Friday, January 16, 2009

Six Basic SEO Tips for the 2009 New Year

I look at a lot of Web sites to determine what SEO opportunities exist for potential clients. There is such a huge disparity between the issues that I see, I thought it might benefit some people if we covered some basic SEO tips. And that way, if I do a review of your site next month at OMS, you will be able to explore more advanced issues and get more out of your experience.

I typically define search engine optimization issues in three categories: “on page”, “off page” and “site wide” elements. On page optimization refers to optimizing the physical elements of the page including textual content, heading tags, page titles, meta descriptions, meta keyword tags. Off page optimization refers to links, both internal and external. Site wide optimization refers to the technical issues that can affect the engines ability to index and rank you site which includes but is not limited to duplicate content issues, flash and java script issues, URL and file structure, redirect issues, etc.

So, here are my best basic SEO tips by category search engine optimization issues:

On Page

1) Unique titles and Meta descriptions that are keyword focused. It’s important to remember that any page of your site could be the first page a user sees on your site. Give them enough keyword focused information to understand the content of the page. Additionally, it’s good to understand from a search engine’s perspective, if you don’t have time to make these fields unique for a given page of your site, how important could that page be.

2) Don’t worry about keyword density. Here’s a hint, there is no magic number. If there was, the community of SEO geeks like me would discover it quickly because it’s an easy to metric to calculate. It’s more important to just make sure it’s in your content. A ratio of 1% to 8% is acceptable although 1% maybe a little low for competitive keywords. Anything over 8% usually begins to reek like spam and influence user experience. There are exceptions but in most cases, if every 10th word of your document is the same word or phrase, you could be spamming.

Off Page

3) Make your global navigation template is keyword focused. Obviously you don’t wanna get carried away and have links that span the whole page…lol. But remember that every link is a vote. Even internal links. And so, the links that appear on your global navigation serve as votes from each page of your site. So they tend to carry a fair amount of weight. Make sure that those link texts contain the primary keywords for the pages that they link to.

4) Homepage Logo Link. If you site is one of the 99% of sites that has a logo in the top left corner with a link that points back to your homepage, make sure that link is working for you by including a 4 to 7 word alt tag that is keyword focused.

Site Wide

5) Make sure you navigation links are being indexed. Go to Google and type . Then in the resulting page’s header, click on “Text-only version” in the top right corner. Can you see your navigation links on the resulting text page. If not, you may be coding them in Flash or Java script which is completely invalidating those hugely important links.

6) Don’t use 302 redirects. A lot of systems use these redirects by default. They cause major problems for search engines like Yahoo and MSN and at best are inconsistent in Google. You shouldn’t have any problems if you use a 301 redirect, especially for vanity domains that could cause potential duplicate content problems.

These are some basic tips that will get your search engine optimization campaign headed in the right direction for 2009. I hope you find some value in them and I look forward to seeing everyone next month here in San Diego!