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What are the best ways to increase your site's position in Google?

I am primarily a software developer however I tend to delve in some web development from time to time. I have recently been asked to have a look at a friends website as they are wanting to improve their position in search engine results i.e. google/yahoo etc. I am aware there is no guarentee that their position will change, however, I do know there are techniques/ways to make your website more visible to search engine spiders and to consequently improve your position in the rankings i.e. performing SEO.

Before I started looking at the SEO of the site I did the following prerequisite checks:

  • Ran the website through the W3C Markup Validator and the W3C CSS Validator services.
  • Looked through the markup code manually (check for meta tags etc)
  • Performed a thorough cross browser compatibility test.

From those checks, the following was evident:

  • No SEO has been performed on the site before.
  • The website has been developed using a visual editing tool such as dreamweaver (as it failed the validation services miserably and tables where being used everywhere!)
  • The site is fairly cross browser compatibile (only some slight issues with IE8 which are easily resolved).
  • URLs aren't very search engine friendly (e.g. index.php?page=home)

I can see right away a major improvement for SEO (or I at least think) would be to change the way the website is structured i.e. change from using dynamic pages such as "index.php?page=home" and actually having pages called "home.html". Other area's would be to add meta tags to identify keywords, and then sprinkling these keywords over the pages.

As I am a rookie in this department, could anyone give me some advice on how I could perform thorough SEO on this website?

Thanks in advance.

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migrated from stackoverflow.com Dec 3 '11 at 15:14

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marked as duplicate by John Conde Dec 3 '11 at 15:29

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

2  
The most important is to have interesting content. You can use the most hyped SEO techniques but they are worthless if you don’t have interesting content. On the other hand: you can have a pretty popular website without using any SEO techniques. –  Gumbo Jun 14 '10 at 7:37
    
I don't understand why this was closed as an exact duplicate of the question linked. The other question is targeted to a specific search engine (Google) where as this question is about SEO in general. Not only that, this question was asked before the other one. –  James Oct 19 '12 at 13:46
    
Some new guidelines and tutorials I maintain: ligatures.net/content/expertise/… –  JVerstry 10 hours ago

11 Answers 11

up vote 50 down vote accepted

Here is what you need to know for SEO.

1) Perhaps the most important thing is the canonical link tag. The canonical link tag represents an absolute path that you would like to represent your page in a search engines index to reduce redundant indexing. This is supported by MSN, Yahoo, and Google. http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/canonical-link-tag/

2) Content is king. If your content sucks then it does not matter what you do. Fix spelling and grammar errors. Write naturally and clear. Do not try to stuff your content with search terms. If your content is valid and well written it will be respectfully indexed.

3) Validate your markup. Just because Google's markup is trash is not an excuse for your markup to be trash. Search bots have to weed through your tags, attributes, and content. If the search bot has to struggle to make sense of your page, no matter how glorious your content is, it will screw you when it indexes your page.

4) Focus on accessibility more than SEO when writing markup. If a blind user can read and navigate your content with ease of understanding then so will the search bot and your page will achieve superior SEO as a result.

5) Be liberal in what you have to say, but be conservative in how you say it. Use markup that is appropriate to first structure your content and secondly describe it. Be verbose with your code and you will be well loved.

6) SEO bots do not care how pretty, usable, or interactive your page is. Put all CSS and styles in an external stylesheet. The ONLY exception to this rule is that occasionally a display:none or visibility:hidden style should go inline on elements you wish to hide from text readers. JavaScript should always exist in an external file. There is absolutely no exception to the JavaScript rule.

7) Don't encode the Bible, Quran, and Book of Mormon on a single page of HTML. Search bots have a limit, typically about 200k, and once that limit is surpassed they will abandon your page.

That is all you need to know to absolutely conquer SEO. Once you have mastered SEO the next subject will be SEM, which is a bedtime story for another time.

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Thanks for the advice Austin! Seems like you have a lot of experience in SEO. –  James Aug 24 '09 at 9:21
    
Thank you. I blame my employer for any valid experience I may have. –  austin cheney Aug 24 '09 at 9:27
    
To improve your results via keywords. Is the best way to add the meta-tag, identify the keywords you need for that page, and then sprinkle these keywords over the page? –  James Aug 24 '09 at 14:18
    
Do not use the keywords meta tag. After years of abuse it is ignored by search engines. As far as keywords just write naturally and use a slightly elaborated or descriptive vocabulary in your writing. Focus on strong understandable content first and without trying you will have plenty of keywords. Those who perform best on keyword usage is blogs who have something worthy of searching for. Its not because they are good at SEO, but because they have said something somebody might want to search for. –  austin cheney Aug 25 '09 at 0:49
    
Ah ok thanks for the advice austin! –  James Aug 25 '09 at 7:48

I highly recommend Google's SEO page, especially their Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide.

Content is king with SEO. Build something interesting and they will come.

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Thanks for the links! Very interesting will help a lot. –  James Aug 24 '09 at 9:09
    
This PDF is great. –  cherouvim Jun 14 '10 at 7:38
  1. Build something worth linking to (this cannot be emphasized enough)
  2. Pretty urls (I'd go extensionless if given the choice)
  3. Titles are very important
  4. h1, h2 tags are important
  5. You might want to make a sitemap.xml file
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Hi thanks for the comment. The website is promoting/selling their product hence it does serve a purpose. I have read that the sitemap does help, however, the h1/h2 tags, what are their significance is SEO? –  James Aug 24 '09 at 8:36
    
h1 and h2 tags tell the spiders what the page is about. –  graham.reeds Aug 24 '09 at 9:10
    
Thanks for that graham! –  James Aug 24 '09 at 9:14

Make the URLs on the site SEO-friendly.

Meaning, not a long list of parameters like:

http://stackoverflow.com?question=1321097

but

http://stackoverflow.com/questions/1321097/seo-where-do-i-start

Search engines rank higher these URLs, since they are more likely to point to a separate document rather than to one of countless states of a document (achievable through variation of parameters). The keywords in the URL also do matter.

Since you mentioned the site was developed with a tool, then I have another suggestion. One more criteria that matters in SEO is the content-to-markup ratio. When using a tool to visually design a site, one often gets a clumsy markup inseminated with inline CSS styles everywhere in the document. They are often repeated. If you were to extract these inline declarations to a single style sheet and then just reference these declarations from the document, it will make the total markup shorter, thus increasing the above mentioned ratio.

Also, for each page define what it's about, what its main topic is, what the subtopics are that are present on this page, and enclose these texts in header tags. A good rule is to have a single <h1> per page, and then <h2>...<h6> as you need them. Then a search engine will have a better clue to what this page is about.

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Yeah this was really the first thing I noticed. –  James Aug 24 '09 at 8:31
    
thanks for the advice I wasn't aware of the importance of the h1/h2 tags (as commented on the Andy's answer). –  James Aug 24 '09 at 8:51

Microsoft's free Search Engine Optimisation Toolkit is a really useful tool for cracking this issue. I would strongly recommend giving it a go: http://www.iis.net/expand/SEOToolkit.

Note: the tool can be used to analyze ANY website, not only IIS hosted ones.

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the bare-basics is a good start

this is the checklist i use:

alt text

the full article is located here: Bare Minimum On-Page SEO

--LM

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@Lucifer - SEO isn't a constantly changing field, it's extremely consistent. As long as your website is useful to the end user, you will have an optimized site. That is what the search engines are looking for, not sites that show them what they 'want' their spiders to see, as such...

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An old forum on SEO might be worth a look as well (its been around many a year).

searchengineforums

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SEO is a very hard thing to get right and there are no guarantees. As @austin describes above, all those steps would help a great deal. Another way is what is known as offsite optimization - this is done through back linking to your site.

There are lots of blogs and sites where you should easily get backlinks to your site. Most of this focus on Search Engine Optimization and brand promotions which includes moving up on your favourite search engine.

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I recommend that you subscribe to the SEOMoz feed and website.

Also, a great book to read with some useful SEO advice for developers is Building Findable Website by Aarron Walter.

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