sites, such as Google Video,  Yahoo Video and of course YouTube. Make sure you give the video the appropriate tags, so others can find it. Grab the code and embed it in your website. Not only will it stream more efficiently so your viewers can view it faster, but hosting it on other sites give you the added bonus of letting more people find it, and you!
  15. Get a Google Webmaster account at http://www.google.com/webmasters/tools. This will provide you with numerous tools that you can use to better enhance your visibility.
  16. List your site initially with the major directories and search engines. The local directories are great for SEO and will help your local customers know you’re there. Here are the biggies to get you started:
    1. Google – http://www.google.com/addurl/
    2. Google Local Search – http://<cite>www.google.com/local/add/</cite>
    3. Open Directory Project – http://www.dmoz.com/
    4. Yahoo Directory – http://dir.yahoo.com/
    5. Yahoo Local – http://local.yahoo.com/
    6. Bing Local – https://ssl.bing.com/listings/BusinessSearch.aspx
  17. Monitor your account with Google Analytics. It’s vital to know what page your visitors are coming in to your site on, and what page they’re exiting from, how long they’re staying, etc. This is available through your Google Webmaster account.
  18. Link back to yourself. Putting links to other pages in your site is an easy way to increase traffic to individual pages.
  19. Name your URLs clearly. It’s easy to understand what www.cowboyboots.com/women/buckarooboots.html would contain, but if your page is titled www.cowboyboots.com/45773/bbb.html search engines are much less likely to figure that one out.
  20. Don’t make the mistake of paying money to companies that say they can get you ranked higher! With a little time and effort, you can improve your site’s rankings yourself, and some search engines consider links from these sites to be of poor quality. In fact, links from link farms, can count against you.