A Search Engine Optimization Guide
These are the tenants the bots follow when evaluating and rating web sites. Make the bots happy and you’ll get higher page listings and in turn get more traffic. More traffic = more eyeballs = more ROI.
Here are the 7 best practices in no particular order that have remained a constant in search engine optimization.
Top 7 SEO best practices
- Write good relevant content
- Make sure to use your meta information wisely
- Don’t over use your keywords
- Use your H tags effectively
- Make use of em and strong
- Regular content
- Avoid duplicate content
What is relevant content?
What is your website about? You should know your niche and target your content accordingly. Websites that work are those focused on a specific niche topic. Spreading your message too wide can lessen your chances of getting seen by the search engines. By targeting a group of keywords you can determine which ones are more attainable than others. What you’re looking for is to get listed on the 1st page in the SERPs. Writing content that is related to your website establishes you as an authority in your particular field.
Bonus tip – How to choose your top 10 keywords
Use Google Analytics to determine which keywords on your website people are coming in on. Choose the top 10 referring keywords and monitor them. Create a top 10 keywords document and follow how your list performs over time. As you add new content you’ll notice new keywords getting indexed. Use this information to create new content and discover new and better keywords.
How to optimize your Meta Title, Keywords and Descriptions tags
The search engines only list so many characters in your page title. Google, in particular, allows up to 65 characters. Only 65 characters will be displayed when someone is looking at a results page. This will be the search engine results from page anchor text. This is the text that is linked to your content. It has power! Make sure to include your keyword in the first 10 or so characters. This also helps to increase your Author Rank which Google is using as a way of establishing you as an authority in your niche.
Don’t overuse your keywords
Keywords are still used by the bots to index what the page is about. They don’t have the power that they once did, but they are still used and have importance. Focus on 3-5 keywords per page. Use them like tags for defining the meaning of the page. With keywords, less is more. The more you add only makes you look like your keyword stuffing.
When you write your descriptions keep in mind that only 150-155 characters will show up on Google and about 145- 150 on Yahoo and Bing. This is the description that will be displayed when people find your page. Be sure to include what your page is about including your targeted keyword somewhere within the first 150 characters. The first thing they will see is your title. The next thing they will see is exactly what the page is about. Adding a good description increases the chances of someone clicking onto your page.
Bonus tip – Name your page something relevant
If the bots had nothing else but the name of your web page to determine what your site was about then it would be a good idea to name your page appropriately. The first thing the bots sees is when they crawl your page is what it’s called. If you were writing a story about responsive website design it would make sense to use a file name like “responsive-web-design” rather than “page0012645398090398.html”. One of these means something and the other does not.
If it looks like spam, smells like spam, it is spam!
Black hat SEOs back in the day would list hundreds of keywords and links in a page with the same background color making them invisible to the viewer, but not the bot. Once the search engines got smarter spammers started adding targeted keywords as many times as they could throughout a page. This is known as keyword density. It used to be something Google used to give your page higher relevance.
Now a day the best practice for using your keywords is to not over do it. Try using keyword variations when possible. A lot of words in Google are mapped to other like words. An example would be cars, autos, vehicles. By using synonyms you increase your chances of showing up to a broader audience. Using keyword variations will help hit different groups of people that might have a preference to a group of words over another.
How to optimize your Title tags for the search engines
The bots put a higher importance on text in your header tags. Those being h1, h2, h3, h4, h5, h6. Including your targeted keyword and variations in these tags will make your page more relevant to the search engines. Be careful not to overuse your header tags. Only use them up to h6 if need be. You want to provide good quality content. Be smart about how many times you repeat your keyword on the page. Using variations here will help reduce the instances of the keyword on your page.
Quick tip for giving your targeted keyword more emphasis
This tip is short and sweet, but effective. Don’t overuse it. By bolding or stronging out the text you make it more noticeable. More importantly, the bots will see it. Use it sparingly. 2 or 3 instances are more than enough. It’s just one more way to indicate to the search engines what this page is actually about. It stands out to viewers when they find your website in search results.
Create content often! Consider a blog
Bots index websites that get regular content updates. A great way to insure you have new content all the time is to maintain and create a blog. When you put out new content it gives the bots a reason to visit and re-index your website. It’s also a good idea to use this opportunity to link to link to other parts of your website that could use some traffic.
Avoid duplicate content
Google uses a service call Copyscape to scan the internet for duplicate content. Once it finds sites that have the same content in more than one place it then can blacklist your website. Once your black listed it’s hard to get back on the search engines good side. Avoid copy and pasting content from other sites or pages. It does more harm than good. Content is king. Keep it relevant and keep it original.
Bonus tip – How to fix canonical errors
Canonical errors refer to duplicate instances of your content being indexed by search engines at 2 places on your website.
Here’s an example of 2 pages with the same content.
These are 2 pages that can be found on your website with the same content if you don’t make sure to correct for it. If you have a dynamic website or blog just imagine the amount of possible duplicate content that could be out there. Don’t worry there’s a quick fix. All these duplicates can be handled with just a couple lines in your .htaccess file. See how to fix canonical errors here.