Search Engine Optimization is one of the most important sources of traffic nowadays, and absolutely all web masters and site owners employ a few tactics to gain better positions on Google Search and other search engines and get more traffic from them.
But SEO is not as simple as it once was. In 2000-2003, it was enough to just use good titles, descriptions and meta tags, stuff enough keywords in your article and get a few links from other sites to rank in the first 5 spots on Google Search or Yahoo for any keyword, even the most searched ones like “credit cards” and “best financing”.
Nowadays it is much harder to rank for any terms, even longer phrases like “get best car quotes in Iowa”. There are multiple reasons for that, the most important ones being the massive increase of the number of web sites online (hence, a big increase in competition) and the improved, super advanced search engine algorithms, which were mainly created to combat all the spam web sites that started to appear (and still don’t seem to disappear).
But that is not to say it’s impossible to rank high in search engines and get a lot of traffic anymore. On the contrary, it’s very possible, and that’s why a lot of people are still doing it. You just have to follow the rules and think out of the box sometimes. Here are the most important rules (or, you could say, guide lines) that will help you achieve success in your SEO efforts and get your site ranking high in any search engine for almost any keywords.
Put readers before crawlers. A lot of people are trying so hard to get the search crawlers on their side and achieve the best search engine search page positions that they forget their main goal, which is to get visitors. Returning visitors are the most important thing for any web site, without them your site will be a passing fad, even if it seems successful for a while. These visitors will tell others about your site and link to you, which will keep bringing you traffic long after the search engines drop your articles from their first pages.
Making human visitors and readers a priority is also important because search engines themselves consider them a part of a good website. More over, it is their business to provide relevant and interesting results to people, not crawlers. They measure how much time a visitor stays on your website before hitting the Back button, and that has a direct effect on your article’s search engine rank and position. This is why it is essential that you publish only good articles and posts that are interesting for the visitors and not just keyword filled articles for search engine crawlers, which are otherwise useless to anyone or even unreadable.
Use keywords correctly and effectively. As you may already know, keywords are very important for Search Engine Optimization. Without them being positioned well throughout your site and articles, search engines would not know for what search term to rank you and would just rank you randomly for various words found in your posts, which will get you traffic, but not targeted one that can be converted into leads and sales.
This is why it’s important to know and follow a few guide lines about keyword placement and density. You should place the keywords you want your articles to rank for in the title, description and all the possible meta tags (like title, description and keywords), but do it inconspicuously, as a part of the article (not have the keyword “credit card” in a title about mortgage, for example). Also, your articles should have 2-3 of your desired keywords spread throughout every 100 words written, which would translate to a 2-3% keyword density in your content. But don’t overdo it, because anything more than 3% will probably get you on Google’s spam filters. In this case, less is better.
Choose quality over quantity when it comes to content. If you have to choose between 10 interesting articles that people will want to share with others and 100 average to bad articles that provide no new or useful information, you will be much better off choosing the first option.
As I said above, search engines consider the quality of articles and the time a user spends reading them very important, which means that the interesting 10 will bring you better (not necessarily more, but better for conversion and long term success, which is what you should always aim for) traffic than the 100 ones. Plus, you’ll get a lot of links from other sites and bloggers and traffic from social networks where your readers shared the links to your articles.
Use Image Search Optimization. Image Search Optimization is a relatively new branch of SEO, but it’s still very effective. Google Image Search alone gets more than 200 million searches per month, and you can get a part of that traffic, too. Amazon does it and gets millions of new users that would otherwise never find their site.
Optimizing images for search is pretty easy. The only things you have to do is place the images in related articles (not a picture of a car in an article about skin care), name the files with the keyword you want to rank for and which accurately represents what is on the picture, and rename the alternative image text into the same keyword. For example, a picture of the Pacific Ocean should be named “Pacific_Ocean.jpg” with the alternative text “The Pacific Ocean”, and if it’s placed inside an article (or at least a 100 words paragraph) about the Pacific Ocean, it will most likely rank on the first page of Google Image Search for, you guessed it, “pacific ocean”.
Get quality backlinks. Once you have done all of the above, the only thing you have left to do to boost your rankings is get links to your site and pages. The links should be anchored by the keyword you want to rank for, but it’s OK if it’s just a “click here” link from a site related to your article.
The best links are those created by your readers on their blogs and various social networks, as they’re the most trusted and also generate a lot of direct traffic. You can also buy links or ads on other sites, and in that case, it would be best to get a couple of links from inside an article that is relevant to yours, not from the sidebar or other general site location. Search Engines consider them more relevant because they look more natural (like a person links to your article in their post because they like it).
Of course, there are a lot of other factors and details when it comes to getting the most out of Search Engine Optimization, but the above ones account for 90% of the things you need to do to achieve success. The rest are small details that are almost always individual to the site and which you will have to figure them out yourself.
Raja maintains the community-powered web hosting reviews site HostWisely.com. He regularly publishes interesting articles on web hosting, web development and latest hosting coupons. You can follow his updates @HostWisely.