SEO Best Practices Checklist

seo-toolIn addition to the articles here about search engine optimization, below is a checklist of SEO best practices.

- Maximize your meta tags. Make them keyword-rich with unique meta tags for each page of the site:

- Title tags

- Description tags

- Keyword tags (This section is a low priority; Google does not read this much, but make it a practice for other engines.) Remember, content is king. Make sure all your pages contain solid content. The home page is your most visible page and should also contain your most important key phrases.

- Keep the home page content fresh. Changing content on the home page gives the engines more to feed on.

- One hundred percent Flash can be trash to SEO. Have key content appear in text format so it is easy for spiders to detect. Flash is brilliant for selling on the web; just be aware that full Flash sites are tough for a search engine to read. Try using some HTML text in addition to Flash to give search engines some content they can read and index.

- Create internal links. Use strong key phrases in hyperlink text that point to various pages within the site. It’s like setting cookie crumbs on every page so the hungry spiders will follow the crumbs.

- Create links in website copy with strong search-rich phrases (include the words you want used to search and find you). “Click Here” can be “Get a Free ATV Insurance Quote.”

- Image isn’t everything. Use the alt tag on all pictures to tag photos with key phrases. Name the image file with key phrases too. Key info can be displayed even if image loading is off. The alt tag appears in code for search engines to read and to the human eye on photos when you scroll your mouse over an image.

- Go back to the basics. The H1 and H2 heading tags were used back when sites were hand-coded. Web designers do not need this anymore, but search engines can see the H code phrases in headlines, which boosts visibility.

- Play the name game. Incorporate your company and site description into the URL. Be mindful of keywords when you name all URLs and photos.

- Content is king, but remember KISS (Keep It Simple, Silly). The best website copy is easy for a surfer to comprehend, and it’s easy for engines to detect. Be clear with key phrases in copy whenever you can.

- Get keyword-rich external links. Link to relevant partner sites on your website and have them link back to you. Links from high-ranking sites can help boost your visibility. Ask the sites that link back to you to have the link contain optimal key phrases.

- Standardize your URL. You know that “http://yoursite.com” and “www .yoursite.com” are the same, but search engines may not. If your URLs do not point to one main domain, a search engine may see this as two pages with the same content, which is SEO cheating. Make sure your webmaster picks a path and sets what is known as a 301 redirect.

- Map it out. Create an HTML site map with text links with strong key phrases to boost content and links. A site map is basically a table of contents for the engines to crawl. Also create and submit XML site maps with Google Webmaster Tools.

- Be “submissive.” If your site or page is new and you want it to get found faster, you can let the engines know you exist by submitting your site to Google, Yahoo!, and Bing.

- Make sure your site is listed in the Open Directory Project (ODP) at DMOZ.org. This ensures a listing in Google and other key directories. It is free to submit your URL to the ODP editors, who will review your entry.

- Keep it real. Do not add hidden text or try to “trick” the engines. “Black hat” SEO tactics may work temporarily, but they will not sustain you for the long haul. Do not hire an SEO firm unless you know they are ethical.

- If an SEO company seems overly secretive about how they help sites get more traffic, you are better off not hiring them.

- More is better. Employing one natural search practice won’t necessarily do the trick. Using all the best practices in unison will help you obtain the best visibility on a number of engines.

- Do your homework. Know your SEO options and terminology. You cannot achieve success or hire the right management firms until you know what search tools you have or can get to work with and what areas you want to optimize or implement. Check out sites like SEOmoz.org for tips.

- Time is on your side. Putting best practices into place so your pages will get indexed will gain traction as you build history with the engines. The age of a URL is a factor in search results.

- The only constant is change. Algorithms will always change, as will your listings. Have a well-architected site as well as content and links with strong key phrases, and you will ride the trends of SEO.

- Focus on what you want. Assess your current visibility, know the current key phrases people search to find your site, and use the Google AdWords Keyword Tool (https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal) to look up other key phrase ideas. Make a list, share it with the team, and get optimizing.

- Monitor your progress. Set benchmarks and track progress periodically.

- Web statistics are a must.

- Sign up for Google and Yahoo! accounts. You’ll need them if you ever buy paid search or use Google Webmaster Tools to add an XML site map.

- Embrace Web 2.0. Blogs and social media sites are delicious to search engine spiders as there is new content every day. Video gets picked up in universal (or blended) search results, and social media sites like Wikipedia, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter get really good search traction.

- Get your geek on. There is an art and science to SEO. Be prepared to resolve coding issues to get the most return on investment. This is an advanced SEO tactic, but worth noting.

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