Search Engine Optimization – A Beginners’ Guide (part 2)

This article by guest blogger Greg Rodgers completes our two-part Beginners’ Guide to Search Engine Optimziation.

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With Google’s algorithm for ranking sites being one of the best kept secrets in the world, webmasters have to resort to speculation and leveraging what techniques are proven to create better rankings for their businesses.

All guessing aside, the only sure way to get a top-10 ranking in Google is to obtain as many high-quality backlinks as possible.  Links on other websites which point back to your site should contain the keywords that you wish to target.  Getting a link back to your site with “click here” in the link anchor text is hardly useful.  Instead, encourage people to create quality links back to your site by writing good content.

A prime example: Perform a Google search for “badger” and check out the top result.  This bizarre animation ranked #1 just because of the number of backlinks pointing back to the site with theword “badger” in the anchor text of the link.  The site (www.badgerbadgerbadger.com) contains no useful information about badgers, SEO tricks, or keywords that would merit a #1 ranking; however, they beat thousands of entries simply because they received enough links which contain the word “badger” pointing back to their website.

When Google sees one website linking another, it serves as an “endorsement” of sorts for the website being linked.  The only way to receive quality links from other people is to create useful content that they are interested in sharing with their own readers.  While some small SEO optimizations can be made in the content of your site, always write material for humans rather than search engines.  With Google earnestly on the lookout for cheaters and SPAM, stuffing too many keywords into a page is asure way to lower your ranking – or worse.

That being said, there are a few small things we can do onsite to make both search engines and human eyes happy.

  1. Choose one or two primary keyword phrases that you wish to target with your content; be specific. Take advantage of Google’s keyword tool to see what terms get more searches than others.  Put yourself into the shoes of someone searching for your business among thousands of websites: What would you type as a search?
  2. Once you have chosen your primary keywords, put them once at the top of the page as a large header.  Blogging platforms such as WordPress typically do this for you automatically.  The keywords should be in <h1> or <h2> HTML tags and bold.
  3. Find a natural way to insert your primary keywords early in the article – preferably in the first or second sentence.  Not only does this keep Google happy, it helps to hook your reader and ensures them that they are in the right place for what they are searching for.
  4. Throughout the content on the page, mention your exact keyword phrase a couple of times more – always naturally!  Most word-processing software will allow you to check the keyworddensity of words in an article.  A good, natural keyword density to aim for should be only between two and three percent.
  5. If the page contains a picture or image, use your keywords in the ALT description for the image.  Search engines cannot “see” images, so adding an ALT tag to images that you use is important.
  6. Mention your keyword(s) in bold somewhere in the course of the article. Once will do, too much bold text can be flagged as SPAM for Google.
  7. Mention your keyword(s) once in the closing paragraph of the page.
  8. Some SEO experts contend that linking out from your page to one of the current top-10 results for your keyword helps ensure Google that your site is relative and friendly.  Consider linking Wikipedia or another site that gives more information about the target of your article.
  9. In the HTML <TITLE> tag for your article, mention your keywords early – preferably at thestart of the title.  A title written to target dog collars would look something like: “Dog Collars –Find the Best Prices on Collars for Dogs”.
  10. Mention your keywords in the META description for the page. The META description serves as the excerpt shown in search engine result pages. Put a call-to-action inside so that humans will choose and click on your site above the others.  If your keywords happen to be “dogcollars,” use verbiage such as “Read more about dog collars” or “Everything you need to know about dog collars” in the META description.

While search engines do not put as much weight on onsite SEO optimizations as they once did, these small changes will ensure them that your site is relevant enough to be included in the search results. The main goal of onsite optimization is to keep your readers on the site longer and to hopefully encourage them to share your site with others by creating a backlink!

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Greg Rodgers left his job at IBM to travel and write full-time.  He now develops and manages a family of more than twenty websites.

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