Using a professional search engine optimization service can sometimes be expensive. However, if your budget is tight and you have a basic understanding of web page construction it is possible to optimize your own website without hiring an SEO specialist. For those who would like to give it a try, here are ten “Do it yourself” search engine optimization tips:
1. Think about SEO right from the start
Many people plan, design and build their websites without giving any thought as to whether their site is search engine friendly or whether it will be capable of attracting traffic in organic search engine results. At the last minute, after most of the site has been built, they try to optimize their site, not realizing that this work should have done throughout the planning and building process.
It is far better to think about search engine optimization at the very beginning of the process. For example, if it is at all possible, choose a domain name that will allow you to include your most important keyword or search term in your URL. If you are selling bicycles then you would do well have to a domain name like http://www.xyzbicycles.com . And don’t stop with the domain name; include your keywords in your file names as well. For example, a sub-page of this hypothetical site might be http://www.xyzbicycles.com/road-bikes.html
2. Design your site with both search engines and users in mind
Your site should be easy for your human readers to understand, but it should also be easy for search engine robots as well. If you want to see what a search engine robot will “see” then view your site in a notepad document or use the html view of the popular web editing programs.
If you have used gif images to render your headlines or other important text, then this text will not be picked up by the search engine robots. In addition, if you have designed a site that is entirely in a flash format, you will not be providing the search engine spiders with much “food,” or searchable text.
Furthermore, if you have long strings of java script and complex style instructions in the head section of your html page it is better to put the java script in an external file and the style instructions in a separate CSS (cascading style sheet) file, in order to give prominence to the actual text of your web page.
3. Write individual title tags for each and every page of your website
From the standpoint of search engine optimization, the single most important sentence on any web page is the title tag. The title tag gives the search engine a good indication as to what your page is all about. Incorporate your main keywords or search phrases into your title tag, and keep them at the very front of the sentence. These keywords are more important than your company name (unless it is Coca Cola!). So our XYZ Bicycle Company might have a title tag that looks like this Bicycles: Racing Bikes, Mountain Bikes, Road Bikes, Bicycle Accessories from XYZ Bicycles.
The title tags of each of the sub-pages of the site should reflect the main content of those pages. Never use the same title tag for all the pages of the site.
4. Write a concise description tag for each of your web pages
Just as the title tag is the most important sentence or phrase on any page, the description tag is the most important paragraph on any page. Summarize the gist of your page in two or three pages, again incorporating the keywords and search phrases for which you think people will use when searching for your site. A description tag for the home page of the XYZ Bicycle Company could look like this: “The EXZ Bicycle Company manufactures mountain bikes, racing bicycles, road bikes and bicycle accessories. Our bicycles are distributed and sold around the world. ”
5. Put your keywords into headers and headlines on your page
Your human readers and search engines alike need prominent headlines in order to understand what your page is all about. While a human reader only needs to see the headline in a large bold text, search engines distinguish the headlines, which they regard as important indicators of the page, by noting which phrases are encased in header tags such as , , , etc. H1 is considered most important and your first headline should be labeled with this tag. If the header tags make your copy look too big, then you can change the size of the headers by creating style instructions that will render the headlines into sizes that are consistent with the look and feel of your site.
In part two of this series I will give the remaining five tips for do-it-yourself search engine optimization.