Perhaps the most common misconception about Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is that it is a “Black Art", requiring intimate knowledge of search engine algorithyms and an engineering degree, not to mention months or even years for it to work. Another common but opposite misconception is that once you've built your website, you'll automatically start attracting visitors. Or that once your site has been indexed by the various search engines, you'll get a high ranking in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) for any and every keyword you like.
In reality, optimizing your site for the search engines - in other words, getting ranked for specific keywords - requires you to have a strategy, as well as putting in some degree of effort.
However it is not a “Black Art"; in fact the steps necessary to achieve significant SERPs ranking benefits are simple to implement. Further, these simple steps will begin having a positive effect within days or weeks.
Many of these steps involve “on page" elements, meaning things you do with your web page, rather then “off page" elements, such as backlinks from other websites.
Before implementing any SEO strategy however, you must decide specifically which keywords or phrases you are trying to rank for. Web pages are not optimized for a page or whole site, but rather individual keywords. And targeting more than 3-5 keywords per page is ineffective.
Ideally, you will optimize each individual page on your site, choosing different keywords to target for each. Even pages having similar content can achieve this. For instance, a “weight loss" web site with many pages might choose “weight loss", “losing weight", and “how to lose weight", for one page, while another page might use “dieting", “how to diet", and “dieting right".
Once you have your keywords or phrases chosen, you can follow some simple steps to boost the rank and visibility of each page.
The single most important “on page" element is the “title tag". This is the html code that gives the page it's name, and what appears at the top of the browser window. Including some or all of your chosen keywords in the title tag has the greatest impact of all SEO factors.
The second biggest factor is the page URL. Again, you want to include as many of your keywords as possible. For your homepage, you would try and choose a domain name using combinations of your home page keywords. Since many common keywords are long since used up, you can add words or hyphens. Even a creatively named page using your keywords, such as “xxx. a1-weight-loss. xxx" is better than one that doesen't. Lastly, your main page headline, if put within “H1" tags, carries significant weight with the search engines.
SEO isn't just for big corporate websites. Even small sites used for affiliate marketing can boost their traffic, and thereby their sales, just as easily.
Following just these simple steps outlined, you can achieve 70%-80% of the “magic" that even the most sophisticated search engine optimization will provide.
If you are doing SEM or Search Engine Marketing , having a good ranking can mean the difference between being a successful Internet marketer enjoying free, organic search engine traffic, or having to use PPC (Pay Per Click) or other costly means to attract visitors.
Michael Ullman is President of Analogy Marketing, a leading NY-based Internet Marketing firm, and a Google Certified Professional. You can visit their blog Improve Your Internet Marketing for proven strategies from over 5 years of Internet Marketing success, or subscribe to their widely acclaimed free newsletter Melanie's Tips !