Want more traffic from your friendly neighborhood search engine to your site? Here are some of the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) tricks I’ve picked up along the way.
Rule #1: make it easy for the search engines to see and understand your content
- make as much content visible to users that are not logged in as you can–search engines cannot login and they will not index any content that is behind a login barrier
- use descriptive names for everything, including your domains, paths, pages, and assets, i.e. http://tofu-recipes.ggr.com/ and http://ggr.com/recipes/how-to-make-tofu.html and tofu-raw-ingredients.jpg
- include descriptive “alt” attributes in your image tags
- make certain all of your content is reachable within 3 clicks of the homepage, i.e. add a sitemap
- try surfing your site with a text web browser to get an idea what your site looks like to a search engine
Rule #2: stake out a small number of key phrases
- choose a prioritized list of phrasesyou want to rank well with. You can start by looking at your web logs to see what terms are already generating natural search traffic for you. Google’s Keyword Tool can also give you some ideas.
- choose 2-3 phrases to brand each page. Incorporate the phrases you chose onto their pages. Including each key phrase 3-6 times on a page is usually ok, 100 is usually not–search engines will penalize you for gaming the system if you put too many on there, but where the line is is not public knowledge.
- make certain both internal and external links to your pages use an associated key phrase as the text of the anchor
- include your key phrases in your title, header, and meta tags; include them in your host, domain, and path names as well, whenever practical
- buy your key phrases from the search engines, so your ads show up instead of your competition when searching on those phrases
Rule #3: get more external links
One of the single most important things you can do (for Google in particular) is to increase the number of links to your site from other sites (the more reputable, the better).
- encourage folks to link to your website from their Facebook, LinkedIn, and other profiles
- encourage folks to Twitter, blog, or include a link to your site to their Facebook/LinkedIn/etc status updates
- offer links with your content to Digg, Reddit, and other services that make it easy for your visitors to link to your content and tell their friends about your site
- don’t forget to make certain the links to your site use a key phrase associated with the page they link to, whenever possible
Rule #4: don’t split your traffic
- redirect old links to the current pages (or you won’t get credit for those external links). Look in your web logs and in Google for old links.
- any given page/content should have only one URL including parameters whenever practical
- eliminate parameters from the URL–try using redirects to eliminate parameters while preserving their functionality
- use robots.txt to prevent indexing of pages you don’t want indexed (i.e. error pages)
- don’t have more than 3 or so key phrases associated with a given page
Rule #5: follow up
SEO is a moving target: the search engine algorithms change, your competitions’ sites change, your site changes. You have to stay vigilant or you may lose ranking on your key phrases over time.
- search Google’s for “link:ggr.com” to track how many external links you have (replace “ggr.com” with your site). Record the number once per week.
- search for your key phrases in the major search engines once per week. Record where you rank. Record where your top competition ranks.
- analyze your competition and copy the tactics that work–they may stumble onto a good SEO tactic before it is well known