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Friday, November 5, 2010

Cheap Search Engine Optimization

Before you hire an “SEO specialist” to optimize your site, make sure you’re doing all the quick and easy fixes that make for cheap search engine optimization.

Search engine optimization isn’t an exact science — at least not to site owners. Google wants to display the most relevant content to the given search. Bloggers simply want the traffic from showing up high in the search engine results pages (SERPS). And sometimes those two goals are at odds with each other. Google doesn’t publish their results algorithm and they change it often both to make it better and to keep people from gaming the system. So search is mostly a matter of trial and error and experience. And there is always ongoing debate about what works and how important it really is.

But there are some basic steps you can take to ethically increase your chances of showing up in the SERPS for relevant searches — snd most of them occur while creating each post. In my experience, the following 10 SEO tips are the easiest, most basic, and cheapest methods of optimizing your blog posts for search engines.

 Do Keyword Research

What search terms will be used by those looking for this blog post? While I’ll admit that keyword research is actually a huge, complex topic, you can at least begin to think about what readers will be looking for and try to focus your posts on phrases that might be used to search for them.

Since basic SEO depends upon having a solid understanding of what keywords are and how they work, this is the place to spend some time. The best tool I’ve found for this is Market Samurai. It’s easy to use and reliable and you can download a free trial. (It’s available on both Mac and PC!)

The free tutorials are very helpful for beginners and really explain in depth what to look for in quality keywords.


Use Keywords in the Title Tag

Once you know the keywords you’re targeting, use them in the post title.


Use Keywords in URL

Formerly called the “post slug,” simply use more of the same keywords in the end of the URL.
Thesis makes this simple. Just enter the words you want to use in the Permalink field just under the title field. I like to use the main keywords separated by hyphens, leaving out common words like “the” or “and.”


Focused & Updated Content

Your content shouldn’t just be about the keywords, it should contain the keywords. Try to use variances of the keywords to total around two to three percent of the content. Keep posts on topic and related when possible.

Download a free report explaining how to create compelling content that ranks well in search engines. Read it. Follow it.

Regularly updating your blog with quality posts will teach the search engines that they need to crawl your site regularly for new content. Keep them coming back!


Use Keywords in Categories

Keywords used as category names reinforces the keywords.


Use Keywords in Tags

Always tag your posts and include important keywords. This also makes it easier for browsers to find something they are interested in.


Use Meta Descriptions

In the Edit Post window in Thesis, there is section just below the content field called SEO Details and Additional Style.” This optional area has great stuff. The custom title tag will show up as the linked title in SERPS and the meta description will be the descriptive paragraph after the title in Google. Put keywords here and a great descriptions to draw readers in.
[Note: I haven't bothered with Meta Keywords for years now. Google stopped using them in it's algorithm due to abuse, so I don't think it's worth your time. Instead, spend an extra minute writing good content.]


Use Header Tags Appropriately

Your title will be given an H1 tag. Use other tags (H2, H3, etc.) to appropriate subdivide your post. In the “visual” content input method, this is done easily with the Paragraph drop-down menu. The words in the titles and subtitles are deemed relevant and important to your post.


Internal Links

Link to your posts — using keyword anchor text — from other posts on your blog. Interlinking old blog posts not only helps with SEO, but helps readers find other posts on topics they are interested and keeps them on your site longer.

Note that Day #8 in the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog is all about internal linking!


Create a Sitemap

A sitemap is simply a list of accessible pages on a web site. Back in the day, these had to be created manually and were time consuming and easily outdated. Now, they can be created automatically. I use a free plugin called Google XML Sitemaps that makes it easier for search engines to crawl your entire site.

Good luck with managing basic SEO functions. This is the first step to getting the results rank that will get your traffic flowing.





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