Search engine optimization is a bit of a guessing game. Every time someone tells you they can rank your site at a certain position in a certain amount of time, you should be immediately skeptical because there are NO guarantees when it comes to SEO.
But there are a few simple tasks you can perform today that, while they may not put you on the front page, they will put your site in a good position to rank down the line. These are the foundational steps of SEO and no site should NOT have them:
1. Titles and Descriptions – Google doesn’t use these to determine rankings, but you can be dinged for not having them. Unique, descriptive titles and META descriptions are useful to your users and anything useful to a user is good for SEO.
2. Keyword Density – High keyword density is dead. Anything over 1-2% will raise eyebrows in Mountain View, but you still need your keywords on the page. Google isn’t that smart yet.
3. Robots.txt, Sitemap.xml and 404 Redirect – Create and manage your Robots.txt file to avoid duplicate content, maintain an up to date Sitemap and make sure you have a 404 redirect page on the site and that your 404 page (for non-redirects) contains links to other parts of your site.
4. Image Tagging – Images are more important in SEO than ever before. Make sure all of your images have clearly labeled, keyword rich file names. Also, create ALT tags for each of them to improve keyword density in the code and, if applicable, create captions for display on screen. Also, avoid any images that would take the place of text on your site – for buttons or otherwise.
5. Track EVERYTHING – Install Google Analytics and keep a close eye on it at all times. Also install your Webmaster Tools tracking tool so you can see if there is an error. If Google dings your site for something, they will tell you about it in Webmaster Tools, which allows you to quickly fix the problem and even resubmit it for consideration after you got dinged.
Do these five things and, while you won’t jump to page 1, you can certainly start improving your ranking in search engines and generate a long term strategy built around quality content and value-add for your visitors.
Search engine optimization is increasingly a two pronged approach –
1) make sure your site is structurally sound and has the tools needed to be successful and then:
2) make it successful by creating high quality, topic-related content that matches the needs of your audience.
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