SEO For Dummies. Seriously.

We recently asked the heads of some startups and maturing companies why they’ve avoided optimizing SEO for their websites. The most common reason we received was some variation on the same theme, namely “SEO seems like this complicated and time-consuming thing that requires a lot of knowledge we don’t have.”
 
 There’s a perception throughout the business community that SEO is extremely complex, and this is the reason so many companies choose to completely ignore it. While this reputation is somewhat deserved, the basics of search engine optimization are actually fairly straightforward. Also, if you and your company ignore SEO, the result is that you’re basically turning your back on the largest source of free customers on the Web, which is Google. This potentially limits growth and lowers revenues by refusing to use what is essentially a free marketing tool.
 
A Quick Test: Does Your SEO Need Improvement?  
 
Many webmasters don’t even realize that they’re either ignoring SEO or actually actively making it difficult for Google to discover their content, albeit not on purpose. Here are three quick ways to find out if your websites SEO needs improvement:  
 
• Do a site search on Google at site:yoursite.com. The results should yield at least as many pages as the number of pages on your website. If not, you may have a problem.
 
• Your URLs should not have long strings of random letters and numbers that don’t make any sense, such as “http://www.art.com/gallery/id–b20122/costume-fashion-posters.htm?ui=C00E35085A574472B0B64F1F0229765C”
 
• If your page titles don’t accurately describe the content that is contained on each page of your website, you’re limiting Google’s ability to identify what each page contains in terms of information.
 
When any of these examples describe your website, you need to take some time out of your busy schedule to fix your SEO and make your website more Google- and user-friendly. It wont take long at all. Simply set aside an hour or two and take these five basic steps that will vastly improve your websites SEO and position it to get more Google traffic: 
 
1. Decide if your site needs to come up on searches that use either narrow terms or more generalized wording
 
It’s important to define, based on common Google search terms, whether your site needs to attract attention narrowly using a “long tail” designation, or broadly using “head.” You really need to choose one or the other because it’s not likely that you will be successful trying to do it both ways.
 
A long tail website will try to rank high on Google search results for very specific but uncommon searches with the goal being to get search volumes that total the volumes of more common keywords when the search terms are combined. For example, if you’re a local florist, you can probably focus on one or two key phrases such as “Manhattan florist” or “flowers in Manhattan.”
 
If, however, you’re running a national directory of florists, there are thousands of keyword combinations you can target, for example “flowers for Mother’s Day in Mobile, Alabama” and then also use the same keywords for many other locales. This is the strategy of head sites that are attempting to rank high for common terms that are searched for thousands of times every day.
 
2. Organize Content Using “Bread Crumb Navigation”
 
Your goal should be to enable Google to easily access and understand every page on your site. Google crawls through web pages using “spiders,” and when spiders come to a random page they try to follow the links on that page to get to other pages. If they can do that easily, Google can quickly index your entire website and pull more pages from it into its search results.
 
A great way to do this is to use something called bread crumb navigation for your content that leaves a logical trail and allows users to quickly see where a page fits in relation to the rest of the site, going from the most general category to the most narrow category for each item.
 
After you’ve set up this navigation string, set up URL structure for the page that mirrors it, for example: http://priceonomics.com/computers/apple/macbookpro/15/2011/, so that both users and Google will find the structure of your site consistent and easy to navigate.
 
3. Optimize Every Page’s Title  
 
If you have accurate and descriptive titles for each page, Google will be much more likely to present your content to its users. Page titles are displayed as underlined links below the main result of a Google search. For example, the page title is “Used Television Prices | Television Price Guide” for the page containing a hypothetical price guide for used televisions. You want to avoid the frequently-made mistake of making all the page titles the same because that doesn’t help Google differentiate between the various pages on your site. For example, if we had called every page “Price Guide,” Google would be utterly unable to tell the difference between pages with price guides for computers and pages with price guides for televisions. Help Google help you and your potential customers by being specific when creating page titles.
 
Google also crawls the text of each page, so make sure that your headers and sub headers accurately reflect the content contained on that page. The key is to include keywords strategically and randomly throughout your content without resorting to making what is obviously a list of keywords. In the bad old days, people would just add “keyword dumps” at the bottom of each page, which frequently resulted in random and inaccurate search results. That is, fortunately, no longer an effective strategy because of Google’s evolutionary ranking protocols.  
 
4. Build Unique Content
 
Google wants to direct its visitors to unique and original content instead of a reposting of something that’s already been published somewhere else. Because of this policy, it’s best to create your own distinctive content rather than syndicating content from other sources, especially when you’re just getting started. You should also be very particular about whom you allow to republish your content for the same reason. Google will penalize you if they think that the other website is the primary source and your website contains the derivative material. Alternatively, if your content is the best—or even better—the only answer to a very specific query, then there is a high probability that Google will award you a high ranking in its search results.
 
5. Get Inbound Links
 
Google also wants to send its users to websites that are considered authorities in any given subject area. The search monolith now calculates this quality primarily by checking if reputable sites are linking to yours. It also checks what is called “anchor text” to discover what words those websites use when linking to yours in order to help it understand what type of content your site contains.
 
For example, if other sites link to a ecommerce site calling it a “price guide,” Google will eventually assume that is the correct categorization for that website. Google may already be looking at social media for clues on tweets, Facebook likes, and Google +1’s to determine authority on a given subject. If it’s not now, it is likely that it will be very soon. The key to really nailing SEO and getting good inbound links is producing such terrific content that other websites can’t help but link to yours.
 
There’s plenty more to learn when it comes to SEO, but the best place to focus your energy and attention is creating great original content. It may not be the easiest solution, but it is by far the best one.    
2013-05-15 | Add a Comment
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