Unfortunately most webmasters and internet marketers fail miserably at managing their search engine presence and rankings. While it is true that Google and the other popular search engines go to great lengths to keep their algorithms and determining factors secret, it is not impossible to accurately predict, and even manage (to a certain extent) how you will be seen, and then Ranked by the search engines.
Enter the billion-dollar industry of SEO (Search Engine Optimization).
SEO is the practice of tailoring certain key elements of your websites to attract the interest of the search engine spiders, to increase your site's perceived value, and to move higher in the ranks of search engine results.
The methods that are used to accomplish this, although made to seem mysterious and difficult by a veritable legion of "gurus", are surprisingly simple and can be broken down into the following categories.
- Optimizing keyword density
- Optimizing meta tags (Page Title, description, keywords)
- Optimizing page-element arrangement
- Obtaining backlinks
Let's take a short look at the first item, "Optimizing Keyword Density."
Now why do you suppose that I did not say what most SEO "experts" do? They will usually phrase it "Maximizing Keyword Density", but that advice, while sometimes accurate in the past, is now worse than ineffective. The maximization method today today will actually hurt your ranking, not help it.
Keyword Density Optimization is really a very simple process. To put it succinctly, Keyword Density Optimization means "Not too much, and not too little :.
Google has done something which is really a stroke of genius. They have calculated how often in normal human-authored sentences a word will be repeated naturally when that word is the subject of the writing itself. If your site does not have enough arguments of a given keyword, you get ranked lower because Google decides that your page is not really relevant for that keyword. So you wind up lower on the scale than someone which Google decides is more relevant, and thats a better resource for their customers (the web surfers searching for the term).
The opposite end of the spectrum has its peril too. If your web page mentions a given term too often, and too close together, then Google will "penalize" your ranking as unnatural and potentially misleading.
For those not familiar with internet marketing this may seem like strange logic, but I assure you that it is sound. There is a practice called "keyword stuffing" which many internet marketers and webmasters have used to very lucrative results. Indeed many have become millionaires using this technique to draw traffic. But Google has gone to great lengths to stamp out this practice, at least where their search results are concerned.
So you should strive for keyword density that is natural and "normal". There are certain percentages and formulas that I could share with you, but most of the people reading this article are probably beginners who need to learn the overall concepts before getting too deep into the mathematics and specifics. For now I recommend reading your content after you have written it out loud, as though you were having normal conversation or giving a speech. It should sound natural and normal without too much repetition of terms, but you should repeat your core terms (keywords) enough times in the text that a listener or reader never has a chance to forget what you are planning, or are talking about. If you are interested in this or any of the topics discussed here, be sure to visit the link under my name below and sign up for my newsletter, where I go into a lot more detail.
Next up is optimizing meta-tags.
The meta tags that I am referring to here are the "Page Title", "Description", and "Keywords".
Page title is exactly what the name implies. Generally I put the primarily targeted keyword for a given page right at the beginning of the title. This ensures that the search engine will read it first (page title generally is the first entry in the html code of a web page) and that your visitors and potential customers will see in the upper-left corner of their browser windows.
Let me give you a real-world example. Let's say that I run a website called "http://www.myfirstwebsite.com" (I do incidentally) and I have a page about "SEO Techniques". I would format the page title as the following:
"SEO Techniques and Strategies – Explained by My First Website Dot Com"
There is actually very good reason to format my title in this way. The first is because the Search engine, as it ready the HTML code that makes up my web page, will read "SEO Techniques" first. I then throw in the word "Strategies" to make sure that my page is seen as relevant in case the searcher chose the term "SEO Strategies" instead. From there I separate my website name into separate words so as to capture traffic for those individual words, and any combination of them.
Understand, search engines are not as smart as people. You and I can see the title "MyFirstWebsite.com" and our minds automatically separate the words into individual concepts instantaneously. The search engine, being a machine-driven program, does not have it so easy. It has to match all of the letters against its database of English words and choose whether the phrase is a single word, or a mash-up of individual words. This process, takes time and processing power, something seen as a premium in the computing world. Therefore if another site already has those terms separated, they have an advantage, as the search engine sees it. So the page with the phrase "My first website" in the title (already separated) would have been seen as more relevant than one with "MyFirstWebsite", assuming that the searcher typed in "My First Website" as his / her search term.
So the moral to the story is, put your primary keyword at the beginning of your page title.
The same is true for our next topic, "Page Description".
Start your description with the primary keyword, then move on to explaining why your site is the best for that particular thing or concept. Let's look at another example:
Which description for a page about SEO is better?
- Why should you practice Search Engine Optimization (SEO)? We show you why.
- SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and why you must master it. A simple tutorial.
If you picked the first one, you really should go see if UPS is hiring. You probably do not have the eye for Internet Marketing. Most of us can see that any description which makes the reader pass through 4 words before indicating the thing that they are searching for is really poorly written. And if you consider the fact that the vast majority of newbies (beginners) have no idea what the acronym "SEO" actually stands for, then the 1st example makes them pass through seven words before getting to the item that they are looking for (" SEO "in this case). And do not forget that search engines are much less intelligent than we are. If a user searches for "SEO" and your page description does not mention SEO until word number seven, then you have really hurt your chances of ranking highly for that keyword.
Now the 2nd choice is, in my humble opinion, a work of art. Look at what we have done.
- Mentioned the primary keyword (subject) first (SEO).
- Mentioned the secondary keyword second (Search Engine Optimization).
- Given a hidden (subliminal) command ("You Should Master It".
- Used a "power word" ("Master").
- Given a "newbie magnet" term ("simple tutorial").
- Included a feel-good word ("simple").
- Included a very common search term ("tutorial").
Do not be intimidated by the terms used above (newbie magnet, subliminal command, power words, etc.). There's not enough space to go into them here, but my newsletter explains these all in detail. Let's move on.
Optimizing Page Element Arrangement.
Market research firms, and university studies, have found that most human beings read webpages from the top left. Search engine companies like Google, Yahoo, and MSN (Microsoft) have learned this and have programmed their search engine spiders to read pages in the same way. This ensures that their results are relevant and appealing to the users. You should take advantage of this by placing your strongest keywords in this area. If you have an image at the top-left like many pages do, then you should give the image a name that ties in with your subject. Believe me, an image named "img00944567.jpg" is less relevant to the search engine than "SEOstats.jpg". A human being may never notice the difference, but the search engine will. ALT tags can be employed to as well, for greater SEO impact. Make sure that your text mentions the keyword right at the beginning, and a couple of times in the first couple of sentences. Try to fit in common synonyms and other related terms if you can without making your work seem cluttered or "stuffed".
This is perhaps the hardest and most expensive part of the process, unless you have a killer fan base and community behind you that will sing your websites praises and link to you at no cost. If you're not a rock-star, a politician, or me (just kidding) then you probably will need to solicit backlinks from one of a few sources.
- Article Directories
- Web Directories
- News Sites
Article Directories and Web Directories abound on the internet. You should have no problem finding these. Some will charge you a fee to publish your article and / or link, while others will do it for free. In most cases you can make do with the free ones, but even with automated submission software (applications that automatically submit your hyperlink or article to online directories) it is a time-consuming process.
There are lots of companies and individuals who will submit your links and articles for you, at a cost. Look around and find one that fits in your budget and let them do the grunt-work. Just make sure they do list with the reputable directories with a midrange to high PR (Page Rank). Some shady submission companies will charge you a fee, and then just submit to the directories that they already own (sometimes a process that takes mere seconds) which may not even be listed by the search engines, and then there would be no benefit to You for SEO purposes.
Forums are weighed very heavily by search engines like Google when it comes to backlink quality, but your link from the forum must be formatted properly and seem relevant. This is where "anchor text" comes into play.
"Anchor text" is the visible label that you see on a hyperlink. Let's do another example.
"I just bought a motorcycle from an online motorcycle dealer that truly treated me well. You should check them out."
In the above example there is a hyperlink that takes you to a site called "Ebay.com". Now if I was posting a forum / blog entry for SEO purposes, (to make my site seem more important to a search engine) then this example is a perfect and natural-seeming way to link to the site being promoted. In the search engine's eyes, the site "http://www.Ebay.com" moves up the rankings for the search term "motorcycle dealer". Remember that if a web surfer already knows your full website URL (Uniform Resource Locator) then he / she will almost never search for it. They will just type it in and go there directly. So you gain nothing by linking to your site by name, except for name recognition which will come in due course if you promote properly.
If you neglect any part of this SEO tutorial, make sure it is not obtaining backlinks! No other SEO element is more important to the search engines. The more links you have, the more "buzz" the search engine assumes that your site has, and this gives you the largest boost in rankings possible. If your backlinks are from sites that already have a high PR (Page Rank) you can almost literally ride their coat-tails up into the heights of search engine glory.
News sites probably will not be reporting on your website unless you are very popular, unless you are very controversial, or otherwise you issue a very good press release. We'll go into press releases another time, but for now just remember that if you really want to enter the big-leagues and get backlinks and mentions from major news outlets online, then you will need to tell them you are alive, and press Releases are the way to do it.
And that covers most of the common SEO (Search Engine Optimization) methods and how to do them properly. There are other methods, to be sure. Some above board, and others very devious (so-called Black-Hat SEO), but you now have the information required to enter this vast, yet rewarding realm with your eyes open.
Now go forth and use your newfound power for good instead of evil.
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