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Search Engine Optimization - A Quick Guide

When designing your web site, you will need to consider using some form of search engine optimization, or SEO, to try to ensure that your site ranks highly in the lists produced by the major search engines. This is important, as it is well-known that the patience of web users is not unlimited, to say the least, and most people who search the Internet lose interest after the first couple of pages of results.

Arguably the first step involved in SEO should be deciding on which keyword combination you should be using. There are several tools available to help in this; Google Adwords and Yahoo Overture are the obvious choices here, though there are others. You should also be looking to see what keywords your competitors are using. You may not want to use any of these words, but it may give you some ideas on the direction you should be taking.

Once you have decided on the keywords that you wish to target, you should produce the web site content. Make sure that each page features all of your keywords within the text. Don't go crazy here - a good rule of thumb is that the percentage of keywords used within a page should be no more than about 15%. Any more than this and you run the risk of the content being rejected by the search engines for keyword stuffing. Remember that the text should also be clear and understandable - you will want to impress your visitors so that they visit other parts of your site, or return regularly.

After the content for each web page has been produced, you will need to generate the HTML code necessary to display the page on the Internet. At this point you will need to pay particular attention to three areas. The first of these is the title bar, which is displayed at the top of the browser window when a page is visited. The text here should contain your keywords as part of a title for the page. Be concise - about 70 characters is the norm here. Next are the meta tags, which should contain your keywords as part of the description. The "keywords" meta tag used to be important, but it is no longer used by most search engines. Resist the temptation to submit a list of hundreds of keyword combinations here - search engines will reject web sites for this offence too. Finally, don't forget the alt tags that are used with images and hyperlinks. As before, these should include your keywords in a clear and concise form.

Apart from keywords, the other main factor that drives search engine rankings is the number of web sites that are linked to and from your web page. A number of good-quality incoming links will increase the ranking your web site can attain. Notice that I said "good-quality" above - this is important as poor-quality links will have the opposite effect of that desired. Stay away from so-called "link farms", as the search engines will reduce your rankings if you are linked to too many of these. It is far better for you to try to exchange links with web sites in related businesses - these will tend to drive your rankings higher.

Once the web site is designed and uploaded, you will want to try to spread the news of its launch around the Internet. You can submit your home page to Google and Yahoo and to all of the other search engines and directories manually - you don't need to wait for their automated software to visit your site. Don't try to submit the whole site - this will be frowned upon. One recent development in this area has been the release of Google Sitemaps, which allows a web site owner to submit a file to Google containing an index of their complete web site. This will allow the Google indexing software to investigate your site fully, and may help your site rise in the rankings.

At this point, all of the preparation has been done. Now is the time for patience. Remember that search engine results don't change overnight - it may be two or three months before you see your web site start to appear in the rankings, and longer before it nears the top, especially if you have chosen a competitive field. Try to monitor the site ranking on a regular basis, using the keywords you chose to use, and if the optimization went well your site will start to move up the rankings. If not, well, remember that SEO is not an exact science, and you may need to go back and tweak some of your pages.

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