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Your SEO Goal: Get on the First Page!
Few people click beyond the first page of search results, so if you want to be seen, you need to be among the top listings. To do that, you need to learn a bit about how search engines work and how to optimize your website, more commonly known as Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
[box]Fact: 97% of people looking for local products or services search the internet for information.[/box]
Each search engine and directory has its own set of ranking and listing criteria, but they all look at the same basic elements.
Keywords — These are select words and phrases that someone would use when searching for your business. You’ll want to choose 5 to 10 words or phrases that best represent your content, then use these words and phrases frequently on your site (but only where it makes sense — don’t cram them in).
Title Tag — The title tag provides a brief summary of what people can expect from the page. It displays in a few important places, including the browser’s title bar, and as the title for your listing in search engine results. If you target a specific audience, consider including that in the title, like “Experienced motorcycle accident and injury attorneys in Arizona.” It helps if each page in your site contains a unique title, but keep it concise — less than 65 characters.
Description Tag — The description tag displays below your website’s link in search results and should entice people to visit your site. Every page in your site should include a unique description using the keywords for that page. Keep your descriptions less than 250 characters and avoid non-alphanumeric characters.
Header Tag (H1 Tag) — Each page in your site should include only one header tag. While it doesn’t display in search results, it’s generally the largest or most prominent text on the page. The header tells visitors what they’re reading or viewing. Keep it brief — no longer than a short sentence.
Page Content — Your website’s content, the text that your visitors read, is important for search engines as well. Use between 300 and 700 words, including the keywords you selected, and bold each of the keywords once on the page.
[box]Fact: Search engines can tell (and will penalize you) if your content has an excessive number of keywords, so don’t overdo it.[/box]
Navigation — Navigation refers to all the links on your site. Visitors and search engines both rely on good navigation to get around your site. Broken links are like hitting a brick wall, so be sure to check your links regularly.
Sitemap — A sitemap is essentially a map or directory of all the pages in your website. Sitemaps guide search engines throughout your site with the names and locations of pages. They can speed up indexing and, in some cases, increase site traffic by indexing previously buried pages.
Image Tag — Images help break up the text and add visual interest to your site. Be sure to include an image on each page, and properly format it with an “alt” attribute using keywords for the page. Because search engines can’t see images the way we do, they depend on alt attributes to appropriately catalog and index the image.
[box]Tip: Optimizing your images, so the file size is smaller and the image loads faster, can also help your search rankings.[/box]
Link Building — Links are a big factor in how search engines rank your site. There are two types: interlinks and back links. Interlinking is simply creating a link from a keyword or sentence on one page to another area of your website. For example, the sentence “Find an attorney near you” would be linked to the list of office locations on your site. Back links are other websites that link to your site. Search engines weigh these more heavily when determining your rank, and unfortunately, these are more difficult to achieve. Some easy ways to create back links are listing your business in online directories, and sending news announcements and press releases that include your website address. You can also contact other business owners in your community and offer them a link exchange.
Search engine optimization can have a big impact on the success of your online business. The good news is that with the tips presented in this article, you have the basic tools you need to get started. Take a little time to tune up your site and watch your customer base grow with your search results.