The 5 Things Your Website Really Needs To Get Found Online

“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” That age-old philosophical question also could apply to website development, because a website is invisible if no one visits it.

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That’s why search engine optimization (SEO) is vital to any website strategy. A website’s SEO is arguably more important than its appearance.

So whether you’re building a new site or are trying to improve your current site, keep these five things in mind to improve your organic (non-paid) search engine rankings.

1. Inbound Linksoff-page SEO is the most important aspect of improving your search engine results. This is done by getting other quality websites to link back to your site. Search engines reason that the more links you have from authoritative sites, the more important your site must be, and so the higher you rank. In SEO parlance this is known as “link juice.”

While link building can be difficult because it’s somewhat out of your control, here are five tips to get the ball rolling:

  1. Create high-quality, educational (or entertaining) content. If people like the content on your site, they are more likely to link to it.
  2. Submit your site to online directories.
  3. Guest write for other blogs and include a link back to your site.
  4. Research link-building opportunities with online tools. Just make sure to investigate the authority of the sites from which you want links.
  5. Don’t buy links. The search engines know which sites are the non-authoritative link-selling sites and will penalize you for using them.

2. On-page Search Engine Optimization – Optimizing your site’s pages to get found by search engines is important but contributes only about 15 percent of what makes for your search engine rankings.

On-page SEO is largely about placing your most important keywords within the content elements of your site pages. For on-page SEO, keep these best practices in mind:

  • Stick to one primary keyword for each page and focus on optimizing that page for that word. When there are too many keywords on a page, search engines won’t have a clear idea of what the page is about.
  • Include your primary keywords in your headline and subhead. Search engines give greater weight to these areas.
  • Include the keywords in the body copy but make sure they are kept in context and are relevant. The search engines can sniff out keyword stuffing.
  • Include keywords in the image file names or use them in the ALT tag.
  • Write for humans first, search engines second. Humans can tell if the writing is optimized for a search engine and will tend not to return and/or link to it.

3. Title Tag & Meta TagsLike Madonna, these aren’t as sexy or important as they used to be but are still worth keeping around. A meta tag is a line of code included in the background of a web page. The search engines look at meta tags to find out what the page is about.

Most content management systems on which websites are built enable you to easily edit the Meta tags.  Examples include page titles (seen at the top of a browser – the main headline displayed in search engine results), page descriptions and keywords. It’s best to have seven keywords or less listed per page.

4. XML Sitemap – This is like a subway map for a website. An XML sitemap is not always the deciding factor in SEO, but it can be because it’s often overlooked in websites. The XML sitemap is an .xml file containing a list of all your pages and when they were last updated. The sitemap helps the search engines sift through your pages more efficiently.

5. 301 Redirects – When you make a website change and want to keep getting the SEO juice of inbound links you’ve worked so hard to get, a 301 redirect is like a permanent change of address notification. It helps visitors find you (and avoid getting a “Page Not Found”) and keeps the SEO juice flowing to your new page.

(This article originally appeared in Inside Business – The Hampton Roads Business Journal, on April 29, 2013.)

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photo credit: donjd2 via photopin cc

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