There are two main elements to SEO and improving your website and its rankings, Onsite and Offsite optimisation. Onsite quite literally deals with the on page elements of your website. If we want to appear in the search results for a selection of keywords, then we need to let Google and the other Search Engines know that your site is relevant to that search term.
There are various ways we can make our site more relevant to selected Search Phrases. See a break down below:
Meta Titles and Descriptions: Meta titles serve two purposes, they form the text that appears at the top of your browser when you visit a site or page and the piece of text that appears in Google when you make a search. For example this page has the meta title “Onsite Optimisation | SEO for Dummies | SeoforDummies.co.uk” which will appear in your browser and alse will be the title if you found this page in search engine results. The meta description is small description of each page that sits within the html code. The main use for this is to be the source of the description Google uses for its results. If you do not provide a meta description, Google may use some text from your page or just not give you one at all. Try and keep your titles to 65 characters in length and your descriptions to 150. These figures will stop any of your information being cut off in your Google result. Obviously the aim is to get your targetted keywords into your titles and description where they naturally fit and for pages they belong on. All pages should have unique titles and descriptions to make sure Google knows what each one is about and hopefully list them for your desired terms.
Image Alt text: Google cannot tell what is in a photo or image so we need to tell it via the image alt text. Ideally your pictures will relate to your keywords so you can use them in your description. If you had a website selling pet food and one of your keywords was “cat food” you could add alt text to a picture of a cat eating “cat eating some teasty cat food”. This describe what the picture is while including your keyword. For further clarification you can name your image files to include the keyword eg cat-food.jpeg.
Onpage Copy: If you have chosen your keywords sensibley and they reflect your website, then your keywords should fit naturally within the text on your site. When writing your text, try to include your keywords as much as you can but only where they fit and not in a spammy way. If any of your keywords relate to other pages on your site, feel free to add a link to that page using the keyword. If your pet food site had text on the home page describing the type of products you offer and you mention cat food, then why not add a link to your cat food page. It is also worth noting that your website content should be 100% original and should not be copied from other sites, if you copy your text, Google may mark it as duplicated content and this will affect your chances of ranking.
Headings: Whether they are H1 headings or just bolded text at the top of your page, try to include your keywords into your headings where they naturally fit. Being clear about what your page is about will not only help it rank in Google but will help the user understand your site.
Page Names: To help your pages rank for appropriate keywords, you can include your keywords in the page names. Hopefully you will have done this naturally, but it is suprising the ammount of sites that do not. If your website is selling pet food and you have a cat food page, it would be much better to have your site set up as http://www.daves-pet-food.co.uk/pet-food-products/cat-food.html rather than something like http://www.daves-pet-food.co.uk/product/product1.html
404 Error page: Many sites are set up that if you click on a broken link within a site or mistype a page name you will recieve an error message or a 404 error page. These pages usually are not SEO friendly, so if you set one up you should include some links to your main pages while including your keywords.
Canonicalisation: Google can see http://www.seofordummies.co.uk, http://seofordummies.co.uk, http://www.seofordummies.co.uk/index.html and http://seofordummies.co.uk/index.html as seperate pages even though they are showing the same content. To make sure search engines and users see the visit the same page you should set up a 301 redirect rule in your htaccess file or alternatively use the canonical meta tag.
Html Sitemap: Create a html sitemap page that links to all the pages on your website, this will allow visitors to see all the pages on your site and help them get indexed in the Google Index.
XML Sitemap: Using free tools, you can create an xml sitemap that will list all the pages on your site in a format that can be read by the search engine spiders. This file should be placed in your site’s root folder so that appears like http://www.seofordummies.co.uk/sitemap.xml
Google Webmaster Tools: To help you discover problems about your site and help understand how Google sees your site you should register for a Webmaster tools account. By adding a piece of verification code to your html you can access detailed information about your site.If you have a .com tld, you can tell Google you want to target searchers in the Uk. You can discover pages that have duplicate meta titles and descriptions.
Fresh Content: Google apprently likes fresh content on your websites and older websites that used to dominate the rankings with out dated content are finding their rankings slipping. One of the best ways to add new relevant content to your website is through a blog or news section.
I will add and expand this section in the future…….stay tuned