November 8, 2010

Our Key Takeaways from Google's SEO Starter Guide

This blog post is a summarized guide of Google's Search Engine Optimization Starter's Guide with additional information that we think they left out. There is a lot of information we are leaving out for the sake of keeping this post short and simple for our readers, so if you have the time make sure to check out the full starter's guide. This post also assumes you have a basic knowledge of html. If you are unfamiliar with html visit w3schools.com. Enjoy!

Modern search engines index an unimaginable amount of websites every day. Organizing them effectively is no easy task. That is why webmasters who want to rank high in these lists have to make their sites easy for the search engines to understand.

Search engines run software programs called crawlers that discover, read, and store websites all around the internet. They discover websites by following links on already discovered websites or by going through sites submitted manually. Since these crawlers don't have the sophistication of a human viewer, they attempt to understand the relevance of a site through html tags and site content. They also attempt to determine the authority of a site by analyzing inbound links (other sites linking to your site) and outbound links (your site linking to other sites).

A website's ranking on a Search Engine Results Page (SERP) is correlated to the site's relevance and authority (determined by the crawler) to the searched keyword or term. Webmasters who understand how these crawlers operate can tailor their website's code to achieve better rankings on the SERP. That process is called Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Some adjustments that can be made have to do with page titles, other html tags, submitting xml sitemaps, and link building.

Page Titles

are one of the most important indicators to search engines as to what the content of that page is about. Not to mention, title tags are usually displayed on the first line of search results. Since page titles are so important, they must be chosen carefully with keyword research in mind. Additionally (while it doesn't state this in the Google Starter's Guide) the earliest words in the page title have the most weight with search rankings. It is also good practice to create unique title tags for each page so that search engines can distinguish key differences between pages.

Other HTML Tags

such as meta description, meta keyword, image, header, and anchor are all tags that help search engines determine relevance. In addition, often times the meta description will be listed on the SERP to help describe to the visitor what each site is about. So make sure to type in accurate and unique descriptions for each page in the meta description tag.

One tactic that used to be abused was loading the meta keyword tag with all sorts of popular keywords whether they were related to the site's content or not. That has led to many leading search engines to no longer use the meta keyword tag when determining relevance. However, there are still plenty of less popular search engines out there that continue to use the meta keyword tag, so use it appropriately.

When people create websites, they often neglect to fill in the alt and title sections of the image tag to save time. Doing so is missing out on SEO opportunities. Crawlers can't view images like humans can, so it is important to let crawlers know what they are looking at by filling relevant text in the alt and title sections of the image tag.

Another thing webmasters often neglect is that their content is a very important part of SEO. Specifically when header tags are used to organize the content and when anchor text describes the nature of the associated link, search engine crawlers hone in on that. When a crawler sees a header, it assumes that the text below it relates to the content in the header tag. Similarly, crawlers assume that any anchor (link) text describes the nature of the link address associated with it. For example, some SEO experts change the anchor text to a keyword they want to rank high on in search results; then they have the link address point to their website so that crawlers will assume their website is about the keyword they have in the anchor text.

Submit an XML Sitemap

to major search engines so that they have a record of all of your pages. Most search algorithms take a look at the whole website before suggesting a page in the search results. This way, the search engine ensures their users get sent to a website that is full of relevant or related information. If you don't know the XML language don't worry. Xml-Sitemaps.com has a free tool that you can use to build this sitemap without knowing the XML language. Once you have that done, you can submit them to major search engines here.

Link Building

helps search engines determine the authority of your site in relation to other websites. All links aren't created equal. For example, if your site gets a link from CNN's website your authority will go up a lot. However, if your site gets a link from a brand new unestablished website your authority will remain close to the level it was at before. If your website gets a link from a site that is a known spyware or spam threat, your authority will go down by a lot.

There is a lot to learn about search engine optimization. The best way to get familiar with the subject is to talk to SEO experts and subscribe to SEO blogs. As always, please comment if you think we left some important information out, and feel free to contact us if you have any questions. Good luck with your website!

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