Three Basics of Search Engine Optimization

June 30, 2009

Almost all of our clients come to us with questions about Search Engine Optimization and how to run a campaign for their site.  Most people view SEO as a deep mystery that requires years of HTML experience and an education from Hogwarts.  However, while there are many intricacies to the craft that re reserved for the masters, basic SEO doesn't have to be that complicated and can be accomplished with steady committment and the help of a good Content Management System.

Here are three of the basics of SEO, ranked in order of importance, and how you can help your site rank organically high for targeted terms.

The 4 C's: Consistently Create Compelling Content. The most important element of ranking high in search engines is having great content.  If you have good content that relates specifically to your organization, you'll get ranked higher for the targeted terms within your content.  However, it doesn't stop with just having a baseline of good content, it's essential that you are consistently churning out interesting and informative stuff.  It's important for a few reasons.

First, Google looks at how often your site is updated when judging how frequently it should spider (inspect) your site for organic rankings.  So, if you are frequently creating content, you increase the likelihood that Google comes back to your site a lot to judge your content and accordingly update your rankings.

Second, every page you create is indexable by Google, helping your long tail of search terms.  So, whether you're creating content in a blog, newsfeed, or somewhere else, you're increasing the amount of total pages and search terms that you'll be indexed for.

Third, good content serves as excellent "link bait," meaning that other people will link to your site.  When other people link to you, it passes along their Page Rank juice, which will in turn help your site rank overall better in search engines.

Get Linked To.  This doesn't mean buying 50 links for $50 from a Nigerian Prince, but it does mean trying to get valuable links to your site from others.  Remember, the more legitimate and popular the site doing the linking, the more value Google will credit to that link and thus to your site.

One easy way to accomplish this task is through having multiple presences for your business online (i.e., Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, a Microsite, etc).  By having these other presences and building links from them to your main site, you'll pass along valuable Page Rank points to your site.

Also, by following the first rule of the four C's, you increase the likelihood of other blogs and social media presences linking to you.  Finally, don't be shy to ask for links from folks that write about you.  If your featured in a local newspaper or blog, be sure to ask for a link back to your site.

The anchor text (meaning the words that form the actual link) of the links is also very important, as Google uses that to determine what keywords best describe your site.  So, when possible, be sure to use your targeted terms (i.e, political web design, for us) as the text for the link.

Descriptive URLs and Title Tags.  If you're using a good CMS, you should have the ability to control the URL and Title Tags (the description at the top of a browser window for a site) for each page.  After content, these are the two most important "on page" elements of SEO.  Your URLs and Title Tags should be optimized with targeted terms, but also should be consistent with the actual copy on the page.

One of the cardinal sins of good Search Engine Optimization are sloppy or unreadable URLs, such as  It's important that you have clean URL extensions separated by dashes, like  By having the URL match up well with your Title Tags, Google will get a good idea of what the page is about (or what terms you want it to think the page is about).

While there are many other elements of SEO, these are the three that are easiest to control and of the most importance.  Have you optimized these elements and experienced success?  I know we have.  Also, what are some other SEO elements that you focus on with your site?


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