By Lior Levin
When it comes to search engine optimization (SEO) there is no substitute for good content — interesting stuff people want to read and share via a link. To the search engines finding this content is their top priority and, for the most part, they do a decent job at it.
However, this doesn’t mean that webmasters can forget about SEO. It is critical to not just write good content, but to make sure that it is as easily found as possible by the search engines and that the correct keywords are given weight.
With that in mind, here are five SEO tips every webmaster needs to be aware of and using, otherwise they are putting themselves at a very severe disadvantage.
1. Use Bold and Header Text Wisely
Make sure to include your desired keywords in passages that are bold or within header tags. Though you shouldn’t do this for every instance of a keyword, putting the text in a stronger font once or twice is a direct indication to the search engines which phrases and keywords you find are the most important in the article. That, in turn, will cause the search engines to give them greater weight.
Though you have to be careful not to abuse this technique, careful use of bold and header text can help target your post and help your content rank higher for relevant keywords.
2. Link Often — Externally and Internally
Though the search engines do frown upon excessive linking within a single page, most sites make the mistake of not linking often enough.
Including a few outbound links per post is not just a good way to give and get link love, but also shows that that post is legitimate and is a good central source for information
At least as important, however, is to always include at least one or two links to other posts you’ve written. Not only does this help the search engines find, index and weigh those posts, but it also turns those links to inbound ones when and if the post is picked up by other sites.
3. Include Images and Tag Them Well
Images not only help a post stand out visually, making it much more compelling for visitors who primarily see the site in their RSS reader, but it’s also great for SEO as image searches are a compelling way for new visitors to find your site.
However, to help ensure that your images are indexed correctly, be sure to edit your ALT descriptions and captions to make it clear to the search engines what the photo is about.
Also, you may wish to include the word “image” or “picture” when building your tags as many image searches include those terms, making it something that you may wish to target.
4. Fix Canonical URL Issues
Search engines only want to link to each page once so when a page with the same content appears multiple times in the index they begin to downgrade all but one of the results and, sometimes, penalize entire sites.
One of the most common ways this can happen is through a canonical URL issue that causes www.domain.com and domain.com to both appear in the index, even though they are the same page.
You can easily fix this by editing your htaccess file to redirect one to the other or you can select your preference using Google Webmaster Tools.
5. Set Up a Sitemap
A sitemap is basically a roadmap of your site designed for the search engines to easily crawl and find all of the pages on the site. Search engines like these because it is much easier for them to find the relevant links (easier than crawling your HTML site) and it helps them find pages they might have missed during a regular crawl.
WordPress users will find a slew of plugins to add sitemaps to their site and there are applications and offline tools for other webmasters. Once you’ve created a sitemap and uploaded it, you can list it in your Google Webmaster Tools account and get verification when Google has parsed it and how many links they indexed from it.
To be clear, none of these tips will take a bad site and raise them to the top of the results. In the end, nothing beats quality content and inbound links.
However, these tips can help a quality site get noticed quicker and get ranked a bit higher for more relevant keywords, thus helping them attract more readers and, hopefully, earn more revenue.
These are small changes that will likely only have a small impact. But in the competitive world of SEO, a small advantage may be what separates the first result on page one from the site languishing on page 2.
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