Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for Do-It-Yourselfers
This blog entry is a basic guide for DIYers with a good level of technical knowledge looking to improve their site's SEO.
Step 1 - Keyword Analysis
The first thing you have to do is find out what keywords you want to use. You'll need a tool that will help you analyze keywords and keyphrases for their KEI Rating (Keyword Efficiency Index). This is basically the number of searches for that keyphrase divided by the number of competing sites. The resulting KEI gives you a better understanding of what your ROI (Return On Investment) will be.
If you want the number one spot for a big keyword, you'll have to increase your page rank to a very high level. For that reason, it's often better to compete for more less-competitive keyphrases.
Step 2 - Optimize Your Site
The following is a simple list of rules to follow in designing your site (HTML) to maximize its search-engine friendliness.
Step 3 - Revise Your Content
The content of your website is extremely important in search engine placement. The amount of text and images on a page, and the keyword density in each determines if your page gets interpreted as either unimportant, real / valuable content, or spam. The basic rule on how much content to have on any given page is that the content should fill at least a 600 x 600 square, or at least 250 words. While there's no documented limit to how much copy should be put on a page, all copy intended for users should be consistently formatted so as not to be misinterpreted as spam. Never use a low-contrast color for important copy, and don't put so much that it would make it difficult for someone to keep their place on a page. If you have that much text, it should be split up into paginated sections or a heirarchical sub-menu. As for keyword density, the "sweet spot", or most effective ratio is anywhere between 2-5% - or one keyword for every 20-50 words on your page. If you have 500 words in your text, for example, you should have 10-25 keyphrases in order to achieve optimal density.
Step 4 - Link Popularity
Probably the most labor-intensive part of search engine optimization, link popularity really has nothing to do with optimization at all! All that's really involved in link popularity is getting other sites to link to you. Top listed sites can have anywhere from 100 to 10,000 links to them. More importantly, the value of a backlink is determined by how closely the content of the referencing site is related to your page. How you manage obtaining good backlinks is a matter of creativity. Some companies write articles and submit them to news sites. Some companies buy hundreds of domains and have them all interlinking. Some companies partake in web rings or affiliate networks (bleh). I've seen some creative sites that give awards every month for people to put on their homepages (including a back link). Still, in my opinion, the best and only true way to create persistent link popularity / page rank is to create very valuable content in your website that other people will find valuable and link to for others to find.
To find out your site's current link popularity, you can use this tool: LinkPopularity.com
There are also hand-swapping services, like LinkTrader that may charge as much as $2000 for 100 links to your page.
Step 5 - Validate Your HTML:
Visit the W3C Validator to determine how many errors your site's markup has. While this won't necessarily affect your site's ranking as significantly as the above, it's generally a good practice to get in to have valid HTML in your site!
Step 6 - Make Content!!!
Having static content on your site will guarantee that you will have poor SE ranking. Search engines like sites with ever changing content (such as new media, press releases, a blog, a forum, or other forms of fresh content). The best way to do this for a smaller site is to include a Content Management Solution (CMS) in your website. A CMS is a tool that allows individuals inexperienced with the technical parts of HTML to easily add pages to a database-managed website solution. The latest trend is community-generated content - creation of tools that allow people to add their own content to sites. The simplest forum of these is a forum tool, such as vBulletin, which, when added to your website, will allow others to exchange ideas and information. The biggest issue with community-generated content in relation to a corporate site is that communities require a significant effort to manage and moderate, and companies have to focus on their core business, which usually isn't related to community websites!