SEO Pointers for Beginners

Search Engine OptimizationSearch engine optimization (SEO) is an extremely powerful tool for any Internet and website marketing strategy and it will directly impact the amount of traffic that flows to your website from targeted searches performed in the major search engines. Many will refer to this type of traffic as “natural” or “organic” traffic in that it is website traffic that is not attracted through direct advertising.

With SEO, there are no shortcuts. Search engine optimization (SEO) is about hard work with the content that you have built on your site. Results do not happen overnight and may take several months to for your efforts to pay off. Because of this, it is important that you pay attention to some basic guidelines when developing your site.

Content Is King!

The first thing to consider with respect to SEO is your content. I’ve used the phrase “Content is King” in many articles for the simple fact that when it comes to search engine optimization, Content is King!

Unique content is your most valuable asset when developing your site and ensuring that the major search engines can read this content is of utmost importance.

While perhaps more visually appealing, things such as flash applets, text embedded in images, or images themselves, the search engines that crawl your site indexing the content cannot read this information. It is also important to keep in mind that when developing your content, it is important to pay attention to the little things by ensuring that your content is easy to read and grammatically correct.

It is also imperative that you keep the content on your site “fresh”. Adding new content to your site on a regular basis means that visitors to your site have more reasons to return. It also means that the search engines will crawl your site more often, which means your new content will be indexed much quicker, thus improving your chances of having this content found in the search engines.

When developing your content, you can optimize for your particular niche by incorporating your keywords into your page navigation, page headings and page titles. Using descriptive and relevant items makes it easier for the search engines crawling your site to know what each page of your site is about, especially if these components are constructed to include your keywords.

Avoid using headings that are constructed of images and utilize the H1-H6 (header tags) elements for your headings. Avoid hiding text and keywords on your page by making the text color the same as the background color. This can result in your website being penalized by the search engines and lowering your overall ranking.

When saving your content, it is also important that you use a search engine friendly URL rather than ones that are dynamically generated when the content is extracted from a database. While recent advancements in search engine robots allows them to easily index dynamically generated content, having search engine friendly URLs can improve your overall ranking, especially if the URL can be constructed to include your keywords for your particular niche.

Choose your Keywords Wisely

One of the early steps into your search engine optimization (SEO) that needs to be done properly the first time is identifying terms that will describe your product, service or website content. If you can, use keyword research services to identify keywords or keyword phrases that are relevant to your niche.

Services such as WordTracker, or Google’s Adword Keyword Tool are great starting points that can provide you with a set of keywords for your niche. Your goal is to find the keywords or keyword phrases that your target market will use to find your site. Once you have done this, you can start your task of optimizing your site for those particular keywords or phrases.

Avoid some of the more general terms that will be frequently used by all sites. Words such as “computer”, “business”, and “insurance” are general terms that are usually much more difficult to obtain a high search engine ranking becauseof market saturation and competition in these particular areas. Finding the correct combination of keywords and keyword phrases that can uniquely identify your website and write your content to incorporate this content will mean much more relevant traffic and higher ranking.

Never try to fool the search engines using techniques such as keyword stuffing, or “alt text” spamming. Oversaturating your content with too many of your keyword or keyword phrases may work in the short term, but dramatically increases your chances of having your site penalized by the search engines or even banned from the search engines.

Most SEO experts will recommend a keyword and keyword phrase saturation of approximately 3% to 5% in your content.

Keep in mind that optimizing for keywords and keyword phrases does not have to be complicated. Keep it simple, follow the basic rules and you will see results.

Obtain Quality Backlinks from Relevant Sites

The number and quality of the sites linking to your website determines how well your site will rank in the search engine results pages (SERPs). The more relevant the site linking to your site, the more weight this link is given. Think of a link as a “vote” on the importance of a site. The more quality votes that your site receives, the great the chance it will rank higher in the search engine results pages.

Google has implemented a pagerank, which is a measure of how important its search engine deems a site. Pageranks range anywhere from 0 to 10, with 10 being the most important. Sites with a higher pagerank (PR) linking to your site will carry more weight than low PR sites. For example, if you were developing a website about computers and were successful in obtaining a link back from a site such as Dell Computers, this link would carry a significant amount of weight as to the importance of your site.

In theory, obtaining backlinks sounds easy, but it is a rather difficult and daunting task. Not every site will automatically link to your site. There has to be a reason to link to your site and very few webmasters will do this out of the goodness of their heart. Some webmasters enter into “link exchange” agreements and in “selling links” to other webmasters. Buying links is a gigantic NO-NO and should be avoided. Buying links can result in a severe penalty to your site or even a complete banning of your site from the search engines.

Some popular methods of obtaining links back to your site include:

  • Issuing press releases with a link back to your site; 
  • Submitting your site to reputable business directories; 
  • Participating in discussion forums; 
  • Forming partnerships with other relevant sites; 
  • Article submissions to article directories (be careful of duplicate content); and
  • Social bookmarking

Ensure that your content is fresh, and relevant, and people will want to link to your site.

Examine the Link Structure of Your Site

One of the most overlooked aspects of search engine optimization is the link structure within a site. It is important that the search engine robots not only find your site, but be able to crawl all of your site’s pages. If the search engine robots cannot find your pages, there is no way for your content to get indexed no matter how much search engine optimization you try.

Most search engine robots are unable to see links that are created using dynamically created URLs. While they are getting much better at interpreting such links, having well constructed URLs that take advantage of appropriate link text will help ensure good ranking.

Some SEO experts will also emphasize the importance of having all pages link to at least one other page. Pages which do not link to another page are often referred to as “dangling links” and by carefully constructing targeted internal links, you can emphasize your search terms and keywords, reinforcing the importance and relevance of your content.

Links will also carry more weight with the major search engines if the text around them are focused on the target page’s topic and the search terms being used.

By following these simple pointers, beginners can help themselves and improve their ranking in the search engines. Learning about SEO is critical to having a successful internet and website marketing strategy to ensure sustained traffic to your website.

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About Barry Wheeler

Barry Wheeler is a blogger, novice SEO, geek and passionate Newfoundlander. Operating several successful websites and online communities, Barry has started exploring the social internet and its impact on all facets of society including personal life and business relationships. Find Barry on Twitter @barrywheeler and FaceBook or on his website Barry Wheeler - Blogging for Success.
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