HOW-TO: Use Six Essential SEO Techniques to be Search Engine Friendly
Previously, we have seen how you can removed unwanted pages from Google, now we will hit the main topic of this website (promotion) and show you six essential SEO Techniques that will put you in good terms with search engines and get listed! Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a gray area for webmasters since there are many conflicting information and unproven methods. Thankfully, there are a set of SEO Techniques that do not fall in this gray zone since they have repeatedly been proven to create significant improvements to your search engine visibility.
We would like to see SEO Techniques fall into two categories:
- Internal SEO Techniques
You have a web presence and can control it, everything that touches your code, your design and your content falls into this category, this article is about SEO techniques you can use right away to be search engine friendly.
- External SEO Techniques
We will categorize everything that you do not have direct control on your website in this category. This could include being linked from other blogs or being promoted on social networks. You could argue that you can control your presence in social networks, you are right but you will never be able to predict the reaction of the crowd. We will write about how you can influence your website's promotion on external sites in another article.
Here are the Six Essential SEO Techniques you can use to be Search Engine Friendly, right now:
1. Write Good Page Titles
Page titles not only defines the text your visitors see in their browser's title bar when they visit your site but it is often the title of the link to your page in the search engine's results. Here is a basic example of a title tag, I recommend you read SEOMoz's Best Practices for Title Tags since it is a good reference, as a summary, they are:
- Brand your traffic: Do not omit your site's name in the title
- Limit length to 65 characters (including spaces) or less
- Incorporate keyword phrases when possible
- Target longer phrases if they're relevant
- Use a divider such as | or -
- Focus on clickthrough & conversion rates: Do not misdirect people, describe your page with relevant keywords
- Target searcher intent: Use the same search terms the people will find your site with
- Be consistent in all pages of your site for all of the above
- Repeat in the headings, more on that in our second tip
2. Use Headings and Semantics Properly
Writing a good page title is a good step but there is more. HTML is a semantic language which means that the tags should be used to represent the meaning of its content rather than to define its display or style. If you need to use styles, use neutral HTML tags such as <div> and <span>. For Search Engine Optimization, the most important tag is the Heading 1, sometimes called the Headline, represented by the <h1> tag. See each page of your site as the following hierarchy:
- Heading 1
- Heading 2
- Heading 2
- Heading 3
- Heading 2
Structuring your page's content using a hierarchy will help search engine crawlers index your site more efficiently. To increase the likelihood to be found using a set of keywords, follow the same best practices defined for page titles. Remember that spamming your keywords will not be advantageous to you as search engines might penalize you for "stuffing" keywords.
3. Order Your Main Content First
In business, we always put the most important piece of content first, in case our audience do not have time to read it. This SEO Technique might be a bit more difficult to implement on existing websites but with enough web design experience. The goal is to have your main content or article appear before your navigation elements in your HTML code. By doing so, search engines will be able to consider your main Headings and main content as being more relevant than the navigational menus you probably have on every page. Unfortunately, the specifics on how to do this will vary depending on your page's structure.
4. Use but Do Not Abuse Meta Tags
Meta tags are defined inside the <head> element of your page and are not visible to your visitors. In the past, this tag was heavily abused which caused it to become a minor influencer in your page's ranking. However, they are still being read by the crawlers to collect preliminary information on your page. There are two main meta tags of interest for our basic tutorial:
Using a maximum of 150 characters (including spaces), you can describe your page's content. This description will be used to prefill the description field when submitting to social networks and when quickly indexed by Google Blog Search.
Using a maximum of 200 characters, you can have main and additional keywords to describe your page's content. Again, the effect of the Keywords meta tag is often minimal if not negligible.
Here is an example of both Description and Keywords:
5. Validate and Optimize your Page
If you ever tried to build a web crawler, you would understand that it depends heavily on well-formed HTML. For all the previous SEO Techniques to work without breaking, it is recommended to validate your HTML and CSS. As for page optimization, your page will be more search engine friendly if you decrease its load time. Google has recently released Page Speed, a Firefox/Firebug extension similar to YSlow which tests and helps you optimize your website.
6. Build and Submit Sitemaps
A Sitemap is an XML file that lists URLs for a site along with additional metadata about each URL (last update, update frequency, relative importance) so that search engines can more intelligently crawl the site. Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft agreed to this common format at the peak of the search engine war to resolve the submission issues. A sitemap submitted to search engines will almost guarantee an indexing pass on your main and most popular page. Visit Google's Help page on Creating a Sitemap if you are not using a content management system such as Wordpress or Drupal that have plugins which can automatically generate them for you.
We did not dive into the full details and mechanics of each SEO technique to keep this article basic. If you would like a more detailed set of SEO guidelines straight from Google, they are available as Webmaster Guidelines.
Let us know if you found this article useful and what would you like to see more in the comments!
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