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Want to learn about SEO? Well, you could read a book. But, if you don’t have time for that, you could read my summary of one. In this case, the book is called, “Search Engine Visibility.” Shari Thurow wrote it. This is some of what I learned from reading it—

Search engine optimization begins with keyword research. Begin by considering the information you want to convey, the products you want to sell, and the actions you want your readers to take. When a reader acts as you desire him to, it’s known as a conversion.

Conversions can include any number of desired actions such as filling in a form, sending an email, downloading a file, or adding an item to a shopping cart. One of the best ways of measuring your site’s effectiveness is by comparing the number of successful conversions to the number of visitors your site receives.

As you consider the contents and purpose of your future web site, potential keywords and keyword phrases will occur to you. As they do, research their potential effectiveness by using the tools provided by Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and elsewhere. You should also consider the words people are likely to enter into a search engine when they look for your site. Asking friends, colleagues and focus groups how they would find your site is another useful research method.

Your keywords should appear in both your tags and the body of each web page. The tags to consider include the keywords meta tag, description meta tag and title tag. Although your keywords and keyword phrases should appear in you keywords tag, most search engines no longer consider this tag as relevant as other places on the web page. The practice of keyword stuffing, that is, the practice of multiple repetitions of keywords, has diminished the usefulness of this tag.

You should also be wary of including keywords in the keywords meta tag if they don’t appear elsewhere on your web page. If you use a keyword phrase like, “twisted senile nymphomaniacs,” in your keywords tag, and fail to use it in the body of your web page, search engines get upset and are apt to avoid visiting your web site.   

The description meta tag is important because many search engines use its contents to determine page relevancy and also display its text in their page listings. A good description can help compensate for otherwise poor page rank by clarifying to readers what can be found on your page.  A call to action that encourages readers to open your page can make the description even more effective.

The content of each page on your site should be different from that of other pages. Your title tag should reflect the contents of that page. Try to use keywords as the first few words of your title but not at the expense of using awkward grammar. Unless your company name is well known enough to be a keyword, don’t use it in your title tag.

Don’t duplicate the content of your title tag in your description tag. Search engines might view this as a spamming attempt. However, it’s a good idea to include some of the words in your description tag in the middle of the page about three to four inches from the top of the screen. This is one of the page hot spots where reader’s eyes tend to travel. Readers also tend to remember headings better than body text, so make your headings memorable.

Search engines don’t like hitting dead ends, so be sure most of your pages include links to other pages on the web. However, be careful who you link to since you could be judged by the company you keep.

Link to informative, well trafficked sites, when you can. Avoid link farms, sites containing links to unrelated sites. When you find interesting sites with content that complements your own, email the site owner and request a reciprocal link. Let him know how his site relates to yours, suggest appropriate link text and demonstrate your good will by linking to his site. Sometimes it’s necessary to ask more than once since your request may have gotten lost among his other email. However, don’t make a pest of yourself. If a site owner doesn’t want link reciprocation, just keep looking on the web until you find a new potential buddy.

Optimize your links by making the text surrounding them descriptive of the pages to which they point. Lastly, don’t forget to optimize your graphics. Give them names that search engines can parse like, “dog-puppies.jpg,” instead of something like, “dgpups231.jpg.” And always add alternative text tags like, “alt="image of dog with puppies".”

Visit Shari Thurow’s companion website for more about SEO.