There is a whole industry related to search engine optimization and whether you’re a web developer, web designer, or just a blogger, search engine optimization is something you and/or your clients will have at least some interest in, and spend some time on. Search engine optimization is all about making your web sites show up close to the top of the lists for relevant keywords to your site.

Many companies out there charge big bucks for the basics and common sense I’m spelling out in this article. Despite how their marketing and sales pitch may argue otherwise, there is no quick fix, nor a magic bullet to make your web site appear at the top of Google’s list (or any search engine for that matter. The article below I’ve composed based on my own personal experiences building web sites over the years both personally and professionally.

Content, Content, Content
First of all, it’s all about original content, like I said back in August, content is king. I’ve seen people setup blogs that all they do is rehash images and text from other sites. There’s no way you’re not going to link to other sites and talk about content you found other places, but you need unique content. Give your take on any content you’re referring to. There’s nothing wrong with sharing with your readers things that they would find interesting, just give your take – expand on the coverage based on your background and experiences.

Find Your Focus
Alright, with this one, do as I say, not as I do. Keefer Madness is all over the place. Lately, there’s a lot of cycling-related articles, insight, etc. and I’m finding lots of people are coming to Keefer Madness for that content. Rock on! But, then, I’ll throw in random crap like what we’re doing in the yard or whatever.

Now Keefer Madness isn’t a business venture, so I give myself a little bit of a pass on the focused content. I’m not making a cent on Keefer Madness. Yeah, I’ve got Google ads there on the right. Feel free to click on those links for me, but it’s not even going to buy me a meal annually at this point.

Valid Markup
I’m realizing all the tips I’m writing up here are beneficial to search engine optimization, but also just good ideas in general. In my professional web building (where I’m not using a Word Press template like I am for Keefer Madness), I make every effort to make clean markup and I validate all my pages with the W3C Markup Validation Service. Originally, the theory here was to make good code that wouldn’t trip up search engines. These days though, I do it as much to eliminate browser errors and speed up user browsing. As CSS, JavaScript and the HTML itself gets more and more complicated, I like pages to validate to rule out things such as unclosed tags, incorrectly nested tags, etc.

Along with the valid markup is using HTML to it’s fullest. Use heading tags (h1, h2, etc.), rather than a span tag with a style class of headline. Some search engines weight a h1 headline with a lot more weight than something just surrounded by a div tag. Utilize paragraph tags, bold (or emp) tags, etc. You’re giving readers and search engine bots alike clues to the hierarchy within your site and its content.

External Files
Weight is given by search engine to the content based on where it appears on the page. The footer obviously doesn’t get as much weight as something in the upper third of the page. This seems logical. With that said, do everything to get your real content high on the page. A really really simple thing to do is to externally link to whatever you can: Avoid having all your CSS and JavaScript code in the head or scattered in your page. In 99% of the modern web sites you’re building, you’ll have both CSS and JS, but link to them externally like this:

<style type=”text/css” media=”all”>@import “/css/standard.css”;</style>
<script type=”text/javascript” src=”/lib/js/swfobject.js”></script></pre>

Title Tags Rule
Remember that part above about higher up content getting more weight. What’s higher than just about everything, other than your opening <html&gt: and &lthead>? The title tag! Make these unique throughout your site and descriptive. You can throw a few relevant keywords in here too, as long as they’re actually showing up on the given page, but minimize doing this too. There’s absolutely nothing you should do to optimize content that should detract from the user experience. All the search engine optimization in the world, isn’t worth anything if users can’t (or won’t) use your site. My rule of thumb on title tags – most specific information first in the title tag, filtering down to the site name/domain:

My great Review of Rock Band : Xbox 360 Reviews : Reviews : Keefer Madness

Meta Tags are Dead
It used to be meta tags, especially the keywords and description ones were utilized by search engines to get a feel for a page’s content. Due to abuse, meta tags now are pretty worthless. Most search engines just ignore them presently. That being said, we get a lot of clients that still want them and throw the buzz word out there. Having them present isn’t going to hurt anything, and as a rule, we still put them in. I prefer to use only the ones below:

<meta name=”keywords” content=”” />
<meta name=”description” content=”” />
<meta name=”robots” content=”index,follow” />

Quality (Not Quantity) Links
This is another no-brainer, but one you absolutely cannot force or fake. If you do your job on content and finding your focus, over time, people will link to you and refer to your site and your articles and content. Don’t go out there soliciting links. It’s a lot of effort for not much return.

Now don’t get me wrong, nothing helps a site more than having links to your site, but you shouldn’t be trading links or begging for links. Write good quality content and give people legitimate reasons to want to link to you. They’ll do it on their own when you’re content is worthy.

The one thing you can do in terms of linking, is create more internal links. Even in this article, you can see I’ve referred to other articles on Keefer Madness. Don’t overdo it, but when it’s natural and relevant, post links from one piece of content on your site to another. Again, search engines and users a like will benefit from the deeper linking.

Regular Content
Write and create content on a regular basis for your site. Both users and search engines are more likely to revisit a site that has regular and fresh content. It reflects better on your site too if you’re putting a regular effort into it. My rule of thumb for Keefer Madness is at least an article a day. This isn’t always practical or applicable to every personal or business site out there, but a regular effort will be rewarded with some repeat revisits.

Alt and Title Tags
Every image should have a descriptive title tag. Every image should have a descriptive alt tag. Period. Also, with images on your site, make the file names descriptive. Rather than image001.jpg, make it keefer-mowing-the-lawn.jpg to match that alt tag.

If you go into your site and make positive changes using the above summary, things won’t change over night. Have patience with both getting your visitor numbers up and your organic search engine placement up. Neither will happen overnight. Make some changes to existing content, and be aware of the above suggestions as you make new content.

Like I said, nothing here is much more than some good guidelines to take into consideration, with most being common sense. None of this is scientifically proven, just my educated guesses and experiences over the past decade or so of working on the web. Best of luck out there.

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