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SEO Starter Guide

November 17th, 2008

If you are a newbie to SEO, you might want to consider some of the tips that Google suggest on how to begin optimizing your website for better search engine rankings.
To begin with, the techniques you will learn here effect only your organic search engine results and not the ones on Adwords (sponsored links- ones that appear on the right column in google’s search result pages).
Also, you must keep in mind that optimizing your pages without giving emphasis to the user experience will NOT bring you the desired results. You must have your site optimized to satisfy your potential visitor as well, other wise the traffic will not convert into leads/sales and search engines will soon come to realise that the site is not delivering what it is expected to.
So, lets begin.
The first and foremost important thing is creating a “Unique, Accurate page titles”. and please notice the emphasis on accurate here..
The title tag is the one who tells the search engine what your page is dealing with. The title tag is the one that appears as the title text in the search results and keywords that appeare there- same as the search query, are marked in bold. so basically the title tag should include up to 12 keywords and possibly having your companie’s name/domain included in it can be a good idea.
Beside the homepage, all sites (hopefully) carry inner pages. You must provide each inner page a unique and accurate title and avoid repetition. the inner pages usually talk about more specific issues/services/products that the site offers, thus these pages will get a unique title tag relating to this specific content.
The second thing Google recommends is “making use of Meta Description Tag”. A good meta description tag is a one that describes well the content of the page and its length is about a paragraph. Google might use your meta description tag as snippets (the description that appears below the title and above the url) in its search results page and laso bold the keywords in the description which appear in the search query.
What you should avoid is having your meta description tag showing contetn which is not related to the page itself, a meta description tag which is stuffed with keywords, repeating meta descriptions in variuos pages and copying an entire page’s content to the meta description tag..
 Third, is improving the structre of your URLs.
The structure of your URLs should consist of relevant keywords in the URL itself, the content should be organized in directories that are also named by the content that they display, a good idea is to try and prevent from the URL havinf all kinds of “?id=vvv” and sessions IDs. a good written URL is precious not only for search engines but also for visitors who see your url in the search results and when it is well written it can seem more relevant to the user as well.
So how does a well written URL look like? lets take as an example a site that offers sports related content. The content is categorized by Sporting Fields such as Tennis, Football etc. For each of these categories there are many pages that display sporting events. Take a look at this URL for an example, http://www.getsport.tv/football/england/football-league-championship/2008-2009/watford-queens-park-rangers-live-online. The URL shows well that the event “queen park rangers live online” belongs to the football category and to its football league championship subcategory. it is easy for search engines to capture these topics and keywords and relate them to a similar search query. Although this might be a good example of how to write the URL, it is also a good example of excessive usage of directories (the event page is burried in the 4th directory!). Google can manage that easily, but other search engines such as Yahoo or Msn could find it a bit more difficult crawling to. Ofcourse there are ways to overcome this obsticle by creating direct links to the event pages from main pages on the site, but lets leave that to a different post..

The fourth issue you should heavily consider is having your site organized, in both technical and content manners. For instance, the navigation on your website should be clear, relating to the hirarchy of the website and related to grouping of contetn in related pages/directories. You should avoid creation of a navigation menu in javascript drop down menues, or in the form of images, and preffer using text only. You should include a regular sitemap file in your website that consists of all the pages on your website divided by categories. You should do the same but use an XML sitemap generator to create XML Sitemap file of your website and submit it to Google (Google webmaster tools). You should create a robots.txt for your website and exclude pages you would not wish the crawler crawling to and place the file in the root directory. You should create a 404 page for pages that are not found on your server and configure your server to have an 404 response to them. You should avoid having the 404 page indexed in Google or any other search engine, avoid having this page showing “NOT FOUND” message or having it showing a different template than the entire site.

SOURCE: http://www.google.com/webmaster/docs/search-engine-optimization-starter-guide.pdf

* For more information on how google search results appear you might want to visit the page talking about The anatomy of search results

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