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SEO Made Simple - Or Is It?

April 16, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 125

First, let's understand what SEO is and why it's important.

SEO is how you get noticed on the web

In this new age of technological advances, everyone uses the internet to search for just about anything. Search Engine Optimization is exactly what it says, you optimize your site so that search engines can find you. A Search Engine uses key words to query a database, which will hopefully return desired results to the person performing the search. If you've never dissected a search result page before, now might be a good time to take a look.

If you look at any organic search engine result (organic meaning you typed in a query and a list of results came up), using Safari and Google as an example, you'll notice a header at the very top of the page. This is where you can find the URL you are accessing, any tools you've added to your tool bar, a search query bar, and finally a list of search results (and other menus). Once you've done a search, the first line of the result is the title of the webpage. You can click on it to reach that site. The URL (Uniform Resource Locator, otherwise known as the web address) is in green. Then there is a brief description of the site below that. (Google has also added instant previews.)

These results are listed in order of most relevant first. If after a query, search results show up on the side or above your search results, theses are paid ads (a lot of times displayed in a box). These ads are usually relevant to your search, and every time you click on one of those ads, the owner has to pay a fee. This is done quite frequently to draw attention to a website (get people to click). However, SEO only affects what's called "organic" search results-ads do not help with SEO.

SEO companies want to help you be found by adding specific things to your website and content. But if you don't want to outsource SEO, here are some things you need to ask your web designer about, and some things you should consider before putting together your content.

Your Website needs a good web address name

Make sure when you're deciding upon a web address that you make it simple and easy to remember, but relevant to your site. A site name that is too long is hard to remember, and a site name that has nothing to do with your business is irrelevant. If you change your web address name for any reason, make sure to redirect your previous site so that established SEO is not lost.

Web Spiders / Web Crawlers / Web Robots

I don't claim to be an expert here, but the way I understand it, Web Spiders (crawlers, robots, whatever you want to call them) cruise your site in a methodical way and gather data on content. This data is then sent to search engines where they index it so they can make queries run faster. It's a great tool, but unfortunately, this same spider method is what cruises your site and grabs email addresses to send out spam. Hence the "human" widget you see on a lot of contact pages. But that's beside the point.

Placed in Code: The HEAD tag of your HTML document

Page Title Tags: Make sure every one of your pages has a unique title that describes the information on that page. If you look at a browser result page, there is a title at the very top (such as My.EzineArticles.com). Every website you go to will have some kind of title on it. This is what a Page Title Tag is. Since this is one of the first things spiders look for (your web address being the very first), it's an important feature and should include key words. General Rule of thumb: Page Title Tags should be no longer than 70 characters.

Description Meta Tags: This is a brief description of what the page is about. It is usually a sentence or two, but General Rule of Thumb: No more than 155 characters. Description meta tags are good because this is usually what people see when they run queries and come upon your website. It's the snippet of information that describes you and entices someone to enter your site. You can have a unique description for each page.

Website Navigation Must Be User Friendly

Make sure your site is easy to navigate. Keep it Simple. This is really important and a lot of drop down menus, redirection, or hidden links is a users nightmare! Your navigation should allow visitors to quickly find the content they're looking for. It also shows search engines what the owner believes is important. The order of your pages in the navigation matters. Also, make sure you use mostly text as opposed to images for your navigation. It's easier for spiders to crawl.

Include a site map within your site (usually the web page is named sitemap). A site map allows users to go directly to the structure of your website to find the information they need. Submitting an XML site map to browsers also expedites the process of Spiders crawling the page.

Content is very important

Obviously, if you have a site worthy of your attention, you'll tell others about it. Word of mouth is the best way to get attention, so make sure your content is worthy of directing others to it. While you're making your content compelling and useful, remember to use Key Words throughout your text. These are the words that people might use to search for your service or product. Be sure to anticipate what the novice might search for compared to the expert, because these can be different terms. Most importantly, make your site easy to read. Your content should be directed at your users (not search engines), and be organized and unique. Having relevant content that changes from time to time is also a nice perk to websites.

Page Headers Tags

Header tags are like titles to your page, but they are within the content (H1, H2, H3, etc., to H6). It's a code that tells search engines what is most important (H1) to what is least important (H6) on the page. These titles, if you will, are usually bolded and different size text, and introduce a topic to the user, but tell spiders what's what. Use header tags like you would when writing an outline. It's the same kind of hierarchy.

Anchor Text / Back Links

Links on your site are handy and give search engines a better idea of what your site is about, but make sure anchors are relevant to your site. These can be internal links (to pages within your site) or external, but should relate back to your business, service or product in some way. Also, always make it easy for a user to recognize a link when they see one. It may be as simple as having it underlined, but it should be easily recognizable. And one more thing, don't ever make a link that leaves your page. Either have them open within the parent site, or in a new window, but don't direct people away from your site.

Images and Flash

If you use images in your website, be sure to use the "alt" attribute (a file name) to describe the image. Simply put, it makes it easier to see the image file should a user not be able to display an image. Spiders like the images to be named, too, and you'll find that your images show up in image search, which ultimately direct people to your site.

Flash is not something that search engines can see. Remember this when designing your website. Flash is a really cool feature, but if you're starting out, it might not be the best option for you on your home page (index.html), especially while you're trying to get ranked.

Google Analytics

This simple tool will tell you about the specific traffic on your site. For example, how users find your site, use the site, how long they stay on your site, what pages they access most frequently, and a plethora of information to help you optimize your site and make adjustments. Make sure you utilize such tools. It's only a matter of setting up an account, and it's free.

Promote your site

There are many ways to promote your site and many companies willing to help you do it. However, social networks and blogs are a great start. The thing to remember is that when you point one site to another, you shouldn't do it the other way around or it cancels each other out in SEO.

While coming up with a new website, reconsider your Identity, which usually encompasses a Logo Design (the symbol representing your company), stationery, marketing materials, product or packaging, signage, or anything else visual that represents the business. All of these things should have your new company name and contact information, including your website address.

One more thing, you can register your site with search engines. This is a way of telling them that you're here and you're ready for them to index your content, allowing the rest of the world to find you.

Updating your site / Changing your extension

The last thing I want to mention is about your established site. There are many different website codes out there (HTML, ASPX, PHP, etc.). If you need to redo your site and you're considering changing the format, you might want to reconsider. If you have an established ranking or indexing, changing your format (like going from aspx to HTML) could cause you to loose your ranking and indexing, so you will essentially be starting over. If you have good SEO results, don't change it. Find a way to make the changes you want but keep your current web address extensions.

This may not be everything you need to know, but it's a really good start to Search Engine Optimization!

Roz Birkelo is a freelance graphic designer doing business as Clearly Golden, in Golden, Colorado. She specializes in print work, layout and design, production, and technical drawings. http://www.clearlygolden.com

Source: EzineArticles
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