SEO Tricks of the Trade

Debunking SEO Mythology discusses search engine myths and things not to do if you want to get to the top. Which, of course, begs the question: What should you do?

Search engine optimization experts pretty much agree that there are a few important steps to improving your search engine rankings and, surprisingly, no technical knowledge is required for any of them.

Step 1: Incorporate Keywords Into Title Tag

This is the No. 1 factor in achieving high search rankings. While the incorporation of important key phrases into your title tags will not alone get your site to the top — in fact, all of the suggestions in this article should be taken as an entirety, SEO is about balance, not one magic bullet — the title tag is of the utmost importance.

What is a title tag? It is a snippet of HTML (HyperText Markup Language) code that appears in the header section of an HTML document. But wait! I said no technical knowledge was required! What is this HTML code of which I speak?

Don’t worry — just tell your webmaster to change your title tags. Tell him the most important key phrases for each of your pages, and tell him to put them into a title tag. Each page should have its own unique title tag specifically optimized to the key phrase targeted on that page. In other words, it is a mistake to use the same title tag for all pages of a Web site.

The easiest way to do this is to send an e-mail to your webmaster saying,”Please change the title tags on the following pages as indicated.” Then, simply make a two-column list or table — column one being page name or URL (uniform resource locator), column 2 being the corresponding title tag for that page. It will take your webmaster only a few minutes per page to make this change, and you will be much better off for it.

Step 2: Install a Blog – and Use It

Blogs are very simple yet powerful ways to drive traffic and rankings. The easiest, fastest and cheapest way to get up and going with a blog is to use Google’s free Blogger application.

This provides a number of advantages. First, it’s easy, free and simple. Perhaps more importantly, however, it is owned by Google, and the Google bots crawl all Blogger blogs regularly. For this reason, the five-minute act of setting up a blog is the best way to get a new site found and indexed by Google, usually within a matter of days. This eliminates the need for submission of your site to Google manually.

It is best to set up the blog so that it resides on your server. Again, your webmaster can easily do this for you in about three minutes — so don’t let him charge you an arm and a leg — and no technical knowledge is required on your side. Blogger can automatically publish all of your posts to your site if set up in this manner.

Once your blog is set up, start posting articles. Articles should be 400 to 600 words in length, and should not be self-promotional –in other words, the opposite of a press release. They should be general interest articles on topic related to your industry or field. How-to articles — such as this one — can be wildly popular. Product reviews are also excellent blog fodder.

Blog entries should be posted on a regular basis, at least once weekly, if not more often. Keep them short and clear — remember, we’re not going for a Pulitzer here. Just provide information that people can use.

Step 3: Increase Global Link Popularity of Your Site (It’s Easy)

Inbound linkage to your site is extremely important, but it must be done correctly. What is correctly? First and foremost, avoid link exchanges and other free-for-all link reciprocation schemes (including a “links” page or “resources” page in which anybody can join). Only link to sites you personally know, and keep these to a minimum.

If you are blogging, increasing your global link popularity is pretty easy through blog syndication and social bookmarking. We’ll talk more about that later. First, you should make your blog articles available for syndication and distribution across the Web. This is done via article syndication sites — some good ones include EzineArticles and Article Blast. These sites allow you to repost your blog articles for use and republication by third-party sites, most of whom will give you some link love as the source of the content.

The accounts on these article distribution sites (Google search: article distribution) are free to set up and easy to use. Getting the word out about your articles in this manner is a highly effective methodology for inbound link acquisition.

Step 4: Influence Anchor Text of Inbound Links to Your Site

The anchor text of inbound links is an important factor in the determination of which key phrase queries for which your site should rank. Anchor text is simply the actual words which make up the physical link to your site. The most famous example would be “Click Here.”

It is doubtful that you want to rank for the phrase “Click Here.” Therefore, you can influence the type of anchor text third-party sites use when linking to you. While you cannot ever maintain total control over what others do — and this is a good thing, as varying anchor text links to a site is looked upon favorably by Google — a good amount of control can be had via the inclusion of an “About the Author” section in each article you syndicate via the step 3 methods above.

At the end of each article, simply include a short — one or two sentence — About the Author attribution, that identifies you as the source of the article. In this section, include an anchor text link using important key phrases for which you want to appear.

Here’s an example:About the Author: John Doe is the owner of WidgetsRUs, a leading provider of {start anchor text link here}widgets{end link} to Fortune 500 companies. For more information, please visit [Web site URL here].

In the example above, you can see how the important key phrase “widgets” is used as the anchor text for the actual link to the author’s Web site. Google and other engines use the information in anchor text to determine for which phrases a site should rank. By including an attribution to yourself and your site, you will be able to dramatically influence the anchor text phrases third parties use when linking to you.

Step 5: Get Involved With Social Media

Social media is most simply defined as any user generated content. This can take the form of blog posts, videos, forums or any other content that is created on the Web not by the Web site owner, but rather by the users of a Web site. Famous examples include MySpace, YouTube, Facebook, Digg, LinkedIn and many others.

Depending on your target audience, social media can be utilized to both increase inbound links to your site as well as direct traffic. The aggressive pursuit of a social media campaign can take many different forms. Right now, we will discuss the simplest and most effective (in terms of bang for your buck) social media strategy. This is known as “social bookmarking.”

Picture the “Favorites” folder in your browser. This is where you privately bookmark Web sites and pages that you find interesting and to which you will likely want to return. Social bookmarking is simply a way of doing this in a public manner.

Each of your blog posts should be bookmarked to the major social bookmarking sites. These sites include but are not limited to Digg.com, Furl.com, StumbleUpon.com, Technorati.com, Del.icio.us and many others.

You can set up free accounts at each of these sites. Then, simply bookmark each of your blog posts to them. This is usually done via a simple click on a button (for example “Digg this article”) or by manually entering the URL of the article in question. This allows other users to encounter your bookmarked content, and gives them the option to bookmark it as well, providing a valuable opportunity for both links and viral traffic.

These sites are big on spam prevention, so be sure not to go around only bookmarking your stuff. If you are going to do this, it would be wise for you to also bookmark other related content, perhaps even competing content, so that the users of these sites don’t flag you as a spam user.

Step 6: Press Releases

Finally, press releases on a regular basis are a good way to achieve links as well as visibility in news results. A monthly press release can do a lot to solidify your rankings by creating links from authority sources as well as increasing your brand recognition and site credibility. Be sure to make the release about something newsworthy, such as the launch of a new product line, company developments and the like.

Writing press releases is not at all like writing articles – feel free to promote away! Just be sure there is some newsworthy element to it, and steer away from press releases that say nothing more than “we are the best, so choose us.”

Following these six steps will undoubtedly take you far in your quest to achieve higher search rankings. Good luck!

Matt Foster is CEO of ArteWorks SEO, a search engine optimization company.

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