Search Engine Optimisation for Beginners

Search engine optimisation is one of the most effective marketing tools for webmasters and Internet entrepreneurs because an organic search listing is well-positioned to attract highly targeted traffic.  While a cryptic acronym like SEO might conjure up notions of technical wizardry to the unitiated, the truth is that a good keyword strategy is accessible to anyone with a website and basic knowledge of HTML.

Domain Names & URLs

If you picked out your domain name ages ago, you may think you've blown your chance to include keywords in your URL, but this isn't the case.  While there's no point in changing your domain name itself once you've built it up into an asset, you can still include your keywords in your URLs.

Uniform resource locators include both the domain name and the file extensions for your web pages.  The file extension is the name you give to an HTML page when you first save it into a folder or directory, and it appears in the address bar following your domain name when a user accesses that page.  While some webmasters prefer to use dates or numbers in their file extensions for the sake of organisation, they are missing out on a key SEO opportunity by neglecting to take advantage of their URLs as a great place to put their strongest keywords.

Page Titles

The page title is nestled between the <title> and </title> tags in the <head> of your HTML code. It is the part that shows up as a hyperlink on the search engine results page, and it is also displayed in the top bar of the user's browser when he or she accesses your site.  Think of it as your first impression – not only to search engine spiders but to human visitors as well.

It may be tempting to get ultra-original here, but a title optimised for SEO should be intuitive:  You should give prospective visitors a clear idea of the purpose of your website without being verbose, keeping in mind only a handful of words will be visible on the search engine results page (30 or so words is a safe number to shoot for).  Put your target keywords and phrases before any other words you want to include in the title, as doing so gives them greater weight.  Clarity is also important because if someone decides to add your page to their list of favourites, they will easily be able to find it again when they want to return in the future.

Meta Tags

Meta tags have become somewhat a point of contention in SEO circles.  Once upon a time, the "keywords" meta tag was supported by search engine crawlers, but things changed when people began to stuff these meta tags with all kinds of irrelevant keywords.  That said, this is no excuse to neglect your meta tag – your meta "description" tag, that is.

The meta description is the paragraph that is displayed below your page title on the search engine results page in many search engines.  While the meta description currently holds no weight in Google's ranking algorithm, it holds a prominent place on the search engine results page and quickly lets prospects know whether your website will interest them.  When a user performs a basic search request in Google, for example, the words he or she typed into the search engine will appear in bold in the meta description.

Remember that search engine marketing has at least as much to do with human visitors as it does with search engine crawlers, and put your most enticing copy in your description.  Incorporate your keywords into your copy in a logical fashion, and don't forget that poor grammar and spelling is unprofessional and will turn many visitors off of your website before they even get past your front door.

Finally, remember that all of the SEO savvy in the world is no substitute for a product or service that provides value to your customers.

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