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SEO - The Basics

Search Engine Optimization or SEO for short is a technique employed by webmasters to optimize their website for preferential rankings on Internet search engines.

There are numerous agents out there who will happily provide this service to you for a fee, however this industry has become a bit misleading and now, as is the case in any industry, you have the good guys and the bad guys, so it's a bit like buying a used car, check before you buy and stay informed.

We offer this free advice so you can do it yourself, or at least give you a primer into knowing what you are looking for when employing an SEO consultant to do the work for you.

First and most important, what are search engines and who are the big players that you need to worry about? Well unless you have been living under a rock, you will have heard about the company 'Google'. Google like many is an Internet search engine, which have a cluster of powerful computers all over the world which crawl almost all of the pages on the internet, collegiate them and provide a simple mechanism for you to 'Search' for the content you want, i.e. google.com.

You simply enter your search terms (a word or a sentence divided up by spaces), and the search engine will show you the most relevant sites that match your search.

Over time these have evolved and we now have 3 main players that you need to know about that have the majority of the market share.

Search engine market share

Each of these companies offers their own useful advice on SEO, probably the best most up to date one is
http://www.google.com/webmasters/docs/search-engine-optimization-starter-guide.pdf

Perhaps rehashing what is already described in the above SEO guide, the following are great tips to improve your site.

  1. Use meaningful titles between the <title> tags. A good example would be "Buy candles, gifts, souvenirs and cards - Your gift store". A title between 3 and 10 words is ideal, anything more is spam, anything less wont tell your user what the page is really about.
  2. Describe your site using meta description tags, this is displayed on your search engine results. A short paragraph is all that is needed, about 20-50 words.
  3. Validate your content using a validator (online: http://validator.w3.org/) or the Firefox plug-in HTML tidy.
  4. Update your content frequently and write what is interesting to your users; write lots, write often.
  5. Link building, make friends on the internet, post relevant good content and have other websites link to yours, this is how the internet works, the more quality inbound links (other websites linking to you) the better. It works a bit like social status and search engines know the popular crowd so it pays to be cool.
  6. Organize your pages into folders, e.g. www.example.com/gifts/children/duck-toys.html
  7. Run a link checker over your site to avoid out of date void links that produce 404 (page not found) errors. http://validator.w3.org/checklink/
  8. Use alt tags to describe the images on your page, this also helps with accessibility for the blind.
  9. Use standards compliant markup, the most recent and now well supported version is HTML 5. Simply place this doctype above the <html> tag
    <!DOCTYPE html> and validate your site.
  10. Build a community around your site. Have user input from reviews of products on your site, or build a forum, perhaps a blog. Let your users shape your site and have them provide useful content which helps build your rank.
  11. Love your site, take pride in it, give it some TLC and lots of attention, it is easy to tell a site that well looked after and that makes users come back for more.
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