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General SEO Guidelines

The world of SEO increases in complexity by the month it seems, but here's an overview of techniques and terms to start with.


1. Meta Tags

  • These are the very base elements of SEO.  Every page needs keyword-rich meta tag code elements such as Titles and Descriptions. Learn more...

2. Optimized Page Content

  • A. Body Copy & Text

    Search engines now rely heavily on actual page text and not only the meta tags, meaning optimized body copy can greatly increase your search engine rankings.  Base levels of this would primarily use current page content which would be edited to reflect the most important words and phrases.  Advanced levels could require extensive copy rewriting.
  • B. Content Keyword Links

    Primary words and phrases site-wide would be linked back and forth between pages to emphasize what the search engines should be focusing on.

3. Header tags (H1/H2, etc.)

  • Header tags are blocks of code that define paragraph/content headings and subheadings.  They can also be used to reflect a page's title above its main content.  Although images have been used extensively in the past and look much better, they are almost completely without SEO value.  Header text and code will use a page's title and even descriptive phrases to show a page's areas of emphasis.

4. Image ALT tags

  • Every image on  a site can have an invisible bit of code that is search engine friendly.  Particularly important images like event , personnel, product, portfolio, or service-example images  are the highest priority for ALT tags.

5. Sitemap Linkage

  • While a visual sitemap might be available for website viewers, an XML sitemap can be created and directly linked with search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing.  Sitemaps are read by search engines periodically depending on a number of factors, and can tell each search engine exactly what pages are available on the entire site and any priorities they have.  Once the sitemap/webmaster tools account is setup and the sitemap link is established, there are no recurring fees for the 3rd party accounts.

6. Google Analytics Integration

  • A Google Analytics account is setup and tracking code is implemented site-wide onto every page.  Google Analytics has become the primary source for tracking website viewers and SEO progress and data such as visitors, page hits, bounce rates, etc.  Google Analytics is the industry standard tracking method to date, and gives as much information about a site's visitors as is available.  Like the sitemap integration, after initial setup there are no ongoing charges for the Analytics account itself, however management fees may apply if required.

7. Location Pages

  • For area-specific businesses, search engine friendly pages can be created with the primary purpose of identifying a website with a city, state, region, or country.  These pages have shown to be very effective.
  • Purpose 1 - Search engines like Google automatically yield search results based on the location a user is searching from.  The better a site and business are linked to a physical location, the more likely it will come up in a search result for someone searching in that region who doesn't specifically type it in.
  • Purpose 2 -  Since users sometimes do add names of their immediate area into their searches, this method will improve a site's ranking compared to a site that has an ambiguous or non-emphasized physical location.

8. Landing Pages

  • Multiple landing pages can be created for any topic being promoted on a site.  The purpose is twofold at a minimum, and becomes increasingly important with additional elements such as Adwords Campaigns as mentioned below.
  • Purpose 1 - Add additional content elements to increase interest and weight to a topic in order to drive more overall website traffic regarding those specific topics.  Goal: DRIVE new traffic to the site.
  • Purpose 2 - Different keywords and phrase combinations can be used for each page, which can then be tracked using Google Analytics.  As more important and effective keywords and phrases are identified, the results can be implemented in other areas of the site.  Goal: Determine HOW new traffic is arriving at the site.

9. Dynamic and Regularly-updated Content

  • Search engines monitor content on a site, and whether or not it has been updated recently.  A site that is viewed as static or abandoned will be given less priority than a site receiving new and updated content on a regular basis.  Content should be added as often as possible, and should be as relevant as possible to the driving

10. Searchable Paths & Links

  • For years, filenames, paths, and links were kept as short as possible for a number of reasons.  Recently, not only have long paths become acceptable, they've become increasingly important for SEO purposes.  Whereas a page's link used to be http://www.domain.com/about.html , for SEO the same page might now be changed to http://www.domain.com/this-company/history-foundation-capabilities-about-us .  While this can be accomplished on essentially any site, Web 2.0 sites are far more capable and easier to manage when it comes to the new style of longer URLs.

11. Detailed Analysis

  • A thorough analysis package can be created which includes all elements above, tracking statistics of current results, competing sites, keyword targets & keyword usage, target market, target market search terms, and recommended improvements.  This can be done as a one-time package or as a monthly service and pricing can vary considerably.

12. Adwords Campaigns

  • Google Adwords has become the single most important method for advertising websites on the Internet.  A website purchases words through Google's system which Google then uses to display ads on other websites.  A campaign consists of many elements and must be managed as an ongoing effort with monthly, weekly, and daily updates.   A massive amount of tracking data becomes available through this method of SEO, and it ties together every other element before it.

Bonus SEO elements

Text-based navigation menus, slogans, sluglines, etc.

  • Images are not readable by search engines and can hamper search engine readability.  The more of a site's key elements that are created using text instead of images, the better the  overall searchability.  This can limit design aesthetics, however, so it is a constant form/functionality call.

Matching Header tags to the meta title tags

  • If the top-level header tag on a page matches its meta-title, it's been known to help.

Automated, Dynamic Site Map

  • The website itself constantly updates its own sitemap and accounts for new and/or deleted pages automatically. (Generally available only in full Web 2.0 websites.)

SEO Don'ts

  • All Flash or image-only splash pages.
    Splash pages used to serve as a primary entrance point for a site and might contain only a large image, video, or Flash element with eye-catching content, an Enter button, and generally limited additional content.  For the most part, these  have been phased out for SEO purposes as elements like body copy and text navigation have become increasingly important.  
  • Flash Elements
    Flash is still great for many purposes, but its content is entirely unreadable by search engines and therefore scores a big zero with any content it contains.
  • Many more to come...
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