SEO in a NutshellMonterey Bay Design

SEO in a Nutshell

This document is meant to be used as a guideline.  It is by no means a complete listing of everything that can be done to insure a site is the most visible, has the best page ranking on Google, etc; however, everything in this document will contribute to that end.

Make sure your site is cleanly coded.

Excessive tables – especially tables nested within tables – or bloated code – i.e. code resulting from pages created in (the now defunct) Microsoft FrontPage or Word – will result in a page that is difficult for Google and other search engine spiders to crawl. It is only recently that web designers used tables primarily for web design – for placing content and creating divisions, columns, rows, etc. for the best possible presentation of information.  Tables have been supplanted, for the most part, by CSS, or Cascading Style Sheets, but like any other form of technology, the information on how to use it successfully has to be learned.

There are still designers who are happy to use only tables and who continue to use outdated methods and code that can’t keep up with the coding language and browsers as they develop. The bottom line is that while you shouldn’t be expected to understand all that code, you should still be aware of how your site is created.  It may look shiny and new on the outside, but you should be aware of what might be under the hood.

Your site should contain relevant, keyword-rich content.

While it’s true that a website without pictures is like – well, a website without pictures, it should also include useful text content – the operative word being “useful.” The key is to not write your copy for the search engines, but to write for the site visitor. Use buzz words, yes. Use keywords, yes. But ultimately, write information that your visitor wants or needs to read.

It should be noted that the keyword meta tag is not as relevant as it used to be. Adding a thousand keywords about engine parts into the keyword tag of your engine part website will not grab anyone’s attention and it will only be “seen” by one or two search engines as a relevant portion of  the site – and Google is not one of them. What you do instead is take those keywords and use them to write clear, concise copy targeting the page in question.

In your search for keywords, ideally, you’re looking for relevance (words and phrases that describe the product or service on the page you are writing for) and low competition. Competition refers to the number of sites that are using that same keyword or keyword phrase. Consider, also, not just single or double words. The “long tail keyword” typically describes a phrase of 3 to 5 keywords which you might develop to refine traffic to your site. While a long phrase may not generate as much traffic, it will generate much more specific results. This, in turn, reduces your pay per click cost in advertising, and by focusing on a less competitive, more specific term, you  increase your chance to convert that click to a sale.

Site Links

The more links from other places back to your website, the more visible you are. Google places more importance on relevant sites with links going back to you, but not just any links. The operative word here is relevant. Taken directly from Google’s page “The quantity, quality, and relevance of links count towards your rating. The sites that link to you can provide context about the subject matter of your site, and can indicate its quality and popularity.”

Link building, as Google explains “is a long-term effort.” You can’t successfully build a link campaign overnight and expect it to do any good. If you could, everybody would be on page one.

Examples of bad linking or links that might have a negative impact on your ranking:

  1. Link farms are sites for the sole purpose of collecting links from as many places as possible with each link, relevant or not, linking to another.
  2. Irrelevant site link exchanges and partner building exclusively for the purpose of cross-linking.

From Google: This is in violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and can negatively impact your site’s ranking in search results. Examples of link schemes can include:

  • Links intended to manipulate PageRank
  • Links to web spammers or bad neighborhoods on the web
  • Excessive reciprocal links or excessive link exchanging
    (“Link to me and I’ll link to you.”)
  • Buying or selling links that pass PageRank

Examples of good linking:

  1. Inbound links from a site that has relevance to yours with information that enhances your own and vice versa.
  2. Contribute within the online community related to your business. Through forums, message boards and blogs, with your site link in the signature of your post, you can contribute quality information and create traffic to your site.
    •  (Don’t spam a forum with useless posts like the “me too!” post or advertising simply to post your link.)

Write content worthy of linking to:

  1. Create a FAQ on your site that answers questions in and around your topic.
  2. Create a blog and offer useful information that you can update regularly.

The Beginning of SEO for your site

Start simple. The foundation is the key to how long your house will stand.

  1. Make sure your site is cleanly coded
  2. Repair broken links
  3. Make sure your site works in multiple browsers. If it only looks right in Internet Explorer 6 then something is very, very wrong.
  4. Make sure each page has relevant text using quality keywords and key phrases you’ve identified and that it targets the specific page as much as possible.
  5. Can you add other pages that people would be interested in? Can you add a FAQ? A blog? At the very least, consider incorporating a site map for visitors into your site.
  6. Have the title tags, description tags and alt tags in your images been filled out?
  7. Install a Site (hit) Counter and/or Google Analytics. This will help you determine where your visitors are coming from and where they’re going on your site.

Advertising: Start Small

  1. Consider submitting your website into sites that offer free business listings. Google, Yahoo, Bing, Merchant Circle, etc.
  2. Advertise free on CraigsList
  3. Other submission possibilities – Social Networking: Manta, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn
  4. Set up a Google Account where you can begin a PPC (pay-per-click) advertising campaign with AdWords.

The Bottom Line About SEO

There is no magic bullet for getting your site listed on page one – or even on page five. Your website – much like your garden and your business as an entity – requires tending, coaxing and tweaking. Legitimate advertising coupled with quality of service and of content will help build a reputation for your site and in turn your business.

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