If you are new to search engine optimization (SEO), as I recently was, the information you find on the internet is probably a bewildering tangle of contradictions. What you can find in the library or the bookstore is not a lot better, as most of it is not current enough to be useful. Barely knowledgeable folks on the internet and off will offer piles of advice, but the things that were common knowledge a few years ago can be counterproductive today. This gives the beginner a huge hurdle to clear before achieving competence in this area.
The most important piece of advice in this article is this: don’t buy the first eBook that appears to answer your question! The internet is dense with professional marketers who hire expert copywriters to write their sales letter, then optimize their page for the exact term you just typed in. However, most of the information available in the ebooks is available on the internet for free, and in the process of separating the good from the bad you will find a lot of useful resources.
The SEO novice is the person who has just realized that he can get the same kind of advertising for “free” on the internet that he has been paying hundreds or thousands a month to yellow page directories or print advertisements. A search engine is much like the yellow pages in that users know exactly what they are looking for and go to that section. Unlike the yellow pages, a search engine does not have static categories-everybody does not search for the same information in the same way. Someone looking for a dentist in his city may go to Google, but he also may go to Yahoo or Bing or any of numerous less popular search engines. The results he gets in different search engines will be different. Furthermore, there is often no easy way to know what words people will use to search with. That same person looking for a dentist might type in, “Townville Dentist,” “Townville Dental Services,” “Dentistry Townville,” “Tooth care 57582,” or many more. The webmaster must take these into account, and figure out both which ones are viable search terms, and which ones he can compete at.
It will do the webmaster little good to discover that “Townville Dentist” is the most searched for term, if the dentists in Townville have nine-year-old websites that have been optimized for that term. If he does not have deep pockets and a lot of time, he must try to compete for a less competitive term, like “Dentist 57582.” Choosing the term for which to optimize the page is the first step.
Next, you should optimize your page for that term. This is “on page optimization.” If you haven’t already chosen your domain name, one of the best things you can do is to put your search term in the domain name: townvilledentist.com, if no one has taken that yet. Put search terms in the page title, in the headers, and in the text. Don’t go overboard in the text-you could be penalized for “keyword stuffing.”
Finally, you have to concern yourself with “offpage optimization.” Most SEO professionals believe that this is most of the battle. The search engines aim to give the user the most relevant possible search. They determine how relevant your page is by how relevant others think it is. If a lot of pages refer to your page, and link to your page, that must mean it’s important. So the SEO-inclined webmaster must seek to have a lot of backlinks. This should be the next step in your information search: Google “backlinks.”