search engine optimization
There is no SEO Magic Bullet and anyone who says there is is either stupid, lying, or both. Instead there are multiple little tricks and techniques that do work. Placing high in search engines’ organic results takes time. (From here on, I’m going to use the term Google only because it’s the 800 lb gorilla and what works for Google tends to work for the other search engines too.)
Google’s search results are driven by algorithms. Their page rank and search algorithm is said to have 200+ variables. Google never discusses specifics but following Matt Cutts on YouTube is highly recommended.
One is rewarded for playing fair and punished for cheating. No one wins if Google’s results are lopsided, biased, or easily manipulated. They spend a lot of time filtering out cheaters trying to game the system. Don’t be mistaken for a spamming pornographer from Nigeria selling illicit pharmaceuticals. Build a good site with unique quality content for your target audience. Trying to outsmart Google/Yahoo/Bing doesn’t work.
Search engines use spiders to crawl through your site trying to figure out what it is and what to do with it. Spiders can’t read English (or any language for that matter). They rely on the clues you leave for them (knowingly or unknowingly). Feed the spiders and they’ll treat you well. Always use a sitemap and take advantage metadata every chance you get. Identify the core anchor pages on your site and include Dublin Core metadata in them.
Always, always use an accurate, descriptive & unique <title> for each page. I can’t emphasize this enough. Titles are extremely important. The description is more important than keywords. Both need to be unique for each page and consistent with the page’s content.
Use geolocation tags in the <head> of a page if i’s associated with a specific place. Locate the address on Yahoo! Maps and look in the URL for the lat/long or use http://geocoder.us/
<meta name="geo.position" content="47.611099;-122.33724" />
<meta name="ICBM" content="47.611099, -122.33724" />
Embedinga Google Maps is another geolocation clue.
Use Google Analytics. It’s extremely important to know who comes to your site, when, from where, what they do, if they return etc.
Use your site to promote your RSS feed(s) with links, icons, Feedburner, and autodiscovery. To implement autodiscovery, put this line in the <head>
<link rel="alternate" type="application/rss+xml" title="feed title" href="http://www.example.com/feed.xml" />
Integrate your web publishing with your Facebook updates, tweets, blog posts, feeds, etc. Again, make it all a habit. Once your site is established, get friends’n’family to blog & tweet about it. This builds a initial set of inbound links quickly. Grow the circle outward from there.
Inbound links from other sites are one of the major ways search engines use to figure out how important your site is. If 100 people link to you you must be more important than my site that has only 17 incoming links. The search engines assume that the rest of the world has ranked various sites’ relevance. The sites that link to you should be related to yours and that they should be quality sites that the search engines rank high. There’s little value in a link from a cooking site if your site is about car repair. Reciprocal links are tricky. If A links to B and B links to A, that really doesn’t convey any weighted data to the search engines. Better to have 100 inbound links and 10 outbound.
Always use alt tags for images and titles for links. The elements at the top of the page are more important than the bottom. The first paragraph is weighted more than the last. Things on the left are more important than the right. Use literal names for URLs, image and media files, link text, etc. Google recognizes the dash as a word delimiter within URLs.
The anchor text for links is extremely important. Make sure that it’s unambiguous and descriptive.
<a href="http://www.yourURL.com/">vegetarian black bean chili recipe</a>
is better than
vegetarian black bean chili <a href="http://www.yourURL.com/">recipe</a>.
The same goes for images, audio, video, etc. The search engine can’t listen to an MP3 or watch a video. You have to tell it what the anchor text is.
Spread your URL(s) far & wide. Put your URL in leaftlets & posters, press releases, t-shirts, QR barcodes, etc. Use your offline efforts to increase your online presence.
Make good SEO a habit. Build pages from a template that has metadata, spider bait, and other search engine clues built in.