Although the concept of SEO can be somewhat complex, there are a number of basic search engine optimization practices you should note before starting any SEO related activity. These basic principles are essential for any web page or website for which you are attempting to optimize. Keep in mind that these are just some of the fundamental SEO practices you should consider.
Metatags are simple lines of code at the top of your page (source code) that tell the search engines about your page. I recommend that you be sure to include the following meta tags: title (no more than 7 words and unique for each page), keywords, description, author, and robots tag. The robots tag instructs the search engines to read all or some of your website.
2. Create or update your sitemap
Developing a site map is a simple yet highly effective way of giving search engines the information they need to crawl your entire website. This ensures that the engine has an up-to-date record of your pages and content. The key to improving search engine results is making it easy for your website pages to be located and crawled. There is free software on the web (like www.xml-sitemaps.com) that helps you generate a sitemap. Once you create a sitemap for your website, submit to Google and Yahoo. Additionally, place a link to the site map on your home page.
3. Ensure that all navigation is in HTML
Too often I see navigation in the form of java script or images. Even though the navigation technically still works in this format, it's not optimized. The benefit of creating your navigation in HTML is that you consistently build internal links throughout your website by keeping the navigation constant and easily identified by search engines.
4. Check that all images include ALT text
Your image alt text is spidered by search engines. If you're not including your keywords in your alt text, your missing out on a huge opportunity for improved search engine result placement. Be sure to label your images appropriately and they may even show up as the number one result on Google. Additionally, Google has a database of images (Google Image Search) that indexes pictures as well.
5. Use Flash content sparingly
As mentioned earlier, content generated through java script or flash is a big no-no. Some webmasters like to use flash because of the presentation. It's okay to use sparingly, but only after your site has been properly optimized with basic SEO in mind.
6. Make sure that important page elements are HTML
Keep in mind when optimizing a web page crawlers are basically only looking at your source code. Anything you've put together using an image or other multimedia component is likely to be invisible to search engines. Therefore, the most important elements of your page, where the heart of your content is presented, should be presented in W3C optimized HTML source code.
7. Place keywords in your page content the right way
I'm sure you've heard the importance of placing the right keywords or keyword phrases in your content. To show the search engines that your article is focused on a particular keyword or keyword phrase, be sure to sprinkle it throughout the content. Additionally, include your keyword in headers and sub-heads. That is to say that your keyword should be contained in an h1, h2, or h3 tag.
Learning to optimize your website for search engines takes time and most of all, patience. Start with the basic principles I've outline here and you're off to a good start. If you're new to SEO, or even a well seasoned veteran, begin by prioritizing which pages are most important for you to optimize. Sometimes people think that they need to optimize all their pages right away and the task becomes too overwhelming. Start small, begin with your primary and/or secondary pages, and go from there.
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