I get a lot of questions from folks who are just getting started with their Search Engine Optimization (SEO) efforts and the recurring questions usually revolve around rules of SEO. For example:
How many times should my keywords appear on my landing pages?
How many words in total should my landing pages contain?
They sound like direct and straight forward questions, right? Well unfortunately the answer to both of these questions is “it depends”. It depends on the keywords that you’re pursuing, your competition for those keywords, among other things. That’s why we offer free reports for questions like those. However there are a number of things that you can - and should do - to help elevate your SEO efforts.
SEO is a very dynamic and ever-changing environment so you should consider this punch list to be a living document (meaning, you may want to check back often since the rate of change can actually be so frequent that I won’t be keeping a history of the changes, I’ll just post them as I discover them). Your goal is to apply as much of this list to your site as is applicable and keep up with the updates as they’re added. Remember, you may hear about a lot of other tricks and uber-secrets that aren’t on my punch list; I only go with what Google/Yahoo/Bing have verified directly as genuine, white-hat SEO (good SEO) and techniques that are otherwise known to be accepted practice in the SEO world. Don’t risk getting banned from the search engines by applying questionable SEO tactics!
The SEO Punch List
- Do your keyword research to locate those not-so-competitive but still-popular keywords. Be intelligent about choosing which keywords to pursue.
- Optimize your landing page(s) to outscore your competition every day.
- Be sure to include the keyword(s) you’re pursuing in the url of the landing page (ditto for keyword usage in the title and headline tags).
- Adjust the total number of words on your landing page correctly.
- Adjust the total number of keywords on your landing page correctly.
- Make adequate use of the meta tags and use the correct amount of keywords correctly.
- Sign up for your free Google Webmaster Tools account. The value it will provide you will be incredibly amazing.
- Sign up and utilize Google’s Analytics. It will help you track all kinds of data about your site’s traffic, users, and performance.
- Social network sites are great for growing your presence, but they can make you a little crazy since there are so many of them. Start with getting an account with the big ones first like Facebook and Twitter and use them regularly to promote your site and content. LinkedIn is another good social media web site with an emphasis on business.
- Generate a sitemap.xml file for your site, and regenerate it every time you add new content. This will help you tell the search engines some important technical details about your site’s content. You’ll be able to cross-reference sitemap.xml details from your Google Webmaster Tools account too.
- Give your graphics and multimedia files SEO friendly names. Names like “image02534.png” won’t be as attractive to the search engines but “how-to-save-for-early-retirement.swf” will likely help your site’s SEO efforts. Don’t forget to use your keywords in your img’s alt attribute too.
- Link building is very important. Do everything you can to get those inbound links to your landing page(s).
- Internal links are also important so make sure you use them (anchor text works well for this).
- Identify your competition for your keyword(s) then request a reciprocal link with them.
- Identify your competition for your keyword(s) with a higher page rank than yours. Request a link or a reciprocal link with them.
- Utilize RSS feeds to help other sites consume your content.
- Blog. Don’t ramble and meander about the day’s events, stay on topic (to your keywords that you’ve already researched) and get community input. Become a hub and a focal point for all things about your keyword/subject matter.
- Create a custom 404 page for your web site. It will not only help users who may fat-finger an address but will give you a chance to help guide them and add a little bit of polish to your overall site experience.
- Make all of your site’s content available from HTML/CSS menus - don’t make exclusive use of Flash or an applet for your menus as search engines may get lost.
- Releasing a major product, enhancement or upgrade? Issue a press release, they’re great for a quick pop in traffic to your site.
- In the interest of becoming a major resource for your keyword/subject matter try creating a thoughtful resources page. Links to other sites, pdfs, videos, presentations, books, you name it. If it pertains to your site include a link to it. You can even include an “alert me” form so that viewers of your resources page can submit to you a resource that they link is valuable to the subject matter. You don’t always have to add the suggestion to your resource page but it opens up dialog between you and your viewers.
- Produce video/presentation material that you can post to youtube/vimeo. If it’s good others will embed your movies in their sites, so don’t forget to use your site’s url in your movie when you produce it. If you’re lucky it will go viral!
- Generate content that answers common questions that you’ll likely find in your industry’s forums and blogs. Locate those questions and offer up an honest summary with a link to your site for the full answer. IMPORTANT - It could get you blocked but if its a genuine and honest response to a posted question then your value will become apparent. Some sites are fickle....
- Submit your site to the major search engines.