Search Engine Optimization (SEO) For Beginners
Organic SEO is more important now more than ever for driving traffic to your website and generating leads. The average Google user is becoming aware of the PPC (Pay-Per-Click) campaigns all around them, and thus, two thirds of the average Google users are ignoring the PPC ads at the top and heading straight for the Organic Search Results.
Not every company can afford the $500-$3000/month price tag that comes when hiring a professional SEO company. Please keep in mind that SEO is an ongoing process, and hiring one of these companies is the way to go if you can afford it. Just make sure to check the company out thoroughly, to see if they know what they are doing, and that they are not making any Common SEO Mistakes.
However, if for one of many possible reasons you cannot or do not want to hire a professional SEO company, this article will help you to understand the basics of SEO.
The whole internet world is fighting for the prized top ten positions for a specific set of keywords.
Even though Google is revising its algorithms to penalize companies that have too much paid advertising “above the fold”, they are gigantic hypocrites when it comes to their own set of “Search Results”. The organic search links are placed at the bottom, after the paid Google Adwords advertising and local listings.
The first thing every SEO professional will do for the new client is the keyword research. In order to optimize a page to be found for a keyword phrase, they need to determine what that keyword phrase is! Start by creating a list of possible keywords you would like to find yourself under when you search on Google. Stay away from generic one word terms that would take a miracle to get top ranking for. Also, make sure you add your location into your possible keyword search terms. For example, if you are a marketing research firm out of Los Angeles, then “Los Angeles Marketing Research” is hopefully the first possible keyword phrase on your list. If you find you need help generating more possible keyword phrases, Google’s Keyword Tool is free to use.
When you have your list of keyword phrases you will need to run them through a keyword traffic estimator tool to see if the keywords you have chosen are popular searches or just a well written search term without any traffic. Google Adwords has a great traffic estimator tool that you can use. Even though it is designed to figure out the bidding price for using Adwords, you can also use the tool to get a monthly local traffic estimate for any keyword phrase you type in.
Your Page Title
The first thing people will see when your page shows up in the search results is your page title. The delicate trick to optimizing your page title is to add your keyword phrase, company name, and your location (if applicable) all into a nice clean title that appeals to crawlers and humans alike. There is not an exact way to guarantee the most optimized page title, so keep tweaking the title until you achieve the desired result. It will take some time before Google lists any changes to your page, so be patient.
Your Meta Description Tag
The Meta description tag you will find in the head section of your web page.
<meta name=”description” content=”This is an example of a meta description. This will often show up in search results.”>
This content is displayed below the title tag in the search engine result pages (SERPs). Google also will highlight the keywords that the Google user searched for within the description. To put it into simple terms, you have 2 sentences or 140 characters to describe your page to the quickly scanning end search user. Also, you have to optimize this content just like your page title, but with a little more description room. You might be tempted to keyword stuff the description tag, but keep in mind that if you need to make the text readable for the human reader that needs to be enticed enough to click the link.
Just start by writing two sentences naturally that describes your webpage. From there, you can tweak the sentences and remove non-descriptive words like “it” or “we” and replace them with the appropriate keyword phrase that fits.
Optimize Your Content
It is important to optimize the content on every page you plan to be found in search engines. As of April 2010, Google now considers your webpage’s loading speed when deciding where your webpage should fall in the search engine rankings. There are some things you can do to optimize your page and speed up performance.
Image Optimization – Make sure your images are as small as possible. Use .png files only when you need them to be transparent. Otherwise, use .jpg files and make sure the quality is no more than 60% to keep the file size as small as possible.
Avoid “Code Bloat” – Use an external CSS file to put all of your styles into. This can really help a lot for heavily styled pages. If done correctly, you should be able to remove any & all instances of style=”” and replaced them with class=””.
Use Divs Instead of Tables For Layouts – After the “tableless revolution” a few years back, hopefully you are already doing this. However, if you still have your pages laid out using tables I would urge you to use CSS positioned divs as replacements. If you also make sure to add your CSS positioned divs to an external CSS stylesheet, you could possibly see page reductions up to 80% for heavily tabled pages.
Avoid Flash Whenever Possible
With HTML5 on the up and coming track, and AJAX already a couple years old, try to use one of these technologies whenever possible. Search engines can’t read flash files at all, so you will have to create a separate HTML version for any of the content anyway. Besides, your Mac users will love you for it, since Apple does not support Flash anyway.
Update Your Pages Often
With the latest Google Fresh Algorithm change, “the age of the page” is now going to be a factor when it comes to search engine rankings. No longer will stale, well optimized content stay at the top of the search results. Are you tired of searching for some information, then clicking on the top result, and receiving some obsolete info from 2007? This algorithm is Google’s best hope at eliminating that annoyance.
What this means to the website owner is this: whether or not you hire a webmaster or attempt to do it yourself, your website must be updated on a regular basis. Otherwise, watch and see the rankings fall, little by little, until your pages are not in contention anymore. The bright side is that SEO is an ongoing battle, so your pages should be updating on a regular basis anyway.
One last piece of advice to take away from this lesson is: Check out what the competition is doing. When you look at the top 3 results in your niche, examine them, and ask yourself: what are they doing, that I am not. If you can find out that answer, then the moment of clarity arrives, the curtains will part, and the solution will hopefully present itself.