Search Engine Optimization Manual - A. M. Software Services, Inc.

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SEO
The Register
.
com
Search Engine
Optimization
Handbook
grow your business online
.
handholding included.
Introductio
n
An
Introduction to Search Engine Optimization (SEO) ...............................
.

Getting Started with Search Engine Optimization ......................................
.

Search Engine Optimization Basic Terminology ..........................................
.
Common Misconceptions about Search Engine Optimization ...................
.

How Searchers Look at Web Sites .........................
.....................................
.

How Search Engines Look at Web Sites .....................................................
Goal
s
The Purpose of Your Web Site

.....................................................................
Target Your Audience

..................................................................................
Keyword
s
What are Keywords and How Do I Use Them? ..........................................
.
How Important are Keywords? .......................................
.............................
Keyword Research Strategies .....................................................................
.
Stage 1 K
eywords & Phrases Research

........................................................
.
Stage 2
Keywords & Phrases
Analysis
........................................................
.
Stage 3 Keywords & Phrases Implementation:
The Title Tag .......................
Stage 3 Keywords & Phrases
Implementation:

The META Description Tag ..
Stage 3 Keywords & Phrases I
mplementation:

The META Keywords Tag ....
.
Stage 4 Keywords & Phrases in Site Copy:
What is Good Content? ............
Stage 4 Keywords & Phrases in Site Copy:
How to Write Good Content ....
Stage 4 Keywords & Phrases in Site Copy:
Guidelines for the Web ............
.
Site Desig
n
Basic Site Design and SEO Guidelines

.........................................................
Links

Links and How They Affect SEO

...................................................................
Site Submission Basic
s
Site Submission and Search Directories

......................................................
Site Submission and Search Engines


...........................................................
SEO For The Long Ha
u
l
Avoid
Black Hat SEO ....................................................................................
SEO Guidelines Checklist for the Road ........................................................
Search Engine Optimization Summary ........................................................
.
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Search Engine Optimization Handbook
An Introduction to Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Your Web site is one of literally billions that are currently on –or will be on– the Web. So, the

question is: how do you make your Web site visible to search engines so that it can be visible
to search engine users? Magic pixie dust? Mythical rings? Luck? Actually, no. You’ll need to go
through the process of search engine optimization.

What is search engine optimization?

If you’re anything like me, when you first heard the
phrase “search engine optimization,” you were probably a little in
-
timidated. How in the world could a “regular Joe” figure out this seemingly horribly complicated and technical subject?
And really, why was it necessary? Wouldn’t search engines see Web sites without any fancy optimizing or marketing? I
had all these thoughts and more when I first started out, but I soon learned that while certain aspects of search engine
optimization (SEO) were highly technical, the basic philosophy of good SEO was not. Actually, it ended up being just a
lot of good, old-fashioned common sense designed to get my Web site higher in the rankings. And, as for the question
of “is it necessary?,” I guess that depends on your goals for your Web site.

What are your goals for your Web site?

One of the very first things you should do when starting
to learn how to optimize your Web site is to get a good handle
on what kind of goals you have for your particular site. Your goals probably include the following:
- Make your site the absolute best it can be

- Steer more user traffic to your site (and hopefully get more sales!)

- Eventually get a higher ranking in search results
Most likely, your goal is a combination of all three of these. In order to accomplish these goals for your site, you’re
going to have to learn and implement basic search engine optimization. There really is no other way to get your site
noticed and keep getting it noticed for the long haul.


Why do I need to get my Web site higher rankings?

Top rankings for your site (and that would be in the top
20 search rankings or higher) are essential in order for your
site to succeed in today’s competitive world. Why? Well, think of your own search experiences. When you “Google”
something, do you ever click past the first or second page of results? Probably very rarely, and that is common with
most searchers. In order to get people to your Web site, you’re going to have to be in those highly coveted top ranked
results, and once you learn the basics of SEO, I am confident you will have the skills you need to carry this out.
Every site owner and creator should make search engine optimization an integral part of their overall site strategy and
business plan, because without good, solid SEO tactics your site will not get the high rankings in search results.

What does search engine optimization include?

A good, solid search engine optimization strategy
consists of the following factors:
- Rich, keyword and key phrase laden content.
This is the core of your site.
- Clean, simply navigated design.
Both search engine crawlers and search engine users will thank you.
- Well-written source code.
This would include your HTML title tags, Meta tags, alt image tags, and


anchor tags.
- Patience and hard work.
Unfortunately, there’s no magic formula to follow, but the strategies outlined

in this basic SEO manual will get your site well on its way to higher search rankings.
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Boiled down to its very essence, all search engine optimization consists of is making your site the very best site it can
possibly be. Of course, there’s a lot that goes into this process, but if you keep that basic definition in mind you’ll have
an easier time determining what exactly it is you need to do in order to accomplish this goal.

A few reasons why search engine optimization is vital to your business
There are a lot of people online.
According to
Global Internet Statistic
s
at:
http://ww
w.glreach.c
om/globstats/
, there
were more than 800 million people online, as of September 2004. If you wan
t some
of these
people
to visit your site,
you’re going to need to optimize so they can find your site.
A lot of these people use search engines.
Nielsen NetRatings shows that in
March 2005, out of about a million
people surveyed, more than 47% used Google alone to find something onlin
e
, with the rest of the search engines
following close upon its heels. Google, along with other search engines and directories, are vital to your site’s success.
If you want to be found by search engine users, you’re going to have to help search engine users find you.
Search engine users want quick results.
Most people only look at the
first or second pages of result
s
when searching
for something online. If your site is not optimized to show up in the first or second pages, you’re out of luck. You need
to optimize your site (I sense a theme here!) in order for these people to find you quickly.

Bottom line.

Search engine optimization is not scary, it’s not intimidating, and it’s not hard to implement. The basics of good SEO
don’t involve tricky programming or complicated algorithm chasing; in fact, you’ll be pleasantly surprised when you
start really learning about search engine optimization at how basic and full of common sense it really is.
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Getting Started with Search Engine Optimization
Whether your site is already designed and out there, or just a “twinkle in your eye,” there are a
few things you’ll need to keep in mind when starting your SEO campaign to avoid extra work.
The reality check of keywords.
Be realistic about your keyword choices. It’s always better to optimize your pages
for keyword phrases versus just one keyword, because multiple studies have shown that searchers tend to search by
phrase, not just by one word. For example, if you really want to be found for the word “boat,” do you really think you
have a good chance of being found for just that one word? Probably not, when you think about all the pages that have
the word “boat” in them (over 32 million results in Google alone). However, say you are a boat builder in Maine, and
your site is all about your business. The keyword phrase “maine boats” or “maine boat for sale” or “maine boat builder”
would do a lot better, plus, you’d get more targeted traffic to your site; that is, people who are actually looking for your
site and probably more apt to buy something from you.
Don’t put all your Meta tags in one basket.
You might have heard that Meta tags are the magic bullet that will get
your site to the top of the charts, and that all search engine optimization is about is just getting your Meta tags in order.
Well, not exactly. Most search engines don’t give much weight to Meta tags anymore and they definitely don’t pull the
weight that they used to. However, that being said, you should optimize your Meta tags just like you optimize the rest
of your site. Every bit of this process works together to eventually become a lean, mean, search optimized machine. So
make sure you optimize your Meta tags, but don’t agonize over them.
Site design – Don’t go nuts.
It’s easy to get carried away with the latest Web design techniques, but be careful.
Search engine spiders have a difficult time crawling such design instances as frames, dynamic content, or poorly
designed navigation systems. If spiders can’t crawl your site easily, following link to link, you can bet that search
engine users can’t navigate it very easily as well. Go easy on the fancy stuff and focus instead on building a
simple, clean site that is a pleasant user experience for both search engine spiders and search engine users. If your
grandmother has a difficult time figuring out how to navigate your site, you’ll need to fix it.
Be careful about the quick fix.
You’ll probably come across SEO companies that promise to rocket your site to the
top of the search listings in ten days or less, or some other such pie-in-the-sky promise. I say, run! Most of these
companies utilize techniques known as “black hat SEO,” which involves unethical, spammy tricks only intended to
fool search engines into giving their sites higher rankings. None of these tactics have any place in good search engine
optimization. Some of these techniques include:
- Keyword Stuffing:
literally cramming as many
keyword and keyword phrases into

your source code and content as possible, be they relevant to your site or not.

- Invisible Text:
keyword stuffing with a twist; making these words “invisible” on

your site by designating them the same color as the background.

- Doorway Pages:
Creating a simple page(s)
whose sole purpose is to achieve a

high search ranking on a specific phrase.

You’ll want to stay away from these practices and focus instead on solid and basic search engine optimization.

It’s not glamorous, but a well-thought out SEO campaign will get you a lot further than unethical techniques.
So, that’s all I need, right? Google number one spot here I come!
Slow down there... You’re going to have to give
your site time to “gel” in the search engine world. Give yourself a general time frame of between three to six months
to start looking for quantifiable improvements. Usually, the process takes much less time than this, but three to six
months is a reasonable amount of time to assign.

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Search Engine Optimization Terminology
Before we get started talking about search engine optimization full-blast, it’s best you learn
some
of the basic terminology. That way, you’ll feel comfortable at every step of this learning process.

What is a search engine?
Basically, a search engine is a tool that retrieves Web pages from its database that are
relevant to the entered search query. There are a couple of ways that search engines add pages to their databases:
manual submissions or spider-crawled submissions. “Spiders” are just software programs that “crawl” the Web for
new or updated Web sites. Search engines have complicated mathematical formulas based on a number of factors
in order to rank sites; however, thankfully the basic principles of search engine optimization cover these (in other
words, there’s no need to learn algorithms anytime soon!). Most sites are automatically added to search engines’
databases, and there is really no need to submit your site anymore – that is, if you’ve optimized it. (You can if you
want to, however.) Examples of search engines are Google, MSN Search, and AltaVista.
What is a search directory?
A search directory is like a search engine, except real people rather than software
programs manually review all of its sites. In order to get listed with a directory, you must actually submit your front
page URL using the directory’s submission process. One very different thing about directories as opposed to search
engines is that Web sites submitted to directories are (usually) ranked according to the information that you provide
in the submission process, as opposed to actual content on the Web site, so obviously the information you provide
is critically important. Examples of search directories are Yahoo! and Open Directory.
How does a search engine work?
If I were to really go into the complicated processes under the hood of a search
engine, most likely both of our heads would explode. It’s that complicated. However, in a very small nutshell, this is
basically how search engines work:
Match.
Once you type in a search query, the search engine, through a fantastically
convoluted mathematical process, analyzes these words and figures out which
pages in its database will match these particular words.
Rank.
There are a lot of Web pages in search engine databases (at last count
Google had around 8 billion.). So, in order to deliver more effective results, search
engines sort out the results for your query ranking the best ones on top.
View.
Ta-da! In a matter of seconds, your search results are displayed.
What’s with all those acronyms?
There are a few common acronyms in search engine optimization that you
should probably know just to save some time:
SEO:


Search Engine Optimization
ROI:


Return on Investment
SEM:
Search Engine Marketing
SERP:


Search Engine Results Page
PR:


PageRank (refers to Google PageRank)
ODP:


Open Directory Project
Keyword Phrase:
a phrase consisting of two or more words that is typed into a search engine, and also, what
you optimize for on your site. Knowing how to research, write, and include keyword phrases is probably the most
important “take-away” you’ll need after you’re done with this SEO tutorial.
Title Tags
: this is the text that is actually in the HTML title tag at the beginning, or head, of an HTML document.
Title tags are very important in SEO because search engines use these to name your page in the search engine
listings, so it’s important to pay special attention to writing a good title tag. The title tag is found in two places: the
top of the browser window and the search results page.
META Tags:
these would include both the META keywords and META description tags. They are in the head of your
HTML document, and contain information that search engines will (sometimes) use in order to classify your site.
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Anchor Tags:
Anchor text is the actual text of a hyperlink that you create in your site, and lies

between the <a> and </a> tag. It looks like this:
<A href= http://www.websearch.about.com>Websearch at About.com</A>.
Always use anchor text when creating hyperlinks, rather than just giving out straight links, because not only does it
create a more user-friendly Web page, but search engines assign more relevancy to the content on your pages.
Alt Image Tags:
If you have images on your site, they need to include a descriptive tag that gives a text alternative
to those who are unable to view images or those who have images turned off. Make sure to give your alt image tag
a keyword and key phrase rich description of about 2-4 words. An alt image tag looks something like this:
<img src=“candle.jpg” width=“10” height=“30” alt=“homemadecandle logo”>
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Common Misconceptions about Search Engine Optimization
The process of building a Web site can be daunting. You’ve got to come up with the design, the
images, the content, a good domain name, and a whole lot more. Once you’ve uploaded to the
Internet, a magical fairy comes and whisks your site to the top of the search listings in engines
such as Google, Yahoo!, and Ask Jeeves.
Actually, there’s no magic involved in getting your site known and in the top search
engine
listings--just a lot of hard work, patience, and more hard work. The general rule of thumb is to
give yourself
at least three to six months
before you start looking for quantifiable, measurable
results. The process of making your Web site more relevant to targeted keywords and phrases,
optimizing source code and content - therefore attracting more site visitors from search sites -
is called search engine optimization (SEO). A good, solid search engine optimization strategy is
essential to a site’s success on the Web.
Here are a few common misconceptions and fears about SEO:
SEO is too difficult to understand for regular
people.
Not so. The basics of a good search engine optimization
strategy, which this tutorial is all about, will equip you with what you need to make your site succeed in the search
listings. Sure, there are some complicated topics in SEO, just like anything else. But once you have the basics under
your belt, you’ll be well prepared to optimize your site.
There’s too much for me to learn about SEO.
I’ll never catch up. Again, not so. Search engine optimization is
just like any other subject. You wouldn’t expect to learn everything there is about the War of 1812 by watching
one PBS documentary, would you? SEO is much the same. Just learn the basics and move on from there. You’ll be
surprised at how much more comfortable you feel once you’ve learned the core concepts.
SEO takes up too much time.
Not really. Again,
good search engine optimization is very basic. It just means you
need to have a different point of view when writing your content, creating your source code, and designing your
site’s look. You’re already spending time doing all these things, so if you optimize your site for search engines,
you’re only helping yourself.
My site is too big.
I’ll never be able to optimize it all.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will your site. The
best strategy is to take one page at a time. Each page is a possible doorway into your site: that means that every
single page can be your calling card to a possible customer or user. Focus on your most popular pages first to see
what they need, and then keep the SEO core concepts in mind as you create new pages.
I don’t need SEO.
I’m already doing well in the search
engines. That’s great! However, you probably don’t want to
ride off into the sunset just yet. Good search engine optimization is an ongoing process. There’s always something
that could be tweaked, optimized or revamped. Learn the basics of SEO and find out how you can apply them to
your site to make it even more successful.
I’ve got this covered.
I should show up in the Google
Top 10 within a few weeks. Very few sites are able to
accomplish a Google top ten ranking within a few months, let alone a few weeks. The general rule of thumb is to
give yourself
at least three to six months
before you start looking for quantifiable, measurable results. Remember,
search engine optimization takes time. Eventually, with hard work and patience, you’ll see the results you’re

looking for.
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How Searchers Look at Web Sites
Put yourself in the seat of a casual Web
searcher. How do you look at Web sites? Studies show
that most searchers don’t bother to scroll down past the first seven or eight results in search
engines, and then, when they get to the Web site itself, they either know what they’re looking for
or they most decidedly do not.
That’s where search engine optimization comes in. There are three kinds of searchers
and you’re going to have to (somehow) meet their needs:
Passive searchers.
These folks don’t get on the Net very often, and when they do, they tend to go straight for
the big commercial sites. They don’t use keywords or keyword phrases in their search queries; for the most
part, they use natural language (“why is the sky blue?”). They’re looking for simple, clear answers and they
prefer the direct route, i.e., if they see their search query in its exact form somewhere in the search results or
on the page itself, they will trust that site. If they can’t find what they’re looking for, they will give up easily.
Selective searchers.
These are the moderately experienced Web searchers. They know how to navigate to
the sites they are looking for, and they are able to use search engines in a somewhat sophisticated manner.
They’re more selective on what kind of sites they click on: they don’t necessarily go to the first search results,
but evaluate the look and feel of the sites they end up on in order to test and validate that the information is
true and trustworthy. Selective searchers are more discriminating than passive searchers and tend to be more
tenacious in their search quests.
Dynamic searchers.
These searchers know how to use search engines, directories, navigate to Web sites, use
portals--you name it, they can do it. They’ve been on the Web long enough to feel comfortable and confident
in their search efforts, and while they definitely know their way around, they don’t scrimp on evaluating the
reliability, usability and accessibility of the sites and search tools that they use. These searchers will not come
back to a site that does not perform up to their high standards, because they are savvy enough to know they
can just go find another site that has better information, and quickly. Dynamic searchers are hard to please,
but once you entice them to come to your site, they will be some of your most loyal followers. (Read more
about types of searchers at
Adult Learners’ Information Seeking Behaviors Using the We
b

at: http://www.
elearningeuropa.info/index.php?
)
So, what does this all mean?

In the context of search engine optimization, you’re going to have to be the best of all worlds to all of these searchers.
You’re going to have to position your site to be easily accessible, non-intimidating, but sophisticated enough to not talk
down to anyone. It’s a tall order, to say the least. However, now that you know the kinds of searchers that exist, you’re
better equipped to meet their needs.
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How Search Engines Look at Web Sites
There are a few basic things every search
engine looks for when determining which site deserves
to be on top of the search engine results. Some search engines give more weight to links; some
search engines give more weight to title tags and content. Thankfully, the basics of search engine
optimization cover all the various search engine bases, and there is no need to optimize for one
specific engine. In fact, this is not even recommended, since search engines tend to change their
complicated algorithms frequently to compete with each other, and it would be impossible to
keep up. Here are the main two things search engines look for when determining ranking.
Keywords and phrases.
Search engines start
with the easiest thing to match up with your search query, and
that would be that particular keyword or phrase entered. You might have heard the terms keyword density, key
-
word prominence, keyword proximity, or keyword weight batted around. All these terms are different parts of
the same process. Search engines scan for how many times a particular word or phrase is placed on your site,
if they are placed in prominent places such as the title or headings, how close the terms are placed together,

and how relevant they are to the search query. All this boils down to one of the most basic concepts in

search engine optimization, and that is optimizing your content and source code with relevant and appropriate

keywords and phrases.
Links.
If you have a page with great keyword density, prominence, etc., but nobody knows about it, it doesn’t
do well in search engines. Why? The next time you go on the Web, keep track of how many times you surf to
a site that is recommended by another site: be it on a blogroll, a “Suggested Links” page, or another method.
This is called “link popularity.” It’s a brilliant concept – pages that are linked to by other pages tend to be better
pages. Search engines rate pages more highly if they are linked to by a lot of other Web pages, especially if
they have good content with lots of keyword phrases. And, if you have a site that has good content, then it’s
almost inevitable that you will get links. The two go hand in hand. In addition, search engines have software
programs called “spiders” or “crawlers” that love to eat links; in other words, the more links you have going
both in and out of your site, the more spiders will crawl your site. It all comes back to the whole tell-a-friend
concept: a site links to your site, another site links to that site that has linked to your site, and eventually all
these links will add up votes of confidence in your site. Links, in a word, are good.
Basic search engine optimization, at its core, successfully addresses how search engines view
your page.
If you optimize your content and source code and are able to get other sites to link to you, then you have
what it takes for search engines to start ranking you highly in the search results.
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The Purpose of Your Web Site
There are a lot of Web sites out there, and each of them serves a specific purpose, or purpos
es.
Whether you’re just starting to create your site, or you have one already established, it’s a smart
idea to figure out what your site’s purpose is, which will help you determine who your target

audience is, which will help you figure out how to come up with keywords and phrases, which
will help you develop content, and so on. Here are some questions to ask yourself.
Why am I building this Web site?

This is a biggie, and is a question that only you can
answer for yourself. Your answer will determine how you’re
going to build your site – style, content, everything. You’ll also be able to figure out what technologies you’re going
to need; for instance, if you’re building a site that is selling green widgets, you’re going to have to either come up
with a secure shopping cart tool, or hire someone to do it. If your site is purely informational, than you probably
won’t have to worry about getting too overly technical. If you are just building a site for fun, well, you probably
don’t need to worry too much about any of this stuff. The most logical solution is to determine what your message
is, and that will determine your medium.


What are my goals for this Web site?

Another biggie, and one that you can only answer for
yourself. This is what I did when I started at About.com:
I made a list of short-term goals and long-term goals for the site. I determined exactly what I wanted to see in
terms of growth, my time spent in developing new content, and research. My long-term goals went out to about
five years, and my short-term goals went out to about a year, divided into monthly segments. So far, I’ve met
almost all my short-term goals. What this exercise did for me was divide my labor into manageable segments. It’s
overwhelming to look at all you need to do, especially when you’re someone like me who wants to get it done all
at once. Take the time to write down your goals, and post them somewhere you’ll see them. It’s very satisfying to
check off the items on this list!


What is my budget for this Web site?

Ah, the money question. You knew it was coming,
didn’t you? Well, it’s an important one. Depending on the
purpose of your Web site, you might need sophisticated technology in order to get your message across, such as
database programming, shopping cart technology, etc. This all costs money. In addition, if your site starts getting
really big, you’ll have to pay for more hosting space. You’ll need to double-check with your hosting company to see
if you can get a bigger package or upgrade; something that you’ll want to determine before you see growth, which
means you need to set goals (see previous question!). Finally, sometimes you have to spend money to make money.
Don’t scrimp on the look of your site – if you don’t have the designing skills to make your site stand out, then hire
someone who does. Just make sure that their goals for Web sites and search engine optimization are in line with
yours. After reading this entire tutorial, you’ll have a better idea of what this SEO philosophy should look like.
What does your Web site do?

Is it for promotion? Do you want people to buy
something? Are you trying to get information out there? Perhaps
your site is a combination of all three of these. It’s also possible that your site is large enough in scope that it can
help you achieve more than you had originally planned for it, such as creating a brand, or name, for yourself that
might potentially invite other businesses to approach you with affiliate opportunities. You might offer more in the
way of solutions for your readers, such as tutorials, articles, blog postings, etc. Additional products could be a
possibility for your site as well, once you get a hold of what your site’s purpose is and how to better accomplish
your mission.
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Target Your Audience


Who do you want to come to your Web site?
One of the very first things you’re going to want to do when you first start out optimizing your site

for search engines is to figure out whom, exactly, your target audience is. Sure, you want

everyone to visit your site, but the better targeted your audience is, the more likely they are to
come to your site. This is going to help you in all aspects of search engine optimization, because
if you have a clear idea in mind of who and what your optimum target audience is, you’ll have a
better idea of quite a few things:
- Which keywords and phrases to target
- What your site should look like
- What your competition looks like
- What your source code should look like

- Pretty much anything to do with search engine optimization!
Most likely, you already have a clear goal in mind for your site – it could be you want to sell something, equip people to
do something, enable searchers to vote/subscribe/contribute, but whatever your call to action is, you would do well to
keep your perfect site visitor in mind.
Site Visitor Demographics


–How They Can Help You

You probably already have a good idea of what the
demographics are for your site or, if you don’t, you can take a good
guess. For instance, if your site is all about silver jewelry, it would be reasonable to assume that most people who come
to your site are interested in something to do with silver jewelry.
But let’s take it a bit further. Who are some other potential customers or searchers that you could reach through your
Web site who would also benefit from your site? If you’re selling silver jewelry, perhaps you could think about how-to’s,
tutorials (free and paid), jewelry-making kits, featured affiliate artists, and so on. You have to start thinking outside the
box, and making connections with the potential Web searchers who don’t know that they want to know about your
site’s message. People looking for jewelry tutorials are not the same people who are looking to buy jewelry, but if you
plan right, you can get both of these diverse targets.
Are there more potential audiences that you can target?

You also need to consider if your target audience is
likely to only use the Web to find you. A Web site is an incredibly
effective tool, but it loses its effectiveness quickly if your target audience uses it for purposes other than what you
originally planned. For instance, you have a Web site about air conditioning units. People who come to your site most
likely are not coming to buy your product, because studies show that consumers are more likely to come into the store
to make a purchase that size. There are many reasons for this, the most compelling being that consumers need to see
the item they’re buying before they bring it home (plus, shipping on these big units is considerable.).
Instead of spending all your time and energy on a site that enables consumers to buy these units online, you would
do better to provide detailed information about each model, comparisons of how your company lines up with others,
benefits of your particular brand, and so on; with the ability to call, email, or come to the store in person in order to
actually buy the unit. This would be an example of a site whose purpose is to be more informational, but since the site
owner is aware of how his target audience is behaving, he ends up reaping the benefit in increased sales. Make sure
that figuring out the behavior of your target audience is an integral part of your search engine optimization strategy, and
half your SEO battle will be won before it even begins.
Why would anyone visit your Web site?

Another way to figure out your target audience is to
determine the reasons why they would visit your Web site, and
what keywords and phrases they would use to get there. Tell a friend or associate about your site and your site’s
purpose, and then ask this person to search for your site in a search engine. What words and phrases do they use?
Are these phrases found on your site? If not, they should be. Your target audience wants to find you – you just have
to make it easy for them to do so. Figure out why your target audience would visit your site, what reason they would
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have to search for your site’s message in a search engine, and how you can connect your site and your target audience
together. All you’re doing here is enabling the message to meet the market.
What does your target audience look like?

What is the style of your target audience? What kind
of trends or fashions do they follow? Are you providing a service
that would meet these needs? For example, if your site is about pedicures, you’d better be sure to stay on top of the
latest nail trends and news, or your target audience will soon realize that you’re behind the times, a sure death knell to
any site. Web searchers need to have a good reason to stay on your site, because there are a thousand other sites they
can turn to in five seconds that will. Keep visitors on your site with “sticky” content, evergreen content that does not
change with the times, but also provide content to your target audience that is fresh and updated frequently if that is
what your target audience is looking for.
Listen to your audience, or potential audience

Lastly, take your target audience’s feedback into account. Identify the topics that would keep your customers
interested and meet these needs, tailoring your content to what your site visitors are looking for. Ask for feedback,
whether by email or phone, because this feedback could open an important window into what your target audience
is really looking for. If your site is not already live (or even if it is), I would suggest that you ask friends and
associates to give you constructive criticism on your site – the look, feel, message, whether it influenced them to
do anything, etc. This could give you some great insights on whether or not your site is getting to the audience that
you’re hoping for.
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What are Keywords, and How Do I Use Them?

When I first started tinkering around with Web sites about 10 years ago, I assumed that once I
uploaded my efforts to the Web that somehow, magically, my site would instantly appear in every
single search engine and directory. How this would happen, exactly, was not clear to me. You’re
either nodding your head right now agreeing with my crack-brained theory (well, hopefully not!),
or you’re trying not to snort in amazement.

Here’s something to try to explain where I’m coming from. You probably have a file cabinet (in my case this would
be a file pile) in your house in which you store important papers: birth certificates, immunization papers, pay stubs,
tax receipts, etc. You probably didn’t just throw all these papers in your file cabinet and expect them to magically
sort themselves, right? That would be nice but that’s not how it happens. In order to sort your files and keep them all
organized, you chose a few keyword phrases and wrote them down on file separators, such as:

- Taxes
- Medical Bills
- Birth Certificates
- Pay Stubs


If you’re super-organized or have a lot of files to keep track of, then you got even more specific with your file
folders. You would probably have file names along the lines of these examples:

- J. Smith Tax Records 1985
- Birth of Bouncing Baby Boy Medical Bills 2005

- K. Jones “Widgets R Us” Pay Stubs 1999-2000
And so on. Well, it’s very similar with search engines. They have so much information to sort through that they had to
come up with a way to organize it, and that way is keywords and phrases. This is where keyword phrases and search
engine optimization meet, because in order for search engine users to find you, you’re going to have to figure out what
phrases they are going to use and then include them in your site.
For example, if your site is all about beaded jewelry, you could use the following phrases: handmade beaded jewelry,
custom designed beaded jewelry, beaded jewelry Mother’s Day gift, etc. What you’re doing when you incorporate
keyword phrases into your site is announcing to both search engines and search engine users that these are the
phrases you can be found for. You are categorizing yourself. You are enabling people who are already looking for you to
find you that much easier.
Think of a telephone book. If you’re looking for a pediatric dentist, you probably start with “dentist,” then drill down
to “pediatric dentist.” The dentists in this grouping knew what they were doing when they chose to be included in this
category. They intended to be found for the specific phrase “pediatric dentist,” and instead of just being lumped in with
all the other dentists (in my phonebook there’s about 30 pages worth!), they knew that you would have a better chance
of finding them if they enabled you to do so.
This is your mission, then.
When you set out to optimize your site for relevant and appropriate keyword phrases,
you are helping someone who is already looking for you to find you faster and more efficiently. That’s it. There’s no
magic formula to getting your site listed in all the search engines and directories and unfortunately it doesn’t just
happen when you upload your site, but the more you learn about search engine optimization and the better you get at
keyword phrase research/selection/implementation, the more success you will achieve.
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How Important are Keywords?
More than any other thing you do to optimize your Web site, the keyword phrases you choose
will be the most important thing (element) in getting both search engine spiders and search

engine users to visit your Web site. So, obviously, the keyword phrases you choose are extremely
important. How do keyword phrases help your Web site?

Search engines.
Search engines use complicated algorithms to choose what sites to include in their top rankings.
Keywords and keyword phrases are just about the most important element in their formulas and should be in yours,
since virtually all search engines and directories use keywords and phrases to rank relevant pages and list relevant
search results.
Your message.
Searchers are coming to your site for information, not to see how well you can use the latest animation
software. Both search engine users and search engine spiders want to view your message, which contains keyword
phrases.
The importance of keyword phrases in search engine optimization cannot be under-emphasized. They are the glue that
will hold the rest of your site together, and the foundation on which your site should be built upon and around.
Figuring out which keyword phrases to build your site upon is not an easy task, nor is it something that can be done
overnight. You should plan to dedicate as much time as is reasonable in order to research, brainstorm, select, and
define your keywords and phrases that are most relevant and will produce the most ROI (return on investment) for your
particular site. A few general guidelines to keep in mind:
Don’t go with just one word.
Do me a favor, and type the word “car” into any search engine. Notice that you’ll get
a few bajillion results back. If you try to optimize your pages for one word each, you stand little chance of ever being
included in the top 1000, let alone the top 10. The best way to get your site noticed is to select 3-5 phrases of two,
three, even four words in length, and optimize every single page in your site with those key phrases (different ones for
each page, of course). Studies show that search engine users tend to type phrases rather than single words for their
search engine queries, and though the keyword popularity for your keyword phrase might be less than that of a single
word, the phrase will be more focused and relevant to your site’s purpose, therefore bringing in more targeted traffic,
and increasing the likelihood of this traffic heeding your site’s call to action, whether that be buying, reading, voting,
signing up, etc.
Don’t do it on your own.
You might think that you know what people would be searching for in your particular
field, but you probably don’t. The terms you use to search for what your site involves might not necessarily be the
same ones that the average Joe or Jill Searcher will use, and you might use terms that are familiar to you and seem
common-sense, but are completely nonsensical to those outside your field. Don’t assume that other people know what
you’re talking about when you use industry terms. Instead, use keyword phrase tools, such as Overture’s Search Term
Suggestion Tool, available at:
http://inventory.overture.com/d/searchinventory/suggestion/

to help you see what other
people commonly search for. On the flip side of this, if you are creating an industry specific site in which certain terms
are pretty common, than by all means use these terms. Your target audience will be looking for them.

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Keyword Research Strategies
The most important step in the process of search engine optimization is keyword phrase research
and implementation. If you don’t do a thorough job of researching what words and phrases to
use in your site, all your efforts will be in vain; but if you target the right keyword phrases to use
that make the most sense and are targeted for your site, you’ll inevitably see your site traffic go
up, as well as conversions (that could mean sales, votes, sign-ups--whatever your “call to action”
is for your site.) Here are some suggestions:

Try to target only three to five keyword phrases per page.
These are phrases, not individual words, and they should
all be related to the overall topic or theme of the page. Two phrases per page is the optimum; five phrases per page is
almost too many, but if they’re related, you can get away with it. For example: if you have a page about studying for the
SAT, you could optimize your page for the following phrases:
- SAT course
- SAT courses
- Online SAT courses
- SAT training
- Online SAT training


- SAT training online


Optimizing your page for just one keyword phrase is somewhat self-defeating, because your page’s copy will start to
sound a bit forced and unnatural, kind of like this:
“When you purchase vintage Victorian teacups from us, you will know your vintage Victorian teacups are
of the highest quality because we only sell vintage Victorian teacups that are the best vintage Victorian
teacups. No other vintage Victorian teacups site on the Web offers the vintage Victorian teacups that we do.”
Three guesses as to what keyword phrase this page is going for! Remember, you’re not only writing for search engine
spiders, but search engine users. To make your copy “flow,” you’ve got to include more than one keyword phrase.
Research what people are actually searching for, rather than what you think they might be searching for.
It
makes no sense to go through the time and effort to optimize a page for a keyword phrase that no one is searching for.
Think about your own search queries, how you craft what it is you’re looking for, and make sure that what you write
for your site is in line with what is natural. That being said, don’t just go with your gut in researching and selecting
keyword phrases. Always take the time to research what is actually being searched for. There are a few different
places you can go on the Web to accomplish this:
Overture Keyword Suggestio
n
at: http://inventory.overture.com/d/
searchinventory/suggestion/ is a great tool that you can enter in keyword phrases and it will tell you how many people
have searched for that particular phrase recently.
Get specific by using specifics.
If you are a dentist in Portland, Oregon, does it make any sense for you to target the
phrase “American dentist?” Get as specific as possible. The keyword phrase “Portland Oregon dentist” or “Portland
Oregon teeth whitening services” are much more targeted; therefore, they are able to bring in more targeted traffic,
who are really the people you want to be coming to your site because they are already looking for you. In addition,
if you try to use a non-specific product such as “nice candles” in your site, you’ll be much less successful than if
you used the very specific phrase “homemade Amish beeswax candles.” Be careful to run any phrase you decide on
through the various keyword suggestion tools out there, because if no one is searching for what you’re trying to target,
you might be wasting your time. Ranking number one for “Kodiak left-handed coffee growers” is great and all, but it
might be a tad too specific.
Be relevant.
If your site is all about mock Tiffany lamps, it wouldn’t make any sense to include keyword phrases about
Britney Spears. Sure, it’s a popular phrase and it would be a great phrase to optimize for, if your site was actually about
Ms. Spears. Just because a keyword phrase is popular and is getting a lot of searches does NOT mean you should use
it if it has absolutely nothing to do with your site. Search engines don’t look too kindly on sites using keywords in their
content and source code that have nothing to do with their site’s purpose, and have gotten good at figuring out when
this is going on.
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Stage 1 Keywords & Phrases Research
Step 1: Keyword Blitz

You’ve read about keywords and keyword phrases, but how do you come up with them? Simple. Just sit down and start
writing down every word and phrase you think searchers might use to get to your site. Don’t worry about getting it
right or perfect – we’re going for quantity here, not necessarily quality. Make a list of between 20 and 30 keywords and
phrases that you think would work (this would be per page in your site), and then we’ll go on to the next step.

Step 2: Weed ‘Em Out

Take your list of keywords and phrases and pick the top ones that you believe will drive the most targeted traffic to your
site. There are some tools that can help you in this process.
Overtur
e
offers a free tool that tells you how many times your term(s) have been searched for the previous
month. Overture also suggests similar phrases that you can use on other pages.

- http://inventory.overture.com/
Google AdWords Keyword Too
l
is a nice help. It doesn’t give you the amount of times that something was
searched for, but it gives you a ton of other keywords and phrases that are related to your terms. I use this
tool for help in brainstorming.

- https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordSandbox
Wordtracke
r
is a fee service, but offers a free trial so you can check it out. From the site: “We compile a
database of terms that people search for. You enter some keywords, and we tell you how often people search
for them, and also tell you how many competing sites use those keywords.”

- http://www.wordtracker.com/free-trial.html
Lexical FreeNe
t
is an okay tool; handy for brainstorming. I would use this site in addition to the ones

detailed above.

- http://www.lexfn.com/
Remember, these keyword phrases are not set in stone. If you find that some of them are not working for you, you can,
and should, switch them out.

Step 3: Make Your List

For every page in your site, you should have a short list of between three and five key phrases per page, with every one
of these phrases containing two to three highly targeted keywords. Stage 2 -- Keywords and Phrases Analysis, will help
you further narrow down your list.

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Stage 2 Keywords and Phrases Analysis
The tools listed in Stage 1 -- Keywords and Phrases Research, will help you choose the keywords
and phrases that your search engine optimization efforts will be founded upon. When you make
your list of keywords and phrases, some of them are going to be pretty general. You’re going
to want to get more specific and focus on targeted keywords and phrases that are intrinsically
related to the purpose and goals of your particular site. Let’s look at a sample Web site. If I had a
site that sold handmade wedding invitations, what are some of the keywords and phrases I could
optimize for?
Hey! Looks good, right? Well, maybe not. Trying to
optimize your pages only for the words “wedding” or
“wedding invitation” would be a tough task, because it’s
far too general, and according to the above numbers,
there are a lot of people searching for these words. That’s
still good, right? Again, not necessarily. If you take the
numbers of people actually searching for the phrase
“wedding invitation” and the number of sites on Google
that are focusing on the phrase “wedding invitation,” you
come up with a daunting scenario. The phrase “wedding
invitation” got back 781,000 results in Google. In order to
use that phrase, you would be potentially competing with
781,000 other sites, a formidable task.
The phrase “wedding invitation” is what your site is about,
but in order to compete in the marketplace, you’re going
to have to figure out other key terms that all those other
sites are not necessarily competing over. This is where your
early work of discovering your site’s purpose and writing
down your goals will come in handy, because if you know
exactly what your site is all about, you’ll be better equipped
to do this.
You don’t want your site to be just a face in the crowd; you want it to be one of the Top Ten.

So you’ll have to focus in a bit. This means that you’ll have to:
- Target
a niche market
- Compete
with fewer Web sites that are targeting the same phrases
- Focus
on using the actual keywords and phrases that real searchers actually use
- Drive
more targeted traffic to your site.
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The less people you have searching for any one phrase, the
less potential competition you have, and the more targeted
traffic you will attract. Think about it this way: if you target
the extremely competitive word “wedding”, how many
people coming to your site (that is, if they even find your
site!) are looking for your site’s offerings, which are hand-
lettered calligraphy wedding invitations? They might stumble
into a purchase, but it’s more likely that you would get a
large amount of traffic with low conversion rates. The people
who are searching for “wedding calligraphy” or “handmade
wedding invitation” are ready to buy. They are targeted traffic
who are far more likely to purchase from you, because you
have what they are looking for and they didn’t have to sort
through a thousand sites to find you.
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IVg\Zi^c\ndjgc^X]ZbVg`Zi
>cDkZgijgZ/
CVggdl^c\i]ZhZVgX][^ZaY
What could be your niche market?
Let’s go back to
the wedding invitations example. Say you do exquisite
hand-lettered calligraphy, and personalize every order
with a theme or motif of the couple’s choice. That would
definitely be a niche market. This is how it stacks up in
Overture:
For the term “handmade wedding invitation,” you’ll
see that we’ve narrowed down the search field quite
a bit.
In addition, a search in Google reveals that only
around 233,000 people were looking for this item. That
may seem like a lot, but it’s still better than what we had
before. These would be good key phrases to target. Let’s
keep going.
>cLdgYigVX`Zg/
@ZnldgY:[[ZXi^kZcZhh>cYZm
cdihd\ddY
J^[f^hWi[
Çm[ZZ_d]_dl_jWj_ediÈ
_iWd[njh[c[bo
fe
ehf^hWi[jejWh][j
“wedding invitations”
Let me give you another example of this:
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According to Wordtracker, the phrase “wedding invitations” is an extremely poor phrase to target, because its Keyword
Effectiveness Index (KEI) is between 0 and 10. From the site:
Generally, a poor keyword to target will have a KEI of between 0 - 10. It’s not wise to target keywords
with this KEI as there is too much competition and you will probably end up on page 34 and no one
will notice you!
Good keywords to target have a KEI of between 10 - 100. These are good value bets and you have a
good to medium chance of reaching the top. Between 100 - 400 are your best bets and anything above
400+ is a gift!
So, using this analysis, although your site will most likely have the phrase “wedding invitations” on it somewhere, it’s
not going to reel in a lot of targeted traffic in and of itself. You’ll have to come up with more key phrases that people are
searching for that have to do with your site, such as the following:
This would definitely be one to use, as would these:

See where I’m going with this? You’ve just got to keep
researching, keep evaluating, keep brainstorming, and

eventually you’ll get the right combination of key phrases
that will get you the targeted traffic you really want.





>cLdgYigVX`Zg/
@ZnldgY:[[ZXi^kZcZhh>cYZm
WZiiZgiVg\ZiZY
8[jj[hjWh][j[Za[o
f^hWi[j^Wjf[efb[
Wh[i[WhY^_d]\eh
>cDkZgijgZ/
LZaaiVg\ZiZY@ZnldgYe]gVhZ
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Stage 3 Keywords and Phrases Implementation
The Title Tag

You’ve done the work of coming up with your best keywords and phrases. Now, it’s time to
actually do something with them. Let’s start with the title tag.


What is the title tag?

Simply put, the title tag is part of your Web page’s internal HTML coding. It appears in the HEAD section of your code,
and looks like this:
<HEAD>
<TITLE>Hi, I’m the Title!</TITLE>
</HEAD>

What do title tags do?

Title tags are the text that shows up in the top blue part of your browser window, and they also show up in the search
results page as the links to click on. In addition, the title tag is what is going to show up in the user’s bookmarks. Every
single search engine out there uses title tags to gather important information about your Web site. The text in your title
tag will greatly impact how you will rank with what searchers are looking for, and will therefore also influence your
ranking in the search engines for better (or worse). Title tags are probably one of the most important factors in search
engine optimization, along with optimized content and other sites that link to your site.
You’ve got to include your most important, most successful keyword phrases within your title tag. As a rule of thumb,
don’t make your title tag more than 200 characters long (that includes spaces). There’s varying schools of thought on
whether you should include your company’s name within the title tag itself. I’m of the opinion that if your company
is well known, than absolutely you must place your company’s name in the title tag, since searchers will be looking
for you already. However, even if you’re not well known, placing your company’s name in the title tag along with your
most important keywords and phrases will only help you. You’ll also want to try and make sure that your keyword
phrases that you would most like to be found for are near the beginning of the title tag, since some search engines and
directories will truncate the title tag, cutting you off before you even get going.

How do I write a good title tag?

We’ve all seen Web sites where every page has a browser title of “[insert title here]”. Not good. Every single page
needs it’s own unique title tag. Let’s go through this process with our sample site all about customized calligraphy
wedding invitations.
First of all, if you would prefer to work with clients only in your geographic area, your title tags need to reflect this.
Let’s say you’re located in Portland, Oregon.
<TITLE>Unique Handmade Wedding Invitations – Portland, Oregon</TITLE>
You’ve got some of your really important keywords in here, plus your geographic location. A frazzled bride looking for
someone to craft the invitations for her special day is going to go local every time, because if something goes wrong,
the problem can be corrected quickly. Here’s another example with the company name, we’ll go with “An Affair to
Remember”:
<TITLE>An Affair to Remember-Wedding Invitations-Calligraphy-Customized Invitations-Portland, Oregon</TITLE>
This one is longish, but still under the rule of thumb length of 200 characters. You’ve got your company name, a few of
your key phrases, and your geographic location.
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How do I customize title tags for each individual page?

This is very easy. Look at each unique page in your Web site. One of them might be a gallery of your work.
<TITLE>An Affair to Remember- Wedding Invitations and Wedding Bridal Shower Invitations –Handmade
Calligraphy-Customized Invitations Gallery</TITLE>
Or, you could do it this way as well, for prices:
<TITLE>Pricelist-Wedding Invitations-Celtic Calligraphy-Customized Invitations-Portland, Oregon</TITLE>
See how I’m putting in different key phrases for each page? You’ll want to do that as well. Just be sure to use your big
ones, like “wedding invitations” and your location, if that’s what you want to be found for, in every title. Search engines
when running queries will be able to match searchers’ requests with the phrases in your title tags as long as there are
keywords and phrases people are searching for.
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Stage 3 Keywords and Phrases Implementation

The META Description Tag

While the META description tag doesn’t carry the same weight it used to, it’s still an important
consideration in search engine optimization. Every little bit you can do to optimize your site will
end up contributing to the larger package. The META description tag is just one of those factors.

What is the META description tag?

The META description tag is HTML code found within the HEAD section of any of your web pages. It looks like this:
<META NAME=”Description” CONTENT=”Hi! I’m the META description tag. I’m found in the HEAD
section.”>
What does the META description tag do?

That’s a good question. The text in META tags can be used to describe your site in search engine listings…or it could
not. It depends on the search engine or directory. For instance, here’s my Web site as searched for in Google:
Yep, there’s my META description. However, it doesn’t show up that nice in other search engines, such as MSN Search:
GAH! Well, that’s disappointing. This is just to show you that honestly you shouldn’t spend too much time on your
META description, because you never know how each engine is going to pick it up. It’s a good idea to write one for
each page, but don’t obsess over it.
How do I write a good META description tag?

All you need to do is come up with one or two compelling sentences, filled with your keywords and phrases, which will
entice the searcher to click through to your site. Back to our sample wedding invitations site:
<META NAME=”Description” CONTENT=”An Affair To Remember, Portland, Oregon, offers hand written
wedding invitations, customized calligraphy wedding invitations, and hand-crafted wedding calligraphy
services.”>
This is a good META description. You’ve got at least five key phrases in here, and searchers will trust those results more
if they can see their search queries in the descriptive blurbs.
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Stage 3 Keywords and Phrases Implementation

The META Keywords Tag

The META keywords tag is not very important in the big picture of search engine
optimization; however, it is not something that should be skipped, as every little piece of the
SEO process, if done correctly, can only help you.

What is the META keywords tag?

The META keywords tag is found in the HEAD section of the HTML code of all your web pages,
and looks like this:
<HEAD>
<TITLE> Unique Handmade Wedding Invitations – Portland, Oregon </TITLE>
<META NAME=”DESCRIPTION” CONTENT=”An Affair To Remember, Portland, Oregon, offers hand written
wedding invitations, customized calligraphy wedding invitations, and hand-crafted wedding calligraphy
services.”>
<META NAME=”KEYWORDS” CONTENT=”relevant keywords and phrases go here. Use commas or spaces
since search engines treat them as pretty much the same thing.”>
</HEAD>

What does the META keywords tag do?


It used to be that META keywords tags were an important part of how search engines ranked sites. However, there’s
always one kid that ruins it for the whole class. Spammers started tweaking around with these tags, using unethical
techniques in order to trick the search engines, and therefore META keyword tags became less and less important.
Because the algorithms that search engines use take into account a very wide range of information when it comes to
ranking your site, I would say that you should do everything within reason to give yourself a better ranking, and that
includes writing a good META keyword tag.

How do I write a META keyword tag?

There are a few good rules of thumb to remember when writing your META keywords tags:
Don’t bother writing them until after you’ve narrowed down your list of important keywords and
phrases.
It’s an even better idea to wait until after you’ve written your site copy, title, and META description.
That way, you can pick words and phrases from your actual site that you can fit into your META keyword tags.
Do NOT repeat words.
This is a huge no-no, and a big part of the reason why META keyword tags are so
devalued now. Different variations of the word or a word in all caps still count as repeating words. It’s okay to
use the same word in different phrases, but don’t repeat this word more than three times.
A good rule of thumb: keep to a limit of 20-25 keywords or phrases
. Make sure to include your most
targeted key phrases.
Here’s an example of a good META keyword tag:
<META name = “keywords” content =”wedding invitations, unique wedding invitations, invites, save the
date, samples, engagement announcements, calligraphy, handmade wedding invitations”>
Bottom line:
don’t spend too much time on either this tag or the META description tag. They are a means to an end,
nothing more. Search engines place far, far more importance on richly optimized content, inbound links, and title tags
than they do on META tags.
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Stage 4 Keywords and Phrases in Site Copy

What is Good Content?

If you’re around long enough in the world of search engine optimization, you’ll eventually hear
the catchphrase, “content is king.” And, for good reason. Your Web site content, that is, simply
the words on your pages, is the most important factor that will attract search engine spiders and
search engine users. Why is content so important? Because once people read good content, they
tend to bookmark it, send the link to their friends, email it to business colleagues, etc.
What makes good content? Well, think of it this way. If you find a site that impacts you somehow: good prices, good
information, good entertainment, etc., you’re going to want to come back. And usually, the biggest reason you come
back is because that particular site has proved itself. It has delivered something to you, whether tangible or intangible,
that you would like to see again. Content is the biggest part of this equation, because without content, a Web site
doesn’t have much to offer.
When you set out to write your copy for your Web site, it’s important to keep a few good
guidelines in mind.
Is this compelling?
Does it involve a “call to action,” i.e., does it make the reader want to do something
(buy, get involved, laugh, vote, sign up for something, etc.)?
Does this sound like a sales pitch?
Web searchers are pretty savvy when it comes to sniffing out the
blatant sales language, and it is a really big turn off. In addition, search engines tend not to like the sites
that are full of puffery like “best site ever!” or “lowest prices in the world!” etc. Don’t shy away from posting
awards or actual stats that prove you are the best whatever, but don’t go crazy and make it into a commercial.
Where is my message?
Web searchers don’t necessarily read content, they scan it. Therefore, it’s imperative
that you make your point quickly. Don’t use three paragraphs where one would have sufficed. Make your
point with as many search engine friendly keyword phrases as possible without hindering the message, and
you’ll attract both more search engine users and search engine spiders.
Writing good content is not easy, but once you get the hang of what works on your site, it
will come naturally.
Your site is your window to the world, and your content is the welcome mat. Write good,
compelling copy for your site and your Web site will succeed in the search engine rankings. It’s a simple formula.

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How to Write Good Content for Search Engines

and Search Engine Users

Here we come to the meat and potatoes of search engine optimization, for without well-written
content that utilizes keywords and phrases, search engine spiders literally have nothing to feed
on. The process of writing good copy for your site can be a bit daunting at first, but don’t put too
much pressure on yourself to make it absolutely perfect the first time. Remember high school
English? You have a first draft, a second draft, a third draft, and so on. This is the same thing.

First: you’re writing for both the search engine spiders and the search engine users.

This is a tricky partnership, and can take some practice to get used to. What you are essentially doing here is taking
under consideration factors that search engines are looking for, but you’re also creating content that holds an appeal
for human viewers. If you can master these two things, then you’ll get higher rankings in the search engines.
Both search engines and search engine users are looking for basically the same thing:
compelling, keyword
and phrase driven content that offers some kind of service to the reader. In order to accomplish this, you need to
write between 200-250 words of relevant content, based on your chosen keywords and purpose for your site. This
is THE fundamental element to high search engine rankings and a successful Web site. The search engines need
you to do this essential step so they can understand how to classify and rank your site, and search engine users
need you to do this so they will have a reason to actually visit your site. Write your content based on your keyword
phrases, and not the other way around – that’s why coming up with a list of keywords and phrases has to be some
of the first work you do in optimizing your site. Don’t be afraid to use your phrases as many times as it makes
sense to do so, and by “makes sense,” I mean don’t do this:

“Romeo and Juliet were in Romeo and Juliet’s house. Romeo and Juliet decided to heat up some of Romeo
and Juliet’s leftover hamburger casserole that Romeo and Juliet had made the night before, but Romeo
and Juliet found that Romeo and Juliet’s hamburger casserole had sadly gone bad in Romeo and Juliet’s
refrigerator.”
Reading this, I’m pretty sure you’re not thinking “wow! Look at how many times this person got their key phrase in
there!” No, you probably wouldn’t even bother reading the rest of the essay. It’s the same with writing your content for
the Web.

Second: make your content compelling to readers, and searchable by spiders.

Hmmm, didn’t we just talk about that? There’s more to the equation. Writing for the Web is just like writing for
anything else, except there are a few more rules to follow. If I could give you three take-aways that are absolutely vital
when you are writing your Web site content, these would be it:
Know who you’re writing for.
Figure out your target audience, the purpose of your site, and the goals that
you have for this site. Get your head completely wrapped around these core elements, and when you start
writing your copy you’ll be very prepared to write what your audience is looking for.
Figure out your keywords and phrases.
This is essential. It would be a complete waste of your time to write
all of your copy, and then do the research on which keyword phrases rank highly in the area that you are
targeting. Do the work of brainstorming, analysis, and selection first, and then get to the copywriting.
Write for the search engines and search engine users.
I keep saying this, don’t I? Search engines are
looking for keyword rich content that enables them to rank your Web site, and search engine users are pretty
much looking for the same thing. Sprinkle your keywords and phrases throughout your site copy, and let it
flow naturally. Have friends read it over for you, and ask them to honestly tell you if it’s compelling or not.
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Guidelines for Writing for the Web

Writing for the Web is different than writing in other mediums mostly because studies show
that users don’t read material, they scan it. So how can you make your text more scannable, yet
include keywords and phrases that will enable you to get higher rankings? Here’s how:
1. Headings

Headings are great for highlighting keyword phrases, and they are given more weight by search engines (that’s a good
combination!). HTML heading tags range in size from <H1> (biggest) to <H6> (smallest). Headings tags are generally
used to emphasize a page or paragraph heading. The rule of thumb with headings is to stick with the <H1> and <H2>
sizes. Make sure that your headings and subheadings include keywords and phrases, this will help your content stand
out not only to search engines but to search engine users as well. Remember, we’re going for easily scannable text.
Here’s an example:
Handmade Wedding Invitations
We create custom, handmade wedding invitations here at An Affair to Remember. Our
unique invitation
creations include calligraphy, specialized themes of your choice, and more
customized options. We also can supply bridal shower invitations, save the date cards, and
wedding gift thank you notes, all with our signature handmade style.

If it makes no sense for your site to use headings--if it doesn’t look right when all is said and done than don’t sweat it.
Headings won’t make or break your search engine ranking, they’re just a tool in your SEO toolbox.
2. Use Three to Five Keyword Phrases Per Page

Any more than this and you’ll lose your focus. Any less than three and you run the risk of sounding repetitive. You can
write an entire page on two keyword phrases, so this is not a hard and fast rule. Just keep it in mind as a rule of thumb.
3. The 250 Word Rule

This, again, is a general rule of thumb and not a hard and fast rule. Generally, the more words you have on a page, the
more you’re going to attract search engine spiders because they have more “food” to eat. However, if you have a page
that doesn’t need a lot of content, say a price list, than don’t sweat it. You should know your target audience by this
point, and what they are looking for. This should help you determine how much you need to write.
4. Keyword Phrases

If you can, without sounding unnatural or forced, you need to include one or two keyword phrases per paragraph or per
section. More than one or two, you will lose your focus. Here’s an example from my article on how to find free movies
on the Web:
“There are lots of movie sites online. However, not all are free, not all are legal, and some will download
adware to your computer along with the promised free movie download; so please be careful when choosing
what site to download from. In order to view movies online, you need to have a media player installed.”
The key words and phrases that I worked in there are movie, free movie download, movies online. Since these are all
related keywords and phrases, I had to be careful to not overtax them. You’ll need to do the same with your writing.
5. Be Natural

When writing for both search engines and search engine users, this is sometimes one of the most difficult things to
master. Make your copy flow, make it compelling, and make it enticing. Keep your keywords in mind when you’re
writing your content, but try to include them in such a way that the reader does not stumble over them.
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6. Alt Images

If you have any pictures or other such graphic images on your site, you’ve got to include alt image tags for them. What
are they? They’re just HTML descriptions that search engines look for when trying to read your site. Remember, search
engine spiders can only eat words – they can’t read graphics. Alt image tags should be written using keywords and
phrases for your site.
7. Anchor Text in Links

Use keywords and phrases in the text that describes links, if you have any. For instance, if one of your key phrases is
“Celtic calligraphy” and you are describing an image gallery that you have of all your work with this, than you would
write this anchor text:
Be sure to visit some of my recent work pages,
including a
Celtic calligraph
y
gallery that showcases
some of my customized, hand-lettered invitations for the Brock wedding.

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Basic Site Design and SEO Guidelines

There is one basic rule to remember when designing your site for optimum search engine
placement. Keep It Simple.
-
Steer clear of fussy designs.

-
Provide clean and clear navigation.

-
Be careful with fancy stuff.

-
Get to the point and focus on your content.
Fussy designs.
This is an example of a fussy design:
You can’t tell in this screenshot, but I’ve got animated gifs scrolling across the screen, those kittens are actually waving
and blinking and screeching, “MEOW!” and the purple text box is flashing. Oh, and I’ve got “Yankee Doodle Dandy”
playing incessantly in the background, with no way to turn it off.
Another mistake I made in this sample is my text is extremely hard to read. Backgrounds and text should not be
competing. Instead, use white or light colors with dark text, and use standard fonts.
Animations and flashing things are really fun, but used in excess they are just a distraction at best, frustrating at worst.
If you have a nice animation that you want to use on your site, make sure that you place only one animation or other
moving thing on the page at any one time. More than one and you run the risk of giving people headaches or eye strain.
Music on Web pages is one of my pet peeves. I absolutely hate coming to a Web page that has a cute little song going,
and rather than search for a way to turn it off, I usually will just leave. Obviously, if your site is all about music and you
feature various artists’ work, you’re going to have to figure out a way to make this friendly. I suggest that the reader
should control the music.
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Lastly, my design really serves no point here. It does absolutely nothing for the reader, other than perhaps make his
eyes hurt. Fancy design for the sake of fancy design ends up being useless design if you’re trying to incorporate it as
part of your search engine optimization efforts.


Clean and clear navigation.
Here’s an example of very unclear navigation.
Home? Stuff? Things to Look At? Huh?
If you don’t make your site easily navigable, you will not only lose readers,
you will lose search engine spiders. Search engine spiders crawl the links within your site in order to index your pages,
and if they can’t crawl them, they can’t index them. Be sure that every single page on your site has a text navigation
system, and if your site has more than 15 pages or so, then you need to also create a site map. Make sure that your
navigation hierarchy makes sense, and that all the pages are linked to one another; i.e., no “orphan” pages.
Fancy stuff

I love Flash. In fact, I’ve made some pretty cool stuff with it. But Flash and other advanced technologies can really
screw up your chances in the search engines if you don’t use it correctly. For example, a splash page – a page created
solely to be an entryway into your site. These usually consist of really neat Flash or other multimedia animation, and
may (or may not) invite the user in to the rest of the site when the animation or other such cool stuff is over with. These
pages look really neat, but for the most part, they have no significant text for spiders to crawl (and remember, content
is king in search engine optimization). Not every Joe Browser is able to view the content the way it was designed to
view. It’’s best to stay away from splash pages and focus instead on optimizing your site’s content and site design.
Also, frames. Most site designers have a love/hate relationship with frames. I think that frames, if designed correctly,
can be a beautiful thing. However, unless you really know your stuff, I would suggest that you stay away from frames.
Frames are a prime example of design obstacles. Most users don’t appreciate frames (especially when they “trap” the
user), and spiders can’t follow them very well.
Get to the point.

For the most part, unless your site is actually about Web design and features design examples, searchers are not
coming to your site in order to see how you implemented the latest animation software. Your content should be the
focus, not the site design. Site content will be what keeps you up in the search engine rankings, and your site design is
merely the tool that helps showcase it. Keep your design simple and clean, make your content the center of attention,
and enable your site visitors to see what it is that you’ve worked so hard on.

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Links and How They Affect SEO

Once upon a time, when the Web was young and Google was still a little whippersnapper, search
engines primarily relied on META tags and site content in order to rank sites. However, with the
tremendous growth of the Web, this system had to have a bit of tweaking for it to work correctly,
and to the process was added the factor of links. Creating a site that is worthy of being linked to
is really the point of search engine optimization, because if you create a good site, other people
will link to you.
Every single search engine relies on link popularity in order to rank your site. It makes sense, doesn’t it? If you have a
good site with lots of people linking to you, then your site must be worth a higher ranking in the search results. Think
about it: when you bookmark sites on the Web, are you saving them because they’re absolutely horrible? No, you’re
bookmarking them because they offer you some kind of service. Every time a site is linked to, it’s a vote of confidence
in what that site has to offer.
You might have heard that when you build a Web site, you need to ask other site owners to link to you, and vice versa.
This is known as “reciprocal linking.” My opinion about this is I don’t think it’s necessary. Just like Kevin Costner said
in
Field of Dreams
, “If you build it, they will come.” You can ask other sites to link to your site, but I think that your time
would be better spent on building your site to be absolutely best site in your particular area of expertise that it can be.
Eventually, the links will come in without you having to solicit them.
For instance, on my own site over at About.com, I’ve never once had to ask someone else for links. I’ve had hundreds
of sites link to my stuff, whether it be my blogs, or my articles, or my tutorials, all without me asking them to. I love
that! For one thing, it’s a huge encouragement for me to see all these folks that actually want to keep what I wrote
around, and it also boosts my site’s popularity. This is the kind of link process that you want to have happen.
What you’ve got to figure out is how to make your site so link-worthy that when people look at it on the Web, they’ll
want to link to it without you even asking. Your well-optimized site should contain these elements:
- Clean design

- Clear navigation

- Well-written title and META tags

- Keyword and key-phrase rich copy
Sounds simple, and it really is.
Once you have these elements in place on your site, the links will eventually
start coming in.


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Site Submission and Search Directories

Okay, so you’ve done all the work to design your site, write the copy, and optimize it for search
engines and search engine users. Before you upload it to the Web, you should know what your
submission options are.

What is site submission?

Simply put, when you submit your site to any search directory or search engine, you are asking these companies
to include your particular site in their index of sites to be catalogued or spidered. There are two basic kinds of site
submission. We’ll talk about the first one in this article, which is submitting your site to directories.
What is a search directory?

A search directory is like a search engine, except all of its sites are manually reviewed by real people rather than
software programs. In order to get listed with a directory, you must actually submit your front page URL using the
directory’s submission process. One very different thing about directories, as opposed to search engines is that Web
sites submitted to directories are (usually) ranked according to the information that you provide in the submission
process, as opposed to actual content on the Web site, so obviously the information you provide is critically important.
Examples of search directories are Yahoo! and Open Directory.
How do I submit my site to a search directory?


Here are the basic steps for submitting your site to Yahoo! and Open Directory, or dmoz.org.
Read ALL the submission guidelines before you do anything.
Those guidelines are there to save you from
yourself! Follow them to the letter. Don’t think that maybe you don’t need to do what they’re asking you
to; that’s a great way to not get yourself included in the directory. Remember, these are human editors. Be
professional, be polite, and mind your P’s and Q’s.
Choose the best category and sub-category for your particular site.
This sometimes is a time-consuming
process, but worth it in the long run. If you’re having difficulties figuring out where your site should go,
try to find similar sites to yours that are already included in the directory, or run a search in the directory
itself for a few relevant keywords. Make sure you spend some time on this step, because if you choose the
wrong category and sub-category, there’s a good chance you won’t make the cut. When you finally find the
best spot for your site to go, there should be a “add a site” or “submit a site” or “suggest a site” button
somewhere on that page. Click on it. Here’s an example of the submit process at Open Directory:

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HjWb^iVH^iZid
DeZc9^gZXidgn/
lll#Ybdo#dg\
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Fill out the form.
The form on Yahoo!’s Suggest a Site looks like this:
Let’s take this one step by step.

Yahoo!’s Directory submit for
m
is pretty much the standard form. You’ll note that I have no
category specified in this screen shot because I’m not actually submitting a site; make sure that
when you come to this screen, that this information is filled in.
The Site Title.
Don’t get fancy here. ONLY use your official company name, or the name of your Web site.
The URL.
This would be your site address, i.e., http://www.anaffairtoremember.com.
The Geographic Location.
Where you’re physically located. This is something you absolutely want to
include, especially if your business is local. Remember our wedding invitations Web site example? If I were
submitting this site, I would insert “Portland, Oregon” in here, and if my site was accepted for inclusion in the
directory, it would show up not only in wedding invitations, but also in local searches in Portland, Oregon.
Description.
See all those guidelines underneath the Description box? Follow them exactly. One good idea
with this part is to insert your META tag description in here. It’s already got all your most important keywords
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and key phrases, and should be a concise summary of what your site is about. Once you’ve got that in there,
edit it to be one sentence long. Make absolutely sure that this description is what you want to show up in the
directory, because it’s pretty hard to change the description of a site once it is included in a directory.
Additional Information.
Unless you have a burning need to fill in this box, I would suggest that you don’t.
Directory editors are looking for brevity. The shorter and sweeter your site submission is, the more likely they
are to include it.

Site submission to the Open Directory

There are so many guidelines that you need to read from the Open Directory that it would take me five pages to write
them all down. Suffice it to say that you
ne
ed t
o read them all very carefully, d
rill down in the directory until you find an
appropriate category and sub-category, and then, if you’re absolutely sure that this category is where your site belongs,
go ahead and start the submission process. It’s very self-explanatory and the Open Directory will lead you right

through it. Open Directory Guidelines:
http://dmoz.org/help/submit.htm
l

A few more tidbits about submitting to directories

This is a free submission process, which means that there is no guarantee that your site will show up soon, or if it will
show up at all (some directories can take up to six months or longer). Submitting your site to a search directory is a
good idea because once it’s in a search directory, search engines will start noticing it as well.
Also, don’t submit your site more than once. This process is not quick, and it can be tempting to submit your site again
and again in hopes that it will be picked up. As the Open Directory guidelines state:
“If your site has been accepted into the Open Directory, it may take anywhere from 2 weeks to several
months for your site to be listed on partner sites which use the Open Directory data, such as AOL Search,
Google, Netscape Search, Yahoo! Search, and hundreds of other sites. We make updates of the data available
weekly, but each partner has their own update schedule.”
So be patient
. Use this time to keep optimizing your site, and eventually you’ll see the high search engine rankings
you want.


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Site Submission and Search Engines

Search engines find your site pages via their software programs called “spiders,” which crawl the
Web looking for sites to add to their search engine’s database. Here’s how you submit your site
to search engines. We’ll start with Google, since it’s the most well known, and usually if you can
get your site indexed by Google, you don’t have to worry about the rest.
Google Site Submission

Google is the absolute best search engine out there right now for spidering sites, and if your site is getting

high search rankings at Google, than you’ve done a good job of optimizing your site. Here is what the

submit page at Googl
e
looks like:

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Let’s take this one step at a time.
First, you only need to submit the front, or main page of your site. Usually this is
the index.htm or home.htm page. Once Google’s spiders get a hold of your site, they will crawl the rest of it without
added input from you; that is, if you’ve made your navigation clean and simple. If the spiders can’t crawl it, the spiders
can’t index it. Comments are optional; I’ve submitted a few sites to Google and it hasn’t made one whit of difference
if I added my comments or not. Lastly, Google does have a little verification system because people have abused site
submission processes and used software programs to submit their sites.
A few tips to remember when submitting your site to Google.
If you already have an established site and it’s been
on the Web for more than a couple of months, chances are that Google already has spidered it. Always input your main
URL address into Google’s search box to see if this is true. If your site is already being spidered by Google, do NOT
submit it again. From what I’ve experienced myself and read from other folks in the SEO industry, Google really prefers
to find new material on their own, but that’s not to say that they discourage you from submitting your site to them.
Yahoo Site Submission.

Yahoo is another search engine that is definitely worth submitting your site to. As with Google, remember to search for
your URL in their database to see if you are already in there.
You might be scratching your head and thinking “Isn’t Yahoo! a search directory?” You’d be right, but they also have a
search engine. Submitting to Yahoo Search is not the same as Yahoo Directory, so don’t worry that you’re doing some
duplicate submitting here. This is what the
Yahoo Search Site Submissio
n
page looks like:

Okay, pretty dang simple. (This is nice after all the work you’ve done, isn’t it!) All you need to do here is submit the URL
address of your site’s main page, and that is it.
Tips for Yahoo! site submission:
This is about as straightforward as they come. Submit once, and then leave it alone.
Also, you get some nice little benefits here of killing two birds with one stone, because when you submit your site via
Yahoo! Search, you’re also submitting your site to AltaVista, Inktomi, and AllTheWeb. Remember, just like Google, you
need to submit once and then leave it alone.





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MSN Search Submission Basics

Microsoft has completely revamped their search engine presence on the Web and they also welcome site submissions.
Here’s what the
MSN Submit Pag
e
looks like:
Again, nice and simple. Just type in the URL of your main index page and you’re all done.
Tips for site submission and MSN Search.
As with all the other engines we’ve talked about, make sure you type your
URL into MSN’s search box to see if you’re already in their database. If not, submit your site once, then leave it alone.
General Tips to Remember

There are a few things I’d like you to keep in mind when submitting your site to these

search engines.
Keep track
. Make an Excel sheet, write it on a Post-it, whatever, but keep track of when and where you
submitted your site. That way, you won’t accidentally re-submit and run the risk of having things go sour.
Be patient.
Search engines and directories are notorious for taking their sweet time indexing your site.
Submit once, and then leave it firmly alone. Spend your time optimizing your site more, instead of impatiently
checking your status in Google every five minutes.
Submit to directories first.
Directories take longer to index you, but once you’re in there (the Open Directory
especially), you have a better chance of being picked up by the major search engines without even submitting
your site.
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Search Engine Optimization Handbook
Avoid Black Hat SEO

Search engine optimization requires having patience, because there are no quick fixes for making
your site get those high search engine rankings. That is, unless you’re willing to don your black
hat and get involved in unethical search engine optimization, otherwise known as Black Hat SEO.
Let me just say that any of these techniques, and any new ones that come along, are bad news. Any time you try to do
something to trick the search engines into giving you a higher search ranking, you inevitably will get caught. Search
engines and directories are very skilled at spotting Black Hat SEO, and if a site owner gets caught performing these
tricks, they run the real risk of eventually getting their site banned. It’s better to stick with tried and true, ethical search
engine optimization techniques that will keep your site in the search engines and directories for the long haul, rather
than engage in practices that are unprofessional.

Let’s go over a few of these techniques:
Keyword stuffing.
This consists of inserting as many
keywords and phrases beyond what is reasonable
into your site pages, whether that be in the content
or META tags. In addition, these keywords and
phrases usually have nothing to do with your site’s
purpose; they’re merely popular search terms that
will bring traffic to your site. However, since this
traffic is not quality, targeted traffic, I’m perplexed as
to how this would serve a purpose.
Invisible text.
This is another version of keyword
stuffing, except the keywords and phrases are the
same color as the background (white on white,
for example), so while humans can’t see it, search
engine spiders can, and it’s supposed to trick them
into ranking your site higher. Not a good idea.
Doorway pages.
Doorways are simple HTML pages
that are customized to a few particular keywords or
phrases, and they are programmed to be visible only
by specific search engines and their spiders. These
pages are designed for one purpose and one purpose
only: to trick the search engines into giving them
higher rankings. This, again, is not a good idea.
I’m sure there are a LOT more tricks than this,
but these are some of the big ones.

Bottom line:
don’t do anything that is remotely related
to tricking search engines. Instead, spend your time on
optimizing your site: clean design, well-selected keywords
and phrases, compelling content, well-written META tags,
and a clear purpose. That will get you further than any of
these Black Hat techniques.
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Search Engine Optimization Handbook
SEO Guidelines Checklist for the Road

Once you do the initial work of optimizing your site for search, you need to recognize that your
job is not done. In fact, as long as you have a Web site, you’re going to have to be monitoring it
and its progress in order to tweak anything that needs to be tweaked as far as making sure it’s
search engine friendly. Here are a few guidelines that will help you on the road ahead.
Make your site the best it can be.
Your goal for your site should be to make it the absolute best site it
can be in your particular market or niche. Make it stand out above the crowd. This will achieve for you
professional credibility, which will get you links, which will boost your rankings in the search engines.
Don’t be a fussbudget.
Once you have your site optimized, keywords in place, etc., leave it alone for about
three to six months. That’s not to say you should not add any new content. Content and search engines are a
match made in heaven! Keep adding quality optimized content on a regular basis.
Be patient.
Good SEO takes time and effort to produce results, just like it takes time for your pages to show
up in search engine and directory results. Be more concerned with optimizing your site and the quality of
traffic that comes to your site; the conversions that you see from a better placed site are worth more than
any number one search engine ranking. Why? Because frankly nobody is going to give you a prize for ranking
highly, but when you have targeted traffic coming to your site and heeding your call to action (whatever that
might be), you’ll have accomplished your mission. And most of the time, this means that you’ll have a high
ranking as well. It all fits together.
Search engine optimization is common sense.
It takes a lot of hard work, and it takes a lot of patience. There
are not really any shortcuts here, and it can be difficult to wait for initial results after you’ve worked so hard. The three
things that equate to a successful site: well-optimized content with plenty of keywords, clean and clear navigation, and
plenty of good sites linking back to you. Be patient, keep working hard, and eventually you’ll reap the benefits you so
richly deserve.

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Search Engine Optimization Handbook
Search Engine Optimization Summary
1.
Know your Web site’s purpose. Know your target audience.
2.
Understand how search engines look at your Web site, and how search



engine users look at your Web site.
3.
Research, analyze and select relevant, targeted keywords and phrases.
4.
Write a good title tag, META description tag and META keywords tag



based on your selected targeted keywords and phrases.
5.
Write your Web site content based on your selected targeted keywords



and phrases.
6.
Design your Web site with both search engines and search engine users



in mind.
7.
Evaluate if your Web site is link-worthy, and work on making it even



more so.
8.
Submit your Web site to search engines and search directories.
9.
Be patient. Give it some time to gel.
10.
Keep adding new content so users will want to keep visiting

and other Web site owners will keep linking to your Web site.
For more great information, tips and advice about effective search engine engine optimization and marketing,
visit Wendy Boswell’s outstanding Web Search site at About.com

http://websearch.about.com
/
Register.com offers domain names, email, Web sites, Web hosting, data backup services and more to help the small
business owner maximize their time and efforts on the Web. To learn more about how you can use Register.com’s tools to
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