Straight Talk on Search Engine Optimization
Learn about SEO, an essential tool for ANY Webmaster!
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by Andrew Kalinen
March 15, 2005
|Andrew Kalinen, is an Internet Entrepenuer who lives in New England. Apart from constantly updating GetYouPaid.com, Andrew enjoys hiking, snowboarding, and making home videos. GetYouPaid.com is a free site dedicated to providing small business advice to anyone interested in starting their own Internet-based business.
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To get your website listed well in the major search engines, you have to perform search engine optimization (SEO). This is a basic SEO plan with tips for doing SEO and getting results within 1 month. Google is the primary target of this overall plan.
I. - Choose Your Weapons (keywords) - You need to choose WHICH keywords you want your website to focus on for potential search engine listings. It can be better to focus on achievable high rankings (moderately searched specific terms), than for high rankings for keywords that are ultra-competitive or too general. Focus on getting "some" high ranking results and then shoot for more popular terms over time.
II. - Lock and Load. Prepare Your Site - SEO on your website is mainly about putting a high concentration of your target keywords in strategic places on your pages.
III. - Party Invitations. Get Your Site Listed on High Pagerank Websites - If you want Google to recognize your website, it must be "mentioned" in good places on the Internet, which builds your sites' Pagerank. A high Pagerank link in a directory or on another similar website can make all the difference in the world with getting good search engine listings. Getting "reciprocal links" is free and builds your Pagerank. One-way links are even better.
** - Bear in mind that Google search results can vary from day-to-day
Note: The target of this SEO plan is Google. If you can get your website listed in Google, other major search engines will tend to follow.
Tools You'll Need for Your Own SEO Solution Project:
1. A website in which you have CONTROL over its contents (the html). An affiliate web page that you can't change can't be optimized for you. You'd have to start your own website and put the affiliate contents on it.
2. You need to get the Google Toolbar if you don't already have it installed. Enable the Pagerank display feature.
3. You'll need some type of website tracking (your host may have possibly provided it already) that can identify search engine spider hits (primarily Googlebot hits).
4. You'll need a basic understanding of Google Pagerank and crawls (search engine spiders). If you don't know about them, read below, otherwise you can skip this part.
The Pagerank system, in short, is basically Google's system on a 1-10 scale of measuring a website's importance. Google.com has the highest Pagerank (PR) of 10. A brand new website domain has a PR 0. There are other websites that discuss how it's calculated. Here is a quick gauge: 0 - new website, 1-2 a "drop" of popularity, 3 - popularity is beginning, 4 - an established web presence with periodic attention from Google, 5 - a stronger presence, 6 - a semi-powerful website that gets crawled daily, 7 - a powerful, frequently visited website, 8 - a very, very powerful website, 9 - 10 - Off the charts in power.
The Pagerank of a website influences a. How often it gets crawled for future search listings, b. How high those search listings will be listed. The Pagerank of a website will appear in the Google toolbar (with Pagerank enabled) when your browser is on the page of that website. This plan will show you how to increase your Pagerank and the frequency of crawls by Google.
Spiders and Crawls
For the search engines to "index" your website, it will send its "spider" robot program to "crawl" your homepage and any other pages it "sees" on your domain. Visits by a spider are erratic, at best. Spiders will visit your website more frequently if it thinks "your website is important". With Google, importancy is measured by Pagerank. I discuss raising your Pagerank is Part 3.
I. - Choose Your Weapons (keywords)
Obviously, some keywords are searched more than others. In nearly the same proportion, more websites will optimize for the more popular keywords over the less popular ones. This means that you have a higher chance of success (less competition) if you target the "moderately" searched keywords, instead of going straight after "the big ones". I'm not trying to underestimate or limit your success. My strategy for anyone is to achieve "some" success first, and then increase it over time. Many webmasters will "swing for the fences" and after not having any success for so long, bow out of the race entirely.
I'll give a rule-of-thumb way to gauge your competition for optimized keywords. With the Google toolbar on, search Google for the broadest keyword term that describes your website. For this website, I chose "small business". You'll probably see a bunch of high-powered PR7 and PR6 websites that have your term in title. Observe their Pagerank (PR) rankings. Getting listed on the front page for a popular broad term is a tough battle and a long process that may be too high to reach for a new website.
Next, search for less-popular, but more specific keyword terms that describe your website. For this website, I chose "low risk business". Depending on the keyword term, you'll eventually find one that is specific to your site, but the competition doesn't have those scary-high PR rankings. You should be able to find terms that only have PR4 and PR3 sites listed for them. This is the target for YOUR website. If you're finding that you can't find keyword terms with lesser competition, you may seriously consider altering your website's theme to make it more specific for a particular "niche" of the market.
II. - Lock and Load. Prepare Your Site
The bottom line is, you will need to concentrate and stuff your target keywords throughout your website, whenever possible, until they are actually 7% or so of all the words on the page itself (If you go higher than 7%, its at "your own risk". Google and other search engines have "spam alerts" that detect overzealous practices). Repeating keywords too many times on a page can look "funny" to your customers even though Google may like it, so you have to balance your SEO goals with common sense.
This is a brief list of SEO tips you should do to your website in order to focus on a particular set of keywords:
- The TITLE tag of your html should include your target keywords
- The META TITLE tag of your html should include your target keywords
- The META DESCRIPTION tag of your html should include your target keywords
- The META KEYWORDS tag of your html should include ALL of your keywords, with the most targeted ones listed first, and separated by commas. Last time I checked, Google doesn't read Meta Tags, but its good to do this anyway for the other search engines.
- If you have a domain which also includes your keywords within the name itself (www.my-keywords-are-here.com), you'll get "brownie" points from Google that will help.
- Your header tags (H1, H2, etc.) should include your targeted keywords if you use them.
- The first major sentence on your page should include your target keywords and concentrate on the overall theme of your website.
- The overall "density" of your page, should be high (7% or so of all the words on the page) for your target keywords. I use an online density checker to help with this.
- If you "bold" your target keywords on the page (sometimes), you'll get brownie points from Google.
- Link and image ALT tags are good places to "stuff" with target keywords if you need to build your density.
- Other pages on your website that link back to your homepage should have the target keywords within the anchor text (displayed text) of the link.
- The more pages on your site that practice the step above, the better
III. - Party Invitations. Get Your Site Listed on High PageRank Websites
This may be the most important SEO step and that's why I listed it in red. The heart of the Google Pagerank system scores your site based on the quality of links that OTHER sites have pointing to yours, known as incoming links. By quality, I mean other sites with a high Pagerank score. My personal opinion is that the Pagerank system has turned the Internet into a "country club" in some ways. If you run with the "in crowd", you get points for it. Regardless of what I think about the system, I decided to "play ball" in order to get my websites listed well in the directories.
One of the easiest ways to get incoming links is to participate in a common Internet practice called reciprocal linking. This is where you agree with another website that "if you link to me, I'll link to you". What matters here is the Pagerank of the other site. If your site starts out at PR 0, it can be hard to find a PR6 site that wants to link to you! This is also because OUTgoing links actually cost the sponsoring website a few points. One type of site that lives to list other websites and aren't so PR-conscious are the web directories. All most require is a reciprocal link.
Search on Google.com for web directories that have a good PR ranking.
Reciprocal links are good and will get spiders to recognize your site, but one-way links are even better. Google doesn't score reciprocal links between two sites "as high" because it's "an arrangement" between the sites. Google will score your site much higher if you have a one-way link on another site that points to your site, even though your site does not link back to that site. When I learned this, I thought "Great, but where can I get one-way links?"
I discovered that because of the rising demand of links with high Pagerank, there is now an auction specifically made for auctioning off high-PR one-way links (search for it on Google). PR7 one-way links are auctioned off there for about $50. The rule-of-thumb is that the highest incoming PR link you have should make your site 2 PR less (a PR8 link should at least create a new PR6 site). I highly recommend the site as a source for high PR links. One link can set your website on the fast track to great search engine listings.
One more quick tip: The anchor text in your incoming links should contain your target keywords for maximum effect with Google.
After you've done Steps I. - III., you should see some spider hits within a few days of your directory listings. Google may then list some or all of your website pages. You can check your listings in Google by going there and searching for "allinurl:www.yourdomain.com". After 6-8 weeks, you should see the full effects of your efforts, and your Pagerank should rise. If you've "reached for the skies" and targeted very popular keywords and aren't seeing any results, alter your website so that it targets keywords whose listings in Google are more attainable. Be patient. This process takes monitoring and fine-tuning.
That's all I have on search engine optimization for today. It's a challenge that takes effort, but it's nice to actually see some results after a few weeks. That's more than I can say for some of the other "advertising magic wands" that are sold all over the Internet.