Some companies spend hundreds of dollars, if not thousands, getting their websites optimized. However, for the small business or personal website owner, this may not be a budgeted expense. Make no mistake: search engine optimization (SEO) is one of the single most important things you can do to make your website successful if you are trying to reach customers to sell a product or service. However, you can definitely do it yourself with a little research and effort. Here are a few tips to get you started.
Become a Student of SEO
Optimizing your site means making your website more visible to search engines. In other words, you want it to come up in searches when potential customers are surfing the Net for your products. In order to do this, you must not only read about SEO one time, but you must commit to being a student of SEO, continually learning and continually reading about new techniques as web governance and search engine protocol constantly evolve. Strategies for good SEO that work today may not work tomorrow. Go to websites that will teach you how to optimize your site and always keep looking for new information. A few good resources are About.com’s Search Engine Optimization’s Tutorial and the Ezine article by Patrick O’Neill, Easy Search Engine Optimization Advice.
Select Keywords Strategically
You will want to decide what keywords or keyword phrases your customers might be searching for when they are looking for the service or product you provide. For example, if I were selling apples, since I live in New York, I might decide upon, “Affordable apples in New York | Affordable apples in NY” or “Delicious apples in New York | Delicious apples in NY.” I might want to narrow my keywords down to a certain city, if I thought there would be a lot of locals that might be searching for my product. As well, I could try to broaden my target market by selecting “Most delicious apples in Warwick, NY and all of Orange County, NY.” This would absolutely increase visibility for these specific parameters and draw traffic. I would also want to include keyword phrases that contained both NY and New York, as potential customers might be typing in both. You want to catch both of these groups of searchers, so alternate use of standard form and abbreviated form throughout your pages wherever your locality appears. Be as specific as you can when choosing your keyword phrases as older, bigger sites will already be catching the more general keyword traffic and you cannot compete with them (ie. just plain “apples”). Try to find a niche.
Optimize Only One Keyword Phrase per Page of your Site
Once you have decided on keywords and keyword phrases that will truly work for your site, you will want to integrate them into your content. Optimize only one keyword phrase per page of your site. This strategy works the best. For example, if you have 5 pages in your site, select a keyword phrase for each page and concentrate on integrating only those keywords from that selected phrase on each page (on one page, you might focus on affordable apples, on the next you might try to catch people looking for great tasting apples and so on…). You can potentially catch five groups of searchers in this way. It will not help you to duplicate the same phrase on more than one page of your site. Each page is an opportunity to catch a different target – utilize each!
Put Keywords in your Meta Data
If you have published your site on your own, you will need to investigate your capabilities within your own publisher (each publisher will have unique tutorials and a help feature to direct you or you can search for u-tube tutorials to help you achieve almost any objective in managing your site). For example, in Word Press, there is a specific way to get into the meta data. The meta data is code in the html of your site where a web crawler will look. You will want to add your keywords in there, under title, under description and under keywords at the very least. These tags will give you an added boost when the search engine “looks” for your site during searches. Basically, the sites with the most matching keywords will rank highest on the results page, so you want to utilize all areas where it is appropriate to describe your business. If you want to get really in depth, you can even put keyword tags on your images.
Enter Meta Tags with Punch
Upon entering meta data, remember to put keywords as close to the beginning of your taglines as possible and keep the wording as close to the order of your keyword phrase as you can. This will give your keywords the most strength. If you would like to see what your most successful competitors are using for their keywords, go onto their site, right click your mouse and select the View Source feature. Look at their meta data tags for examples of SEO that works.
Put Keywords in the Visible Content of your Site – It Matters Where
Obviously, you will want to put your keywords in the visible content of your site as well. Again, use only one keyword phrase per page of your site and put your keywords as close to the beginning of each line as possible. It matters where they appear. The web crawlers primarily “notice” the following locations:
- The Title of your Site
- The Primary Heading
- The Secondary Headings
You can also put keywords into:
- Third Headings (if there are any)
- Headers and Footers
- Captions of your Photos
- File Names for your Photos and PDF Files (done when you are saving them to your site)
These locations are all opportunities for you to get in your keywords, so utilize as many as possible without compromising the integrity of your content.
Do Not Be Fancy
People really want to write catchy content in their sites. But for SEO purposes, it is better to just be upfront and clear. You want to exact keyword phrases as word-for-word as possible. People often just scan sites, so you don’t need to have the most beautiful writing in your site, but you do need to have the most informative, specific and clear content possible.
Do not Over Stuff with Keywords
Do not put keywords in where they do not make sense and do not overstuff your content with keywords just to get your site to come up in the searches. You may get banned from search engines by doing this and it will not make people stay at your site once they have arrived. You want good, informative content on your site, always.
Add Links within Site and to Other Sites
You should try to put links into your site. Links within your own site, from page to page and links from your site to other sites. However, these links should all serve purposes for bettering your site. If there is a site that you can link to that makes your content better and more informative for the reader, use it. If you can link to your contact page from other pages in your site, this is a good link. One example of a good link would be if you are selling apples to health conscious individuals and you want to link to an article on the health benefits of apples. Sites that you link to should be reputable sites. The more reputable the site, the better the link will be for your SEO. The more good links you have, the better.
Keep Content Fresh
As you continue to optimize your site, you will want to add new content. A good way to do this is to keep a blog. Websites rank higher in search results the more longevity they have and the more reputable they are. The longer your site exists, the more esteemed it will be in the eyes of “web crawlers,” which are responsible for ranking sites in searches. If you keep putting new content onto your site as you improve your site’s SEO qualities, it will continue to draw the web crawlers to return to re-rank your site.
Sign up for Inclusion in Free Online Directories
The major search engines are Google, Bing (MSN) and Yahoo. This is where all your traffic for you site will likely be coming from. However, you can use other sites that may be more long standing and reputable to do the work for you if you subscribe to free online directories. This is especially good if your business is a local one. Such sites are already ranked high among the search engines and if they come up in searches with your listing, it is another way for you to be found. Some examples of these sites would be Google Maps, Yahoo local, Bing Local or Superpages.com.
In the end, optimizing your site is something you will never regret. There is not much point in having a site if no one sees it. Good luck in your endeavor to better your business and become more highly visible on the Web.