The mere thought of SEO is enough to send most webmasters into a flutter. A good ranking in the search engines is a sure-fire way to make money from a website, yet it is not an easy task.
But while the exact ranking algorithm used by top search engines is one of the world’s best kept secrets there are some basic principals you should always keep in mind:
1. Site Design
The structure of your site is important because this is how search engines see how each page relates to another. When your site is spidered, the search engine will quickly be able to judge the relevance and quality of your site from the sitemap.
Creating a good site map involves naming pages using your top keywords, while at the same time ensuring you are giving it an accurate and succinct name. Keyword spamming has penalties! Google’s sitemap is a good example at http://www.google.com/sitemap.html.
2. Optimize for your audience, not for the search engine.
Search engines prefer sites on a specific subject because specialized information is more beneficial to search engine users. So, for example, your site would have a better chance of ranking highly if it was dedicated specifically to lamp shades rather than home furnishings or lighting in general. This is because someone searching for ‘lamp shade’ would be better satisfied with a website full of information specifically relating to lamp shades, rather than a general home furnishings site with only a paragraph or two dedicated to lamp shades.
Many sites have been successful by focusing solely on providing a website that meets the needs of their audience, rather than the needs of the search engines. If possible, survey your users to find out what they want out of the site and if they have any suggestions. The more you know about your audience, the better the design you’ll be able to create. Make it easy for visitors to interact on the site and for you to answer their questions too.
3. Label your internal text links and image alt tags
Why? The main reason is that search engine spiders can’t read images. Anything without text means nothing to the spider. Other benefits of labeling images include the ability for the image to be searchable in browsers such as Google Image search. Image text also enables visibly impaired visitors to use your site more effectively and it helps to generally improve the text content of your page for search purposes. An image label is just a clear description of the image using keywords. Just don’t include too many keywords in the alt text as there are penalties for keyword stuffing!
4. Update your site regularly
Your site ranking will be enhanced if the search engine spiders can see it is being updated frequently. Aim to add new content at least once a week to create a living site. The more frequently Google has to come back to respider your site, the better you will rank. Pages that don’t change will eventually be downgraded in favor of sites whose pages are fresher.
5. Link to Subject-related sites
Good quality backlinks are vital to SEO as these tell the search engine spiders that the site is popular and/or important. Backlinks are links that are directed to your website from another site. Thus, linking to relevant sites is a great way to increase your search engine ranking. If you can, try to implement circular linking, where the sites you link to also link to each other and back to you again. For example, you link to Site A and Site B, who both link back to you and also link to each other. The more clusters of links you can get like this, the more relevant your site will be deemed to be.
Did you realize that broken links can actually harm your search engine optimization? If you set up a link, and your linking partner pulls that link in 6 months time, your ranking could reduce. Thus it is critical to check your links regularly to ensure that you are being linked back to.
Search engine optimization is not something that can be done once and then left alone. It requires constant effort and attention. The best way to keep up to date with new SEO developments is to continue read commentary and recent articles by SEO experts.
In general, remember that the top websites are always the ones people want to use, such as the BBC, eBay, Apple, and NASA. If your main priority is creating the best website for your users, then you are on the right track.