11 Tips for DIY Search Engine Optimization: Link Building and Design

Search engine optimization is a requirement for growing your business online just like a Yellow Pages listing was in the 20th century. If you’re not prominently listed in search engine results, your business may as well not exist to millions of potential customers.

Despite lots of hype by SEO consultants, the basics of SEO are actually pretty straightforward. In fact, I recommend against hiring SEO consultants until you have tried this article’s DIY strategies for improving search engine ranking yourself. This will save you money and make you a smarter web marketer.

Here are my Top Eleven Do-It-Yourself Search Engine Optimization Tips.

A. Link Exchange Tips

1. Relevant Link Backs

The most important factor in determining search engine rankings today is the number and quality of other sites that link to your site. Search engines count these links to determine how authoritative your website is, and use the count to assign a ranking relative to other sites in your target market.

To boost your site’s rankings, you need sites that are relevant to your topic area to link back to you. Their relevance to your topic is important because the choice by a related site to link to yours validates your site’s credibility for your target topics.

2. Highly Ranked Link Backs

Because the sites that link to you help determine your site’s ranking, it’s best if you get sites that are not only relevant but also already highly ranked to link. Some of their high ranking with the search engines basically “rubs off” on your website if they link to you.

3. Anchor Text Link Backs

While almost any relevant or authoritative links back to your website are helpful, it will improve your site’s search engine ranking more if the text of those links containskeywords that are important to your site’s products or subject matter.

So, for example, don’t just ask for links using your domain name or “click here” as the “anchor text”. Instead you should ask your link exchange partners to link to your site using text like “best deals on plasma TVs”, or “Indianapolis chiropractor”.

Such keyword-loaded anchor text links are helpful because the search engines essentially give you “double points” by counting both the link itself and that link’s reinforcement of your website’s importance for the keyword topics it contains.

B. SEO Design Tips

4. No Flash Movies

Don’t hide your web pages behind animated movies that play using Flash software. They may be pretty but search engines prefer plain text today and cannot read Flash. So don’t do it because it may prevent search engines from indexing your site at all.

5. Menus in Text

Similarly, don’t hide your navigational menu links in images. Search engines cannot read graphics as well as they can read text. Your navigational menu is critical for search engine spiders to read both because the menu’s entries demonstrate the hierarchy of your website, and because the keywords contained in menu links tell the search engine what you think is important on each page.

6. Keywords in Image “ALT” and “Title” Tags

As stated previously, search engine crawlers cannot read graphics. You can increase the SEO impact of images on your pages by ensuring that you title and tag them appropriately.

This means renaming JPEG’s and other non-text files with new names that include keywords. So, a photo of a cat should be renamed from “c4289b.jpg” to “cat.jpg” if you want any search engine ranking benefit related to “cat” keywords.

The ALT tags and TITLE tags associated with each image are also great places to insert keywords that can be even more specific than the file name example.

C. SEO Keyword Tips

7. Understanding Keywords

To rank highly in the search engine results you need to pick appropriate key words and phrases with which to promote your site. You don’t want the keywords to be so broad (e.g. “cars”, “shirts”, “consulting”) that your site is lost in a sea of competitors on page 28 of Google’s results. You also don’t want to target keywords that are so narrow that few people are likely to search on them.

You can use free online research tools likeGoogle’s Keyword Tool to help you brainstorm appropriate keywords, andGoogle’s Traffic Estimator Sandbox to find those keywords where there is customer demand to support your website’s business.

The key to uncovering your best keywords is to think like your customer. This means avoiding industry buzzwords or lingo to use simple, “natural language” instead. So try targeting “warm socks” instead of “men’s support hosiery”, for example.

8. Meta Tags

While not as important to search engine ranking calculations as they used to be, the “meta tags” hidden in each web page’s HTML code should be tweaked to maximize their potential impact. This means including your keywords so that they appear in the “title”, “description”, and “keywords” meta tag fields. This is easily done in most web page publishing tools or content management systems (or ask your tech guys to do it). Many search engines reference these fields to identify what keywords you see as most representative of your page’s content.

9. Headline Placements

The visible elements of your web pages’ headlines, links, and text should all be reviewed for keyword inclusion also. The search engines give extra weight to any words that are included in the titles of each page and section, and wherever text is bolded, highlighted, or linked. Their logic here is that if you are emphasizing those words visually to site visitors, then those words are probably key to your site’s content, too.

10. Keywords in Your URL

You want to use your keywords in as many other appropriate places as possible, too. For example if you can use them in your website’s URL that can help your ranking. (Of course, you must balance this against making your URL longer, harder to remember, and perhaps more difficult to spell, too.)

11. Page File Names

Further reinforcement of your keywords by using them in your page titles and file names is also a good idea. This can result in URLs for your popular pages that look like this: http://www.yourbrandnamekeyword.com/keywordkeyword.html

Caution: Avoid Keyword Stuffing

NOTE: You must balance all of this keyword advice against the rules that many search engines have about “keyword stuffing”. This means that you shouldn’t go crazy with the keyword insertion — search engines are wary of sites that overdo it. They prefer your text copy to appear like normal conversational or sales copy.

This suggests a keyword “density” of less than 15%. In other words, for every 100 words of copy on the page, you don’t want to have more than 15 of them as your keywords. Many experts advise even lower, down as low as 3-5%.

Bonus SEO Tip: How to Index Your New Web Site Fast!

For new websites, it is often frustrating how long it can take before the major search engines find, index and add their sites to results pages. (Many search engines even make money on this by offering “rapid submission” services with recurring fees often in the hundreds of dollars.)

One simple tactic that can accelerate a new site’s appearance in search engine results is to have it linked to from an already established, highly ranked site. Big sites are crawled regularly by Google, Yahoo, etc.

(Entrepreneurial small businesses interested in a link exchange with an established site can visit the E-Business Links Directory on ScottFox.com. This free service offers link exchanges that can help improve both search engine submission speed and results ranking. I have had new sites of my own appear in Google’s search results in just days using this technique.)

Overall, the basics of SEO are well within your technical reach. I recommend implementing each of the DIY techniques detailed above before spending money on SEO consultants. There are many more advanced strategies that good SEO consultants can help with to improve your web site rankings.

Follow these DIY SEO guidelines, and you can save your money for that fancy stuff.

About the author: Scott Fox is the author of Internet Riches, the best-selling guide to how anyone can start their own business online. He blogs about e-commerce small businesses, online marketing, and startup strategy at ScottFoxBlog.com. Scott is a regular contributor to About Online Business.

By Scott Fox SEO Tips.


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