by Marc Fussell
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of tweaking your website to drive more traffic to it through search engines such as Yahoo!, Google and MSN. These search engines use complex algorithms to deliver the most relevant websites for a particular search term. The details of these algorithms are closely guarded secrets and can change frequently. If the algorithms were discovered, the search engines could be “gamed,” and a user’s search would be more likely to have irrelevant results.
SEO can be divided into two camps: “white hat” SEO and “black hat” SEO. White hat SEO is regarded as legitimate, but search engines discourage black hat SEO. Black hat practices could even get your website banned from search engine results. Black hat SEO uses hidden text, ultrasmall fonts, text that is the same color as the background, image descriptions that are not relevant to the images, keyword spamming, irrelevant keywords and link farms.
If you want to take advantage of these techniques yourself, it helps if you have a website powered by a robust, easy-to-use content management system that makes editing your website simple. Here are some basic SEO tips that you can use today:
- Maintain timely content. Keep your website content fresh by making frequent original content additions. This “trains” search engines to crawl your website more frequently. If your website content does not change, search engines will train themselves to crawl your website less frequently. Be sure to update your website at least once every week.
- Occasionally submit your website URL to search engines, but not too often. Submitting your website too frequently can be perceived as spamming by search engines.
- Make your website pages easily accessible by search engines. Ensure every page has a browser title tag, a meta-description tag, a keyword tag and thorough content.
- The browser title tag is very important. It helps search engines classify your website and communicates the content of your website to a reader. Each page of your website should contain a unique browser title tag. Consider a two-part browser title tag. The primary title should consist of a maximum of 66 characters, which is the Google title tag character limit. Separate the secondary title tag from the primary one with a dash. You should have a total tag length of 120 characters, the Yahoo! character limit.
- Establish inbound links. The number of inbound links to your website is perhaps the most important factor affecting page rank. Even a few inbound links will help your website get indexed within several days. If there are no links to your website, a search engine may take six weeks to index it. The links should be from sites with relevant content. If you know someone with a site that contains relevant content, ask him or her to place a link to your website. Another legitimate technique for creating inbound links to your web site is to submit articles to websites such as ezinearticles.com. This site and similar services allow you to write an article about something that is relevant to your website. Within the article, you are allowed to incorporate a link to the page of your choice on your website. The article you submit is hosted as a webpage on ezinearticles.com. Furthermore, it is made available to subscribers to ezinearticles.com who are looking for content for their websites. Your article and your link could then be placed on other websites, providing you with free one-way inbound links to your website.
- Leave a few misspellings in the meta-tags of each page of your website. If you mistyped a word, there is a good chance others will make the same mistake. Your website might not make the first-page search results for “Missouri Small Businesses,” but it might for “Misourri Small Businesses.”
- Do not copy and paste content from other websites. Your website will be penalized for “duplicate content” by search engines, and you could be subject to copyright infringement. If you need to include copy from another site, cite the copy and link to the original content.
- Do not obsess with Google at the expense of Yahoo! and MSN. Yahoo! and MSN seem to be friendlier to new websites. We typically find that they will index your website faster and higher than Google. No. 1 on MSN is better than No. 100 on Google.
Marc Fussell is owner of RazorBall.Net, a technology firm that provides SEO guidance for its website customers.