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How To Win The SEO War

Battle 2. SEO Weapon: Content

Narrator: What are we doing tonight?
Tyler Durden: Tonight? We make soap.
Narrator: Really.
Tyler Durden: To make soap, first we render fat...
(c)"Fight Club"

We are not making soap tonight — we're optimizing our website and going to get top Google rankings. We've already established what keywords we should optimize our website for. So what do we need to do next?

The answer is simple: we should optimize our website for these keywords... ;)

First you must know that there are two types of factors that influence your search engine rankings: on-page (in-document) and off-page factors.

On-page optimization focuses on creating web pages which provide good content and in which a particular keyword is repeated a number of times so that the page gets a top ranking for that keyword. On-page factors affect the ranking directly by virtue of being a part of the indexed and retrieved document's content. Here are these factors:

Title Tag

The first and most important thing to consider is the <TITLE> tag.

<TITLE>The Best SEO Tool</TITLE>

You should always begin the title tag with the keyword that you are targeting. Moreover, you should avoid using unnecessary words; try to cut down on the total number of words that are in your title. It's perfect if your title fully consists of your keywords.

One could say that the title "The Best SEO Tool" I use as an example doesn't follow these recommendations. You are not quite right: most search engines do not consider extremely common words in order to save disk space or to speed up search results. These filtered words are known as "Stop Words". Here is a comprehensive list of words ignored by search engines. As you may see the words "the" and "best" are stop-words, so they will very likely be skipped by Google.
SEO Stop Words

But remember that quite often the search engines are going to display the title tag while they are displaying the results of a search. Besides a title is what your visitors see at the top of a browser window when they visit your site. Hence, you need to make the title of your page attractive to humans as well.

Meta Keywords Tag

The meta keywords tag has become less and less important as far as search engine optimization is concerned. However, although largely a remnant of the early days of web markup, the meta keywords tag is still used by search engines as a reference point for the terms targeted by the page.

It can be of value to place some of the common misspellings of your primary targets as well as some upper/lower case variations of the keyword into this tag.

Meta Description Tag

Just like the meta keywords tag, the meta description tag is almost completely outdated in markup. But it can still be useful for describing your page to the search engines. In some cases, the engines may even use this tag as the description of your site in the results page listings, giving you greater control over your content and message. Hence, like the title tag, it is important that the meta description tag be keyword rich as well as attractive to humans.

Keyword Use in Document Text

There are millions of sites which have hundreds of keywords repeated in the meta keywords tag over and over again, in the hope that by listing the keywords in this tag, they will be able to get a high ranking.

Nothing could be further from the truth. As I already mentioned, the meta keywords tag has almost completely lost its importance as far as search engine positioning is concerned. Hence, just by listing keywords in the meta keywords tag, you will never be able to get a high ranking.

To get high rankings for those keywords, you need to use the keywords in the actual body content of your site.

Ensure that your target keyword appears in the document text as many times as possible. But remember that no keyword should just be placed on an ad hoc basis — try to mention each key term in a natural way as you are writing, so that any sentence containing a keyword could actually make grammatical sense. Besides, the repetition should be such that your human visitors do not feel that you have deliberately repeated a particular phrase throughout the page. First of all, you make a website for your visitors, not for search engines (believe me, those search spiders will buy nothing on your site — they are not even interested in having Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie Brad poster on a wall. Well... At least I haven't succeeded in selling one ;).

Moreover, this is not only important from the point of view of ensuring that your readers don't get a bad impression of your site, but also from the point of view of search engine optimization — the search engines may penalize your page for spamming if they find that you have randomly repeated the keyword throughout the page. So be careful — stuffing or overusing key terms in an attempt to appear "relevant" for key phrases may negatively affect rankings.

Also, make sure to mention your main keyword at the very top and the very bottom of the webpage. Following this recommendation should be easy: a trick is to include you key phrase in the header at the top of the page and in the copyright information line at the bottom. In my opinion a heading like "The Best SEO Tool" and a bottom line "(c) 2006 copyright The Best SEO Too" don't really look too strange. :)

In addition, you should pay much attention to the uniqueness of your webpage text. You must never copy someone else's text on your website! You shouldn't even use your own text if it has already been used somewhere else on your website. A document's unique elements are what is generally looked at by the search engines and if the body text or content is an exact copy of another document (whether that document is on your site or on another), that page's value will often be deeply discounted or even removed from the listings. Duplicating a large portion of a web site or page's content onto another page/site can be extremely harmful.

Do not reprint any content if you wish to stay high-rated and don't want to be named XeroxMan ;)

SEO Tip: Do not reprint any content

H1, Bold, Underline & Other Accent Tags

Once you've finished writing the webpage, you should go through and insert some visual tags.

First of all you need to add a header tag (<H1>). Usually an <H1> header tag is used as a heading for whatever content you have on your page and is placed as far towards the top of the page as possible. The rules for the header tags are more or less the same as those for the title tag — it must be keyword reach and attractive to your visitors.

Next, you may need to create <H2>, <H3>, ... <H6> header tags and bold (<B>), underline (<U>), or italicize(<I>) some of the keywords throughout the text. These accent tags are used to indicate the particular importance of a term or phrase to a search engine.

This technique is not yet completely without merit, and it may be useful to highlight popular search terms for visitors to a site, hence the practice is still widespread. How search engines use this data is questionable, as it has been a source of so-called "over-optimization".

Remember: it is foolish to use senseless, but keyword reach phrases in you document text. Even if you are not penalized by Google and you are lucky to bring your website to the #1 position in Google, you won't be so lucky with your visitors anyway... It'd be better all round if you'd pay more attention to writing an interesting and valuable content for your visitors.
Use visual tags for SEO

Text in Alt/Img Title Tags

Now it's time to add some SEO value to the pictures on your webpage. In most cases images take a lot of place, but don't add any extra value to search engines. It's high time to use images as one of our SEO tools.

As most of you might know, the <IMG> tag is used to incorporate in-line graphics into an HTML document.

<IMG SRC="URL of image" ALT="alternative text" TITLE="advisory text">

For SEO purposes you should describe images using your key terms and use this description as the ALT and TITLE parts of an <IMG> tag.

But you should never forget that non-graphical browsers (yes, there ARE browsers that show only text) present the value of the ALT attribute instead of the picture. Moreover, a graphical browser can be used with automatic image loading off; in that case it may present an IMG element as a small generic symbol of images with the ALT text attached. Hence, good ALT text is crucial to the document's accessibility for the significant portion of users who do not load images, so all your text must still be descriptive and human-friendly.

Nowadays both of these tags are more commonly used for targeting image searches at the engines, along with the filenames of the images shown. Nevertheless you should never skip this step as in some cases it can deeply influence your rankings.

Keyword Use in Domain or Webpage URL

Using the keyword or related terms in the domain name of the site or in the actual URL of the webpage may be assigned some weight by Google, whether used in hyphenation or strung together. However, it has been noted that sometimes 2 or more hyphens in a domain name may indicate a lower-quality or spam-ridden site. This data may be used by Google and other search engines to reduce the rankings.

Sitemap Page

Yes, existence or non-existence of a properly formed sitemap page on your website is also a part of SEO that may boost the crawling speed and influence ranking effectiveness of pages at your website. As always, make sure that links to your pages contain keyword terms or phrases.

Use Site Map for SEO

Invalid HTML Code and Broken Links

The use of code which may not be readable or spiderable to search engine bots may directly decrease your website's rankings, or may cause losing pages from a search engine index at all. So you should carefully validate your HTML code. One of the possible ways to automate this procedure is to use HTML validator.

Other SEO Factors

There are many other aspects you should pay attention to while optimizing your webpages — from the age of a webpage (how long ago did the spider noticed the page for the first time) to the depth of a document in a site's structure (the minimum number of clicks in order to reach that document from the index page), from links to a page from site-internal pages to the proper use of webpage frames, etc...

I'm going to cover all these issues in my future notes. For now it's more than enough to put into action the recommendations mentioned above. If you follow all the general rules that I have outlined here, you may be safe for your on-page optimization.

Now I'd really like to point out that, although on-page optimization is something you really must do, it is NOT how you make striking changes in your search engine ranking!

This is one of the biggest misconceptions in the SEO world. Many people who have just started promoting their websites believe that by getting your keyword density just right, or by moving your keywords around on the page in just the right places, you'll really move up in the search engines.

No! It is the off-page optimization factors that will boost your rankings. I'll repeat once more:

Though on-page optimization is an essential requirement of moving your website up, doing it alone can bring you only comparatively trifling changes in your search engine ranking. You will never get into top ten for your keywords without doing off-page optimization!

In the next section I will show you exactly what off-page optimization factors are, and how to make sure you optimize these factors perfectly for Google and other search engines!