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Understanding the Basics of Search Optimization

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And What You Can Do to Get Started Today

I often get asked if I provide Search Optimization (SEO) services and what I would charge to help a site improve site rankings. People want to be on page number 1 after all and I get that. So here we go, an overview of some items you can put into practice starting today that will help you on your way. No guarantees are being made through this training, as crafting your content (the technical SEO as they call it), is an art and will be discussed later in a training properly titled, "Technical SEO".

So I am going to break this down into 7 "areas". The first gives an overview look at what the ultimate goal is: to be invited into Search Engines and some common sense things to know for that to happen. Then we dive into some graphic items in steps 2-4. Step 5 covers creating the content. Step 6 takes a stab at a common misuse in content and how to appropriately use visual elements like fonts and colors. Step 7 is there to remind you to have a little fun. Enjoy the time you get to create content for people to read. Write for people first and search engines will notice that.

  1. One of the first things to do is to take a look at what could be "crawled" and "indexed" by search engines. Imagine you are going to throw a party. You have the food and everything setup. To get people to know there is a party, you might have sent out invitations (i.e. told people to come). This is kind of how we treat search engines. We build it and expect them to come. They most likely will come, but if we have not first taken the time to properly set things up, they might come for a little bit and then leave. Our sites might be added (or indexed) after they visited (or crawled), but where we might end up might not be where we wanted to be.
  2. We have beautiful pictures and graphics. They are huge and overload those attending the party. Now, we could have made sure they were "optimized", but just what the heck does that mean anyways. For the party analogy, you could look at them this way: Are they big enough for people to read any words that might be on them, but not so big you can see them from a thousand miles away. Are they in a simple frame or something overly ornate.
    Okay, I will admit I struggled to make this fit in there, but here's the skinny. Without getting too technical here, we want to make sure our graphics are manageable by the person visiting our site. So, we need to take a look at how we are going to use the graphic. If it's going to show as a small square image, put it up as a small square image. Not a large square image and then have it show as a small square. That means we need to look at the dimensions (height and width). Also, we want to look at the file size and see what we can do to squeeze that down a bit.
  3. Naming. If you have ever been to an art exhibit or any event where something was hanging and it has a name for that item, that's what we are getting at here. No one wants to use an image titled "DSC_1110001136.jpg". I know social sites will follow this naming convention, but we are talking about your site, most likely used by a small percentage of humans and not a site with millions upon millions of graphics which need to be named in a manner that works for it. So, if your graphic shows 3 kittens playing, instead of that name your camera gave it, why not change it to "three-playful-kittens.jpg" instead. This can help those visiting your site, with screen readers.
  4. While on the topic of accessibility (basically you always want to cast a wide net), Add alternate (or alt) text to your graphics. Imagine visiting an art gallery and all you see are the name tags. You see one that says "Three Playful Kittens". If you have ever seen three kittens playing, an image just popped into your head. Even without seeing the image, you have an idea of what the image might look like.
  5. Keep conversations brief. That does not mean only 100 words or something like that. What it means is short concise sentences. Sometimes we need a longer sentence, but don't load it down with big words. Keep your audience in mind though, so you might get away with breaking that rule, or at least bending it some. Create long blog posts. Just keep in mind some of those technical items, like sentences that can makes sense on their own or a single idea per paragraph. Yes, you will want some basic writing skills when crafting content or seek out advice from a professional.
  6. Use headers appropriately. This is a big one I see misused. Especially if you use something like WordPress. You see, we have a Word like interface up there above our content and one of those options gives us Header 1 through Header 6. Typically these will have at least different font sizes. However, headers are left over from the traditional writing days, where they are there for showing organization. What I mean is, they provide hierarchy, or this section belongs to the one above it and that one above it belongs to the one above it.
    For an illustration, let's look at the United States. The H1 might be used to describe the country as a whole. Then we could use the H2 for regions, H3 for states in that region, H4 for counties in that region, H5 for cities (or local areas), and finally H6 for sections or areas of those cities (or local areas). When we look at headers in this manner, we can see clearly their purpose. To make text larger or smaller, use a different font or color, etc., we have other options. We will take a look at that in the "Technical SEO" portion.
  7. And of course have fun. Put yourself in the shoes of the person you are writing for: what would they want to get from reading what you write. Write for your audience and let the search engines do their thing. Far too often I see content crafted for search engines and it's difficult to read. Use your desired keywords, those things you hope to have your content popup for, as appropriate. If they seem stuffed in their just to put them in there, the search engines will know. Just let it flow naturally, much like I did for this writing to help you along the way for getting search engines to notice you.

Until next time, keep this in mind. All too often we want the attention of search engines like Google and we forget about that other search engine from the same company: Google Image Search. Let your images be added, as you never know, they just might be the one things someone sees and gets inspired to visit your site.