Search Engine Optimization can largely be broken down into two areas of effort – on-page and off-page. On-page SEO refers to the content of the individual HTML files that make up your site, and off-page SEO refers to external efforts, such as links to your pages from other sites. This tutorial is a brief look at a few of the easiest techniques regarding the former.
1. Know your keywords
This is the most important, and it has to do with off-page SEO as well. Know what words and phrases you want your pages to rank well on. This depends on what your website does, and how people are likely to search for it. There are a large number of useful tools to tell you what people are searching for, and covering them is beyond the scope of this tutorial, but here’s Google’s Keyword Tool to get you started. It’s intended to be used with AdWords accounts, but is very helpful in finding good keywords to use for organic results as well.
2. Page titles
This is probably the most important place to have your keywords. It’s recommended to place your most important keywords first in your title, and if you choose to put your company name in there, put it last. Usually 10-15 words should be your limit for page titles, so it’s important to choose carefully. Since it’s visible, you don’t want your title to be a string of slight variations on your keywords: “keyword, keywords, key word, key-word”; it doesn’t seem natural. Also, you don’t want to re-use the same title across multiple pages.
Headers are also a very important place to have keywords. Search engines regard text in headers as some of the most important text on the page. Semantically, they’re used to divide the page into sections, so you might want to build your page accordingly, or you can ignore semantics (not recommended.)
4. Body copy
Placing your keywords throughout the text of the page tells search engines that your page really is about whatever you’re trying to rank on. It helps to reinforce what you’ve put in your title and other places, especially when it’s emphasized by being placed inside of or tags. Don’t forget the alt attribute of tags, as this counts as on-page text as well.
5. Meta keywords
Basically pointless. In fact, my advice is don’t use them at all. Google, Bing, Yahoo, and Ask don’t consider them in page ranking. There was a time when meta keywords were very important to SEO, but all the major search engines have stopped considering them. Some say you should still use them as an easy reference to your keywords, or to cater to any obscure search engines that might still use them. The problem is that your competitors may have tools that crawl your pages (and their other competitors’ pages) scraping the meta keywords for research.
SEO is an art at least as much as it is a science. It involves a lot of trial-and-error and massive amounts of market research. It also takes time – every time you make a change, you have to wait for the search engines to crawl your page again to reflect it, and building your domain’s reputation contributes significantly as well. Regularly adding or changing content while maintaining keyword usage also helps, but again, the effects are not instant.