Search Engine Optimization Basics

If you opt to build your own site either using one of the online website builders or software such as Adobe Dreamweaver or similar, learning basic search engine optimization (SEO for short) is something you can pick up quickly. Ranking well, on the other hand, is an art and takes time to master. In this article we discuss the basics of SEO for beginners. There are 3 basic phases to SEO: keyword research, on-site optimization, and off-site optimization.

Keyword Research

Before you set to do any SEO, you need to perform keyword research. As an expert in your field you may feel that you know what keywords your site should be optimized for. But you must resist this temptation. Keyword research will tell you what keywords your prospects are actually using in Web searches to find your information, products or services. If you optimize for the wrong keywords it will be a waste of time and/or money that will not bring any results.

Keyword research is a critical aspect of your SEO. It will tell you what keywords are being used to search for information, products, and services you are offering. Since Google is the biggest search engine out there we will use its data to help us understand what search phrases or keywords are most popular.

The first and easiest way you can identify popular search terms is by starting to type into the Google search field. Google will then display search suggestions based on your entry. This will tell you the most popular search queries based on your text string.

Another free method is using Google’s keyword tool, part to their Adwords service.

The aforementioned keyword research will tell you what search terms are being commonly used on Google. If you want to go expand your keyword research to other search engines and even find out what keywords are being used by your competitors, then you will need to go the paid service route. To find out who offers what, just do a search for “keyword research” on your favorite search engine.

Do this step right and you’re on your way to making your SEO efforts pay off.

On-site Search Engine Optimization

This has to do with and Web page content for the keywords from your keyword research phase. SEO must impact the meta tags, alt tags, and link structure in your HTML code. This phase also involves the regular creation of new and original content. Additionally, you must pay special attention to correct and logical placement of keywords in your on-page content.

Optimizing your HTML code is part of the big puzzle that will help rank your site better. The goal of this process is to help the search engine bot (a program that crawls and reads Web pages, aka spider) to help make sense of your site and let it know clearly what your site is about.

This includes properly setting your TITLE, META, and ALT tags.

The TITLE and META tags go into HEAD section of the Web page:

<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=utf-8" />
<title>Title of the page</title>
<meta name="description" content="Description goes here." />
<meta name="keywords" content="Keywords go here." />

Think of your website as a book that is placed in a huge bookstore or library. The TITLE identifies the theme of your site or Web page. DESCRIPTION tells someone in brief what the site or Web page is about. And KEYWORDS help to find more specific info on the Web page that a person may be searching for.

Be careful not to put too much info into these sections as this will make your Web page less relevant for anything and confusing to the search engine bot and, ultimately, human visitors. If the search engine bot finds your site confusing, it will not rank well at all on the search engine results.

You should have a separate TITLE, DESCRIPTION, and KEYWORDS for each Web page and be as specific and to the point as possible.

The ALT Tag

The other tag that is very important is your ALT tag. This tag is used for images. An image in of itself is something arbitrary to the search engine bot. It doesn’t mean much until you add an ALT tag. This tag tells the bot what the image is of and this information can now be indexed.

<img src="image.jpg" alt="Skyline of Toronto" />

Another way to even further improve the relevance of your Web page is to give keyword-specific names to your images, along with ALT tags:

<img src="skyline_of_toronto.jpg" alt="Skyline of Toronto" />

You notice that the actual filename of the image includes the keyword. That, along with the ALT tag, will add more weight to the keyword.

Bear in mind that this process will only aid in the correct indexing of your site and is only a small part of the big picture of getting ranked on the first page of search engine results pages.

Off-site Search Engine Optimization

This is by far the longest and most difficult phase of SEO since it is continuous and never really should end. It involves incoming link building which is a time consuming and tedious ongoing process. So much so that many SEO companies try to take short-cuts by buying links on sites and networks of sites. This may work for a while but eventually leads to being banned on search engines. Google is the most zealous of search engines to weed out this type of practice. Just take a look at this example of Google banning an agency for link buying.

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