Wouldn’t it be pointless to open a pizza shop which nobody knows about? You know your pizzas are good, the ambiance is great, and people will love it when they visit your place; but informing people of its existence is a must. In today’s cut throat competition, advertising is the key to success for any business. Now think about your online business/website; if your site doesn’t get any traffic from search engines like Google, Yahoo, MSN there is very little chance that people would come to know of its existence.
This is where Search Engine Optimization (SEO) techniques come in. They will help you to get more people to your website through search engine hits. The best thing about SEO is that you don’t need to be a professional to do it. What you do need is hard work, patience and the willingness to learn. Let me begin by telling you why you should bother about putting in your time to learn SEO.
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I think you would agree that the above advantages are substantial, more so, because you can do them all by yourself with the help of some free tools plus technical knowhow. I will come to those later in my post, but let me cover some basics about SEO first.
Search engines help people to navigate the internet. Google ranks pages based primarily on the following criteria:
SEO is a set of techniques which help you to optimize your website for the search engines. Optimizing your website means that for certain keywords (which you choose), the website will rank high, and will possibly turn up on the first page of Google (I will use this as the base search engine).
There are plenty of tools out there which are very useful for SEO. Here is a breif roundup of the top tools:
Objective 1: To choose the appropriate keywords to target for SEO
When you are trying to optimize your website for search engines, it is critical that you know which keywords you are going to target. This tool allows you to find the number of Google searches for the keywords. You should remember a couple of things:
As all Google applications generally are, the interface is very intuitive and simple to use. So let me quickly show you how to use it. All the steps and details are shown in the thumbnail below to give you a complete picture.
The tool has got many more embedded uses like exact/broad search, sort by and other uses, but I cannot go into those details here. You can find an exhaustive tutorial on Google adwords learning centre
Objective 2: To compare search volumes based on keywords, locations and time
Google Insights is a relatively advanced tool which can help you analyze the search trends to the fullest. It basically helps you to do a competitive intelligence test and identify how keywords/businesses are doing compared to each other.
Lets take an example of Yahoo vs Microsoft Vs Google, and learn how to use the tool along with the example. Again, I will be able to explain it to you much faster through pictures, and it will be a lot more intersting for you.
The numbers in the graphs are nothing but scaled and normalized numbers. Suppose, in Jan 2008 ‘Google’ was searched the most ever in its lifecycle, then it is asigned 100. Then, the number 79 for Jan 2009 means that ‘Google’ (keyword) is searched only 79% of the times as it was searched at its peak (Jan 2008).
As it is easily seen from the high level search I did above, that this is an awesome SEO tool. You can use it to compare keywords you want to use, see how you are performing against competition, and much much more. Play around with this tool and analyze and plan your business growth.
There are so many tools that it would be impossible to even start mentioning them, but the above should be enough to get you started. Here, you can find a checklist of Some good SEO tools.
Now we have gathered all the tools and keyword knowledge required to start optimizing your website. Search Engine Optimization in itself is a huge subject, but it can be basically divided into two broad categories: On Page Optimization & Off Site Optimization. Lets First talk about On Page Optimization.
This section is aimed at your website pages which includes the content, tags etc. Basically, optimizing your site for search engines by making changes on the website as a whole.
Trick 1: Top to Bottom, Left to Right
The crawlers read a webpage from top to bottom and left to right, so you should tailor your website according to this rule. A few things to keep in mind:
Trick 2: Put your keywords in your domain name
This is how your site is recognized on the internet, and is given the most weightage by crawlers on the search engines. So you should put the best keywords you want to target in your site name itself. Also, it is advisable to choose a popular hosting service for your website, which might help in getting more hits.
Trick 3: Decide the priority of pages on your website and optimize them accordingly
There is a priority level attached with the different locations in your website. For example, here is a hierarchy order for one website: Home Page > Page Title tags> Image Tags > First 200 words on each page/post> Rest of the post. So if a keyword appears on a higher priority page it has more chance of being recommended by Google. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t optimize the low priority pages, but optimize the pages in that priority order. You should try to improve the density of chosen keywords on your pages, but be careful to use them in context and not try to cheat the search engines.
Trick 4: Know and analyze your competition
Who better to learn from, but the big guys in your niche and see what they are doing. Analyze there traffic, keywords, hits by keywords using Google Insights described earlier. Look at there website, and see if they are doing something which can be integrated into your website. Check google to see which sites are linking to your competitors – Use ‘link:sitename’ on Google.
Trick 5: Use keywords in your HTML tags and also with images
There are different types of HTML tags assosciated with your website like metatags, title tag, content tag etc. You need to insert all the relevant keywords into these tags because this is what Google will show to the user if your page turns up. Here is a nice guide to use HTML tags for SEO. Another thing to keep in mind is that the search engine spiders/crawlers can’t read the graphic content on your website, so you should attach tags and write the description of these images, again including the keywords.
Trick 6: Link your home page to every other page in your website
Well this is not a SEO tip as such, but will help you to get people to revisit your site. When the users come to your website through Google, they will not always lend on the home page, so you need to guide them to the home page. Also, try to add a clear description on each page of your website, so that the visitors don’t feel lost.
Trick 7: Create a sitemap
To explain how Google decides the page ranks of a website is out of the scope of this post. But think about it like this, that a Google crawler is just like a visitor to your website, and the easier it is to navigate, the better chances of the page being indexed for a search term. It will help to distribute the popularity of the top pages on your websites to all other pages. Just do a quick google search and you will get many websites where you can create a sitemap for free.
Trick 8: Include a robot.txt file
This is a text file which will guide any search engine spider which comes to your page. It is to be uploaded in your root folder wherever your website is hosted. Here is how a sample file should look like:
The first line tells the crawler that it is allowed to access any of the content in that folder. If you think that some of the folders or content is useless for search engines then you should exlude them using the Disallow command.
Trick 9: Try and keep only the relevant content on your website
It’s the keyword density that the crawlers are looking for, and any posts which are not related to the keywords you have chosen to target will only decrease your chances to come on the first page of Google. So its very important that you choose the keywords at the very start and try to streamline your website on those keywords as much as possible. Also, the crawlers like original and fresh content and text, so as your website gets more content with time, it is more likely to be chosen by Google.
These are the essential on page techniques you should apply to get your website optimized for the search engines. I will cover the off site optimization techniques in the next post. The second category revolves around getting links from relevant websites Also, there is a rising interest in the SEO services and consultants, to get your website optimized. So, I will also compare the doing-it-yourself approach vis-à-vis hiring-a-SEO-service approach.
This is the first post I have written on instantShift. So, I would really appreciate it if you could leave your comments or suggestions.