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Search Engine Optimization Made Simple

Five Steps to Using Search Engine Optimization to Improve Your Page Ranks

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Trying to get visitors to come to your Web site can be a big challenge. Search engine optimization attempts to take some of the guesswork out of this challenge by getting your Web pages to place highly in search engines. When you use search engine optimization, you aren't employing tricks or hacks, but instead writing your pages so that they provide exactly what your customers want while simultaneously showing it to the search engines effectively. These five tips will help you learn search engine optimization to get better rankings for your Web pages.

Step One: Pick a Target Phrase

When using search engine optimization, you need to determine one phrase that describes what your page is about. This is called your target phrase. A target phrase for your Web page should be three things:

  • Important
    Your phrase should be an important part of the page information. If your page is about cat food, then your target phrase should include "cat food" and not just the word "cat".
  • Accurate
    One of the commonly tried hacks with search engine optimization is to try to optimize on a phrase that isn't accurate for the content of the page. Just because the terms "sex" and "xxx" are popular doesn't mean you should optimize for them on your cat food page.
  • Popular
    If your page is about cat food, your target phrase should be one that people will search on. People don't search for "cat chow" nearly as much as they search for "cat food", so "cat food" is a better choice.

There are several search engine optimization tools you can use to find good target phrases:

  • Overture is a great tool for assessing popularity as well as brainstorming ideas for target phrases.
  • Google is great for brainstorming target phrases.
  • Word Tracker can help you assess popularity and also compare how the competitors use the target phrase you're after.

Step Two: Analyze Your Competition

The second step in search engine optimization is to determine who your competition is. Remember that when you're doing search engine optimization, you're working at the page level, not the entire site. So while you might consider any site on pets to be your competition, for your target phrase "cat food" your competition is more specialized perhaps Purina.com or another cat food company rather than cats.about.com.

  • Check Yahoo and Google to see what shows up when you search for your target phrase.
  • Examine the pages on the first page, note where and how they use your target phrase. You can use the "Cached" page option in Google to see your targeted phrase highlighted.

Remember that the more popular a target phrase is, the more competition there is likely to be. Sometimes it makes sense to target a less popular phrase where you can corner the market rather than aiming for the highest popularity phrase there is.

Step Three: Write Your Page

Search engine optimization is not all about meta tags. In fact, focusing solely on meta keywords will only help you a little bit, and if you go overboard can actually hurt your ranking. Take the following focused approach to search engine optimization:

  1. Include your target phrase twice in the meta title tag <title> Make sure that your title is "clickable". This is what most people see when they search, so keep your title logical and descriptive.
  2. Include your target phrase twice in the meta description. This description is used by most search engines as a short paragraph below the clickable title, make sure it extends on the title, and doesn't just repeat what the title says.
  3. Include your target phrase in the meta keywords. Don't flood your keywords, use just a few, and don't get carried away.
  4. Include your target phrase in the title or headline for your page. Write that headline using a header tag for your headlines, as search engines often weight words in these tags higher.
  5. Include your target phrase in subheads, using header tags here too.
  6. Finally, be sure to include your target phrase in the first paragraph of your page, and twice if you can. Also include it in other locations on the page, including external links, headlines, and sidebars.

Step Four: Promote Your Page

Make sure that when you announce your page, you use your target phrase in both the link text and any explanatory text. If you run a blog, you will want to blog your page with at least two references to your target phrase.

Step Five: Check Your Results and Tweak

If Google or Yahoo don't crawl your site on a regular basis, then submit your page to them. Wait about a week and then go to those engines and test your search engine optimization target phrase. Your goal should be to get to the first or second page of search results for your target phrase.

Search Engine Optimization Isn't Rocket Science

It's more like magic, in many ways, but there are ways to get your pages to show up higher in search rankings, and these five tips should help you to improve your search engine optimization.

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