Google recently updated their SEO starter guide. After reading it over I wanted to post some of the more important points here. If you are looking for long term stable income you need to abide by Google’s rules.
Google’s goal is to provide useful, relevant search results for any given search term. This alone has significant implications on how to run an online business. If you want Google to send traffic your way then you need to provide quality, valuable content for the people who are interested in what you offer. This should be your highest guiding principle when creating content for your website. If it isn’t useful for the end user then it likely won’t be good for the long term success of your business.
Here are some of the main points you should follow to achieve this goal.
Offer quality content and services
Write content for users, not search engines. Google’s search algorithm is continually getting more advanced. It is not possible to fool Google, and even if you did, your visitors would likely pick up on your underhanded tactics and leave your site. Write for people and Google will reward you.
The easiest way to promote your website is to have other people do it for you. This can happen if you provide interesting, unique content that others find useful. If other websites owners like your content they will link to it sending traffic and an SEO boost your way.
When writing your content keep in mind that the people visiting your website will have differing backgrounds on your subject. If you are writing for an audience with an advanced understanding of your topic you should still keep in mind the casual visitor.
You page title conveys what the content on your page is about. Your title should be unique across your website, accurate, brief, and descriptive.
If you are targeting a specific keyword with your page it can appear in the title but don’t stuff it full of keywords. The content of the page should always deliver on the title.
The title of your page is displayed in the search results which, if well written, can attract visitors. Furthermore, the users search terms will be highlighted in the title to further attract their attention.
On a technical note, the title of the page should also appear in the <title> tag of your html file. Most tools will automatically do this for you (if, for example, you’ve setup your website with WordPress).
Description meta tag
You should provide a description for every page on your website. This description should be a few sentences long and summarize what is on the page. This description is important because it can show up in search results. A good description can compel a person to click on your link. Also, any search terms the person used to find your page will be highlighted.
Descriptions should be unique and, according to Google, not too short or not too long. That size is a bit vague but you can use Google’s Webmaster Tools to get feedback about your descriptions (as well as many other useful things).
Descriptions should appear in the <description> tag. If you are using a tool there may be a place to enter the description information. WordPress does not have this feature by default but if you install the All in One SEO Pack you will be able to provide a description.
Use heading tags appropriately
When writing your page content make sure you properly think through what you are trying to say and present it in a logical organized manner.
Use headings to separate logical areas of your page so that visitors can quickly grasp the structure of your page. Do not use too many headings as this can be confusing to people as well as search engines.
Google will use the text in your headings as an indication of what the important information on the page is about. Because of this, you should put informative text in your headings that gives an idea of what is in the following paragraphs.
The format of your URLs can also play an important role in your website’s SEO. Your URLs should contain human readable words as opposed to some numerical identifier. The page URL is displayed in search results along with the title and description and search terms occurring in the URL are also bolded.
Each URL on your website should correspond to a single unique page. If you have the same page content showing up for two different URLs Google regards this as duplicate content. This can dilute your page importance and decrease the chances it will show up in the search results.
Tip: If you are using WordPress you can choose how it shows URLs. By default WordPress uses generic URLs with a not very useful page index. To change this, go under Settings and Permalinks. On this page you can change how WordPress generates a URL. For more information you can read about using permalinks.
Anchor text and linking
Links are very important in SEO. The anchor text used in links is also very important. When you create a link – either on another site (say, in the form of a comment) or on your own site, try and include text that describes the destination page in as few words as possible. The anchor text helps people understand where the link goes. It also helps the search engines get a bit more insight to the page that is being linked to.
When designing your website don’t style your links so they are the same as the surrounding text. Make your links clearly visible so visitors to your website can easily see them.
You should also understand what ‘nofollow’ is. When you create a link you can mark it as nofollow. This informs Google that you don’t want it to follow the link and you definitely don’t want to pass your credibility on to the destination page. If you link directly to a page that Google deems unsavory it can count against you. To create a nofollow link you have to edit the HTML code for the link. A basic link looks like this:
<a href="/link/destination/page/">Link anchor text</a>
To make it a nofollow link, modify it like so:
<a href="/link/destination/page/" rel="nofollow">Link anchor text</a>
Your website should be easy to navigate – both for people as well as search engines. If you have a complex website it is good to have a site map available for visitors in the menu so they can easily find the pages they are interested in.
If your site is structured hierarchically it is good to have a ‘breadcrumb trail’ to help users understand where they are as well as easily navigate up the hierarchy.
Another technique to help the search engines find all your pages is to have a sitemap.xml file. This is a file that lists all the pages on your website and is used by the search engines to better crawl your pages. There are tools that can help you make a sitemap.xml file. If you are using WordPess I recommend the plugin Google XML Sitemaps
In the event a user ends up on a non-existent page you should have a useful 404 error page. You can read about Google’s suggestions to make your 404 page more useful.