I just finished the Richard John Jenkins Search Engine Optimization (SEO) training from Lynda.com. Nicely done; I enjoyed it. He provides the following list, which limns the nine-hour training. (And he wisely encourages trainees to post it on their sites with links back to his own, using his suggested anchor text…)
Top Ten Search Engine Optimization Tips
Written by SEO Specialist, Richard John Jenkins of Web Search Engineer.com
1. Be Unique or Cast into Oblivion
In a web world of "me too" web sites, products and services, nothing is more exciting than something totally unique. The side benefit is that people will search for keywords that belong only to you – think “Macintosh,” or “iPod.” Before Apple invented the products and made the words "Macintosh" and "iPod" into household names, how many people would have searched for those words?? Nobody, except maybe the creative people at Apple. Create a web site that reflects your uniqueness. Create a unique theme and you will boldly stand out from the zillions of other sites on the Internet. Plus, that way you will never have to try and obtain in-bound links – you will become a link magnet automatically!
2. Killer Keyword Research
Simply put, nothing else in SEO matters if you don’t get the foundation of your SEO right from the get-go. The foundation of all great SEO is made up of excellent Keyword research and selection. Along with this, never aim for highly competitive keywords when optimizing a site. Use the "long tail" approach and go for a wider reach. If you are in a niche market or your keywords are not highly competitive, then go for the targeted keyword selection approach. If not, go broad in your selection of keywords.
3. Hot Damn Keyword-Rich Anchor Text and Domain Names
Use keyword-rich domain names. And again, uniqueness here will pay off hugely. Search engines and directories look at domain names when ranking pages, though the benefit of keywords in your domain is small. But to your searchers, it’s huge! These bolded keywords in your domain names will help you stand out in the SERPs.
Search Engines factor link popularity into their ranking algorithms and look at the anchor text of in-bound links pointing to your site. Text used in an anchor link that points to your web site should always contain your keywords, if possible. Having these keywords in your domain encourages webmasters to use the same keywords in the anchor text when they grant you an in-bound link from their web site to yours. Simply put, if the keywords are in your domain, you will most likely get links pointing to your site with keywords in the important anchor text as well.
Keep the domain short, easy to say and easy to spell. Even better, create words that have a built-in buzz factor or hip feel, for example: “mySpace.com,” Linkedin.com,” or “del.icio.us.”
4. Fabulous File Names, Folders and Paths
Just like domains, the keyword-rich theory also applies here. File names and folders should be short, easy to read and descriptive. The end result is that when your web page shows up in the SERPs, a searcher can immediately see relevant keywords in bold, from your domain name all the way down to the actual HTML file name.
Keep the depth of the path shallow. This means, don’t bury web pages too deep. Here's a good rule of thumb: if a user has to click more than three times to get to the relevant content within your web site, it’s buried too deep.
By the way, if you do use keywords in the domain or filename, separate them with hyphens or underscores – it makes reading them much easier for searchers.
5. Radical Relevant Content Wins Every Time
Search engine robots search text to index and rank your web pages. So, give them what they want – keyword rich relevant text. Write body text for humans first, search bots second. Also, try to put yourself in your searchers' shoes. Ask yourself – What might people be typing into Google’s search query field to find my web site? Then play the search "dating game" and give them what they want: relevant content and keywords sprinkled throughout the text.
There are tens of thousand of opinions on how much text should be on a page. Use common sense and visually look at your page. Does it look skimpy in regards to how much relevant content you are trying to give searchers? My rule is a minimum of two hundred fifty words and above of highly relevant information. If a searcher has to scroll down more than a few inches "below the fold," then I have too much text on the page.
How many keywords in the body text? Use your own discretion. If you’ve overdone your text with too many keywords it will scream “redundant” not “relevant.” Go for relevant, not redundant.
There are many excellent web site owners who report they have “never” requested an in-bound link to their site, yet tens of thousand of other web sites link to them! How is this so? Simply because they offer great relevant information to searchers! Searchers then bookmark the pages, tell their friends and associates about the pages write about them in blogs and so on. If you concentrate more on relevancy than on how many keywords you put on your page for a search spider, you will attract tons of in-bound links.
6. Poignant Page Titles Rock
Web page titles weigh heavily in the algorithms of search engines and are not only important to them, but are also part of the first impression searchers usually look at after they perform a search query of your listing.
It is crucial that you have your top keywords strategically placed in your page titles in the order that a searcher typed into the query field (or at least in close proximity). Put your most important category keywords at the beginning, in order of search importance. If you are optimizing a page for a company name or brand name, then consider separate web pages for each. A few good rules are: each page should be unique, with three major keywords for each web page, and three less important keywords. Always consider adding a location name to where you’re doing business, if it applies.
7. Meaningful Meta Keyword & Description Tags
Many SEO experts say search engine keyword / description Meta tags are no longer or rarely used – I don’t agree. The proof is that a well-written Meta description tag for many of my clients is in fact picked up in the SERPs! Sometimes a snippet of it is used, along with a snippet of keyword-rich body text. Search engines change and tweak their algorithms all the time. They may, or may not, put more importance on meta tags in the future. I’ll keep playing it safe and use them.
Writing a good description tag with a call to action that mentions "free shipping" or a "gift with a purchase" is certainly better than no description at all. Surveys of web searchers show that what searchers read most often is the search query description.
Gathering a big juicy list of Meta keywords together helps the professional optimizer focus on which keywords are truly relevant to each and every web page – even if you only use a fraction of those keywords on the actual page. Copying and pasting both of these keyword-rich text attributes into a web page’s meta tag area takes just a few seconds of time. So why not simply do it?
8. Hell of a Heading (H1 – H6 tags)
I love these for two important reasons. Always remember: searchers scan text before reading text!
Reason 1: The search engines appear to rate my client’s web pages really well when ever I use them.
Reason 2: The other benefit is for searchers. Big, bold headings point out what’s on the page. Searchers scan the headings way before they commit to reading the body text. When a searcher clicks your listing in the SERPs and lands on one of your pages, they will read on if the headings contain their keywords. If they don't contain the keywords, they take off in search of a site that has what they are looking for. Headings stand out and are “scan friendly,” so use them whenever you can.
9. Love Those Links!
The web got its start with links, and nothing about this has changed except that people (especially web site designers) are forgetting about this! Hypertext links are what search engine spiders follow to index and rank web pages. If search spiders can’t simply and easily follow links pointing to your site from other sites, from your site to their sites, or from page to page once inside of your site, then you will not be found – period. And if your site can’t be found, what is the point of having a web site in the first place?
There is nothing wrong with using any of these (and other) advanced technologies on your web site, but you simply must take the search engine's robot into consideration when using them.
I have no doubt in my mind that Flash, video, images, databases, iPod-cast and more will all be much more search friendly in the near future, but if you want to be found and ranked well in the SERPs now, stick to plain vanilla HTML web pages that are spider friendly right along-side your way-cool Flash movie.
All pages on your site should link to at least one other web page within your site. Always create a site map for your site and periodically submit it to the search engines, especially if you add pages or make significant changes to your site.
Site maps help spiders quickly find every page on your site. It’s also great for searchers who may have not found exactly what they are looking for, or need some help to navigate your site better.
No web site is an island. If you think highly of other web sites that share the theme of your site in some way, by all means give them a link. Exchange links with sites your visitors truly will find useful in some way. Don't exchange links just to increase your page rank popularity – this is a complete waste of time.
10. Quick SEO Ranking Tricks and Guarantees (Yeah, right)
There aren’t any guarantees. Bottom line, if you’re the impatient type, you are not going to have any patience for SEO at all. SEO takes time. I repeat, TIME as in "months of time." If you are the impatient type, I recommend that you open a Google AdWords or Yahoo Search Marketing account, which will suit you much better than doing your own SEO.
There is a very good reason that unethical SEO is called "black hat " SEO. Taking the incredible risk of trying to do anything unethical with the search engines or with searchers will get you banned. Trust me, there are many novice optimizers who didn’t know making that "little change" to their web site would cause their site to disappear from Google.
SEO forums have countless webmasters desperately asking for help and requesting information on how to get their sites reinstated. Keep in mind that some of your competitors may be constantly checking your site and looking for anything out of the ordinary. If they see anything that might get your site to fall out of favor with a search engine, you can bet they are only a click or two away from reporting you to the search engines.
Strike the word "guarantee" from your SEO vocabulary. You cannot – I repeat, cannot – guarantee that you will get an optimized organic web page on Page One of a search engine. Search engines are constantly changing, and web sites that are listed by the search engines are constantly changing in response. If an SEO firm or person guarantees you some kind of page rank, you should say “thank you for sharing” and then run away. No one can guarantee rankings, even if they claim to have "friends at Google” or secret insider information that gives them any kind of special edge.
1. Dan Thies of SEO Research Labs for kick ass keyword information.
2. Matt Cutts for all things Google and high level SE.
3. Danny Sullivan for the high level perspective on all things search.
4. Gord Hotchkiss for getting inside the mind of the searcher.
5. John Battelle for the history of search and its future.
6. Jill Whalen for SEO common sense.
7. Bruce Clay on SEO ethics.
8. Catherine Seda for her great books and Pay Per Click insight.
9. Seth Godin for marketing creativity, marketing ideas and killer marketing books.
10. Jakob Nielsen for his understanding of usability better than anyone on the planet.