How to Understand Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

by Contributor

If you produce Web sites, then you need to understand search engine optimization (SEO). It is not an exact science as there are differing opinions on what works best, but there are definite guidelines to follow that will help ensure that your pages become well placed in the search engine results.

Common sense is always the best guide. Don't force anything just because the experts say so. If getting your main keyword included a certain number of times leads to a page that is difficult to read, then don't do it. Always keep in mind that your work will be read by users who appreciate smooth-flowing text that is not stilted and unnatural.

Include basic meta tags in your HTML documents. Some search engines no longer use meta tags because of abuse. You should use the keyword meta tag and the description meta tag as a minimum. The robots meta tag should only be used to indicate that the page is not to be indexed.

Construct your page title tag in the head section of the document so that the main keyword appears within it, preferably close to the beginning. Include secondary keywords as well, but try to make the title flow as naturally as possible.

Include an H1 page title in the body section of your HTML document that has your main page keyword within it. Include secondary keywords when possible and try to push the benefits that the page promotes.

Include your main page keyword to achieve a density of 2 percent to 5 percent overall. For example, if your page has 250 words of text, you would need to include your main keyword five times to achieve a density of 2 percent.

Structure your page so that your main page keyword appears twice in the first paragraph, once in the second paragraph and is scattered throughout the rest of the text to achieve the required density. Your main page keyword should appear close to the beginning of the text, preferably the very first phrase.

Write the main body text so that each page has at least 250 words of text. This should be a minimum. Unless the focus of the page is images, forms or doesn't require much text, always provide enough text to ensure properly developed content. Around 250 to 600 words of text is a good guide. It is not too difficult to understand SEO, at least a basic level. Think of the steps more as important guidelines, rather than rigid instructions. It's okay to deviate from the guidelines occasionally as long as there's a good reason why.

Tips

  • check Provide good solid content first and foremost. Your need to understand SEO will decrease because you'll most likely find yourself doing it automatically.
  • check Including a sub-headline is often a good idea. If you do this, use an H2 tag or an H3 tag.

Warnings

  • close Avoid including keywords that have to be forced just to achieve a density level. Your text must flow as naturally as possible and be comfortably readable. If this means a keyword density of 1.5 percent or 5.5 percent, that's OK. Just stay within the guidelines as much as possible.
  • close Include your secondary keyword phrases without repeating unnecessary words. If your secondary keywords are, "blue widgets," "green widgets," "green organic widgets" and "bright blue widgets," then only include the unique words. For example, the word "widgets" appears 4 times, so only include it once. Green and blue appear twice each. Your secondary keyword list should therefore be, "widgets," "blue," "green," "organic," and "bright." Scatter these words sparingly throughout the page and the search engines will know exactly what you mean.
  • close Avoid telling search engine robots to index the page as this is superfluous. They will do this by default anyway.
  • close Plan your page so that you have a declining hierarchy of H tags if you use more than one. Never have a mixture that flows backwards. For example, H1, H2, H3, etc is good; H2, H1, H4, H3, is bad.

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