Search engine optimization, or SEO, means structuring your website and creating search content in such a way that you're optimally positioned in the search engines. So that when somebody searches for your product, service or information, your website is listed at, or near the top. Ultimately, the purpose of SEO is to helps you connect to people through the search engines.
Most of the world's searches are conducted with Google and Bing. They cover 97% of the searches in North America. Other search engines either have very little market share, or take their searrch results from either Google or Bing.
The two most important factors that affect your search engine ranking are:
- The content of your website.
- The number and quality of the links pointing to your site.
Have an Appealing Website
First things first, make sure your website is appealing and professional looking. An ugly or unprofessional looking website will turn off visitors. Here's an experiment, load up your website alongside the websites of 4 or 5 competitors. Switch between them and be honest with yourself, would you buy from your website? If the answer is no, then need to revamp your website.
SEO Guidelines to Keep in Mind
1) Keyword analysis
Knowing which keyword phrases your target customers are search on is extremely important.
Don't assume you know the important keywords. You'll miss important terms that you hadn't thought of. And, very often, terms you think are important, simply aren't.
Google's keyword tool is good for getting an idea of what keyword phrases are being searched for and how much competition there is for those terms. Spend a few hours playing around with keyword phrases to find out what customers are searching for. Start by guessing, looking at competitor's websites (including source code meta tags).
2) Page composition
Content in images and flash animations are invisible to search engines. Don't use them for headers or to display significant amounts of text.
PDF files also rarely rank at the top on search engines. They are indexed better than flash though. However, PDFs don't contain the page components that help a page rank well. PDFs are also orphaned - the PDF file is served without the rest of the website.
3) Use Keywords in URLs
Keywords in file and directory names are great. Google recommends using dashes to separate keywords in URL (rather than underscores). To illustrate with an example URL:
4) Meta Tags
Meta tags are bits of webpage code that provide data about the webpage but aren't displayed on the page. Meta elements can specify the document author, page description and other metadata. In this section we'll look at the Title, Description, and Keyword meta tags.
Title tags define a title for your web page that's normally displayed. It is the most important tag in your page.
Some browsers show title tags in the top bar, others might only use the tab space, and some may not show titles at all.
Title Tag Tips:
- Use keywords in the beginning of the title. You usually don't need to include your company name in the title. If you do, put your company name at the end.
- Ideally, use different titles that relate to each page. With keywords for that page.
- Try to keep title tags down to about 70 characters. Search engines don't display characters beyond that.
- Use title case (capitalize the first letter in each word) for readability. You don't need to use properly structured sentences, keyword phrases are better.
Description Meta Tag
The description shows up in Google as the description of the page for the search result. It's good to use as a call to action. Include keyword phrases there as well. The description tag doesn't carry much weight for ranking though. Just for text in search results. Text beyond 130-155 characters is displayed. It's a good idea to Title Case the text here as well, again for readability. You can use all capitals for important information.
Keyword Meta Tag
In the '90s the keyword meta tag was important, but today it's virtually irrelevant. Search engines stopped considering it important, because of "keyword stuffing" - where web page authors would repeat the same ot similar keywords excessively in an attempt to boost rankings. You can use keywords meta tags, but don't spend much time on them.
5) Page content
- Use keywords in page headings. Page headings usually use “h1”, “h2” and “h3” tags. If you don't know what these are, don't worry, but be sure to tell your website designer to include keywords in these tags. She'll know what you mean.
- Scatter keyword phrases in the body text a number of times.
- Stress them by including them in bullet text, tags, italics.
- Use keywords in image “alt tags” and file names.
Don't go too far, making the page sound clumsy. If it sounds clumsy, you've gone too far, if not, you're fine.
6) Links within your site
Tell the search engines what the reference pages are about. Use keywords in the link text. Avoid using text like “click here”. Match keywords in links to keywords in reference page.
Tip: Also use keyword phrases in your website's navigation menus if possible.
7) Include a sitemap
Sitemaps ensure that every page can be found by search engines. They're also good for usability. It's a good idea to have a site map and submit it to Google: http://www.google.com/webmasters/
To generate a sitemap, you can use a tool like the one available at http://xml-sitemaps.com
Tell your webmaster to reference the xml sitemap in your robots.txt file.
Pointers for Using Google's “Keyword Tool”
A couple of points when using Google's keyword search tool:
- Select your country as your location under filters.
- Under “Match Types” on the left column, uncheck “Broad” and select “[Exact]” instead
- “Global Monthly Searches” means worldwide searches for that term.
- “Local Monthly Searches” means searches within Canada
- The “Competition” column gives an indication of how many businesses are bidding on that keyword within adwords.
If you'd rather delegate your website SEO to professionals, use our SEO services. Contact us for a free SEO quote.