No matter how hard some people try to mystify SEO, it is not as complicated as many would lead you to believe. Despite all the techno jargon that many in the field will throw at you: SERPs, SEM, PageRank, Keyword Density, Vertical Search, Algorithms... SEO is really simple to do if you understand some basic concepts and follow some easy steps.
Search Engine Optimization is getting your content listed in all the top positions in Google, Yahoo and MSN for your targeted keywords. When someone does a keyword search in a search engine for your particular subject or niche - you want your site or content to be at the top of the list.
Here are 10 SEO tactics that have worked and are working for me at this moment in time. I make this clarification because you must understand search engines, especially Google, are constantly redefining how they rank pages. Here are my favorite tactics and strategies:
1. Quality Content is and always will be your number one factor for getting high rankings and keeping them. You must understand search engines are simply businesses who supply a product like any other company. That product is information. They must offer quality results to anyone using their service to solve a problem, answer a question or to buy a product. The more relevant, the more targeted the search solution they return, the higher the overall quality of their product and the more popular their search engine will become. Providing quality content is vital for SEO success.
2. Keywords are your number one tools for achieving high rankings. You must understand keywords and how they work on the web. You must know how many searches are made each day for your chosen keywords. Sites like Wordtracker and Seobook will give you a rudimentary number of searches. Design your pages around your targeted keywords and don't forget to do some deep-linking to these pages on your site. Find and build backlinks to these interior keyword pages and not just to your home page or domain URL. Picking keywords with medium to low competition has worked out well for me. So too has using the more targeted and higher converting "long-tail" keywords been very beneficial for me.
3. Onpage Factors and site design will play a major role in the spidering and indexing of your site/content. Make sure all your pages are SEO friendly, made sure all your pages can be reached from your homepage and no pages should be no more than three levels away from it - keeping a sitemap listing all your major pages makes the search engines happy. Make sure you have all your meta tags such as title, description, keywords... are all optimized. (Title = around 65 characters, Description = around 160 characters) Remember, your title and description should not only be keyword targeted but these are the first contact/impression anyone will see of your site - make sure you use them to draw and entice interested visitors to your site and content. Also make sure your title and URL are keyword matched for maximum effect. Having your major keyword in your Domain Name also helps, using a pike | to separate different elements of your title has helped my rankings, so too does having your keyword in the first and last 25 words on your pages.
4. Google will send you the most qualified traffic so concentrate the majority of your SEO efforts on Google. Don't ignore Yahoo! or MSN but Google is king of search so give it the respect it deserves. With its new browser, Google's influence will only grow stronger so you must optimize your pages for Google. Use Google's Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics to fine-tune your pages/content for Google. I also use Google Alerts to keep up on my niche keywords and for comment link-building on the newly created pages Google is indexing.
5. Link Building is still the most effective way to boost your search rankings. Make sure you get backlinks from relevant sites related to your niche market and make sure the 'anchor text' is related to your keywords but don't ignore the text and overall quality of the content linking to you. The anchor text is the underlined/clickable portion of a link. Don't forget linking is a two-way street, make sure you link out to high quality, high ranked relevant sites in your niche.
6. Article Marketing
is a well established method of getting quality backlinks and it still works. Writing short 500 - 700 word informative helpful articles with your backlinks in the resource box is still very effective for getting targeted traffic and backlinks. Longer articles have also worked for me and I use an extensive network of distribution including SubmitYourArticle, Isnare, Thephantomwriters... plus other major online sites. Don't forget the whole element of blogging and RSS feeds in your article distribution. And always remember you're also using these articles to pre-sale your content or products. Don't forget to leverage sites like Squidoo, Hubpages... to increase your rankings and traffic.
7. Onsite Traffic Hubs have worked extremely well for me. These traffic hubs are whole sections of your site devoted to one sub-division of your major theme. For example, if you have a site on Gifts, then wedding gifts could be a separate section. This would be fully fleshed out with extensive pages covering everything dealing with wedding gifts - a self-contained keyword rich portion of your site on wedding gifts. Works similar as a sub-domain but I prefer using a directory to divide it up, such as yourdomain/wedding_gifts. (Most experts suggest always using a hyphen in your urls but underscores have worked fine for me.) Search engines love these keyword/content rich hubs but keep in mind you're creating content to first satisfy your visitors.
8. WordPress blog software is extremely effective for SEO purposes. WordPress software is easy to install on your site even if you have no experience with installing server-side scripts. Besides search engines love these highly SEO friendly blogs with their well structured content and keyword tagging. I have at least one of these on all my sites to draw in the search engines and get my content indexed and ranked. I also use Blogger (owned by Google), Bloglines and other free blogs to help distribute my content.
9. Social Bookmark/Media Sites are becoming very important on the web. These include a whole range of social sites like MySpace, FaceBook, Twitter... media news sites like Digg, SlashDot, Technorati... you must get your content into this whole mix if you want to take full SEO advantage of Web 2.0 sites. You should be joining these sites and using them. It's time consuming but it will keep you in the swing of things. One simple thing you must do is to put social bookmark buttons on all your pages so that your visitors can easily bookmark your content for you. You can use a WordPress plug-in or I like using a simple free site/service from Addthis.com which gives me a simple button to put on all my content.
10. Masterplan! Many webmasters and site owners forget to develop or have an overall masterplan/strategy when it comes to SEO. You must have an understanding of what SEO is and what it can do for you and your site. More importantly, you just don't want SEO - you want effective SEO. In order to achieve effective SEO you must have three things: Relevance, Authority and Conversions.
First, your content/site must be relevant to the topic or niche area you're pursuing - your content must fit in and be related to all the other sites in your niche. That's why closely themed sites do so well in the search engines, they give only relevant content to what's been searched for or discussed.
Second, your content/site must be perceived as an authority site on your subject or niche. Establish this authority position and the search engines will love you and your content. One way is to develop this authority, besides offering superior content, is to form links/partnerships with other perceived authority sites in your field. Always strive to make your site an authority site - tops in your niche - the one site everyone has to check before drawing or forming a conclusion.
Third, conversions should be your main goal of any SEO efforts because you want to convert your targeted traffic into site members, subscribers, buyers or just repeat visitors. If you're into online marketing, conversions will be the most important element of the whole SEO process because you want buyers, not just visitors coming to your site.
Most of all, you must convince yourself Search Engine Optimization is not difficult, nor is it the equivalent of the online bogeyman as many would like you to believe. Used effectively, SEO can give you the targeted traffic you're seeking, just follow some of the outlined steps/tactics listed above and you will have SEO working for you and your site in no time at all.