Website Search Engine Optimization - Quickstart

There are three main basic components to SEO: Link Building, Keywords, and Search Friendly Architecture.

There are three main basic components to SEO: Link Building, Keywords, and Search Friendly Architecture. Link building happens when people like your content and share the link, link back to it. Keywords should be considered in light of your customer's place in their buying cycle. They could be doing research, they could have already decided to purchase and be choosing between items or brands, or they could be ready to buy. That will affect the keyword they search on. So your keywords should include broad phrases and words for those doing research, it should include brand phrases or more specific phrases for those in the later stages of their buying cycle. This is of course, assuming you have a product to sell. If you're a blogger who just wants traffic in order to sell advertising, your blog becomes the product itself. If you sell a service, you'll have to think about and adjust your keywords accordingly. Think of your service as a the product. If you're a blogger? Your topic or area of expertise is going to dictate your keyword choice.

Use Keywords to your Advantage on your Website

Finding keywords should start with brainstorming but not end there. Interview or survey customers or people you know who represent your customers. Don't ask them for keywords, just talk to them about your product/service/area of expertise but pay attention to the words and phrases they use when they answer you. Review your current web analytics to discover what phrases and topics are garnering the most traffic -with and without conversion- for you now. Conversion might be when someone contacts you, subscribes to your blog, or tweets about you. But it is important to watch for both the content pulling traffic that does not convert and the content that pulls traffic that does convert. Likely there will be both. Here's the thing, some people...a lot of people... are merely looking for information and have  no intention of making a purchase now or ever. But those people might link back to you or talk about you, which will increase your online visibility and ranking. Also talk to sales and service staff if you have them. Listen to the phrases they use. Review their customer inquiries in their emails.  Lastly, review your competitors content, check out the words and phrases they are using. What you might find is that your content focus has been in one place ...and it needs to shift. You need to only focus on one or two keywords or key phrases per page. Use them in title tags and title meta tags, headings, paragraph titles, emphasized or bold text, inside anchor tags (links), in your image alt text, and in your meta description tags.  Make yourself a little checklist and go through the pages of your site and make sure those bases are covered. Title tags on each page of your site should be unique. Don't use more than one H1 tag on a page. Use sentences in your titles, 6-10 words or around 65 characters. If you have thousands of site pages, then you may need to generate the titles dynamically. When you're done with that, you want to also work in your social media channels and do the same types of things, especially in anchor tags that link back to your site.

Search Engine Friendly Website Architecture

A search engine reads text. It doesn't read Flash (doesn't read it well, Google has started to index Flash and can read xml that is fed into Flash, but text is better) , it doesn't read images. So if your site navigation is built without text links between pages, this is not optimal.  With CSS you can use images with your text and control how the links are presented (pretty) while still using search-friendly text. Breadcrumb navigation with specific keywords/keyphrases is the most search engine friendly type of navigation. Don't use AJAX, Flash or Javascript alone, provide alternative text navigation as well. You also need to have text linked within your content to other pages in your site.  Another important web site feature to have is an html or xml site map, this will greatly help you with search engines. This doesn't have to be a separate page, you can put it in your footer. You can see a great example of a site map style footer here. This can be a great means of providing alternative text navigation if you do use AJAX, javascript, or flash. Other things to make your site search engine friendly: add new content regularly, make sure  your content is themed logically, make sure your robots.txt file (the file that talks to search engines)  is built correctly. When you link to any page on your site, make sure you use the exact same structure to link to it. For instance, we own and, but when we link to the site, we need to link to Not to without the www. Or without the www. Otherwise, you're using multiple links (to a search engine) to direct to the same content and you dilute your search engine visibility. When you do make changes to your web site, make 301 redirects to re-map links to the old pages to your new content.

Link Building

Inbound links from other, relevant and authoritative web sites are a huge part of making your website visible and making it rank higher on search engines. Think of it like this... if an expert talks quotes you or refers to you positively, it makes you credible. It works sort of the same way for a search engine spider, who will regard a highly ranked site as an "expert" and treat that link back to you as an endorsement. There are people who try to game the system by building what we call "link farms." In general I think this is a bad idea. I think gaming the system will always cause problems. You want to garner genuine linkbacks. If you get a lot of linkbacks and they all use the same text to link back to you, then it will not have as much impact (it might look like you are gaming the system, or be disregarded as a signature file on a forum for example), so you need to have links that vary in what they say. It is also best to use keywords when you link with your own text (not "click here" ).

How do you get inbound links?

You want to create quality content and then promote it on social networks, link to your own content internally, partner up with others in your industry to link to each other, embed links in emails and news releases and articles, and syndicate your site content via RSS. You can use your profiles on other sites, paid and unpaid directories, conference and association sponsorships, award badges, contests, surveys, wikis, forums, the list is endless. Your link building strategy will really be dictated by your goals and your product. You need to manage your link building with software like you would with Customer Relationship Management. Contact us to get help with this. 

Things to watch for as you measure your website SEO efforts

How many pages are actually indexed by Google and other search engines? Are there any crawling errors? Compare your ranking reports to yourself (and not others) over time. Track your inbound link quantity and quality. Track how long those inbound links stay published. Track keyword traffic. Track social media traffic. Track your goals and conversions (whatever they are).

About the Author

Anne Miles is the owner and Toad-in-Chief at Red Toad Media. A trained graphic designer, Anne has been a speaker at WordCamp and the IRCE Digital Design Conference. She has been interviewed by Inc Magazine and the Wall Street Journal and published a contribution for Smashing Magazine, one of the top web design blogs in the world. You can follow her on Twitter at @redtoadmedia

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