search engine optimization For business owners today, an online presence is a must-have. But that's just the start. Once you've built your website, customers have to be able to find you. So what do you do to make sure your website isn't buried in search engine results? SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is a great place to start. It is important to remember that Google uses a set of rules to make sure that pages are ranked fairly. If you follow the rules, Google will reward you. Great! But, if you try to manipulate or bend the rules, Google will punish you. Not great. So the best thing to do, particularly if you're new to the world of SEO, is keep your strategy simple. Let your website gain relevance and reputation, which is important to Google when it comes to ranking your page, before you employ more advanced SEO strategies.

Keywords are one of the most important parts of SEO. Note that the word 'keyword' is a bit misleading, because it also includes phrases. In fact, single-word keywords are probably best to avoid. They're too broad, and there are too many websites using them. For example, if I have a blog about my climate research in Antarctica, I'm not doing myself any favors by using "climate" as a keyword because there are thousands upon thousands of websites about climate. Conversely, you don't want to get too specific. This will limit the number of people who are searching for your keyword. Keep your keywords (or key phrases) relevant to what you offer, popular enough that there's a sizable number of people searching for them, and specific enough that your site won't get buried.

So you've got your keywords. Great. The next question is: what will customers see when they do find your site? If you're selling products on your site, make sure each product has a thorough description. People tend to be hesitant to buy products online that aren't described well. After all, when you buy online, you can't physically see or hold the product. All your customers have to rely on is your description. Put yourself in your customers' shoes and ask yourself "what questions would I have about this product if I saw it online?" Detailed, descriptive text for your products will entice the customers toward buying your products, but also provide opportunities for key words. Search engines are looking for words, and the more words you have, the better the search engine can understand what your page is about. Keeping your keywords toward the top of the page will help.

title tag Now that you've got the perfect key words, stellar item descriptions, and prose that Shakespeare would envy, you'll need a good title for your pages. This title will be placed in the TITLE tag of your HTML. Titles should accurately describe what's on the page, and each page should have a unique title. You can use your TITLE tag to your advantage by using a few of your most important keywords. Now, remember those rules Google has? This is where one of them comes in. Some webmasters think they can outsmart search engines by stuffing their TITLE tag with a bunch of keywords. But Google knows this trick, and if you try it you'll get a lower ranking. Remember: keep it simple and use just a few. Be brief and descriptive.

Now that you've got all that set up, make sure the links on your site actually work. Yes, this sounds obvious, but things happen. Google will punish you for dead links on your site, so test every link to make sure it goes somewhere, and that the somewhere is where you actually want it to go. On a similar note, make sure that your site is easy to navigate. Customers (and search engines) don't want to navigate a maze to find what they're looking for. Make it as easy as possible to get from your website's home page to the specific parts of the site. It is always best to use mostly text for navigation. Drop-down menus and animations may look pretty and fun, but search engines are text-based, so it is easier for them to find you (and for users to navigate) if you use text links.

Another note on links: don't assume that every person that visits your page will start on the home page. Depending on what the user searches for, they may very well end up on a specific product page or an article you wrote. So make sure that it is easy for customers to navigate to the homepage from every page on your site.

seo strategy By now you should have a good idea about what to focus on when you're creating your SEO strategy. So let's take a minute to talk about what NOT to focus on. There are some things that webmasters waste time on that have no effect on your Google ranking whatsoever. One of those things is meta keywords. Meta keywords are so 90's. Search engines don't use the meta keywords tag to rank pages, but not anymore. Some webmasters think they can stuff their meta keywords tag with endless keywords, but this is an absolute waste of time.

There are some conspiracy theorists who think that webmasters who use Adsense get a boost in the rankings. This is simply not true. This isn't to say that Adsense isn't a great idea, but don't expect it to have any effect on your rankings.

The title attribute (not to be confused with the title tag) will also have no bearing on your page's rankings. The title attribute creates a tooltip when a user hovers over a link or picture to tell the user what that item is about. Contrary to what some webmasters believe, the title attribute does not affect your SEO at all.

As you've seen, you don't need a complex, military-style SEO strategy for your site. Remember, your competitors probably don't have one either. Keep your initial strategy simple and focus on building great content. It is content that will lend your site credibility, compel your users to come back, and create the reputation that Google requires to keep your page ranked high.

If you are looking for additional help with your SEO please check out our SEO 101 package that is specifically designed to use social media and backlinks to boost your ranking. You can find more information on this package here.

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