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Search Engine Optimization Basics

When it comes to SEO, there are two primary search engine optimization areas: Onsite & Offsite.

Typical Onsite Optimization:

* Meta tags – title & description tags – yes, they are still very important – it’s normally what you see when your viewing results in any search engine. If your site’s been submitted to DMOZ (see below) then add a NO ODP tag so Google doesn’t end up showing some title that an overzealous DMOZ editor decided to edit.

* Content – creating unique, useful content for your visitors and search engines. Don’t be lazy and scrape content from other sites no matter how big your site is and how much work you have to do. If you can’t write it from scratch, modify it to make it unique – make sure to inject keywords and links to your other pages as well. Don’t duplicate pages for any reason – fix your directory structure instead.

* Internal linking structure – use links within your copy to other pages on your site. It helps to tell search engines more about your site – plus they tend to ignore main navigation(s) as they are repeated on every page (looks like duplicate content).

* Directory structure, file names and navigation – keep things clean, if dynamic URLs are used, create mod-re-writes to produce clean search engine friendly URLs. Be sure to 301 redirect the old pages if the site’s been around for awhile and the old pages are in the Google index. Page names should be optimized based on the topic of the page – keep it logical and user friendly. Use bread crumb trails when possible.

* Code bloat – stay away from MS based server environments and web products. They are notoriously bad at keeping code clean and error free. Use Linux based server environments – they’re faster and free. Run your templates through a HTML error checker and make sure there aren’t any major malfunctions – small errors are usually fine, but try to keep it to the absolute minimum.

* Table & Cell Usage – try to keep the website design/layout simple, don’t nest tables within tables within tables – use CSS to keep the overall design clean from a code perspective – it makes it easier for search engines to crawl your content.

Typical Offsite Optimization:

* Link building – Simply put linking is the core of how Google’s search algorithm works. It’s like a giant popularity contest. They call it PageRank, but really what it means is that the more sites you get to link to your site, the more popular Google will think your site is which will produce better rankings. The text used in links is called Anchor Text – and it’s vital that the anchor text be keyword driven. Don’t get someone to link to your site using www.yourtorontosite.com, get them to link using your most important keywords. Read more about linking on our link building page. How do you get links? Well that’s a closely guarded secret – but for the most part, companies that have the dollars buy them. It’s the only way to really control things. Yes you can try requesting links, link exchanges, directory submissions, and other techniques from 8 years ago, but you’ll soon realize that to nail competitive terms you have to buy links, simple as that.

* Social Marketing – well the jury is still out on this one, but we do it more because it’s what you should be doing versus there being a direct coloration to social marketing helping your search rankings. It’s also a little tricky to even get your corporate Facebook or Twitter account pages ranking for your brand name. Do a few searches for some well known big brands and you’ll quickly get the picture. Bottom line is Social can’t hurt your rankings, and these days it is a great way to connect and communicate with your customers – so do it – just don’t look to it to increase your search rankings.

* Article Submissions/Press Releases – provided this isn’t going to take away resources from content writing and other SEO efforts, article submissions and press releases can help with traffic and search rankings – but in terms of priorities – I’d recommend this be kept low, or better yet contracted out so it doesn’t require or divert any attention away from the real drivers.

That’s SEO in a nutshell. For more details see the SEO Checklist.

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