The SEO Website Overhaul

Five small changes to your website that can greatly improve your search engine visibility

Some people think that search engine optimization (SEO) is a highly technical field that only a few people truly grasp. Please allow me to debunk that notion...

SEO is time-consuming, to be sure, and it does require a lot of patience and persistence. But it is by no means hard to understand. For example, most of the work I do for clients on a daily basis revolves around two things -- developing content and acquiring links to the client's website. Nothing technically advanced there.

5 Simple Changes to Your Website

In this article, however, I won't be focusing on the long-term side of an SEO campaign. Instead, I'll focus on the short-term website overhaul. More specifically, I'm going to show you five simple tasks you can perform on your website over the next few days to improve your search engine visibility and traffic levels.

1. Validate Your Key Phrases

Let's start by eliminating the guesswork of SEO. Let's find out exactly what phrases people are searching to find the kinds of products or services you provide. We will refer to this list of phrases throughout the other steps in this article.

There are several keyword-research tools you can use for this purpose, but for starters you can use the free version of WordTracker (just Google that phrase to find it). It will give you the 100 most commonly searched phrases for every starting word or phrase you enter. For example, if I were to enter "small business finance" into this particular tool, it would show me the 100 most popular searches (variations) of that type of phrase.

Create a spreadsheet of the search phrases that are most important to your business. These phrases / topics should have three things in common: They should be related to your products or services. People should be searching them on a regular basis. And you should be capable of writing content to support them.

2. Include Keywords in Your Title Elements

Armed with your spreadsheet full of key phrases, you are now ready to venture into the actual website to make some SEO enhancements. Let's start with the title element.

The title element (sometimes referred to as the "title tag") is found within the HTML code that makes up each of your web pages. To view the title element, just right-click on any web page and select "View Source." This will show you the HTML code that makes up the web page. The title element will be near the top, between two tags labeled with "title."

You can also see the title element in the blue bar (with Internet Explorer) or the gray bar (with Firefox) at the top of your web browser, up above the navigation buttons and the address bar. When your website shows up on a search engine results page, the title will also be prominent above the listing.

Here's the secret to writing effective title elements for your web pages. Be sure to include your key phrase at the beginning of your title. If you put it at the end of the title, it will greatly reduce your search engine visibility for that phrase.

So for this step in the SEO overhaul, go page by page through your website and make sure that (A) each page has a unique title that is relevant to the information on that page; (B) the titles include keywords from your spreadsheet; and (C) the keywords are at the beginning of the title element, wherever possible.

3. Add Five Pages of Website Content

I'm willing to bet that, after doing your key phrase research, you'll find some topics / phrases that are important to your business but are not currently covered on your website. So for this step of the overhaul, you will simply broaden your content by adding (at least) five pages of new website content, targeting those neglected phrases.

Glossaries and articles are both great ways to expand the content of your website in a logical way, and you can continue to expand them over time. For example, there is no limit to how many pages an article center might provide ... or how many key phrases it might encompass ... or how much search traffic it may bring!

4. Freshen Up Your Existing Pages

With your key phrase spreadsheet close by, review your existing web pages and make sure they include those phrases. If they don't, you can correct this fairly easily. For starters, add an introductory paragraph to the top of each page, as well as a concluding paragraph at the bottom. Integrate your key phrase(s) within each of these paragraphs.

Next, go through the main body content on each page and spread your key phrase naturally throughout. Often, you can do this simply by converting generic pronouns into descriptive phrases. For example, a sentence that says "They can help your business" can be made more descriptive and keyword-rich by rewriting it as "Our accounting software solutions can help your business."

5. Improve the Findability of Your Web Pages

A search engine cannot begin to evaluate and rank your web pages if it cannot find your web pages. So in this step of the SEO overhaul, you are going to make sure your web pages are easy to find -- for people and search engines alike.

Start by creating a sitemap. Actually, you should create two types of sitemaps. The first one is an XML sitemap that will help search engines find all of the pages of your site. Do a Google search for " xml sitemap creator" and you'll find some helpful tools to help you complete this step.

The other type of sitemap is the one for people. This would be a neat and organized listing of all the key areas of your website. The goal here is to help people find things on your website. But it will also help the search engines crawl through your site because you'll have plenty of text hyperlinks to the key pages.

Do you have a fancy menu at the top of your website? Maybe one built with lots of JavaScript? If so, you can help search engines navigate the site by also including a basic text menu in the footer section of your website. Heavily Javascripted menus can impede search engine crawlers and prevent them from reaching your entire website. An XML sitemap and a clean (text-only) footer menu can alleviate these problems.