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DIY SEO

How to get found on search results

The term “SEO” can be a daunting thought for many business owners and individuals.  Search Engine Optimization has a reputation for being slow and ineffective – unless you have a massive budget. This is deserved to some degree as highly competitive keywords will never be easy to optimize for.  That being said, with a little bit of knowledge, every website owner can optimize their page and carve out their own space to perform. The following is an overview of things that everybody who operates a website should know.

A Bit of History

In the early days of the internet, search engines were very basic. The mantra of high quality content was often repeated but good content was frequently beaten out by websites that cheat the system and buy inbound links or stuff keywords.
In 2011 Google set out to heavily modify their search algorithm in order to give users better access to content; rather than link farms. These updates, called Panda and Penguin, have gone through several revisions over the years but the end result is that high quality content and white-hat SEO is more important than ever. In fact, it may just take a few pages with poor content or inbound links from fraudulent websites to significantly hurt your site’s rankings. So ensure that your high quality content can be found by following these steps:

write good code

Nail Down the Page Internals

One of the most important things you can do for SEO is to make sure your website loads quickly and complies to web standards. The first step is to make sure your HTML and CSS is valid. A website that is using invalid code may be overlooked by search engines and might not load properly for all users. Make sure you run your site through the W3C Code Validator and correct any errors it finds.
Once your website is confirmed to be only using clean, valid code, make sure that your website is using hyperlinks and navigation correctly. It should be easy for a user to find the content they are looking for so hyperlink related pages using relevant keywords. Keep in mind that each hyperlink should have a descriptive, but brief, title tag for usability reasons. Once this is finished, update (or create) your sitemap to include any good landing pages.  Finally, make absolutely sure that there are no broken links on your website; if a page has moved make sure to update the link or use a 301 redirect to fix the problem.

Perfect Your URL

A site’s URL structure is critical to being found on search engines. Google prefers short, keyword-phrase domains without hyphens. Sub-pages should follow the same guidelines (although hyphens are okay). In addition, sub-pages should at most go only 3 folders into a website’s navigation tree. If you are using a CMS like WordPress, make sure to enable keyword-rich URLs, instead of nondescript identifiers like “http://www.example.com/p?=1536”.
The following is an example of a well-formed URL:
http://www.KeywordPhrase.com/category-keyword/product-keyword.html
This URL is descriptive to the user, not overly long, and is easily indexed by search engines.

don't make users wait

Ensure your Page Loads Quickly

You should do everything you can to make your site load quickly for the user and for your search results. Google defines a quick-loading page as anything that comes up in under 1.4 seconds; so at the very least, make sure your home page comes in under that mark. This can be accomplished by reducing image size, caching your dynamic content by using a Content Delivery Network, or in some cases, changing or upgrading webhosts.

Write Good Content

The keystone to successful SEO is to have content that users want to find. Being read and acquiring inbound links will boost your search results higher than any other trick. When deciding on what content to fill your website with, take into consideration what your readers want to know about. In all likelihood this will be a topic that you specialize in and that is not heavily covered elsewhere on the web. If you still can’t think of a topic that meets these criteria, narrow down the subject: instead of writing about boots, write about extended backpacking boots! Once you have your topic, make sure to write in-depth posts that use your chosen keyword. You should always have at least 300 words on a page and you should note that blog posts that come in at over 1,000 words are seen as very valuable to search engines. On such a post, make sure that your focus keyword is used 3-5 times, and that your images use the keyword in their alt tag if applicable.  Finally, make sure to regularly update your collection of content. Search engines track how often a site is updated and give preference to sites that frequently add new quality content.

get good help

Tools That Help

This can all be a bit daunting to do yourself – the good news is that there are plenty of tools out there to help! You should obviously never use a tool in place of your own brain but paired with a little bit of knowledge, these tools will have your website’s SEO perfected in no time!
WordPress
Out of the box, WordPress is loaded with basic SEO features and plugins can enhance that ability handsomely. Unless your website is very small, you’ll probably want to use it for its CMS features anyway.
WordPress SEO by Yoast
The most full-featured SEO plugin; not to mention completely free! Yoast will automatically optimize many SEO settings on your blog and will make it very easy to perform any SEO modifications needed. It even includes a tool that will check your content for proper keyword use.
InboundWriter
One of the most useful tools for optimizing your content, InboundWriter will suggest appropriate keywords and help you use them according to your chosen SEO strategy.
Open Site Explorer
One of the most useful features of the powerful MOZ SEO suite, Open Site Explorer is free for basic use. OSE will help you evaluate the quality of inbound links to your website and determine which pages are drawing the most traffic.
Google Webmaster Tools
A free service by Google, webmaster tools helps site owners perform various SEO tasks such as manually submitting a sitemap, find broken links and see which keywords are most frequently used to find your website.
There is no doubt that SEO is still a very complicated game but with players such as Google working hard to increase the amount of quality content, it is becoming easier for “the good guys”.