Steps You Can Take To Improve Your SEO (continued)
2. Where you have images on your site, always include an alt tag.
The HTML code for including an image in your page has an optional attribute called the 'alt' tag. It's short for 'alternative text'. It was originally intended as a text description to aid viewers surfing with images turned off, or vision-impaired surfers who use a screen reader so they could get an idea of what an image was about, since they couldn't see it. But search engines also use the alt tag to find out more about what your page is about.
You want the alt tag to contain keywords relevant to your site and the image they are describing. Instead of just putting "header" in the alt tag for your header image, use the opportunity to tell the search engines what your site is about, with something like "Affiliate marketing? Header", if your site is about affiliate marketing .
Don't over do it though, you want this description to be concise rather than stuffed with every keyword relevant to your site. Here's a good reference for learning more about image tags: http://www.htmlgoodies.com/primers/html/article.php/3478181
3. Use header tags wisely.
The header tags H1, H2, H3 etc. are used by search engines to figure out what the important keywords for your site are. You can easily change the appearance of the header tags by using stylesheets, so try to use the standard HTML header tags instead of custom styles for your headers. Then just make sure you've got relevant keywords in the headers. The H1 header should contain the primary keyword for your page, the H2 header should contain the secondary keywords for your page, etc.
4. Get backlinks with relevant keywords.
Get backlinks. Get lots of them. This should be an ongoing part of your SEO. The more backlinks the better, but you want to grow your backlinks naturally.
It's better if you work on getting a handful of backlinks every week than if you suddenly got 10,000 backlinks overnight because you bought them from a link farm. The search engines are watching for these unnatural patterns, and you are likely to be penalized for engaging in such practices.
There are many ways to get backlinks. You can develop relationships with other webmasters to get traditional reciprocal links from other related sites. Participate in forums related to your topic and be sure to have a link to your site as part of your 'signature'. Write articles for article directories which include a link back to your site in the 'bio box'.
Create Squidoo lenses or HubPages with a link back to your site. If you have a blog submit your RSS feed to RSS Aggregator sites, and add it to your Squidoo lens or HubPage.
Use Social Bookmarking services to bookmark your pages and encourage your visitors to do the same. Use Twitter to send out a 'tweet' when you post a new article. This is just to get you started; it's not an exhaustive list by any means.
Now that you have some ideas for where to get backlinks, it's important that you choose good anchor text for your backlinks when you can. The anchor text is the text that turns into the hyperlink (it's often blue, sometimes underlined). The search engines also use this text to figure out what your site, or page, is about. So where you can, specify what the anchor text will be.
You want to use your main keywords, and variations on your main keywords. Try to vary it a little (that looks natural), while still keeping it relevant of course. Keep in mind that the keywords you use when you are linking to a specific page are not necessarily going to be the same as when you are linking to your homepage.
In some cases you don't have the option of specifying the anchor text. But don't miss the opportunity to specify it where you can. If you trade reciprocal links with another site, specify what you want your anchor text to be.
The other webmaster will probably appreciate it because it saves them time having to decide what it should be. When you create Squidoo lenses and HubPages, or forum signatures, you have total control over your anchor text. Use it wisely.
We've covered just a few basic, but very important, aspects of SEO in this article. This is a very good place to start if you want to improve your sites search engine optimization. Keep applying these techniques until it becomes second nature and you should see an improvement in both your search engine rankings and an increase in the traffic to your site.
What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a collection of techniques that can be applied to a website to increase the search engine ranking of the site. Search engine ranking is the position that your site occupies when a search is done using keywords that you target on your site.
Why is search engine ranking important?
The higher your site"s position in the search engine results pages (SERPs) the more people will see it and potentially click on your listing, bringing you more traffic.
For example, Google, one of the most popular search engines, list 10 search results per page. Most casual searchers never look beyond the first page of search results.
SEO is important because if you can get your site listed in the Google top ten -- on the first page of results-- for your search terms, you will get significantly more traffic than if your listing shows up on any subsequent pages.
SEO techniques fall under two broad categories, on-page factors and off-page factors.
On Page SEO
On page factors are all the things you can do on your website to increase SEO. The on page factors usually revolve around keywords, and you use these techniques to let the search engines know what you site is about.
On page factors include things like the use of keyword and description meta tags, the use of the alt tag for images, HTML header tags, keyword placement, etc.
Off Page SEO
Off page factors revolve around backlinks, but also involve the use of keywords. Backlinks are the links placed on other sites that point to your site. Backlinks are also known as "inbound links", a term which is often easier to understand. Inbound links are those links pointing towards your site.
Steps You Can Take To Improve Your SEO
1. Always use keyword and description meta tags.
For every page on your site you should have meta tags unique to that page. Meta tags are HTML code found between the tags near the top of the page when you are looking at the HTML code. There's a good reference for using meta tags here: http://www.freelancedesigners.com/tools/meta_tags.cfm.
For the keywords meta tag create a comma-separated list of keywords relevant to your site. Keywords don't have to be single words. They can, and should, be keyword phrases relevant to the content of that page.
For the description meta tag write a description of your site that would make someone want to click your link.
This meta tag's description is used by some search engines, including Google, as the text description of your site. So it's not just for the search engine's benefit, it's also likely to be seen by a human and it may be the difference between that human clicking on your site's link or another site.
Part 2 will cover additional tips you can take to improve your SEO.
You know your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) efforts should be targeted towards high search engine ranking for your keywords, but you have to be aware of the over-optimization penalty. This happens when the search engines consider your page has only been designed to get a high page ranking.
Most SEO experts teach you how to optimize a web page for good search engine ranking, but very few tell you what you have to avoid if you want to avoid over optimization penalties and see your page rank drop or your site get de-indexed.
Here are 10 things you should consider if you are serious about SEO:
Website Content Theft
Never steal content from other websites. If you are reported you will immediately be banned. Not to mention possibly get entangled in legal issues involving copyrights.
Do not use slang or rude words in your copy as it can get you de-indexed.
Do not exceed 100 outgoing links, always link to good quality sites and never link to farm links. Extra tip: you must check your outgoing links on a regular basis to make sure they are still working and the quality of the sites you are linking to is still good.
Keep your URLs less than 100 characters long and avoid using more than 3 hyphens "-" in your URLs.
Keep your keyword density under 5% or it could be considered keyword spamming.
Your title tag should contain less than 60 characters and should not contain any special characters.
Keep your description meta tag under 200 characters or your site ranking will drop.
Put less than 10 keywords in your keyword meta tag and make sure every keyword appears in your web page copy. Also, avoid putting the same keyword twice in your keyword meta tag. Nowadays search engines (mainly Google) do not really consider the Keyword meta tag for ranking, but if you do not follow these simple rules, you can get penalized for it.
Proper use of Alt Text
If you use pictures and put your keyword in the alt text, your alt text must describe the picture. You could write something like: "keyword header", "keyword image" or "keyword logo" but never stuff lots of keywords in your alt texts. Again, this would be considered keyword spamming.
Short note: Alt text is short for 'alternative text'. Alt text is used as a text description to help people surfing with images turned off, and vision-impaired surfers who use screen readers to get an idea of what an included image is about.Search engines also use the alt tag to find out more about what your page is about.
Never use cloaking. Cloaking consists of coding the page in such a way that parts of the content will be seen by search engines but will not be displayed to users. If you're caught doing so, you'll get banned.
Finally, remember that search engine algorithms change frequently. So keep up to date by browsing the SEO sites and forums.
These 10 simple rules are no guarantee that you will rank well in the search engines, but one thing is sure: break these rules and you will be penalized in the search results. You can lose page rank and may even get de-indexed altogether.
Part 2 of 2
How many ways from the choices below can you apply RSS to your business? Here are some practical examples of RSS at work:
Use Your Own Content
Nearly any web based content can be transformed into an RSS feed. The only real requirement is that the information changes regularly. As soon as you update your site, your subscribers will know about it.
Typically, the main use of RSS is to present headlines and a short introduction to headlines and breaking news. With an RSS feed on your site featuring your company press releases, site updates, etc. you can keep your products and services in the public eye.
It's easy to turn an "events" page into an RSS feed,and a great way to let people know of events and activities that you're planning to hold.
You know about "blogs" or "weblogs". They're like an on-line journal of sorts that display (usually in chronological order) a series of writings on whatever the author wants to write about. While a normal blog also allows others to add their comments to yours, you don't have to offer that functionality.
Set up a page where you regularly add your thoughts on all sorts of issues - or just one issue - with the most recent post at the top of the page. Include these items in an RSS feed, and you've got a whole new audience for your pearls of wisdom.
Share your knowledge. This is a more "formal" type of writing, where you write a series of articles on a specific topic. Add a new article on that topic every week or so. Set up several topics and you've got several new RSS feeds to attract even more interest in what you know.
Don't forget to include a resource box in the article which allows others to reproduce your article on their site, with an obvious link back to you.
Got an online store with new inventory added regularly? Add details about your newly added items to an RSS feed to let people know what's just come in.
Do you regularly make special offers on different products in your inventory? Again, RSS is a great way to tell people what's on special this week... or this month.
If you regularly produce an email newsletter, then consider converting it to RSS format as well as continuing to email it. After all, your newsletters ARE also shown on your web site... aren't they?
If you have a links directory, considering creating an RSS feed of the new links added to your directory in the last week or so. If you have a category structure within that directory, with links added often, you can create a feed for each category.
Do you run a public membership site? Recently joined members could be listed in an RSS feed with links direct to their profiles. What a great way to welcome new members!
Ticker RSS Feeds
Do you have timely information, e.g. important stock figures, to communicate to your customers? If you automate the process with software, an RSS feed can send critical new information on an hourly basis (or more frequently if needed).
Note: Aim to have up to 15-20 items in each feed if possible. You can have more items if you want. Just remember that most feed reading software will NOT display all the items. Many may only show the first 5 or 10.
Once you've got your feed going... remember to submit your feed URLs to the various RSS Feed Directories.
Using Content From OTHER Web Sites
If a site offers an RSS feed for people to subscribe to, you can possibly use that feed on your site. Just check the terms and conditions on the site FIRST to see if you can reproduce the feed. If in doubt - send an email or phone them to ask permission.
What you are aiming for is to build many extra pages of useful content on topics of value to your visitors. Don't worry that the links in the feed take people off site (make that happen in a new window). The content is what is needed for search engines and people to read!
Part 1 of 2
By this time most of you have seen --and grown immune to--those ubiquitous little RSS buttons on your frequently visited sites and blogs. Oops. You may have just bypassed a very good opportunity to add to your business growth skills.
RSS generally stands for Really Simple Syndication. When you subscribe to a site that has the RSS feature, you're kept up-to-date with new information without having to check the site itself.
This is good news because, just to start, you can use RSS to get newsfeeds from major news networks, as well as updates from your favorite sites. You can get updates on most everything and anything that interests you, if there's an RSS feed on it.
This twist to the Internet information machine is a very valuable tool to any online marketer. Imagine replacing email marketing with RSS marketing.
People actually subscribe, meaning they want your information updates, which act like opt-in newsletters. With newsletters you have to write them and your site content. With RSS, when you update your content, all subscribers are notified by their newsreaders.
Newsreaders are special software that read RSS feeds. To get started, you can download a free RSS reader.? For PC users, go to http://www.rssreader.com . For Mac users, check out http://ranchero.com/netnewswire
Once you've set it up, here's what your readers and customers have to do:
Once you get started, your favorite parts of the Web come to you. No need to go out and check for updates all the time. If you don't want to download software, subscribe to your favorite feeds through My Yahoo or My MSN.
So how does any of this make you money?
More traffic means more money. By making RSS available on your website or your blog, anyone can subscribe automatically and know when a new product or service is available.
This new way of Internet shopping through updates is not to be ignored. To take advantage of the traffic you have to give the RSS feed option to website visitors and submit your feed information to RSS, blog and XML type directories.
Here's how you get RSS for your site
Go to http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/tech/rss for the best source of RSS and Blog information. There are several file types for RSS and here you learn which is best and why.
There's no need to become a techie or a net wizard to use RSS and XML. You just need to know enough about it to use it properly. Once you do, it will be easier to see how you can make money online with it.
In the same way newsletters and opt-in email are used for successful marketing, RSS is an easier, faster, and much less intrusive way to communicate with potential or existing clients and customers.
It's critical to provide exactly what people want, so you can make money online. How can there be a better way to do that than to allow people to subscribe to their wants and wishes? Using RSS and XML technologies can help you to make money online. To add fuel to your marketing fire, use RSS to optimize content and add frequent updates to your web pages.
Part 2 of 2
We live in a technologically fast-paced world. Even brand new users today can make use of easy to master web design tools that add functionality, tools only a web programmer could have dreamed of just a couple of years ago. And that's great, right?
Well, not quite.
The accessibility of such web mastering tools has resulted in probably thousands of "junk" websites, ones which have so much going on on every page that the average web surfer is completely overwhelmed.
Some of these web pages have as many as 7 or 8 distinct content areas contained on one screen... flashing header graphics, followed by several heavy paragraphs of text, then opt-in forms, the whole page sprinkled liberally with Google ads, Amazon ads, affiliate links, audio and/or video buttons to push, and sometimes even more.
Don't be tempted to make such glaring mistakes. It's unlikely that most web visitors will successfully navigate such a site. There are too many decisions to make, too many distractions. And the content is completely lost among all the flash and advertising.
So, what's the answer?
Most successful webmasters today--that is webmasters who have repeat and regular visitors coming back to their site and who are making money and/or getting some other desired response--will tell you that what really helps is clean and simple web design. Usability is the key.
Great website designs focus on 3 basic values: simplicity, clarity, and speed.
In other words, you need a site that is visually appealing, but at the same time downloads quickly and is easy to navigate.
To design a site that has visual appeal, you can make use of simple graphics, color, and graphical text.
At all costs, stay away from flashing animations and busy backgrounds. In fact, a white, cream, or light yellow background with black or dark blue text is best, if you want the majority of visitors to be able to read your text easily. Remember, simple contrast in text color/background color helps make the reading experience easier on the eyes.
It isn't necessary to be an accomplished graphic artist to design a visually pleasing content site. Grab a photo or two from free stock photo sites, add some colored text and a tagline using a graphics program like Windows Paint, GIMP or or your program of choice, and that's all that is needed for a header.
Navigation should be simple text links or buttons, either across the top, right under the header, or down the left or right side of the screen. Make sure the text labels clearly indicate what the user will find when he or she clicks on them.
An opt-in form and one or two simple ads can also be placed in the left or right panes, with your content in the main center panel. Your content pane should be the largest area on the screen, so that it draws the reader's focus.
Clean and simple web design extends to the layout of your content too. Text is most readable when it is in "chunks." This means short sentences and paragraphs of no more than 2 to 4 sentences each.
Make liberal use of colored subheadings and bullets. Sprinkle a graphic or two per page to break up the text and add visual interest. Use margins (padding) around your text, so that it doesn't bump up against the edges of your navigation and ad panels. Lots of white space is crucial.
For more information, visit Alertbox, by Dr. Jakob Nielsen, an expert in web usability.
In summary, many beginning webmasters (and even some more experienced ones!) think that squeezing as much functionality into every page as possible is the right approach. It isn't. What will keep people on your site and keep them coming back as well, is great content and a clean, simple, easy to navigate design.
Part 1 of 2
It's a fact of the Net that some websites sell better than others, but you don't need a marketing degree to create a website that sells. Good design also has an influence.Many of the successful internet marketing businesses understand that the design and layout of the website are as much of a marketing decision as the ad copy.
Web designers can do some amazing things with graphics and colors. It's important here to understand some of the key elements that experienced marketers apply to their highly profitable sites. If you study these simple elements you can experiment on your own and see what works for you, and you too can create a much more appealing site when you apply classic principles to your handiwork.
Designs using dramatic colors can set compelling moods for your visitors. Think of the different colors you would use to design a site meant for preteen girls, and compare that to, say, one targeted at teen-aged boys.
Keep in mind, though, that reading on a computer screen -- the main way we get the information we're after --demands as much contrast as possible, otherwise the reader will develop vision fatigue.
Haven't you ever come across a site with a painfully busy background or wallpaper, and odd color combinations -- black copy against a light gray background, fuchsia on black-- that sort of thing?
You don't want to irritate or tire your visitors in any way just because of the initial impression of your web page. They'd leave --wouldn't you, if it wasn't your site? -- so be certain that the main body of your website copy is black text on a white background - or as close to that ideal as possible.
Colors also change appearance on different monitors, so what looks cool and calm on one monitor may be bright and glaring on another. Simple works. Test your design on different browsers and monitors.
Striking, bold graphics can be a real eye-catcher for visitors. Still, successful internet marketers are pretty much unanimous in stating that you should avoid flashy graphics as much as possible.
Again, they tend to tire visitors' eyes and draw attention away from the written copy. Even if visitors are initially impressed by the work, it may subconsciously annoy them. And not everyone uses DSL or broadband. There are undoubtedly people still on dial-up connection who would appreciate a faster loading web page more than a flashy, slow loading one. Simplicity is, again, the best way to go.
The first 'fold' of your site is similar to opening a traditional paper letter. If you remove a letter from an envelope that is folded in three, you will obviously view the top 'fold' first.
This fold is what individuals will see without scrolling down the page. It's vital that important elements like descriptive headlines, your contact number, newsletter subscription form etc. all show in the first fold.
Don't place banners here unless they're the main element of your business, as you'll be giving prime space to other websites and your customers (who you fought hard to get in the first place) will be gone just as quickly.
These are just some of the important elements you should be aware of when designing your site.
Just as an example, I highly recommend that you visit All Things Web, as both a resource and an example of a clean, easy-on-the-eyes website. Some of the references are way out of date but the principles behind them are timeless.
While you should design your website to be pleasing to the eye, stunning graphics and fancy little details will not make up for the lack of a good navigation system. No matter how great your website looks, it'd be useless if your visitors can't find their way around it.
Traditionally the navigation menu is placed just below the header area or on the left hand side of the web page. Usability studies have shown that web site visitors instinctively look in these areas first.
Wherever you decide to place your navigation menu, remember that consistency is important. You have to place your navigation menu in the same spot on every one of your web pages.
If you use an image to represent a navigational button, use the same image and the same color for that image on each page of your website. For example, if you use an image of a smiling sun in the left hand corner of your web page as your "Home" navigational link, use the same smiling sun image in the left hand corner of every one of your web pages to designate the "Home" link. Don't make your visitors work to find it.
Your visitor should be able to find what they are looking for within 3 clicks of your home page. This isn't usually a problem for small sites. However, if you have a large site with many pages, you'd need a navigation menu that provides access to all areas of your website so your visitors won't get lost or confused.
You may want to use a bread crumb trail type of navigation system for large sites (For example: Homepage > Category > Subcategory > Content). Another option is to use a dynamic menu that changes according to the page your visitor is on, but be aware that search engines may not be able to spider sites using dynamic menus.
Usability studies have shown that a navigation menu should contain no more than 8 links. The more choices a user is given, the more difficult it will be for them to make a decision. They'll be paralyzed by the overabundance. And if you have too many links, your visitor may get the impression that your site is too complicated and difficult to navigate.
Navigation links should be considered the most important part of your website for two reasons:
1) They are used by your visitor to find content on your site.
2) They are used by search engines to spider your site.
The reason users visit your site is to get information. If visitors can't find what they want, they will leave, probably never to return again.
While different search engines have different rules on how they spider and rank a site, basically a "bot" or "spider" will visit a site, search for a "HREF" link and follow the links to other pages, indexing the pages as it goes along. If the "bot" or "spider" doesn't find a "HREF" tag on a page, it is blocked from going any deeper into the site. As you can see, you need to design your navigational system so that a search engine can spider all the pages of your website.
When designing your website, take the extra time to design a good navigational system. It's a small yet vital aspect towards your success.