Five SEO Rules to Live By
Nobody will argue with how important Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is to increasing a sites awareness and traffic. The higher a site ranks in search engine results the better the chance it will be visited. Search engines make use of a spiders and crawlers which follow links from page to page. The pages are analyzed and added to the database of the search engine. Search engines check sites on a periodic basis, visiting some sites more than others. How does indexing of pages work? Well only the search engine owners know the true answer and they are constantly improving the process which makes it even harder to predict. How your site shows up within search engines like Google is based on a variety of variables. While there are many techniques for better SEO, here are five SEO rules I live by.
1. Pick and Stick to Your Keywords
Keywords are how a site is identified. They are the essential way that a site can identify itself and a measure of how they show up in the search engine rankings. Deciding on keywords is a required first step. Start by defining your industry or marketing segment more precisely. First, list the keywords that you identify yourself with. Then get into the heads of your current and prospective visitors. How would they look for information on your topic? Ultimately come up with a couple of keywords (maybe two or three to start). Use these and related words whenever its natural. Use them in sentences, headlines and links. Make sure to include them in your domain, name, page title and <H1> tags. Make their usage natural and dont force them into things that dont make sense.
2. Content is King Long Live the King
Nobody searches for cool design. People look for information and content that is relevant to their questions or needs. By definition a search engine is designed to find what a human needs. That means the best way to ensure your site can be found is to design for people. If you dont have the information they want and another site does where will they go? This means update your site and pages often with relevant and valuable content. Search engines give priority to relevancy. Every page should lead with a relevant <H1> tag that contains one of the keywords and the first paragraph should be a summary of the rest of the page. For example your sites home page should summarize the rest of your site and give a clear compelling reason for a user to look at the other pages on your site.
3. Clean Code is an SEO Happy Page
Keeping your site usable with clean readable HTML makes for a well SEO enabled page. HTML should follow the conceptual structure of a page. Typically this means navigation first, followed by an <H1> tag, then first paragraph. While not a complete list. Here are some additional things to keep in mind.
Every page in your site should have a unique <Title> tag with the site name and short description of the page.
Every image on a page should have an <Alt> tag. If your site is focused on ASP.NET; a screenshot labeled Adding a Master Page with Visual Studio 2008 will improve your SEO better than a label titled screenshot.
Search engines pay a lot of attention to the links on your site and the words used in those links. Never use click here or even worse See more info here. A link should contain text that describes where the link will take the user. The more relevant the link is on a page, the findable the page becomes. A link should contain keywords and the title of the article that it is linking to. Dont go overboard and link to anything irrelevant. Also, make sure that you link to as many related site as possible. Above all else avoid spam and fake links. Getting blacklisted does more harm than good.
Create friendly URLs. This is good for both end users and search engines. How memorable is http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb383815%28VS.100%29.aspx
4. Site Maps Required
Sitemaps are a way of telling search engines about pages on your site. They allow the search engine to clearly understand what your web site is about. Keyword density is a term often used to describe the number of times a particular keyword or phrase appears in a site. Site maps should make maximum use of the most relevant keywords. It should contribute to keyword density using text links on the page. A good rule of thumb is to make sure that your site map is always linked to from your index page or home page.
5. Define Success Requirements
SEO is an ongoing and lengthy process of trial, success and errors. Its an important investment into your site and means setting realistic and attainable short and long term goals. Take advantage of tools like Google Analytics to monitor traffic and visitors to validate both success and errors.