Learning the Basics of SEO

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a scary term for many businesses, mainly because they don't know what it is. Here are some of the basics.

The fact is, SEO isn't a difficult concept to grasp. Entrepreneur magazine had an excellent article on SEO and how you could apply techniques to your web site that will improve your chances of being found by more people than you would have thought possible. I would encourage you to read it if you have a chance.

Building the Site

Overall, however, it neither has to be scary nor expensive to build your web presence using good SEO techniques. Keep these tips in mind, whether you're doing everything yourself or you're hiring a consultant to help you out:

  1. Make your page addresses readable - An address like: www.mysite.com/page?pageid=324710 that you need to type into a browser address bar is unwieldy. Being able to build your sites instead using permalinks, or human-readable addresses is much better. Coding the above site to: www.mysite.com/about_me/ gives a much better indication of content, both to people and, believe it or not, to search engines.
  2. Name that page title! - You may never look at your title bar, but search engines do. Your title should be precise in your wording and, whenever possible, combine your keywords with your company/website name so that search engines know what the content is and who's supplying it.
  3. Describe - You need to describe your page in a couple of sentences (generally stick with around 160 characters). Each page should get its own description and it is stored in what's called a "meta" tag. Why keep it so short? Search engines like Google take that description and display it under your link in search results. The keywords in the description tell search engines whether the page is relevant to people searching the web, and the description itself helps people understand whether you're what they're looking for.
  4. Read all about it! - What's the first thing you notice in a newspaper article? The title. It's short, concise, and very big. But it's also specially tagged with something called an <h1> tag. Not only does that format the title so you can see it, search engine crawlers recognize it as a title as well and are able to more easily recognize the content.
  5. Organize it - People spend very little time looking for content. If it's not readily available, they move on. But search engines also look for sites that are well organized and that information can be retrieved in one or two mouse clicks. Therefore, give thought to your overall design and layout, don't bury information and cut extraneous information that doesn't provide value.

Writing the Content

If you've followed the best practice techniques above, then you're about 1/3 of the way there. The next thing to which you'll have to pay attention is your content.

Content should be fresh and frequently updated; it keeps your visitors interested and search engines crawling. One of the best ways we advocate doing this is creating a blog for your site. Check out "Blogging for Business" for a high-level view of the best ways to set yourself up. Even if it's just to keep your customers up-to-date on changes in your business, it will be a good thing for you to do.

Don't have time? Consider a copywriting service. Very often you just have to convey your ideas to the copywriter and they'll optimize your content for you.

At the very least, force yourself to review your site every month. Check if the content is still relevant to your visitors. If it's not, be sure to update it.

Link Up

Linking, according to the Entrepreneur article, is one of the hardest parts of SEO, and I'd agree. It's not the sites to which you link that give you credibility; it's the sites that link to you. It's all a popularity contest, and the person who's the most popular is also the most visible.

Using social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are great to bring eyeballs, but search engines really look for other types of sites that link to you.

  1. Directories - Use tools like Yahoo! Directory to list your business. You may not use it much in your daily search activities, but directories are important to search engines because their links are reviewed by people, and thus have a slightly higher level of quality links than an automated directory.
  2. Create a Google account for your small business - Let Google know you're out there by creating a local business listing. It helps your search engine optimization, and it fine-tunes results to your specific local market.
  3. Seek out and comment on blogs relevant to your business - establish relationships with other blog owners out there and comment on their content. Eventually, they may find it beneficial to them to direct their readers to your site because of the good information you provide, and that builds links.

There's certainly more you can do to fine-tune and establish good SEO for your site, but the above will provide a great foundation for you to work with.

Do you have a tip or technique you've used successfully?

Written by Mariano Di Fabio on March 31st, 2010

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