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SEO – Optimize Your Website for Search Engines

Looking to improve your search engine ranking? Here are some tips on how to optimize your site for search engines such as Google, Yahoo! and Bing.

Well Written Content

A lot of people look for shortcuts to give their site a high search ranking but the truth is that one of the best ways to get your site a good spot on Google is simply to produce good, well written content.

By writing detailed, useful information you’ll not only engage your users but you’ll be populating your pages with relevant key words and phrases. If your content is interesting, your users are more likely to recommend it to other people and link to your site.

Inverted Pyramid

The Inverted Pyramid

To write well written content you should use the ‘inverted pyramid’ style of writing. This style is used by in newspapers and involves putting the most important information at the top of the page and with additional information following in descending order of importance.

Since users generally scan content, instead of reading everything on the page, writing in this style will ensure that they get the most out of the article (especially if there is content beneath the ‘fold’). Make sure that you’re using header tags (e.g. <h2></h2>) where appropriate.

I wrote more about this style of writing in a previous article called ‘What Makes Good Usability?’. For more tips on how to produce well written content, I recommend reading “Writing for the Web” by Jacob Neilsen, especially his article on How Users Read on the Web.

You should also bear in mind that a picture is worth o words to search bots. Images and flash elements cannot be interpreted by search engines (with the exception of HTML tags).

Interlinking

Have you ever gone onto Wikipedia to look up an article and found that you just kept bouncing from article to article. That’s because Wikipedia has fantastic interlinking (linking within the page content) that makes it easy to find related content. Not only does interlinking make navigation easier for users, but it will contribute to your search rankings.

Here are a few interesting bits of information you may not have known about:

  • Links originating from the main body of your page will generally hold more sway than those in sidebars and footers.
  • Links higher up in the markup will count for more than those lower down.
  • Links to external sites will be more influential than internal links.

Speaking of external links, you may be interested in this article from seomoz which goes into more detail about linking.

Titles and Descriptions

It’s always good to give your pages relevant titles and descriptions. Ideally each one of your pages should have it’s own title and description. If you’re coding your own site then you’ll need to use the following code at the top of your HTML code (between <head> and </head>):

<title>[Page Title goes here]</title>
<meta name=”description” content=”[Description of page goes here]” />

Your title should be 60 characters or less and your description should be 160 characters or less. Make good use of your characters; make them keyword rich, but don’t overdo it.

If you’re using WordPress then you can (and should) use the ‘All in One SEO’ plugin (I’ll go into more detail about this further down).

It’s also important to give your images relevant filenames as well as descriptive alt tags. In addition to helping with SEO, it’s also very important for accessibility; users with screen readers rely on these alt tags so don’t overlook them.

SEO for WordPress

WordPress Plugins – All in One SEO Pack & Google XML Sitemap

If you’re using a WordPress site then these plugins are a good place to start. The ‘All in one SEO pack’ will give you greater control over your titles, descriptions and keywords. It also helps by limiting duplicate content that wordpress creates by archiving. The XML sitemap plugin creates a search engine readable file in your sites root directory that helps with your rankings.

Update: Yoast has developed a plugin called WordPress SEO which offers complete search engine optimization for WordPress. It combines many of the features from All in One SEO Pack and Google XML Sitemaps (page titles, meta descriptions, XML sitemap generation, etc.), while adding new features such as robot meta and .htaccess configuration, breadcrumbs and more.

Note: If you’re using All in One SEO Pack or Headspace and want to switch over to WordPress SEO, it also comes with a migration option that makes it easy. If you want to want to read more about migration or have any concerns about switching over, read the Yoast migration article and check out the comments too.

For more tips I recommend you read this article from Yoast on SEO.

Author: Graham

My name is Graham and I'm a Scottish web developer living in California. I love working with clean code to make attractive and usable websites. I'm also interested in cooking, gardening, and taekwondo.

2 Comments

  1. Thanks for linking to my WP SEO article, but actually, I think you should also check out my WordPress SEO plugin:

    http://yoast.com/wordpress/seo/

    It replaces most of the plugins needed :)

    • Thanks for the info on your plugin, it looks really useful. I appreciate the comment. I’ll definitely have a look and update my post to include it.