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Sunday, May 20, 2007

Search Engine Optimization

SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

Search engine optimization, commonly abbreviated as SEO, is a cornerstone to healthy website traffic. As the name suggests, this technique involves optimizing the pages of your site to garner the best search engine placement. There are many different ways you can do this. But first, it's important to understand how search engines work.

Search engines use programs that are called spiders or bots to perform a function known as crawling. After your pages have been crawled, the next step is indexing. A search engine's index is a massive database that stores all the information.

When someone enters a query into a search engine, that engine then finds all the related pages that are in its index. The order, or ranking, in which the sites and pages are displayed depends on several factors.

One is relevance. The search engine will find pages that are most relevant to the terms that have been entered. This is why it's important to center your web pages around the most effective keywords, which we'll discuss shortly.

The other part of the equation is popularity. How popular your site is will depend on how many backlinks you have pointing to your site. The more links you have with other quality sites, the higher your site's popularity will be to a search engine.
Now that you know a little about how a search engine works, you are ready to learn how to make your pages as attractive to these engines as possible.

One way to do this is through HTML tags. Each page of your site should be centered around a particular keyword so the search engines will be able to determine if your site is relevant. There are various ways to achieve this. First, you need to determine the keyword or keywords that you want to center your pages around.

One way to do this is by researching the most popular search terms with a helpful tool like the Overture Keyword Selector Tool (http://www.inventory.overture.com.) With a tool like this, you can enter a search term and find out how many searches there have been for that term in a month. This tool also lists related keywords and their search results as well.

Once you've figured out your keywords, it's time to insert them into your pages. When naming your individual site pages, always use the keywords you've chosen as the page title or at least as part of it.

The title tag, which looks like title Your Title Goes Here title is one of the most important tags on your entire site. Also, if you can find a domain name that includes your main keyword or words, all the better. Other places to insert your keywords include links on your page, image tags, meta tags and also in the content of your site.

However, it's important not to overload a page with a particular keyword or phrase. This can cause the search engines to designate your site as one that uses keyword spam, which can get your site shut down. To maintain a healthy keyword balance, aim for 1.5 to 3 percent keyword density.

There are various free tools that help you determine the keyword density of your pages, including the one found at http://www.keyworddensity.com.

Meta Tags

A Look at META Tags

Another important aspect of your site that can make a difference in your site are meta tags. There are various types of meta tags, but the ones that are most important are the meta description and meta keywords tags. Let's take a look at the meta description tag, which will look like this:



On most search engines, the words you enter will be what gets displayed on the results page as a description of the site. Whether or not you have a good meta description can make a big difference not only in your search engine ranking, but whether or not seekers decide to visit your site. Your meta description should be descriptive, alluring, and to the point.

Now let's take a look at the meta keywords tag. This tag looks like this:



There are some important things you should know before creating your meta keywords tag. For one, your keywords should never exceed 500 characters. More than 500 characters can lower your ranking or even get you in hot water for spam.

You also do not want to repeat the same keywords. Keywords should be separated with commas, and be relevant to the content of your site.

Website Content

All About Content

Now let's talk a bit about site content. It's crucial that your site contains quality content that's not duplicated elsewhere. Search engines are becoming wise to duplicate content, and sites that contain it do not receive good rankings.

There are several reasons why duplicate content can occur, and one of them has to do with PLR articles, or Private Label Rights articles. PLR articles are articles that are normally sold in packages, sometimes through a subscription service.

The problem with these articles is that so many different webmasters have access to them. If you find yourself using PLR articles to create your site's content, it's crucial that you rewrite the articles to make them unique.

You might have seen those sites that offer free articles for use on your site. This may sound appealing, but it usually does more harm than good, because of the duplicate content issue. Most of the time, you are not allowed to change the content of these articles, making it impossible to avoid having duplicate content. These free article sites do have some benefits, however, which we'll discuss later.

On the topic of content, it cannot be stressed enough that quality content is key to good traffic. Search engines look for sites whose content is unique, of high quality, and added on a regular basis.

If you're unable to add pages of content to your site each day, consider hiring a professional writer to do it for you. Good content is truly one of the most important aspects of optimizing your site for search engines and getting the traffic you desire. Plus, visitors are more likely to bookmark your site and return to it regularly if they know that the content is updated often.

You'll want to check your site thoroughly before submitting it to search engines to ensure that you have no broken links, one of the most detrimental factors to a site's ranking and popularity. You'll see on some sites that webmasters have a link where visitors can report broken links if they come across them.

Another important aspect of SEO is having a sitemap. Your sitemap page should be linked from every page of your site. In this sitemap, it should be easy to access the pages of your site. Sites that contain detailed sitemaps are normally seen as more favorable by search engines than those that do not.

Backlinks

Obtaining Backlinks

Backlinks, defined as links that point to your site on other sites, are one of the most important aspects to consider when optimizing your site for traffic. The more backlinks your site has, the higher it will rank with search engines. And, the more backlinks you have out there, the more people are bound to see your site. Thankfully, there are lots of great ways to obtain backlinks.

One way is to utilize forums and message boards, especially those that relate to your site in some way. You'll find that on these forums and message boards, you can use a signature.

Make sure to read the policies of the site, and if they allow advertisements in the sig line, then by all means take advantage of this. By including your link in your sig line, then making a good number of regular, quality posts (no spam!) you will get more backlinks pointing to your site.

Another way to get backlinks is through link trading. Link trading is where you exchange links with another webmaster. This is especially effective if the sites you are trading with have a high Page Rank.

One way to find websites to trade with is to visit webmaster forums. Many of these types of forums have a special section devoted to link trading. You can also search for sites that you feel are of good quality, then email the webmaster and request a link trade. Some webmasters will be happy to trade with you, some won't. In some cases, you can even purchase links on quality sites.

Then there's the directory route, another great way to get links. There are hundreds of different web directories out there where you can submit your site. Some of them cost money to list your site, while some of them are free.

DMOZ is probably the best example of a free quality directory. Getting your site listed on directories can take time, especially if the directory is large, so be prepared to wait a few weeks.

Listing on directories serves several purposes. First, it allows people searching the directory a way to find your site. Second, it builds the quantity of quality backlinks you have. One helpful site is http://www.seocompany.ca/directory/free-web-directories.html where you will find a big list of free and pay directories where you can submit your site.

Now, let's talk more about those free article directories -- one of the best ways to get backlinks to your website. There are probably hundreds of these sites out there, and you can submit to them all.

The key is to write articles that relate to the topic of your site in some way. Then at the bottom of each article, you're given a space to include a short bio and the link to your site.

When webmasters come to these free article directories seeking free content, it's possible they'll use your article. So not only are you getting the backlink from the free article site, you're getting backlinks from all the sites that are using your free articles.

Backlinks will improve your Page Rank, and people who read the articles may click your link and end up at your site.

Dynamic Content

Including Dynamic Content

Dynamic content is defined as that special something extra that keeps visitors coming back for more and makes your site more interesting.

Dynamic content might be things like a message board, search box, polls, RSS feeds, and other fun extras. However, don't get carried away.

If you have quality content on your site, only a few pieces of dynamic content are all that's necessary.

Buy Ad Space

Buying Ad Space

Another effective way of driving traffic to your website is by purchasing advertising space. You can purchase ad space at a wide variety of places. For example, you can use the Google Adwords program.

With Adwords, you bid on search terms and positions. When someone performs a Google search, they'll see the sponsored site adds on the right hand side of the screen. These are Adwords ads.

You can also buy banner ads on popular websites. Another great place to advertise is on blogs. There are thousands of popular blogs out there that can showcase your site ad for a fee.

Then there are ezines, which can also be great places to purchase ad space. When advertising in ezines, go for text ads rather than banner ads. It's a scientifically proven fact that people are learning to overlook banner ads, making them less effective than a simple text ad.

One handy method of getting your site ad in ezines is to write for them. Often, ezine owners will trade you a little ad space in exchange for your article.

While purchasing ad space can certainly be an effective way to bring visitors to your site, let's examine some tactics that may not be so good.

One of them is buying credits at traffic exchange sites. These sites are usually looked down on by search engines, because it's like forcing traffic. Plus, the traffic you're getting is coming from other people who are only clicking through sites so that they can earn their own credits.

What happens is a vicious cycle. Not only do you not get quality traffic, your site could get penalized or dropped by search engines. So be sure to steer clear of any site that guarantees you traffic in this way.

Press Release

Writing a Press Release

Press releases are basically announcements that are distributed to journalists, newspapers, websites, and periodicals. When writing a press release, keep the point of view in the third person and write an attention-getting yet informative article about your site and what it has to offer.

To get your press release out there, try a site like http://www.pressreleasenetwork.com.

This is not by any means the only press release site out there you can use -- with a simple search you can find lots of places to submit your press release.

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