The Basics

SEO or Search Engine Optimization is considered one of the most reliable methods of driving more traffic to your site , e-commerce website or blog. SEO principles actually apply to any online property. How does SEO work? Well, the standard procedure for anyone looking for information on anything nowadays is to turn on their computer (or lap top or mobile device) and go to a search engine like Google or Yahoo/Bing and then type in what they are looking for. The major search engines have indexed the web and have gathered information in order to list websites “by rank” to help you find what you are searching for. The search engines individually decide on this “rank” , placing the sites they consider the “best sites” on the top of the first pages you view. There is no question on how valuable it is to be at the top of a search engine result or even on their first page. The question is how do the search engines determine which are the “best sites”?

In a nutshell, the search engines must be able to find your site. They must be able to decipher what the content of your site is about and then provide your site with a ranking in comparison with the data they have gathered on other sites. They view your site through the content and keywords on the site as well as by the popularity of your site and what other sites think of your site (website traffic and back linking). Through SEO we try to help the search engines decide that yours is the “best” site for particular strategic search terms.

Getting Started on How to SEO Your Website

If you’re thinking about investing on an SEO campaign for your website and you are not an SEO professional, please note that there are many things you can do on your own. At times, if it gets tricky, any web programmer or developer should be able to help you out. Keep in mind that where an SEO professional can provide a very valuable service is in the initial keyword research and over-all strategy and plan. This is the first in a series of 4 articles outlining more than 50 tips on how to SEO your website. This first article will outline 16 tips for you to have in mind right from the beginning:

  1. Be sure that the links to your site and within your site (in-bound and internal links) use your keyword phrase. What we mean is if you are targeting “blue dolphins” then link to “blue dolphins” instead of a “Click here” link. It is better to focus on search phrases as opposed to single keywords, and put your location in your text (“our Toronto store” not “our store”) to help you get found in local searches. Use keywords and keyword phrases appropriately in text links and image ALT attributes.
  2. The most important factors for a successful SEO campaign are Text (content) , Links, Popularity and Reputation. Don’t design your website without considering SEO from the outset. Make sure your web designer understands your expectations for organic SEO. Going backwards and trying to make your shiny new Flash-based site SEO friendly after it is built will make things much more difficult. Remember, spiders can crawl text, not Flash or images.
  3. Check for URL  issues – There is a difference between “www” and non-www” domains. Decide which you want to use and 301 redirect the other to it. In other words, if http://www.domain.com is your preference, then http://domain.com should redirect to it. Check the link to your home page throughout your site. Is index.html appended to your domain name? If so, you’re splitting your links. Outside links go to http://www.domain.com and internal links go to http://www.domain.com/index.html. Take out the index.html or default.php or whatever the page is and always link back to your domain.
  4. Your URL file extension doesn’t matter. You can use .html, .htm, .asp, .php, etc. This factor will not impact your SEO initiatives.
  5. If you want your new website to be noticed by the search engine spiders submitting through Google’s regular submission form can take weeks. The quickest way to have your website noticed by the spiders is  by having another quality website  link back to it. One of the most effective way to keep information on your site fresh and dynamic is through installing a blog. Search spiders love fresh and dynamic text. We recommend blogging a minimum of two to three times per week with good, fresh content.
  6. If you are on a shared server, do a blacklist check to be sure you’re not on a proxy with a spammer or banned site. Their negative status could affect your own rankings. It’s important to note that by using services that block domain ownership information when you register a domain, Google might see you as a potential spammer. With the search engines “you are judged by the company you keep”.
  7. Make sure your site is user-friendly. This can influence your link building ability and popularity which in turn will affect your search engine ranking.
  8. If you want to attract links it is good to link to other sites as well. Linking to other sites will encourage sites to link back to you.  It’s similar to the Twitter concept of “follow me and I’ll follow you.”
  9. Links from .edu domains are given greater weight and importance by the search engines. Run a search for possible non-profit .edu sites that are looking for sponsors.
  10. Use captions with your images. As with newspaper photos, place keyword rich captions with your images.
  11. Pay attention to the context surrounding your images. Remember the spiders do not see images. They feed off the text and how it is tagged into the code of the website. Images can rank based on text that surrounds them on the page. Pay attention to keyword text, headings, etc.
  12. While installing an XML Site Map is valuable for SEO, it is better to allow the search engines to find your site naturally. Effective website navigation and quality links will help more than the XML Map.
  13. If you are moving to a new domain, it is helpful if your hosting company offers “Sticky” forwarding . This allows temporary forwarding to the new domain from the old, keeping the new URL in the address bar so that users can gradually become accustomed to the new URL.
  14. Have a good grasp of  social media marketing. It cannot be ignored and today forms a large part of SEO. The more you understand about sites like Sphinn, StumbleUpon, Digg,  del.icio.us, Facebook, etc., the better you will be able to compete in search.
  15. Add viral components to your web site or blog – reviews, sharing functions, ratings, visitor comments, etc.
  16. Broaden the range of services you offer on your site to include video, social content, news and so forth. The more interactive and interesting you make your site the more SEO success you will have.

Next Article – Coding & Programming

In Part 2 of this series we will provide you with SEO tips for coding and programming your website. But don’t worry; you don’t have to be a programmer.  Well…maybe a bit of web programming background wouldn’t hurt.