Basic SEO Strategy

Cheryl Cain
Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, can cause confusion among even the most seasoned webmasters. What is it? How do I do it? Does it take a long time? Does it really work? All of these are fair, common and realistic questions; the goal of this article is to give a basic understanding of functional SEO without the advanced concepts that tend to confuse newer webmasters.

The first thing you should know is that you can get your sites banned from the major search engines by attempting to use questionable SEO practices. No one can guarantee top placement in the search engines as the algorithms that drive the technology are constantly modified to catch the quick "tricks" and "cheats." So, ignore the gimmicks, quick fixes and tricks as they generally prove to be a waste of time. A slow steady growth is usually best and produces a more robust long-term result.

Page titles are a good starting point and while not a mandatory component, the page title tag helps establish relevancy. When the title is selected in concert with well-planned key words and description tags it helps enhance the page's position in search engines. Care should be used to avoid abstract terms or dilution terms such as "cool," "wild" or "hot." Many search engine spiders recognize terms such as these as trying to artificially boost a page's position and may even handicap the page for the attempt.

The next area that you will want to focus on is your META description tag. This should contain important and obviously descriptive information related to your site. Generally listed immediately after the linked page name in the Search Engine Result Page (SERP), this is your first opportunity to present your sales pitch to potential surfers. Again, you'll want to make this a relevant pitch, avoiding unneeded and colorful verbs. Modern spider technology employs techniques that check your page's text, description and title as components to rank relevancy.

The META Keyword tag can follow the META Description tag, but it has been proven that most search engines, other than Inktomi, no longer use it due to early abuses of this META tag. While perhaps less effective to major search engines, smaller link lists sometimes use the keywords found in this field for their own internal cross references so many experts agree that it is still worth including.

Moving onto optimization of the page body, another note worthy component is the header tags. What makes these beneficial for search engine optimization is that many spiders will utilize this information as an additional source to establish and compare relevancy with respect to the other components listed above. They are particularly useful in reinforcing your site's keywords by identifying sections of your page that coincide with that keyword's topic.

Optimization of the site page itself is nothing more than just expressions in common sense. You should begin by trying to actually sell the product to the surfer by putting together a well-written, well-organized page that is topic relevant as well as tastefully designed. Work as many keywords and phrases into the prepared text as make rational sense without over hammering your keywords. Modern spider algorithms are designed to detect repetitious use of keywords, a practice that is known as Search Engine "Spamming," and in many cases will result in handicapping your site's placement.

There are some other HTML components that can help add keyword reinforcement with out getting too obvious. For example 'Alt' tags are used to define a location where an image resides, often utilized by non-graphical browsers (yes they still do exist). These are simply a text-based reference whose name is normally arbitrary. Consider using some of your keywords in these locations. Additionally links to other pages within your site can also be keyword or keyword phrases. Title tags will be seen in the browser's status bar or as a mouse-over (on some browsers) so if you use keywords here, make sure it makes sense.

If getting spidered quickly is your goal consider the use of a site map. Site maps are nothing more than a road map to all location within your web site that you wish to make available to search engines. Spiders and robots are built to find them, but making your site map highly visible is as simple as naming the file sitemap.html. Google now has an experimental free Site Map program that is designed to help Google's spider engine find pages that aren't linked anywhere else. It's worth considering while you are building your Site Map.

The major search engines decide where to place your site in the SERP by how relevant your pages are in a particular topic or subject. They determine this by not only gauging your page's relevancy internal to your page, but also link traffic to and from your page(s). Therefore link trading with similar topic pages will also add to your popularity rating in the search engines. The web is just that, a web. You want to make sure your sites are built in a fashion that works with the intricacy of the web. Trading links with other sites will also help to expose your site to more access points for spiders and robots to easily find you.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) does not need to be as complicated as many make it out to be. Working these small tips it into your normal work schedule as you build your pages keeps it from being a time consuming task. Keep your sites simple, linked to relative web locations and avoid using cheap tricks is how you can get to the top of the search engines and start making real money off of targeted traffic that is looking for your content.