The BASICS of Getting a Good Search Engine Ranking (SEO)

The topic of search engine optimization (SEO) is one that all web authors should be concerned about, even if you don’t care where your site ranks in Google. Why, do you ask? Because the basics of optimizing your pages so that search engines will find and rank them well are also the same basic things you should be doing to make your site more valuable to your visitors.

1. Good, well-written content.

As the saying goes “Content is King”! For the most part people don’t come to your web site to be entertained, they are usually looking for information about topics that interest them. Spend more time on your writing as opposed to make your site flashy. There are exceptions of course, sites like TV.com, ComedyCentral.com and others are in the entertainment business. However, even for sites like these good, well-written content is must.

2. Think about what people are searching on.

If you want your pages to rank well you need to write about what people are searching on. All of the major search engines will let you see the latest searches on their sites. For Google searches go to Google’s Insight page. You can use tools like this one to look at topics within your area of expertise. You can also begin to build a list of keywords that we will need later.

The topic of keyword development will be the subject of future post. For now just create your own list of keywords that relate your industry.

3. Mind your HTML

While you don’t have to be a skilled web developer to optimize your pages, you should mind a few basic HTML code practices that affect search engines, namely:

  • Page Titles – Page titles are visible to visitors at the very top of a browser window. It is also one of the areas of your page that search engines look at first. Include keywords (from your research above) in your page titles, and also be sure to include them in the body of your pages.
  • Link Titles – When creating hyperlinks on your page, whether in the body of your page or in the navigation structure, be sure to use words that the average visitor would understand and also include keywords that you know are of interest to people.
  • Alternative Text – When you add a photo (or other non-text item) to your pages be sure to include “alternative text”. This is done by putting a brief description of that photo into the ALT tag. Most popular web authoring tools give you an easy way to do this. This is also an important part of keeping your pages accessible by visitors using assistive technologies to read your pages.

4. Links

When talking about SEO there are two types of links we want to pay particular attention to because they will improve our rankings.

  • Internal Links – these are links that you create from within the body of text on each page of your site. When search engines crawl through your site they will follow links to other parts of your site. Be sure to create links to other parts of your site that are appropriate, for instance if you are writing a multi-piece article, or if you have several blog topics that relate to each other.
  • External Links – these are links that other web sites provide to your site. It used to be that a lot of webmasters spent a lot of time cultivating reciprocal linking strategies with other web site owners. At the time it was a good strategy for getting visitors. Soon it became very difficult to manage. Nowadays, search engines look at the quality of inbound links, not just the total number. Links for well-known and reputable sources will raise your page rank. So how do you get these high-quality inbound links? Good, well-written content about topics that people are searching on! (How’s that for bringing things full circle.)

As you can see optimizing your pages for search engines is not a difficult thing. This list is not all there is to the topic of SEO, but if you can do the basics well you will notice a difference not only in your search engine rankings but also in the usability of your pages by your visitors.