Basic SEO – without the snake oil

I confess to being something of an SEO skeptic. I guess I've seen enough snake oil peddled in the name of "search engine optimization" that I run the risk of believing that any strategies to enhance a web site's Google ranking are – more or less – bogus.
You've probably seen it, too. That endless stream of online promises to take your site to the highest levels of Internet renown. The SEO gurus even have their own technical language, presumably designed to impress you. Terms like "backlink generation", "long-tail keyword optimization", "content farms", "PLR articles".
The list goes on, and it's just about enough to make a web site customer throw up his hands in frustration. Or worse, capitulation – where the customer buys the bull and ends up with no results or finds himself penalized by the search engines when his consultant uses "black hat" SEO tactics.
Well, as it turns out, there are actually some legitimate things a web customer can do to improve a site's search engine ranking, and none of them rely on shady techniques:
- Use the Google Adwords Keyword Tool to do some research on searches that are relevant to your site. Make note of both "Global" and "Local" monthly searches for both keywords and key phrases. "Local" means within your home country. You can break this down by region and state, if desired. If competition for your desired keywords is too high, look for alternatives or try to find some less competitive key phrases.
- Use an SEO plug-in to add accurate titles, descriptions and keywords to your pages. Use keywords in titles and descriptions, too, but make sure the purpose of the page is still communicated. Don't overdo it; just focus on a few relevant keywords.
- Make sure each image has an accurate description in the "alt" tag. You can put keywords here, too, but in a natural way that doesn't distort the description or make it too long.
- Put a blog on the front page, if possible. Search engines like to see new content on a site, and you can be liberal with the keywords. But, remember, you're still writing for human beings – not search engines.
- Create an XML sitemap. Plug-ins are available to automatically create these documents and submit them to the major search engines. This can greatly speed up indexing of your site.
- Create a text-based index of your pages at the bottom of the front page. This provides more insurance that the search engines will properly index your site, and it makes things easier on reading devices used by the disabled.
WordPress designer Robert Pitts of Lakeland, Florida, is the owner of Web Designs by Robert G. Pitts, which specializes in the WordPress content-management platform. View the company's "No-Surprises Pricing" policy.
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