SEO, when done well—with quality in mind—doesn't just help increase your search rankings; it also improves your entire website from the viewpoint of search engines as well as your visitors. And that, rather than a cheap shot at fooling search engine algorithms, should be the ultimate aim of your SEO campaign.
So here are 10 tips that won't just knock you up a few places in search results pages for a couple of months; rather, they'll help turn a visit to your website into a better experience and help your site to naturally grow in popularity.
Tip 1: Create incredible content
The most important aspect of your website—and the most important part of all your optimization efforts—is your content. You can't get around that fact in the long run, even with the best of SEO tricks. And why would you want to? You can fool the search bots for a while (and less and less with every passing year), but if your content is of low quality, nobody is going to visit your website or share with the world what you're offering.
Good content, on the other hand, will be eventually be widely read and widely shared by others, often on their own websites, creating excellent link-building opportunities for your website (see Tip No. 5).
Your site's content must be well written, informative, as unique as possible, and free of excessive keyword use intended solely to garner search spider attention. If your content is genuinely informative and written for the niche it's serving, it will already have the keywords you need.
Update your content frequently to focus on the latest information in you niche.
Tip 2: Pick a comfortable niche
Your blog or website can deal with extremely general subjects, but that will make your work a lot harder. General-interest websites have to deal with stiff competition from some very powerful and well established players.
Sticking to a niche, on the other hand, limits your audience but also limits your competition. You can write more authoritatively on your subject, and you can more easily generate a reputation for reliability among a much smaller but more loyal circle of readers.
The important thing is to research the keywords that are most searched for in your niche and use them wisely in your Web pages. You should also keep well abreast of new developments in the field.
Tip 3: Carefully research keywords
We've noted the danger of using too many keywords, but that does not mean you have to deliberately stop using them; on the contrary, keywords are still vital for SEO.
Compile a well-researched list of the most commonly searched for keywords and phrases in your niche by using tools such as Google's Keyword Tool; once you've got them sorted out, scatter them strategically throughout your content, your headlines, and your sub-headers. Just make sure you don't overdo it by using them to the point that text flow seems unnatural.
Tip 4: Stick to SEO-friendly URLs
You should also optimize all of your website's pages at a basic level. Start by ensuring that every page of your website has a distinct and SEO-friendly URL that describes what the page is about in a few words. For example, if you have a page about cooking steak, instead of <www.myawesomesite.com/tips/item4?=45756>, convert your URL into something like <www.myawesomesite.com/tips/grilling-the-best-steak>. That is much more search engine friendly.
Tip 5: Use tags and Meta descriptions
You should create concisely informative meta descriptions of all your Web pages with the keywords for that page appearing in the description; you'll have 150-160 characters to fill. These meta descriptions are likely not use by Google any more for ranking, but they're useful in attracting attention from human readers in the search results page, so use them anyway.
Also include title tags for every important page of your site. These need to fit within 70 characters and should offer very quick descriptions of the individual pages they represent with at least one or two page relevant keywords within them. Make these friendly to human readers, don't just list keywords.
Tip 6: Don't forget image attributes
You likely have content-relevant images on your website or blog; those images offer an excellent SEO boosting opportunity thanks to image search features on Google and other engines. However, search spiders can't analyze images well if related text is not included—though they do consider the name of the image file (e.g., "cavalier-king-charles-puppy.jpg" is better than "sidebar-image.jpg").
Therefore, you need to create brief HTML description tags for each image you post amid your website content. These tags should consist of a quick description of what the image is of or what it relates to in your content. (Here's a quick tutorial on image SEO tactics.)
Tip 7: Build internal links
Internal link-building is an on-site SEO tactic that consists of creating a well-organized and thorough link structure among your own website's pages. In other words, as many pages as possible should be connected to each other in a hierarchical or web-like connections of in-page, text-based hyperlinks.
Pay particular attention to creating connections between your main pages and your homepage; do so via menu objects or by placing the links right into your on-page content.
Another helpful internal link-building feature is a sitemap, which has the benefit of also helping search spiders index your site better and faster.
Tip 8: Build external links
External link building is a different animal: You need to encourage the creation of backlinks to your site from other websites; that is, links on other sites lead back to relevant content on your own website pages.
If you want to build external links successfully and without resorting to black hat tactics, you're going to have to dedicate a lot of time to posting links to social sites, finding guest post opportunities that allow you to publish links back to your website, leaving plenty of informative guest comments on other websites in your niche, and syndicating your RSS feed (if you have one).
(Try to ensure that those links are not "nofollow." Links with a nofollow attribute are ignored by search spiders as a valid backlink in the sense that your site doesn't receive "credibility points" from the search engines. You can still get visitors as a result of those links, however, because people will click on them and end up on your site.)
The process of building backlinks is slow, but it eventually pays off to create some really good SEO.
Tip 9: Enable Social Media Sharing
Enable as many social media sharing options on your website as you can. Install buttons for all the major social sites (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) and others on every important page of your website. With these buttons, your readers can spread the word about the valuable and interesting content you have to offer; eventually that content can find its way to other websites and so lead to some quality backlinks.
Tip 10: Avoid using Flash and images as text
The search spiders that index websites read only text on websites and are, for the most part, incapable of analyzing Flash or image files. So, in general, stay away from both as content mediums. Do not use Flash-based site navigation tools and stay away from creating content text that is in image form.
In the case of Flash navigation, the search bot won't be able to click through to index the pages the flash navigation links to, leaving parts of your website without indexing. In the case of image-based text, any useful information and keywords you put there will be invisible to the search engine.
Stick to site browsing code like jQuery or CSS and create purely text-based written content.