Tuesday, January 10, 2012

SEO for Beginners: A Guide for Optimizing Websites

The goal of this post is to provide a simple SEO guide for beginners. There will be a list of 10 things any novice SEO or individual looking to optimize their website should be aware of and make sure they are attending to. If you are an advanced SEO or well versed in the field, there is no need to read on. If you are new to SEO and are looking for tips and strategies to get your site off the ground and ranking well in the search engine results pages (SERPs), I suggest you stay and check this out.

10 Tips for SEO Beginners

1. Keyword research. You have to know what keywords would be valuable to rank for or there is no point in moving forward with any SEO efforts. Start with Google's keyword suggestion tool and check out what your competitors are optimizing for. And don't just optimize for keywords that get the most search volume. That isn't intelligent. Optimize for the keywords that will drive the most conversions. You have to think hard about user intent.

2. Write good content. Every page on your website needs to have good content. Every page. No exceptions. The content must be unique, and not ripped off from a different source online. Additionally, make sure that no two pages on your site are the same.

3. Optimize your title tags. A title tag is one element of HTML that can make or break whether or not you rank for the keywords associated with the page in question. A well optimized title tag should be approximately 65 characters in length and include 2-3 of the main keywords you are trying to rank the page for.

4. Optimize your meta descriptions. Let me be clear: meta descriptions do not influence rankings. However, they do influence whether or not a person clicks through to your site from the search results. Do yourself a favor and include the keywords, a value proposition, and a call to action to drive your click-through-rate.

5. Make sure you have an internal linking structure. In simple terms, make sure that you are linking different pages on your site to each other. It is especially important to link to the most important top level pages from your homepage. And choose your anchor text wisely.

6. Bold keywords. You can do this within the HTML of each page on your site. Bolded keywords is a good way to emphasize to the search engines what the page is all about, and essentially what the page should show up in the search results for. But spare the world and avoid bolding entire paragraphs of text. It looks horrible and does nothing but confuse search engine spiders when they are crawling your site.

7. Create a sitemap file. No, not an HTML sitemap. While those aren't bad to have on your site, what you really need is an xml sitemap that tells search engines what pages they really need to crawl. You can upload this sitemap to www.yoursite.com/sitemap.xml.

8. Create a robots file. On the other side of that coin, you need to tell search engine spiders what pages they don't need to crawl. How should you know what pages they don't need to crawl? Think of it this way - if the page is not one you want showing up in the search results (for example, a Disclaimer page), you should most likely add it to the robots file. You can upload the file to www.yoursite.com/robots.txt.

9. Set up Google Analytics. Honestly, I just don't understand why anyone that has a website would not set up Google Analytics. It is free. It tells you a lot about your site. Want to know what keywords are leading to the most conversions? Where your traffic is coming from? How things improve over time? Me too. Set it up.

10. Link building. As anyone in the SEO community knows, getting a site ranked well all depends on how many (and the quality of) backlinks you can get for that site. In the end, it's all about building links. And you need to get anchor text links. If you are starting from scratch, you can blog comment and submit to directories until your site builds up a little strength.

That is all for now. I hope you find the Top 10 list for SEO beginners helpful! If you have any additional questions or want to learn more about advanced SEO, stick around and read some additional posts or get in touch with me at any time.

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