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SEO Primer: Designing your site with SEO in mind.

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If ranking highly with Google is important to your business, here are some basics to follow when designing a website.

For the novice, Search engine optimization, or SEO, is the technique of publishing information and building links that makes search engines rank your website high in the organic search results. As more and more companies are seeking these desirable high ranks, SEO consultants are getting rich. No disrespect to SEO consultants, but these guys are not rocket scientists, just ordinary guys who understand how search engines work, and how to make them rank sites high.

SEO is not as hard as SEO professionals would like you to believe. Anyone can do it if you understand the basics. In a moment I will explain the fundamentals of designing a website with the proper search engine structure in mind. But first, I’d like to clarify a few common misconceptions about SEO in general:

You do not need to pay a small fortune to rank highly. If you know a few simple techniques, you can do a credible job of promoting your site. And if you still feel like hiring a consultant, remember, pricing for SEO can be all over the map. So shop around.

Here the top eight most important items to consider when designing your website, in order of importance:

  1. Keyword research – ideally, this is the best place to start when designing a site. Unfortunately this is not where most companies begin. Only by using keyword research will you be able to accurately identify and quantify your internet market niches. You can use a keyword research tool like wordtracker, for instance, to accurately show you which keywords are searched for the most, and have the least competition. For example, if you’re selling office lighting, the broad search term ‘office lighting’ is highly searched for, but a highly competitive phrase. Yet terms like ‘office ceiling grid lighting’ or ‘office fluorescent lighting’ may not offer the same high volume of searches, but have far competition.

Point to remember: keyword research is your foundation, or quantified roadmap to follow for internet marketing successfully receiving the most relevant traffic with regard to your target market.

  1. Domain – URL currently holds a lot of keyword weight. You may already have a URL, and it may or may not be descriptive or relevant. However, if you have the opportunity to start from scratch buy one that is short and somehow contains your most important keyphrase. As you probably are aware, there are not many short, descriptive URLs available these days. But that doesn’t mean you can’t create one. For example, for office lighting, you may be able to purchase www.officelightsweb.com or www.officelightsmn.com (localized) or other URLs contain your keyphrases. You’d be surprised what terms are still available.
  2. Title Tag – This is the 2nd most important part of design with regard to SEO. Your page title is what shows up in Google and shows searchers what you have to offer. That’s why search engines place so much value on this. Page titles should clearly reflect your primary key phrase and try to stay under 65 characters. Also, make sure every title tag is unique. So for www.officelightsweb.com/products/desk-lighting/ my title will be ‘Office Lighting | desk lighting, desk lamps’. For my root page www.officelightsweb.com it could be ‘Office Lighting Solutions for Business’.
  3. URL Structure – Simple and logical is best. Also always keep your keyword phrases in mind. In my example website, http://www.officelightsweb.com, because our product (and keyword phrase) is office lighting, I will probably have this URL structure: www.officelightsweb.com/products/desk-lighting/. I use dashes because most of the Search Engines see that as a space. The idea is to keep it simple, and straightforward so your site structure is easy for Google to navigate. You could add other pages in this fashion using more specific popular keyphrases in this fashion: http://www.officelightsweb.com/products/office-ceiling-grid-lighting.
  4. Content – Relevant content is king with search engines. The more content you have with your primay keyphrases included in a contextual manner, the more the search engines will value your site. Creating a blog, news, articles, and other sections of your site that are regularly updated with content is the foundation of a internet marketing website. The first 200-250 words are most important. Try to have your keywords phrase appear here at least twice. It does not have to be exactly the same and should not sound unnatural. See our section on content management to learn how to update your web content.
  5. Heading Tags – I try to match the h1 tag with the title tag. Which also happens to be your keyword phrase. Or at lease contain it within your h1 tag. Try to have it come right after your body tag so that it is the first thing crawled. It should only appear once on a page and corresponding h2, h3 tags should hierarchically relevant.
  6. Meta Keyword – This should simply reflect the keywords specific to that page. Not as important because it is only really used by yahoo right now. The more key words you have, the less value each one is. That is why each page should be very specific.
  7. Meta Description – Hard to say how much weight is put on here but it adds some value in click through rate. I usually try to put my keyword phrase in this twice. Once all together and once broken up.
  8. Images – If they are not in the CSS they should have alt tags that are descriptive and utilize some keyword phrase

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