Search Engine Optimisation

Search engine optimisation is the process of tweaking your site to achieve better SERPs, or search engine result positions. Search engine optimisation is a complicated process, which works much more effectively when using all the different techniques together in a "combined arms" approach. This article covers the first steps you should take in search engine optimisation.

Keyword Research

Before starting any search engine optimisation on your site, you should be targeting the right keywords. If it's visitor volume you are after, then you want to optimise for phrases that people actually search for.
Wordtracker (http://www.wordtracker.com) is a paid service which has excellent keyword research tools - find the popular search phrases relating to your site, and see how much competetion there is for these phrases.
You want to optimise for the high volume phrases that have the least competetion (as this makes it easier to get a top position).
Create a list of phrases (in order of importance) and use this when optimising the content on your site.

Competetive Analysis

Before getting too far into this search engine optimisation process, it's good to know what you are up against. Enter some of the phrases from your above list, and get a feel for the competetion. Often the same sites will appear near the top, so spend some time checking out what they are doing right - what keywords they are targeting, how good their onsite SEO is, and how many backlinks they have.

Optimising Content

With your shopping list of phrases, target one phrase per page. Use the phrase at the start of your title tag, H1 tag, page URL, and twice in the first paragraph. Use the phrase at least once somewhere else on the page. Always make sure the phrase fits in with the text, and is readable to a human. You need to look professional so your visitors will trust your site.
At this stage, you can optimise for secondary phrases. If your primary phrase is "SEO" then you can easily optimise for "SEO Techniques" as a secondary phrase.

Internal Linking

Link to your content pages using your chosen phrases as the clickable text. Due to space constraints and user considerations (eg "Home" should always be labelled "home" on the main navigation), you may want to include these optimised links in the footer navigation.
This logic will also apply to any external links to the site, which comes later.

Technical considerations

At this stage, you have created your pages and optimised the text. Now you need to ensure that Google can index your site - Search engine optimisation is useless if your site isn't indexed.
Primarily, you need to ensure every page is accessible through links from the homepage - an unlinked page is not going to get found. Use a sitemap on a large site, use footer navigation, and avoid forms, flash or javascript like the plague for your main navigation.
Run Xenu through your site to check for broken links, and ensure Xenu can find each page - if it can't, the neither can Google.
Remove all duplicate content from your site - see this article on preventing duplicate content.
Create a Google sitemap and submit to Google (you will need a free Google account for this).

Link Building

A successful search engine optimisation campaign can be done by link building alone, however this is definitely the hard way to do it. The fact is there are thousands of very badly optimised sites that perform very well because they have great incoming links.
Don't build links too quickly on new sites, build slowly over 6 months and don't push too hard.
You can get links using any of the following methods..
  • Reciprocal Link exchange with other sites
  • Writing articles and submitting to article sites
  • Paid one way links
  • Writing interesting or contraversial content that other sites will naturally link to (the best method)
  • Providing something free - a software tool or resource
  • Getting links from your web developer on their client's other sites
  • Submitting to directories (one way), free or paid
  • Writing testimonials for products you have used (often these are published with a link)

Ongoing

Remember, search engines do things slowly, so it's best to make small changes and upload them straight away, rather than doing the entire site offline and uploading the final product once it's all done. Changes to the homepage can be detected within a few days, whereas changes to subpages can take several weeks.
Keep an eye on your rankings, and also the traffic each phrase is bringing in. If your homepage has a page 1 listing for a phrase, but isn't generating any traffic, then you are probably targeting the wrong phrase.

About the Author

Harvey Kane is a PHP Web Developer in Auckland, New Zealand.
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