A friend of mine asked me what she could do to make sure that her website was optimized for search engines. She does not want to do pay per click advertising, like Google Adwords, she just wants to make sure that she has done the best job she can to be found by people searching for her service (this is called “organic search” as opposed to “paid search”). I get this question a lot, so I decided to put together this handy list that you can use to maximize your chances of coming out well in search results.
1. Site Submission: has your site been submitted to the major search engines: Google, Bing, Yahoo? You can’t be found if the major search engines don’t know you’re there. If you have not submitted a site map, that’s an easy fix. Go to:
http://www.dmoz.org/help/submit.html (a nonprofit web monitoring project that links to Google)
2. Keywords: make sure that you know the keywords that your customers are likely to use to find you. These will be used in many ways, in your site content & headers, tags & titles, so it’s important to get them right. Make a list of the keyword terms or phrases (and variations of the terms or phrases) that you think real people might use to find your product or service. You can find out what keywords your customers are using to find your site by looking at Google Analytics (free). You can also use Google’s free Keyword Tool to get additional ideas.
3. Website Content: make sure that your website content uses the keyword phrases your customers might use to find you. This affects the perceived relevance of the page to a search. Also use your keywords in HTML coded headings to give the search engines an idea as to what the content is about.
Please make natural (“organic”) use of your keywords—don’t pack them in for the sake of search engines. Overuse may make the search engines suspicious of keyword packing, which could hurt you more than it helps. It would also degrade the experience for your readers.
4. Page Titles: These are crucial. Your page title shows up at the very top of the browser’s frame for the web page and that text is what is displayed in search results. Go through each of your web pages to make sure the titles are optimized. Brian Halligan & Dharmesh Shah, in their book, Inbound Marketing, have some very useful suggestions:
- Put your most important keywords in your Page Title.
- Earlier words carry more weight than later words, so put your most important words first. For example, instead of “Nona Solowitz CPA” use “CPA Nona Solowitz.”
- In line with the above point, consider putting your company name at the end of your Home Page title tag.
- Make sure your Page Title makes sense to the novice reader (with respect to your field) and is not industry jargon.
If you are using content management software to update your site you can revise your own page titles. If you are using a web developer or design firm, they can make the changes you want for you.
5. Meta Tags: This is the HTML code embedded in your page, not web page copy. Although it’s not used for search engine ranking it is often used as the copy that is displayed in the search engine result. The person searching will read it to determine whether it seems relevant to their search. If so, they may click on it, accomplishing your objective!
Again, if you are using content management software to update your site you can revise your own meta tags. If you are using a web developer or design firm, they can make the changes you want for you.
6. Check your URLs: In addition to your keyword content and Page Titles, search engines will also use the URL to determine the relevance of a page to the keywords searchers input. Try to put your most important keywords for the page into the URL.
Again, if you are using content management software to update your site you can revise your own URLs. If you are using a web developer or design firm, they can make the changes you want for you.
7. Alt tags: Search engines can’t read images, so make sure your images are labeled with HTML “alt tags” that describe your images, ideally using keyword terms.
8. Number of Inbound Links to your site from other sites: The more quality inbound links you have, the better. Search engines use this as a proxy for authoritativeness. If you are viewed as an authority in your field your site will be ranked higher. Blogging with great content is a great way to be found, be viewed as an authority in your field, and incent others to link to your site.