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Copyright Matt Canham.

The Absolute Basics of SEO.

Search engine optimization is the process of maximizing the ranking of you site in search engine listings. The most important factors to consider to achieve a high ranking are: the keywords you use, your title, your description, the text of your site, and the links others provide to your site.

To begin selecting keywords, consider what words and phrases the people you are trying to reach will be searching on. When placing keywords in your keyword tag, it is best to use phases rather than single words. Almost all single words are in very widespread use, thus will not tend to produce high rankings. Keyword phrases can be better tailored to your business.

Also, since phrase searches produce fewer results, people are more likely to search on them. It is also a good idea to produce a list of keyword phrases for every page of your site. If you must include difficult to spell words, it is a good idea to include some common misspellings of these words as well.

The title is just as important, if not more important, than your keywords. Most search engines place the highest level of importance on the words found in the title when calculating the ranking. You should place your most important keyword phrases first in your title, as some search engines limit the number of characters you can use. Make your title a readable sentence, as this is the first text that will appear for your listing on the results page. One thing you should avoid doing is simply listing keywords. This could be regarded by the search engine as keyword spamming, and may lower your search ranking, or even get your listing removed from the site. As with keywords, it is a good idea to give each page a unique title.

In your description you should once again make use of your best keyword phrases. In this case, you can use more of them, since search engines will give you typically around 1024 characters for the description, while they will give you only around 50 to 80 for the title. Again, place your keywords as close to the beginning of your description as makes sense.

In the text of your site you should make use of, yes, you've guessed it, your keyword phrases. Also include any text you have used in other tags, such as meta tags, alt tags, and headings. Having a lot of content helps as well. A minimum of 200 words per page is recommended. Having many pages of content also increases your rankings.

Having many other sites link to you is another good way to increase your search rankings. Both the links themselves and the increase traffic which results will help. Also, having bloggers link to your site is a good idea.

Although these practices will boost your rankings, there are certain design elements that can interfere with your search rankings. These include frames, dynamic URLs, Flash, using image maps for navigation, and using javascripts for navigation. Also, there are certain practices that search engines regard as spamming, and these practices will get you permanently removed from the site. These include using keywords in your meta tags that do not relate to the content of your page, using multiple instances of the same tag, and listing keywords in the text of your site.

This is just the briefest introduction to search engine optimization. One book available on this topic is Search Engine Visibility, by Shari Thurow. Software packages that can assist you with SEO tasks include Bruce Clay's SEOToolSET and Web CEO's Web CEO.

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