If your visitors like your Web site, there is a very good likelihood that the search engines will, too.
With this in mind, the following 10 tips focus on how to develop your site with your visitors in mind, and also effectively conduct search engine optimization.
1. Pick appropriate keyword phrases
This is the single most important thing to do when it comes to optimizing your site for search engines. The words and phrases that your potential customers type into the major search engines are the keywords your site should be using within the specific areas of your Web page (see points 3 and 4, below). Useful keyword research tools are available on the Web, including Wordtracker and Keyword Discovery (both offer trial versions).
However, if you want to find out accurate figures of how many people are searching for your targeted keywords per week/month/year, run a Google AdWords and/or Yahoo/Overture campaign and you will get extremely accurate figures of search engine traffic while (hopefully) generating income that will pay for your research.
2. Optimize every page on your site
Optimizing each Web page is overlooked by so many sites. It can be the difference between competing for a highly competitive keyword phrase such as "Irish Hotels" on your home page, and competing for a much less competitive keyword phrase such as "Hotels in County Galway" on another relevant landing page.
3. Optimize your page titles
All of the major search engines have hundreds of different algorithms that compute where your Web page should be listed for different keyword searches. Putting your keywords within the title description tag of your pages is one of the most important SEO techniques and will help your site climb through the rankings. It will also allow your visitors to remember exactly what your page is all about when they save it to their "favorites."
4. Optimize your page content
It is sometimes very difficult to write content for your Web site. Not only do you need to put the information you want the visitor to see in front of them in an easy-to-read style, you also have to keep in mind the keywords that your page is targeting so that you can rank better within search engines.
One of the best pieces of advice I have come across is to write for your visitors and include the keywords as much as makes sense. Read what you have written out loud to yourself and a few others. If it sounds silly or stilted... lather, rinse, and repeat.
5. Create an inbound linking strategy
Submitting your site to Web site and article directories is a very beneficial way to drive targeted traffic to your site.
Links within these sites bring visitors to your Web site, and search engine "spiders" are easily able find your site and index your pages within their results. If your site doesn't have a link pointing to it on the World Wide Web, the search engines will never find it and you will never see any traffic from Google or the other big ones.
6. Descriptively label your links and images (aka, the "anchor text")
This technique is both common sense and good practice. Saying "click here" is not enough to help visitors understand what they're going to find once they click through. Be as descriptive as possible with every text and graphical link on your site.
When writing your anchor text and alt attributes, you can almost always describe the page you're pointing to by using its main keyword phrase. That is an important factor that search engines take into account when it comes to ranking your Web pages.
7. Make sure your site is spider-friendly
8. Create fresh content
When you are optimizing your site properly, you will see a trend. If you are doing something that benefits your site's visitors, then the search engines will reward you for it.
Blogs and forums are effective and easy ways of adding new information to your site on a regular basis. However, if your only purpose of setting up a blog or a forum is for better search engine rankings, then there really is no point in doing it. Only add a forum if it contributes something beneficial to your site and if you have the traffic to make it interactive enough for visitors to return to it. And, only add a blog if you have something of interest to say on a regular basis.
Once you have your blog and/or forum up and running, you should optimize them with the same professionalism you do with any other page on your site.
9. Do not think that you can trick search engines
As noted before, if you are benefiting your visitors, then the search engines will reward you for it.
If you try to trick the search engines by hiding keyword phrases, joining link farms, or any other sneaky practice, your sites will be removed from the search engines. (And you will also have to spend more time cleaning up your site before they will accept you back in.)
10. Offer something unique
If your Web site offers something that is unique and interesting to your target market and it is properly optimized (by applying all of the techniques listed above), you will not only rank well within the major search engines but also get the added benefit of people linking to your site in forums, blogs, and through other sites. That will send your site more visitors and create more inbound links, which will help it rank higher.
Remember, it's human visitors that you are trying to impress, not search engine robots.
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