From Google to you
I recently attended a search industry conference at which Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s anti-webspam team, was a keynote speaker. Matt’s team is charged with finding sites that are attempting to cheat the system, documenting how they do it and then dropping them from the search index. As a result, Matt and his team have learned what works best to get sites listed correctly – and it is surprisingly simple. Matt shared a few SEO tips for beginners with us.
These tips are intended for web site owners just getting started in the optimization process. However, it’s often the simplest things that are overlooked. Many of the sites that I and other SEOs are tasked with “fixing” do not follow some of these and as a result rank poorly for searches they should, or at least could, rank well for.
Ten SEO Tips
- Use good URL & Site structure.
It’s been discussed over and over again. Yes, Google can index dynamic page URLs (like those here on AgentGenius.com). However, if you are able to use search friendly URLS – often referred to as PERMALINKS – then you really should. Permalinks allow you to include keywords in your URL, creating one more crumb in the trail you want the search engines and readers to follow.
- Use good and unique page titles.
Page titles should be a brief (only about 65-70 characters) description of what a page contains, or is about. This is another opportunity to let the search engines (and more importantly, your readers) know what they might find on a page. Too often this is ignored, or worse misused. Many sites leave page titles blank, insert just the company name, or use non-descriptive text like “about us” or “our products”. A page title should be able to stand alone, a reader should have an idea what the page is about without reading one word of it’s content.
- Use keywords naturally withing your content (don’t try to stuff them in there).
Google does recognize common root variations of the same word. For example, it knows that engage, engagement, engaging, and engaged are all variations the same word. Don’t waste your time and irritate your readers by using all these words over and over in your pages. However, Google does not know that cat, kitten, kitty, feline or putty-tat could all be used to mean the same thing. When applicable, use common synonyms in your pages as well. Different people use different words to communicate, try to use the most common variations in your writing.
- Page title and site URL do not have to match.
If you are not using a blog or a content management system (CMS), this is probably not something you ever even considering doing – creating matching titles and URLs is too much work for a manual process. However, if you use a CMS like WordPress it is often done for you automatically. Why not alter the URL slightly and insert a keyword synonym? It’s just one more of the crumbs to follow. (I’ll admit I have not done this – it’s one of those simple things I never even thought about, but feel silly for not doing).
- Check your site logs often to see what you already rank well for.
You might already be ranking well for something and not even know it. Possibly searchers are finding you with keywords you never even considered. By reviwing your search logs, you’ll know how you are being found and be able to optimize your site accordingly.
- Create a blog and post often.
New, fresh content and a growing site is a good indication of relevance. Relevance is what will get you ranked in Google.
- Fill in your description tags.
It’s surprising, how many site owners think the description tag is just a place to stuff keywords. More accurately, it’s displayed by Google (and others) in the search results along with the page title to give searchers an idea what they should expect to find on your web site. A well written description tag should contain your keyword(s) or synonyms and also be truly descriptive of the page and it’s content. If your potential reader thinks this is what they want to see, they will click. If they see a long and obvious list of keywords, chances are they will pass you over.
- Create an XML site map.
Site maps are one of those things SEOs can’t seem to agree on. Many feel that a well structured site will be crawled just fine with out one. Others, myself included, feel that any help they provide is worth the minimal (if any) work required to maintain them. If you run your site in WordPress, or most any CMS, there are plugins available that take all the work out this. I read recently about a test done that showed Google not only came to a site sooner, but it also crawled sites more quickly – a lot more quickly, on sites with site maps. Of course I’d love to link you to it, but can’t locate it at the moment – if you have it, please post in the comments.
- If you are local, be sure to register in the Google local business center.
Put simply, if you run a local business, and are not listed here, you are throwing money away. When people search for products and services in their area, the business identified as local will often rank at the very top of page one, regardless of all other SEO factors.
- Use your chosen keywords in URL and titles.
OK – This is a repeat of 1 & 2, but it’s important so don’t forget to do it.
Simple, right? OK, time to fess up…..how many of these are you not doing on your web site?