SEO Tips: How to Rank Well in Search Engines Part 1

Have you worked tirelessly on your website and can’t understand why it’s only getting 5 hits a day? Creating a website is only half the battle. The other half is getting people to go to it! By far the best way to get traffic to your website is to have search engines do the work for you. Follow these basic search engine optimization tips and techniques, and you’ll be on your way to getting your website to rank on the first page of search engines for certain keywords.

1. Choosing Great Keywords

Keywords are not really single words but instead often consist of a combination of words or phrases. Researching and choosing keywords is really a topic all by itself, but here are some quick tips.

Pick the key phrases that you think potential customers will type in search engines to find what you have to offer, and then do your research to find synonyms and to determine the best wording. Use Google’s Keyword Tool or another tool to learn what phrases are searched more than others. For example, you may find that “hair salons in baton rouge” is searched for more often than “baton rouge hair salons.” (Tip: When using Google’s Keyword Tool, turn the “match type” to Exact to accurately compare phrases)

Google Keyword Match Type

If you are targeting a local market, add the location in your key phrase. There is much more competition for general keywords, so you will find it easier to rank in local results. Keywords should reflect the content of your website. Each page is likely to have different keywords that reflect the content of that page.

2. Implementing Keywords on your Website

Once you’ve chosen your keywords, you’re ready to integrate them into your website. It is best to use the whole phrase exactly as it is searched for on your page, at least one or two times, since this will be valued more than having the words apart.

Of utmost importance is to use these keywords in your title tags (this is what appears in your browser’s title bar). Keep your title tag around 60 to 70 characters.

Use keywords in your URLs. If your page is about widgets, name that page “widgets.htm,” for instance. Use your keywords in headings, paragraphs, alt tags, anchor text (links) and meta tags (hidden tags in your source code). Just don’t overdo it—you don’t want Google to suspect you for keyword stuffing.

Note: When integrating keywords into your text, keep your visitors in mind. You want your content to read well, and a bunch of repeated phrases can be obvious and annoying to your readers. It is okay to use synonyms every now and then to avoid repetition. Search engines are smarter than you think and will take the related words into account.

3. Building Links

Search engines factor in the inbound links to your website when determining rankings. Think of links to your website as a popularity contest. It’s not just about the number of links you can get to your website, but the value of the websites with the link. Are the cool kids linking to your website? A few links from sites with a high page rank and also .edu and .gov sites are more valuable than tons of links from sites with low page rank.  It’s also helpful to get your website linked from similar sites to your own.

The text of the link is also important. Ideally, you would want websites to link to your site using your chosen keywords as the anchor text. Search engines also look at the anchor text you use to link to other pages within your website, although it is not more valuable than an inbound link.

Submit your website to a few key directories, but don’t fall into the trap of submitting your site to thousands of low quality directories and link farms (This can be regarded as link spamming). Try to get your site listed in highly ranked directories such as DMOZ and Yahoo! Directory.

Make sure that any sites you link to aren’t to link farms or other suspicious sites. These can actually hurt your rankings.

4. Writing Meta Tags

Though meta tags are becoming less and less important to search engines, they are still used in some instances. Meta tags are tags hidden in the source code of each page of a website that can give search engines information about your website.

The most important meta tag is the description meta tag because this is often the description displayed in search result listings. Be sure to include your keywords in your description, but make sure it reads well since it should encourage users to click on your listing. Try not to exceed about 150 characters.

The keywords meta tag is less important since the major search engines no longer take it into account. If you still want to use it just in case, include your chosen keywords for each page in the keywords meta tag, but only include about 3 or 4. Each page should have keywords about the content in that page; don’t use the same keywords on every page.

Remember, all of these tips must be taken in moderation. Excessive keywords, links, duplicate metatags, duplicate content, etc. can actually hurt your rankings. You don’t want to be seen as a spammer!

This is the end of part 1 of the SEO tips. My next post covers website content; the balance of using images, flash and javascript; domain names and more! Move on to Part 2 of how to rank well in search engines.

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