SEO In 10 Minutes: Search Engine Optimization Tips For Beginners
- Benjamin Kuker
- September 29, 2009
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and it simply means that your site shows up in the results when people use Google, Yahoo, Bing, or another search engine. The higher you rank in the results, the better it is for your website.
What's different about this SEO guide? We're not a search engine optimization company and I'm not trying to sell you SEO services. I hate buzzwords without meaning or explanation (or value), so I'm going to be specific, not generic. This isn't a guide for how to build links or how to use social media effectively; it focuses solely on on-page optimization techniques.
Best of all? These are simple tips and tricks that you can incorporate into your website without much effort. It should take about 10 minutes to read this SEO tutorial for beginners, but implementing it will begin a process that will make a difference for your search engine rankings - you'll rank higher and convert more effectively.
How To Do Keyword Research
Before you begin writing your content, you should do a little research. It won't take long, but it'll pay dividends in the search engines. Keyword research simply means that you should research the key words or phrases that you want to write about. Keyword research has several purposes:
- It can generate new ideas, subtopics, or approaches for your topic matter.
- You can estimate traffic levels and competition for specific keywords and keyword phrases.
- Including the right keywords and keyword phrases will cause you to appear in more searches.
- If you use Google AdSense, you can see which keyword phrases have the biggest pay-per-click revenue.
- If you use Google AdWords for marketing your website, keyword research will help you choose the most successful keyword phrases with which to advertise.
The best way to do keyword research is with Google's External Keyword Tool. Make sure the checkbox, 'Use synonyms', is marked. Type in a few keywords or keyword phrases you think you'd like to target and then click on the button marked 'Get keyword ideas'.
The resulting chart should display a list of keyword phrases that you can use, sorted by relevance. Sort by 'Global Monthly Search Volume' to find the most commonly searched for keyword phrases. Every phrase that you're targeting should be included at least once in your content, with the more important phrases receiving more emphasis.
When including keywords in your content, don't overdo it. It's extremely important to remember that the whole point of your content is for your visitors to read it. Content does nothing if it brings a visitor to the webpage through a search engine only to scare them away as soon as they read it. Make it as compelling to your readers as possible first and then worry about getting every keyword phrase into the content. Your website copy should read naturally and flow smoothly.
If you're using Google AdSense, you can also use Google's External Keyword Tool to determine which keyword phrases pay the most money per click. To view the estimated CPC, select the dropdown box marked 'Show/hide columns' and click on both 'Show Estimated Ad Position' and 'Show Estimated Avg CPC'. Then sort by the 'Estimated Avg CPC' column to see which keyword phrases are most lucrative and make them a special point of emphasis in your content.
Make The Most Of Your HTML Title Tag
Your title tag is a tag that goes in the head section of your HTML document. It determines the text that goes in the browser tab when your page is loaded and it also acts as the link text for your search engine listing. Of the two tasks, the link text for the search engine listing is more important.
You should only have one title tag per page and you should have no duplicate title tags throughout your website. The text in the title tag should be no more than 65 characters long altogether. The reason for this limit is because after 65 characters, Google will cut off the text and append an ellipsis (...) at the end. Listings without an ellipsis have a higher click-thru-rate (CTR) than listing with an ellipsis because they express a complete idea and appear more authoritative.
The main focus of your title tag should be to get a user to click on the link, so write accordingly. The best titles will be compelling to the user while also including at least one of the targeted keyword phrases. As an added bonus, many social media sites will use the text in the title tag as a default description or title for your content. In all cases, the more persuasive the title, the more visitors you are likely to receive through search engines and social media.
It's important to note that your content must match the promise of your title or else you risk breaking the trust with your users' expectations.
Title tag text is also a major determinant in which ads Google will display for its AdSense program. If you don't like the ads you're getting on your page, try tweaking your title tag.
Title Tag Example
<title>SEO In 10 Minutes: Search Engine Optimization Tips For Beginners</title>
Optimize Your Meta Tags
Bleh. How many times have you heard this piece of advice on forums and in SEO articles? What does it even mean?
There are two primary meta tags that you should know about as a beginner SEO: the meta-description tag and the meta-keywords tag. Of the two, the meta-description is most important.
Meta Description Tags Done Right
The meta description tag has a similar function as the title tag in that it shows up in the search engine listing. It will appear right beneath the link text as a description of the link. The maximum length of a meta description should be no more than 150 characters. Anything over 150 and Google will again add an ellipsis. If you have a publication date on you content, you should leave extra room as Google will sometimes prepend it to the description.
Because the meta description isn't visible to users on your page, the only time you ever see it is on the search engine listing. Because of that, its main purpose should be to entice users to click on the link by providing more information or further incentive to click. If you can, you should also a few of your more important keyword phrases in your meta description because Google will replace the search listing text with text from your page content if it doesn't find the search term in your meta description.
Remember, your listing in Google or another search engine will often be the first experience a user has with your website, even before they visit. Make it a good one!
Meta Description Example
<meta name="description" content="Learn how to do search engine optimization for your company with this simple and free SEO tutorial. Get effective high rankings for your site!" />
Meta Keywords Aren't That Important
Google doesn't use the meta keywords tag in determining your PageRank. Yahoo might, but the effect is minimal. If you do use the meta keywords tag, keep it relevant to the page and don't try stuffing it with every possible keyword you can think of.
Each keyword phrase should be comma-separated with no spaces, but you can include spaces within the keywords phrases themselves.
Meta Keywords Example
<meta name="keywords" content="website,seo,search engine optimization,tips,marketing,beginners,tutorial" />
Use HTML Links Only
Flash websites are also notoriously difficult to optimize for search engines, mainly because it isn't easily read by the bots and many Flash websites are single page websites.
In every situation possible, use HTML links for any page that you want to get indexed by and succeed in the search engines.
Use Your Anchor Text Wisely
The link text that is underlined in your content is called the anchor text. Most search engines view each link as a vote for the page that is being linked to and the anchor text gives the vote context. This means that the anchor text is essentially added to the page's content.
Because of this, it's important to make good use of your anchor text when linking to internal pages. Avoid the infamous 'click here' text and instead rework your links to include your keywords in the anchor text. You should also be aware that if you have multiple links to the same destination on a single page, the anchor text of the first link that appears in the source code will be the one that counts.
If you can, you should also try to carefully control the anchor text from backlinks, or external links from other sites that link to your site. Backlinks will function the same way as internal links.
Cross-Promote And Link Internal Pages
When possible, link to your own pages (using your keywords, of course). Every link counts as a vote, including both external and internal links. You can improve your internal link structure by finding ways to tie your pages together, whether it's within the content itself or in a 'related articles' section at the bottom of each page. As you cross-promote your pages through internal link building, your site will begin to rank better.
Make Your Pages Crawlable
In order for search engines to show your web pages, they first have to know that the pages exist. There are many ways to bolster your crawlability including cross-promoting your pages, but XML sitemaps and RSS feeds are also great strategies for getting your pages crawled by the search engine spiders. Remember: Every page should have a link to it from somewhere.
An XML sitemap is simply an XML file that is a list of every page on your website and should be updated whenever you add new pages. You can learn how to create an XML sitemap from this tutorial or you can use this free XML sitemap generator to create one for you. If you're using a CMS like Wordpress, Drupal, or Joomla, chances are they''l either generate a sitemap for you automatically or have a plugin that can.
Once you have created a sitemap, name it sitemap.xml and upload it to your root directory. For Google, you'll need to sign up for a free Google Webmaster Tools account and submit your sitemap there. Yahoo's sitemap submission is done through Yahoo Site Explorer and you can submit a sitemap to Bing through their Webmaster account.
RSS feeds are another XML file similar to the sitemap, but rather than covering every page on your site, they are usually limited to a specific type of page. For example, Virtuosi Media has an RSS feed for each of the following sections of our site: business articles, web development tutorials, web resources, corporate news, and web design services. We also have a main feed that displays all of the categories at once.
You can read our RSS feed tutorial to learn more about RSS feeds and how you can add them to your site. In general, RSS feeds are more for your users to discover your updated content, but search engines love them too.
Fix Site Errors
This should go without saying, but make sure that your pages aren't returning as a 404 page. If the page doesn't exist, the search engines won't point to them for very long. Also make sure that your internal links aren't broken with typos or missing information. Google Webmaster Tools will help you with many of your diagnostic checks and you can use this link checker to check for broken links.
Being User-Friendly Is The Best SEO Practice There Is
At the end of the day, you'll find that the process of making your site user-friendly will overlap with many good SEO practices. Create your page first with your users in mind, then refine it with minor tweaks and adjustments for the search engines.
Also, remember the goals of your site, business, informational, or otherwise. It can be easy to get wrapped up in the number of visitors your site receives or where it ranks on the search engines, but ultimately, it's what you do with those visitors that counts.
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