Search engine optimization originally meant making a website easy for search engines to understand. As website “ranking” became important, SEO grew to mean anything that would improve a site’s position in the search results. SEO can be divided into basic on-site changes (website content), and advanced off-site strategies for building Web reputation.

On-Site SEO

On-site SEO includes changes you make to your website. Although Google keeps its search algorithms secret, we know the following are important for best results:

  • Keywords
  • Page title
  • Page description
  • Headings
  • Page content
  • Ease of navigation
Keywords

Keywords are words or phrases that people type in the search engine to find your website. Understanding your keywords is critical to search engine optimization.

Avoid using only industry-specific terms (“derailleur” vs. “gear”). Tools like Google’s Keyword Analyzer can help you find the most popular search phrases.

Current SEO practice is to pick your three best keywords, and place other keywords into a hierarchy below. If you run a bike shop, your three main keywords might be, “bike sales,” “bike parts,” and “bike repair.” Other important keywords could be organized like this:

  • Bike sales
  • Bike parts
    • Accessories
  • Bike repair
    • Flat tire
    • Broken chain

Your most important keywords should appear in several strategic locations on your webpages.

Page Title and Description

The page title and description are snippets of code placed in your webpage. Search engines use the page title and description to describe your site in their listings.

Search engine optimizers will often use your best three keywords, followed by your company name (or city location). The page title should be 60 characters or less.

Bike Sales, Bike Parts, Bike Repair - Tom's Bike Shop

Bike Sales, Bike Parts, Bike Repair - Mountain View, CA

Your page description should also include your important keywords. The description should be 160 characters or less.

Off-Site SEO

Off-site SEO refers to things you can do outside your website to improve your Google ranking. The most common practice is to create links on the Web back to your site, called “link building.” Links from reputable, quality sites improve your Web reputation.

Although link building is falling out of favor, in part due to abuse by marketers, links from social network sites, business directories and blogs are a must.

  • Social network sites
    • Facebook
    • Twitter
    • Google+
    • LinkedIn
  • Business directories
    • Yelp
    • YP.com
    • Manta
  • Maps
    • Google Maps
  • Blogs
    • Self-hosted
    • Blogger.com (Google)
    • Other blogging feed

Adding links to your website from these reputable sources will improve your position in the search results. Avoid link-buying schemes. Use only good-quality links; do not try to manipulate search results.

Matt Cutts – How Search Works

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