Whether you undertake your own SEO or you hire an SEO Consultant, it is important that you understand the fundamentals of search engine optimization. Search engine optimization is the art of structuring your website and your website content in a manner that is loved by the search engines, thus, improving your placement in the search engine result pages.
Having a website that is ranked highly in the organic search results (free listings), like the first page of Google for a competitive keyword, can generate more visitors per day than having a store in the middle of a popular shopping destination. Understanding SEO and avoiding things that will get your website penalised will give you a good foundation to build upon.
Well, let’s jump straight to it.
The Meta Description
The meta description is what is used to describe your individual web pages. The description is also used by the search engines to describe your page on the search engine result pages (SERP). Your meta descriptions should be unique for each one of your web-pages. A good meta description will give a page specific explanation of what a visitor will expect to find when visiting the page.
The HTML meta description tag looks like this:
<META name”description” content=”Everything you ever wanted to know about the HTML meta description tag and it’s purposes”>
Remember to keep your meta descriptions to about 160 characters for best results in Google.
Below is an image of what the meta description looks like displayed in a Google search results page.
Avoid stuffing a load of keywords into the meta description, it will make your listing look unprofessional and generate less click-throughs. How many times do you see listings that look like this:
As you can see, this description is written purely for the search engines and not the end user. Would you want this company working on your SEO?
An important point to note is that the ellipsis (the three dots … ) at the end of the description indicate that the description was too long to display properly. Don’t let the search engine cut of your page description, keep it within the already mentioned number of characters and you’ll be fine.
Although Google no longer appear to give much weight to meta-keywords other search engines like Yahoo! may still look at these.
The HTML meta keyword tag looks like this:
<META name”keywords” content=”meta description, html meta description, html meta description explained”>
Do not go overboard with the amount of keywords you use, a few to a handful per page should be enough.
One of the major elements to a website is the keywords that drive search engine traffic to the homepage and interior pages.
Places you can target particular keywords or keyword phrases are in the Meta Description, Meta Keyword, Title Tag, Header and content (body text).
Core keywords are harder to rank for due to having high levels of competition but they also are less targeted.
Example of core keywords:
Long tail keywords (keyword phrases)
Keyword phrases are often easier to rank for due to having less competition.
Examples of keyword phrases:
affordable mortgage rates
low monthly repayment loan
You get the idea! The more pages you create targeting particular keywords and keyword phrases the more paths you have leading back to your most important pages, your sales pages.
Your content should contain your keywords in a natural way, remember, you are writing for your human visitors first and the search engines second.
Keyword research is process of determining what keywords will be the best to target for your web page/s. There are some very powerful keyword research tools on the market that will help you get started:
Google Adwords Keyword Tool (free)
Wordtracker’s Keyword Suggestion Tool (free)
Read this previous post here to discover how to use it Wordtracker’s free tool.
Wordtracker’s Keyword Research Tool (free trial and discount for a yearly subscription)
Keyword Elite 2.0 ($197 – best buy)
Using Google’s Wonder Wheel for Keyword Research
Content is King
Content is King! You’ve probably already heard this and for good reason, it’s true. By regularly adding content that is optimised to your website, you are increasing the footprint of your website across the search engines. The more avenues you have leading into your sales funnel the better.
A blog is the perfect solution for publishing your ongoing content creations. I recommend having a self-hosted WordPress blog. If you have a business website, let’s say www.foxleymarketingsolutions.com, then you can log into your Hosting account and add a sub-domain specifically for your blog, in this case, www.foxleymarketingsolutoins.com/blog.
Creating great content has the added benefit of being link-worthy, if it is good then people will link to your page from their website. This will give you more exposure and more links pointing to your internal website pages (known as deep linking). This method of attracting deep links will have a more natural and organic look to it from the search engines perspective than if you only have links pointing to your homepage.
To recap, write for your visitors first and the search engines second.
I covered deep linking in greater depth in a previous article, what can Amazon teach webmasters about link building.
URL Canonicalization and the 301 Redirect
Google and other search engines view www.yourdomain.com and yourdomain.com as two different websites, known as URL canonicalization. A 301 redirect tells the search engines that a page has moved permanently (a 302 is a temporary redirect).
I recommend that you forward yourdomain.com to www.yourdomain.com as this is what the majority of Internet users are already familiar with.
The easiest way to set up a 301 redirect is to contact your hosting company and ask them to do this for you. I host my accounts with Host Monster and having a 301 redirect set for a particular URL can be put in place in under five minutes. If your hosting account charges you to do this then maybe it is time to switch to a better hosting company.
With a 301 redirect in place you are avoiding the spread of authority and your inbound link credit being shared across two websites.
A post by Matt Cutts Explains URL Canonicalization and 301 Redirections in greater detail here.
404 Error Pages
Continuing on the 301 redirection theme, if you migrate a website to a new domain or even change the names of your website pages then you will want to be monitoring your 404 error logs (you can find these in your Hosting accounts admin area) to see how they were triggered.
Let’s say I have an indexed page (meaning that it is listed in the search engine results pages):
and then I change the page name (or permalink structure in WordPress) to
your visitors will now hit a 404 error page because the page has moved. I would then create a 301 redirect rule so that every visitor that comes from www.foxleymarketingsolutions.com/seo-service will now go to www.foxleymarketingsolutions.com/search-engine-optimisation-service without triggering the 404 page.
You can click on the link to see an example of a 404 error page on this site.
If your search visitors land on too many 404 error pages your bounce rates will often increase and your listings in the search engines may begin to decline. You or your SEO Consultant need to be tracking this.
If you are using WordPress (self-hosted) then you can manage 404 and 301 redirects with the plugins you will find here.
A really cool way to check your website for broken links is with a free desktop software called Xenu Link Sleuth; you can find the download page here. Try to fix as many of the errors you come across as you can for a better end-user experience,because if you make your visitors happy you will make the search engines happy.
Xenu Link Sleuth will alert of any outgoing links that are now broken. You may have written a post two years ago that linked out to a few websites that have now all become redundant, you’ll need to plug those leaks as soon as you can for optimal website health.
Stick To One Link Structure
When creating your webpages it is good practice to stick to a link structure that will provide conformity across your whole website.
You should also aim to create links that are easier for the search engines to index and read.
looks better on the eyes and is also easier to read by the search engines than
The ‘wordpress seo plugins’ at the end of the last URL cannot be read by the search engines as seperate words because they are bunched together. Use hyphens for best effect and avoid using the underscore as explained in a post by Matt Cutts that you can read here.
The Title Tag
The title tag could just be the single most important SEO element on your web pages. It is important to use a keyword or keyword phrase to logically name your pages. The screenshot below shows you what the title tag looks like for one of our pages.
The title tag can be found in a HTML doc before the Head tag and looks like this:
<title>Your title here </title>
and below is what the title tag looks like within a HTML document in NVU (a free HTML editor).
The robots.txt file is used to give instructions to the search engine bots (the things that visit your website, check your content, look for updates, and index your pages) about your website.
The robots.txt file is placed in your root directory, the same place where your index file (homepage) can be found. You can use the robots.txt file to tell the robots (meta-crawlers) that visit your site not to take any notice of certain directories / files that you specify.
You can find out more by reading the about /robots.txt at www.robotstxt.org.
Sitemaps are a way for a website owner to tell the search engines what pages on the website are available for crawling. It’s also a way to indicate the more important pages of a website.
Google, Yahoo, Bing and Ask all follow the sitemaps protocol and you can read more about this here.
Inbound Link Building
It is important to have an understanding of inbound link building and how it works. The best way to build links is naturally, over time, and at a steady pace. You should also aim to build links to your interior pages as well as your homepage so that this helps with your overall SEO score.
Having thousands of links pointing to your home page does not look as natural as having the same number of links pointing to various pages on your website (another reason why having a blog is a good idea).
If you come across a company that promises to give you number 1 listing on Google through the building of thousands of links, run away! The links you will get will probably be from very poor quality websites and, worse still, link farms.
Another thing to avoid is monthly website submissions to the search engines. Google has the biggest slice of the search engine pie, not to discount other the search engines like Yahoo! and Bing, but do you really think Google need you to submit your website over and over again.
Google will find you, just keep adding content to your website and you will be discovered. If you are paying a company for monthly submissions to the search engines then you really do need to stop, you are wasting your money. You can read more about this here.
Purchasing a domain is an important purchasing decision when taking your business online. What domain name you end up choosing you’ll want to make sure that it is easy to remember and a doddle to type into a search engine or browser bar.
I also recommend that the standard spelling of words looks more professional and is the more logical word that someone will type in to find your website.
Example: use phone instead of fone or use toys instead of toyz.
There are exceptions to this rule, like big brick-and-mortar stores that have come online with an already familiar brand name but if you are just starting out then keeping it simple is the way to go.
To find out if a domain is available or to purchase a domain for your business why not try 1and1 as they are seriously affordable and easy to use.
Google Page Rank
Google created page rank as a measure of a websites authority. If you have the Google Browser Toolbar installed you will be able to see a websites page rank. Foxley Marketing Solutions currently has a page rank of 3 which would put us in the emerging authority stakes.
If you are generating inbound links then the best links are going to be from the websites that Google has scored to be authorities and have high page ranks.
A link from a page rank 6 website can count for more than having lots of links from a number of unranked websites. This is why article directories are so popular for link building. If you would like to find out more about article marketing then sign-up to our 7 day mini-course Website Promotional Success.
For more information regarding Page Rank you can read this exhaustive entry on Wikipedia.
Tracking and Analytics
When you’ve got your website indexed and you start getting regular visitors you’ll want to track certain things. You’ll want to know where your visitors come from (referring websites / search engines), where your visitors are going on your website, and where your visitors leave your website.
There are plenty of tracking software on the market and you can get started with Google Analytics which is, amazingly, free.
I use Polaris, a free desktop app that allows you to login to your Google Analytics account from your desktop.
Duplicate content gives your website visitors a poor user experience and this can result in poor search engine rankings. If you follow the tips above you shouldn’t have anything to worry about. Be sure that your title tags, your meta description and your page content is different for each of your pages to avoid any duplication.
You can read more about this here.
Content Management System (CMS)
Not all content management systems are built the same, and some are just aweful at creating a well optimised website. If the CMS you use makes it difficult for you to undertake any of the recommendations above then maybe you need to start looking into a new system.
If you purchased a website from a website design company that has their very own content management system, ask them if you can easily incorporate meta descriptions, etc and, if not, will they add that functionality. If they will not, again, it’s time to look somewhere else.
Where you host your website is really important for a few reasons. You will want to be able to easily access your admin area, check stats, manage add-on domains, sub-domains, 301 redirects, 404 error pages, and so on.
I use Host Monster for my personal websites for the simple reason it uses cPanel (a very intuitive admin interface), they are affordable, the service is packed with features that will benefit your website, but most importantly, they have an amazing customer support team.
If you website hits a problem can you gain access to a member of staff any time of the day or night, seven days of the week? I can!
Although cPanel is intuitive there is a learning curve involved. If you like to manage the technical side of things for yourself then I recommend the Discover cPanel video training course. Visit the Discover cPanel site to get instant access to the first video for free.
Code and Images
You should make sure that your website is built using web compliant code that is readable by the search engines. You’ll also want to keep tweaking the code to get your load times as fast as possible as this will increase the experience of your users (especially those on a slower connection).
If you have the Firefox browser you can download a really cool add-on called YSlow (by Yahoo!) that will check your website and will alert you to how well your site loads. YSlow will also show you where you can reduce code bloat, how to increase load times and how to decrease the size of your image files so they load quicker and take up less server space (don’t worry, they will still look the same to the user).
You will have to have Firebug installed before you can use YSlow and the newly incorporated Smush It! (used to be available for seperate download).
Lastly, just act natural. Build pages, create wonderful content, make some pages short and sweat and others long and rich. What I’m trying to say is, do not over-optimise your website. You can be too perfect and that just isn’t natural.
I think that about wraps it up for today.
To your success,
P.s. If you liked this post why not leave a comment? If commenting really isn’t your thing, you can share the love by sharing this post using one of the various buttons below. Thanks in advance!