Seriously, you don’t need an expert to optimize your website for
better search engine rankings. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), after
all, is not rocket science. It is something you can learn and do it
yourself – all it takes is some serious readings and hard work.

However, there is something we need to know before we start any real
SEO work – the direction of our entire SEO campaign – What we are trying
to achieve? What are our targeted keywords? Who are our competitors?
That led us to the most important preparation work before any SEO
campaign get started – keyword research.

Keyword research is crucial as it acts like a compass for your
website or blog. A proper keyword research reveals the supply and demand
trends in your industries thus giving general idea on which keyword you
should focus on.

In brief, here is how you can do a keyword research:

  • Get a list of related keywords using Google Keyword Tool
  • Search each keyword to check how many websites turned out on the
    search engine result page (SERP) – this fits in as the number of
    supplies.
  • Websites topping the SERP are your major competitors, study them well.
  • To learn what are the demands, check number of searches for each keyword using keyword tools.
  • Tool suggestion for keyword research: Word Tracker and Keyword Discovery – these two are my favourites.

Well, now you have a rough idea on your competition. The smart
approach is to be a big fish in a small/average pond – for starters, you
should focus your work on keywords with moderate demands and low
competition.

Besides supply and demand, keyword research also offers valuable
information for your web designs. Take example that you are selling
shoes online, I am sure you’ll have questions like: What are the popular
brands searched online? How shoes should be categorized – based on
brand, occasion, or sizes?

All these can be answered as you run down the keyword research work.
You’ll see searches come in based on brands, like ‘DC shoes’, ‘jordan
shoes’, ‘nike shoes’; in the same time, searchers are also looking for
shoes for different activities or occasions, like ‘ballet shoes’,
‘safety shoes’, ‘bowling shoes’, ‘prom shoes’, and so on.

By the end of your research work, you should be able to generate a
list of target keywords. And now it’s the time to focus your SEO work on
them. To get started, here are the 10 key elements that will improve
your blog or website’s SEO quality immediately. 10 key elements that improve your website SEO quality immediately:

1. Index-able and Keyword-rich URL

The power of a keyword rich URL is often overlooked by bloggers and
webmasters. In case you have yet to registered your domain name, try
include your primary keywords in your domain; while for those who are
already running a website, a keyword rich URL (example: abc.com/keyword)
still helps a lot. One might complains that domain name with keywords
faces branding problems and hard to be remembered; but that’s the
dilemma every webmaster/blogger has to face.

Also, a good SEO practice is to avoid complicated dynamic URL that is
hard to be indexed. Try limit your URL to 2 – 3 variables, excessive
usage of ?, $, &, +, % characters as well as cgi-bin redirect will
only do you harm.

2. A reliable web hosting

Website with poor uptime will never rank high on search engines.
Let’s imagine that you are the search engine, how would ranking a down
website on top of your search result page looks like? Awfully bad, don’t
you think? Hence, hosting your website on a reliable web hosts –
dedicated or shared, is very crucial.

To pick up the right web host, you can always hang around reputable hosting forums like WebHostingTalk.com or you can read my personal hosting reviews here.

3. Keyword-rich title and heading tags

A keyword-rich page title is as crucial as a keyword-rich URL for a few reasons.

One, a keyword-rich title tells the search engine bots what the page
is about thus grouping your webpage into the right category; second,
most search engines will bold your keywords in title whenever that
particular keyword is searched. Common sense, the bolding effect will
definitely draw extra attention from the searchers and thus, brings more
clicks into your website/blog.

Heading tags (example <h1></h1>) is hard to be missed in
old times. Not now anymore. As more and more websites are built solely
on blogging software like Typepad and WordPress, heading tags are often
put in the wrong use.

Take WordPress (WP) templates for example, WP themes designers often
use heading tags for sidebar titles without relevant keywords (example:
Achieve, Categories) which bring no SEO value at all. To make sure your
blog is well SEO-ed, one top thing to do is to remove or modify these
headings into keyword-rich headings.

4. Alt tag on images

In term of SEO, putting descriptive alt attributes with your image
places additional relevant text to your source code. Search engines like
this and the more relevant text you have the better chances you get to
rank higher.

As an additional benefit, a descriptive image alt tag helps users to understand your image when it fails to load.

5. Proper structured internal linking

Search engines pay a lot of attention to links – both internal and
external. As internal links are those that can be controlled by you,
make sure your website internal linking is proper structured and filled
with relevant descriptive keywords. A plain anchor text like ‘click
here’ and ‘read more’ are not clever; ‘click here for more Jordan shoes’
and ‘read more about ballet shoes’ are.

For website owners, make sure there are plenty enough of internal
links pointing to your primary pages; for bloggers, mentioned and linked
to your previous blogpost whenever it’s appropriate, this give extra
link juice to your previous blogpost (hence better rankings) plus it
enables your readers to catch up what they missed.

6. Inbound links

Link development is an inevitable process if you want your website to
rank high. The keypoint, however, is not to obtain links blindly from
spammy websites and directories. Always emphasize quality on top of
quantity when you’re building links.

There are wide options for your link building campaign: from
submitting your sites to reputable directories to asking for a link
exchange; from buying text link ads to writing guest blog post in your
industries – some of these methods can be risky (of search engine’s
filter and bans) and some are not. What you need to do is to pick a
series of method you feel comfortable with and pour some sweat in the
link building campaign.

7. XML sitemap

XML sitemaps is used for search engine bots indexing. It runs as a
list of all pages and posts along with related information like priority
of each page and the date of creation. These elements help search
engine bots to crawl your websites/blogs as well as learning the
importance level of each page.

While XML sitemap is not a must for a website to rank high, it is
however good practice for web and blog owners to have it on site.

8. WWW/non-WWW Canonical Issue

Originally, all websites built can be viewed in two versions: the WWW
and the non-WWW version. In normal cases, the search engines should be
able to recognize the issue and rank the websites accordingly but
occasionally it fails. This led to serious problem where websites are
penalized (especially on Google) due to content duplication. Even if
there’s no penalty imposed, the web page indexed twice will have hard
time to rank high as the back links are (PR/anchor text) shared over two
web pages.

The solution of this problem is simple. One, you can login to Google
Webmaster Tools and tell them which version (WWW or non-WWW) of the
website is preferred. Alternatively, a simple 301 redirect code in your
.htaccess file is sufficient to solve the problem.

Example code:

To have your website in WWW version

RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} !^www”.example”.com $
RewriteRule (.*) http://www.example.com/$1 [R=301,L]

To have your website in non-WWW version

RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} !^ example”.com$
RewriteRule (.*) http:// example.com/$1 [R=301,L]

9. Robots.txt

Robots.txt simply tells search engine bots what to crawl and what not
to. It might not help that much in website rankings but it prevents
irrelevant objects to be related to your website – which is good for
your website to look focus (in search engine eyes) and professional.

10. Content is king

Users do not search for fun, they search for information and solution
to a problem. If your website or blog does not offer what the users
want, they will move away. As what had been widely covered by Nathan’s
post about increasing and maitaining blog traffics,
you should know attracting traffics via SEO is just the beginning; the
key point of having a successful website is always having an informative
website that solves human’s needs.

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