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If you have set up a new business with an online presence, you will want to make sure that your website gets ranked in the search engines of Google, Yahoo and Bing. As your search engine rankings improve, you can expect to receive more traffic and visitors to your website through organic searches.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the term used to describe the process of getting your website ranked as high as possible in the search engines. It uses both techniques that you can apply to your website (on site optimization) as well as strategies that you can apply off site to improve your website’s rankings. Today’s blog post will cover some basics of on site optimization techniques.

So is SEO as complicated as the IT buffs make it out to be? Is it really a mysterious art form that only those in the know are privy to?

SEO can be a complicated process and there has been many a great debate over what constitutes good SEO practices. But the basics of SEO are generally accepted, so if you apply some of these simple SEO principles to your website, this will greatly assist in getting your website off to a good start.

Here are three important aspects of SEO that website owners should be knowledgeable about.

Keywords

Keywords are an important aspect of good SEO – they describe the actual search terms that people enter into the search engines when looking for information. Try to identify keywords that are relevant and appropriate to your business. If you are new to keyword research, go to the Google Adwords Keywords Tool and enter some search terms that best describe your business – the tool will produce a list of relevant keywords that you can review.

Once you have your list of relevant keywords, scan the list to find out the monthly search volume of individual keywords – i.e. the number of people searching on a particular term each month.

For example, if you own a business in Dallas, Texas, called the Texas Ranch Mexican Restaurant, you will want to know the search volume for a keyword such as Mexican Restaurants Dallas.

Meta Tags

From your list of keywords, choose those that best describe your business. One aspect of good on site optimization is to use appropriate meta tags (such as the meta description tag, and the meta keywords tag) for your website.

The meta description tag is a brief description about the contents of your page that should include your relevant keywords, and often is used by search engines in this manner. The meta keywords tag allows you to list keywords that are relevant to your website page, and these are used by some search engines to help confirm the contents of a web page.

Make sure that the keywords that you choose to include in the meta description tag, the meta keywords tag and the content of your website page are all consistent with each other.

Title Tag

Using an appropriate title tag is another important aspect of good on site optimization. Try to include your business name in the title tag of your home page.

For example, your business may be called the Texas Ranch Mexican Restaurant. It’s good practice to include your business name and locality in the title tag, since it provides more information for search engines to use when deciding if your web page is a good match for a user’s search. So an appropriate title tag for your home page would be as follows – Texas Ranch Mexican Restaurant, Dallas Texas.

While the finer points of SEO optimization are sometimes open to debate (and change), sensible use of the above basic SEO practices will help your business website move up in the search engine rankings, resulting in more visitors and prospective customers for your business. When it comes to SEO optimization, basic does not mean unimportant!

There are two ways to get a site to the top page of google. In the SEO world they are loosely called black hat and white hat. There are pros and cons to each method, which I will outline briefly here.

White Hat uses the guidelines provided by the search engines to get a site to rate well. The three major search engines, google, bing and yahoo, each have libraries dedicated to teaching webmasters how to get their sites to rank well and include warnings on what the search engine considers to be cheating. Their specific considerations vary but essentially they all say the same thing, make your site the kind of site that users will like to visit and link to from their own sites. The way the search engine determines how well the site is made, is by looking at the frequency and placement of keywords and the number and value of links that point to any given page within a site. So white hat SEO specialists create user friendly content on the web site but spend most of their time getting other web site owners to link to key pages on the sites they manage.

The pros to this approach are:

  • Once you hit page one, you stay at page one
    Even when the search engines change their algorithm, your ranking won’t change drastically
  • Nobody can report you for cheating
  • Competitors will have a very hard time un-seating you
    The cons to this approach are:
  • It takes a little longer to reach number one (actual time depending on the industry and region)
  • costs more

Black hat uses loopholes and short comings in the search engines algorithm to climb to the top page. Black Hat SEO specialists use tools like link farms to fool the search engines into thinking that there are several hundred links pointing to a site. They also use program generated text to fill pages text with keyword rich filler. Many times they will create one or two user friendly pages to mask the search engine friendly pages so that visitors to the site aren’t confused by what they are seeing.

The pros to this approach are:

  • Fast climb to page one
  • Usually inexpensive monthly fee without contracts

The cons to this approach are:

  • Each time the search engines close a loophole hundreds of black hat sites drop or completely disappear from their rankings
  • Competitors who suspect cheating can report sites to search engines for investigation
  • Sites found to be engaged in “cheating” can be suspended or banned from search engines

It is very rare that any SEO specialist falls entirely into one camp or the other, it’s more of a continuum than two camps. It’s important to understand where your SEO specialist falls on the spectrum because of the amount of risk inherent in each technique. Silver Lizard Design is pretty heavy on the White hat side of the spectrum. Contact us to get more information on how we can help you.