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Successful Web Development Strategies and Tactics

Web development techniques: A complete primer

Interested in real web development techniques? Do you want to learn how to evaluate an idea, target a niche, build content, target traffic, and get thousands of visitors to your website each day? This primer will take you through the steps necessary to develop a profitable and solid website.

Steps to web development success

There are 3 major processes involved in creating, deploying, and supporting a successful website: Building, Promotion, and Updating. Building involves securing a domain, gathering or creating initial content, building the website layout and format, and uploading the content. Promotion involves creating incentives for providing links to the content from external sites, gathering subscribers for a newsletter subscribers list, and generally getting this new website into the race. Updating involves providing fresh content on a regular basis to one or more pages on the website, as well as keeping your newsletter subscribers informed of new additions available on the site.

Building the Website

Before you create the site design and layout, and before you build any back end functionality, do your initial content gathering, and while you’re at it gather an additional supply of content that will cover at least 4 weeks of updates. Building the website should focus on getting content to the viewer in the most efficient manner, without creating a confusing layout. Cluster the main links on your site in one area, and use this same template wherever possible (on all pages is the preferred method). If you want to differentiate between sections, instead of changing the page layout, change colors and headings. The least of your time should be spent building the site. Personally, I do not believe fancy layouts do much beyond removing money from your pocket or time from more important aspects of development. It has an effect, no doubt, but my experience has shown me that effect is far less than can be had when the same amount of time is spent with proper web promotion.

Promoting the Website

Promotion of a website is where most people trip over themselves. Explanations of web promotion are always made more complicated than need be. Promotional methods given are generally among the least effective. I use two methods for building inbound links: trading with relevant sites, and building linking or promotional incentives.

Trading links with relevant sites is most useful when done in mass. In other words, trade with any willing relevant site. This alone will not get you many rankings, but it will improve the rankings you have. I generally concentrate on the homepage with link trades, and make sure the homepage links directly to all the most important content on the site, so as to pass the value down from the homepage to the most important content pages.

Building promotional incentives is not difficult, but it takes some innovation and creative thinking. A promotional incentive is simply a method of encouraging other webmasters, bloggers, forum-goers, and everyday web users to link your website in whatever capacity they can. Incentives do not have to be anything spectacular, and in fact sometimes the simplest, seemingly stupid and useless benefits work as the best incentives. A simple tell-a-friend form can work wonders. Leave the HTML code necessary to link to a page on your website in an easy to cut/paste text box – many people with webpages (like MySpace pages) know nothing about HTML, but might like to link to your page when it only involves a few mouse clicks. RSS feeds are a great way to automatically get your links out there each day and drive traffic. These are just a few suggestions, but to really get you thinking visit some successful sites and check out their promotional incentives for getting links. Analyze how they do it, and apply it to your site.

Promotion is not a set it and forget it type of work, it’s an ongoing process – and it works best as an ongoing process. Setup a work schedule for yourself wherein you can dedicate a certain portion of your time each week to link building and increasing traffic. Send out enough emails or make enough phone calls to procure a few relevant link trades each week, and build promotional incentives into your site when you get inspired with ideas.

Updating the Website

Where most developers fail is in keeping a site updated regularly for a substantial period of time. Often times developers will spend a couple weeks packing as much information onto a site as they can. They’ll add new information daily, or even several times per day. What happens then? Too often, burnout. They’ve run out of steam, run out of new content to post, or both. The other problem that occurs is the potential lost with that content. Building a site up over time will give each new piece of content more potential for explosive growth, because the search engines will be visiting you more often and ranking your site higher, and also because you’ve got more visitors looking at your content and more websites aware that your site exists, which translates into more opportunities for natural inbound links to occur, especially from large portals of your niche that thrive on linking to new content.

One of the methods I use to prevent burnout is using a content queue to build a padding, a cache of content. When I’m surfing the internet, anything that looks interesting and useful as content or subject matter gets saved in a folder or a text file. That way when I sit down to build content, I have a cache of material ready to work with. Now in a matter of an hour or two I can build a queue of content from that cache, setting up several weeks of new content in one session. Through some relatively simple scripting, new content will be grabbed from the queue and displayed each day. Search engines will quickly pick up on this and begin daily visits to the pages on your site that get updated regularly. Several pages on one bigger site I’ve created get hit by Google/Yahoo/MSN several times per day, all because I keep them updated daily. Even better, since I’ve been building inbound links to my homepage, those pages that get hit daily (like the homepage) have links to my new content, so the content gets crawled and indexed immediately, with regular top 10 rankings in a few days for keywords I’ve been targeting.

Building, Promoting, Updating

To recap, success depends on a good foundation – build a site and spend some time doing basic on-site search engine optimization: picking keywords, using those keywords in the title, header tags, and scattered through the content. Success also depends on keeping the site updated with fresh content regularly – the more often you can update the better, but don’t let yourself get burnt out. It’s better to update once a week for 52 weeks than to update 52 times in 2 months and then forget about it for the rest of the year. Finally, success depends on empowering that content to rise to the top of the search rankings by getting relevant inbound links to your site. Every week, commit a certain amount of time to finding similar sites and getting them to link to you. Also work on new promotional incentives and notify your user base through email (newsletters) when something new and exciting is available.

The last thing you need to be successful is patience. For the mass majority of successful websites, the popularity and profit does not come overnight – not even close. From personal experience, it has taken sites months to really start taking off, and several years to build a solid returning user base. Just keep consistently adding content, targeting different keywords on each page of content (related to your niche), and building inbound links. Success will follow.

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The path to success on the web is emulating success

Throughout history, some of the most successful people were those who took apprenticeships from other successful people. This holds true in business circles, scientific fields, and religious groups. The reasoning is obvious when you think it through. What exactly is an apprenticeship? Well, an apprentice works for an expert, a successful veteran. The apprentice learns how to become successful by observing what the master does, and how the master does it. They get a very inside look into exactly what makes the master successful, all the while getting to work side by side using these methods. Why should the web be any different? Why do so many people try to go it alone and forge entirely new paths to the same place? This article contains some generalizations, however the method and reasoning is solid. Hopefully this will make you think about how you learn things, especially things on the web.

Applying apprenticeship to web development

How do you apply this practice to web development? A good place to start is a forum specializing in whatever area of web development you’d like to master. If you want to conquer the world of domain names, a great place to start would be a forum dealing in domain names. Of course, masters don’t broadcast their secrets for the world to hear, so you’ll need to use those social skills and become acquainted with some of the experts in the forum. Offering to work cheap (or free) in exchange for someone teaching you the ins and outs of the business is one of the most powerful ways to earn a reputation and gain some name recognition.

Your first step should be to join and lurk for a while. Just read and observe, don’t post. Many great tips can be learned just from listening to successful developers interact with each other. While you’re observing you can experiment with some of the suggestions and information they provide. It won’t be long before you know who’s who.

Approaching an apprenticeship

Not all forums are alike. That’s why it’s so important to lurk first, so you can get a feel for the atmosphere and the people. Once you’ve identified a few experts in the forum, the next step is getting “in” with one of them. Sometimes the best way to do this is to do some free work – in other words do a few favors to show you’re serious about learning and being a part of the community. Find something you’re good at that’s in demand around the forum, and offer your services for free. Maybe you’re an artist. Web developers are always in need of logo’s and banners for their different projects. Perhaps you’ve a writer. Offer to write some content. If you’re a decent programmer, offer to do some scripting. Sometimes it’s better to offer these to individuals you would like to learn from instead of making general posts, because your offer may be taken by lots of people who can’t teach you anything and then you’ve put yourself in an awkward spot.

Once you’ve made friends around the forum, you need to approach someone and ask for their help/advice. It wouldn’t hurt to have chatted casually with someone a couple times before hitting them up for advice. For some reason asking experts for help scares most people, but it shouldn’t. When you approach someone with respect, I can tell you the worst response you’re ever likely to get is “Sorry, I don’t have the time.” The majority will be flattered you consider them an expert, and will be glad to help you learn the ropes.

However, if you come into a forum being arrogant or asking dumb questions that have already been answered 100 times before expect to receive a poor response. Use the search function on the forum and also on Google to see if what you’re asking is readily available. If it is and you’re still unsure, phrase your question in a way that references the original answers so everyone knows you aren’t just wasting their time. Keep in mind respect on the web is a rare thing, and it stands out like a sore thumb (but in a good way). Use that to your advantage.

Have a plan to learn

When you do decide it’s time to approach someone have a plan for learning. Have a project in progress and get some good questions you’re honestly struggling with ready in advance, because they might just be ready to help you on the spot. Alternatively they might suggest they’re busy at the moment but they’ll be willing to help you out later. If that happens, say thanks and let them know you’ll try to get hold of them later for help or you’ll send them your questions by email. Then follow up on it.

Not everyone on the web is a nice person. That’s just the way it is. Sooner or later you’ll run into a person who simply doesn’t give a damn about anything but himself (or herself). It’s best to just move on and find someone else willing to help you. There’s no sense trying to build a working relationship with someone of the “me me me” mindset. Working with them will always be difficult.

Ask for a favor once in a while

Don’t be afraid to ask for some favors once you’ve established yourself in a forum. There’s nothing wrong with it, and if you constant give freely without asking for anything in return you’ll be the most loved person on the forum, and you’ll also be a doormat. Unless you’re trying to learn how to be a master doormat, have a little respect for yourself. Once you’ve proven your skills in an area, don’t be afraid to charge a fair price for your work. In the end, that’s what will get you more respect and propel you towards the top.

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Affiliate program basics

Making money by advertising affiliate programs can be an easy to setup, solid recurring source of income. Affiliate programs can also be a gigantic waste of time.

The basic affiliate setup

1. You sign up as an affiliate at a website, say MegaSalesNet UltraSitePro. You’ll get some sort of affiliate account code, usually tacked onto the end of a URL, which you use to link to MegaSalesNet from your website.

2. Visitors to MegaSalesNet from your website are tracked with the code, and when one of them makes a purchase you get some percentage of the sale.

3. Once you’ve accumulated enough money in sales, MegaSalesNet cuts you a check.

Sounds like a great deal right? Let’s take a closer look at some of the problems with affiliate programs, along with the “fairness” of the standard affiliate program.

The problems with most programs

MegaSalesNet is essentially hiring anybody who wants to try and peddle their product on commission. Very few affiliate programs screen affiliates at all, and of those who do most use a largely automated screening process. Companies do this because they’re after the sale, plain and simple. Any additional exposure only helps, so right out of the gate you’ll have a lot of competition.

Most affiliate programs offer less than 50% of the net sale, which means they’re keeping more than half the profit from sales you send. Regardless of whether the company makes a sale from visitors you send, they’re getting free exposure for every visitor who comes through. Running a business website is extremely low cost and low effort in comparison with running a physical business. Sales tasks on a website are normally completely automated, sometimes so much so that the business is virtually hands off. Furthermore, many are fly by night operations built by people who really don’t have a clue about marketing a product. So before you waste valuable space and risk losing your readers trust by sending them to any old half cooked website, check all your options and ask around with other webmasters who’ve used them and see what their experience has been.

Depending on your websites standings in the search engines, plain hyperlinks out from your website may hold real value. I run a variety of entertainment sites with decent rankings, and I have several advertisers that pay $20 per month or more simply to link to websites they promote. $20 per month isn’t a load of money, but assuming I can sell 10 advertiser links at $10 per link, that’s $100/mo income. It’s very painless to setup and maintain, with changing links only once per month. Compare that with an affiliate program where there’s no guarantee I ever make a single sale, meanwhile some company is guaranteed to get free exposure on my website.

The other major thing to consider is your target audience. Most affiliate programs fit “loosely” with many sites. For instance, entertainment sites do not have a particularly targeted audience, so often times they’ll use affiliate programs that offer t-shirts, posters, gambling, or web hosting. Consider who’s coming to your website, and try to target as specifically as you can the interests of those visitors.

Things to watch out for in an affiliate program

Do they have a minimum payout? Many affiliates will not send a check until you’ve made so much $$ in sales for them. If you don’t get enough sales, you’ll never see a dime.

Get the conversion ratio from other webmasters with websites similar to yours, who are using the program. A conversion ratio is how many visitors they sent to how many sales they got, so 1:85 means they had one sale for every 85 visitors sent to the website. With a conversion ratio you can get a good estimate of how long it would take you to achieve the minimum payout.

Are the statistics tracking from a respected 3rd party company? Check some affiliate forums and get feedback from other webmasters. Find out if the potential affiliate is trusted among your peers – more than a few companies have been rightfully accused of cheating webmasters out of legitimate sales commissions.

Is this option generating more profit than the alternative options, such as selling text links or placing Google Adwords? Sometimes you just have to test a program out for a month or two before you can get a feel for how it’s going to perform in the long run.

Is this affiliate program already saturated? With huge affiliate programs like AllPosters, making new sales can be difficult because most of your visitors may have already seen AllPosters, and are less likely to click through your link and buy something. For this reason, it’s also important to utilize the specific product advertisements these companies make available. For instance, AllPosters makes available several “new release” ads, where you might make a sale that you otherwise would not have made by advertising a specific popular poster.

Does this program track visitors you send beyond the initial visit? Do they credit you for sales made on subsequent visits by this visitor when they may not have used your link to arrive at the website? Some affiliate programs like Alienware, which sell high end items (computers and such), are not likely to generate an immediate sale, or “impulse buy”. Very few people, if any, will visit Alienware for the first time, decide they want to purchase a computer, and immediately do so all in one sitting. This makes extended visitor tracking extremely important, especially on expensive items and high commission programs.

If the program is a service with recurring fees, like web hosting, access to a member’s only website, subscription to a magazine, or online casino’s, does the program pay rebill commissions? A rebill is when someone who signs up for a service renews the service, and many companies offer recurring commission payments to the person who initially referred that customer to the site. This is called a rebill, and these programs can generate a steady stream of recurring income.

Advanced methods to examining affiliate programs

Some of the more advanced methods to investigating and testing out affiliate programs are discussed in the subscriber’s area, including subjects such as detecting affiliate skimming, when and where affiliate programs work best, and ways to screen a program before investing valuable traffic.

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How to capitalize on buzz word searches for traffic

Lets begin with what exactly I mean by buzz word searches. Call it popular culture, paparazzi filth.. heck, call it whatever you want. It happens when interesting events peak public curiosity en mass, but most often when a famous person does something very out of the ordinary, spectacular, controversial, etc. The best example of this from very recent history would be Paris Hilton scandal or the Janet Jackson “wardrobe malfunction”. These are extreme cases, of course, and there are many smaller, however still highly useful buzz word search opportunities.

Media buzzword examples

These opportunities work best when you get in at the very beginning, and when search engines have very few listings, if any, for the buzz words people are searching. Some of the smaller media blitz’s I’ve participated in were Jon Stewart’s appearance on Crossfire, and when President Bush decided there were more than one internet (internets) during a debate. I also used his famous, incredibly bad debate joke “Need some wood?”

An alternate method of doing this (a more long term benefit) is to piggyback on a successful viral marketing campaign being performed by a large company or corporation, such as the Free iPods deals, or Google’s gMail. The only major thing to watch out for here is that you don’t get any domains or content infringing on copyright/trademark, because those can make all your profits and effort disappear in a flash.

How to maximize the traffic

This works by simply updating a page already indexed and crawled daily by search engines and doing some simple SEO for the terms you want to achieve. Blogs work great for this sort of thing! For the Presidential debate traffic courtesy of George W’s inept speaking ability, I updated my title to “Need some wood? Buy it on the internets!” and wrote an article on the debate, including the phrase “need some wood” and “internets” several times throughout the article. The next day I was #1 for the search “Need some wood? Buy it on the internets!”, and #2 for “need some wood”. I was also ranked within the top 5 for a bunch of other search terms related to that. Eventually larger websites write about this stuff, and smaller blogs link to them, knocking you down the chart. However, the first couple days are when the most traffic is coming, and with such little competition for the keywords, it’s not hard to get top 5 ranking. I got nearly 3,000 visitors from the search engines during that buzz in just under a week. The traffic was highly targeted, it’s not much work to do this, it’s free, and it gives your site great exposure. It’s also likely to get you linked on other websites who found it entertaining, giving you more free backlinks.

The importance of getting in early

During the days after the Jon Stewart on Crossfire buzz people were in search of the video clips of that Crossfire show, as well as the followup Jon Stewart did about it on The Daily Show. The best way to capitalize on this (if you can afford the bandwidth) is to get copies of the clips as soon as possible, and host them on your website. Make offer for others to link to your site as a source for the videos as well, because many blogs will be writing about it and looking for a place that has the videos. I did the same normal SEO tactics, however I did not wish to blow lots of bandwidth on this one so I simply wrote about it and linked the clips offered on iFilm and Comedy Central’s website. I got in a bit late on that blitz, but still pulled a couple decent 2nd page rankings and got some respectable traffic for my efforts.

A warning for anyone thinking about hosting video’s or other high bandwidth material concerning one of these media blitz events: Be ready for some HEAVY traffic. It’s not guaranteed, however if you get linked by lots of sites and achieve a top 5 ranking for the most popular buzz term you will have a flood on your hands. This doesn’t account for getting plugged by major sites either, such as Fark or Slashdot – both of which can send enough traffic on their own to choke a normal server in minutes. It’s not just about bandwidth either. The servers must also have enough processing power and throughput (bandwidth per second) to accommodate many people hitting the server all at once. If you aren’t willing to foot the bandwidth bill at the end of the month, make sure to explicitly instruct your host to cut it off when you exceed a designated amount.

Turning the buzz traffic into profit

Sometimes there isn’t much you can do with the traffic coming in to turn a profit, though that doesn’t mean it’s not worth using the buzz. For instance with the Jon Stewart on Crossfire buzz and George W’s “need some wood” I didn’t bother changing up my advertisements. I was happy to get the exposure, and I don’t believe the traffic would have converted any better with different ads. I did make a few bucks on T-Shirt sales. However, for something like the Paris Hilton scandal webmasters used adult sponsor (affiliate) programs to redirect the traffic. All the people making up the Paris traffic were looking for the Paris Hilton video, so webmasters would put up links to a affiliate sponsor ID (with their referrer) saying “Watch the Paris Video”. Conversions were incredibly high since the traffic was so targeted, and as we all know sex sells.

Connections will make or break your efforts on the big media events

I often hang out at a webmasters forum where many of the webmasters deal in adult sites. It wasn’t always that way, but that’s been the trend over the past couple years. Though I didn’t do anything for the Paris Hilton scandal because I don’t deal in adult material, it was incredible to observe the absolute magnitude of the phenomenon. I can tell you many of the webmasters on that forum who got in right at the beginning of that ordeal made a serious amount of money. I’m talking $xx,xxx figures (and up) here, not pocket change. A couple of the “big boys” of the forum who run adult sponsor programs on the net as a full time job were kind enough to show some of us some selective screen caps of their wire transfers made from the Paris Hilton tape and let me tell you, they were well into 6 figures. However the majority of those webmasters, some of whom made four or five figures out of this, are not rocket scientists. Most aren’t even experts, they’re just average folks like myself. For many of them web design isn’t even a full-time job.

What set them apart was the connections they had, and their well rounded knowledge of basic web design. Through sharing knowledge and technique on what was working to capitalize on the opportunity right away, and linking up with each other for added SEO benefit, they were able to dominate the search engines and most everyone involved had great success. The old saying “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know and who knows you” is multiplied ten-fold on the web. Getting to know other webmasters and establishing yourself in several communities is crucial. Having a few friends with established websites willing to plug your new site and get things off the ground is such a great help. As far as getting the initial traffic flow and getting in the search engines more quickly nothing works faster or better than links from well established, indexed sites.

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White hat search engine optimization basics

One of the major faults of most webmasters, both hobbyist and professionals, is the lack of regard for basic search engine optimization. Anybody can properly optimize many aspects of a webpage in a matter of minutes, and yet most webmasters have a total lack of understanding when it comes to this important area of development. Some are even scared using these proper design techniques will get them banned from search engines. This is complete nonsense – no search engine will ever ban you for practicing good web design. The majority of search engine optimization is a simple matter of properly utilizing HTML tags, so let’s have a look at the biggest problem areas.

It should be noted that the word or words that make up a domain name can have a considerable impact on how your site gets indexed for those terms, but since a domain name is something you need to build on over the long run, you’ve got to acquire the best domain available at the time and go from there. If you’re thinking of starting a website and don’t yet have your own domain name, definently educate yourself on choosing a good domain name!

The effect of a proper title

Using a unique, relevant title on every page of your website is crucial. The title is a highly valued aspect of a website in the eyes of a search engine. The mass majority of websites give no heed to this very useful tag. Many dynamic sites or template based websites use the same title for every page, such as “Companyname.com – Some catchy slogan!” This is partly a negative effect of using a header/footer system on a website, however even with such a system unique titles are only a couple lines of programming away. It usually boils down to laziness and lack of understanding. Even many purely html websites don’t use unique page titles.

A good title is generally a 4 to 8 word description of the page contents. Try to include the relevant keywords or keyword combinations that occur within the pages subheadings and text. Using descriptive titles not only benefits search engines, but it also makes logical sense, gives the page a more complete feel, and is a huge benefit to users browsing the page using non-conventional browsers such as handicap audio readers (for the blind).

Utilizing the heading tag

Next on the list are heading tags. Heading tags hold particular importance for search engines, but also for logically dividing a page. Some unknown force keeps most designers away from these important tags. Use H1 and H2 tags on every page, even if the H1 tag is just a rephrased page title. This lets people (and search engines) know exactly what to expect on the page. Also, these two tags hold good weight with search engines, so don’t be afraid to put relevant keywords in the headings. Some simple CSS can redecorate your heading tag text to look however you want, so your last excuse for ignoring the heading tag has just been tossed out the window.

Some will argue that a header (a graphical banner displayed at the top of the website) is more catchy and therefore should be used in place of a textual H1 tag. This is the same dumb mentality that says design first, worry about content and substance later. Nothing says you cannot use a header graphic or log and still utilize the header tags to split up the text.

Directory structure and filenames

Now, this one isn’t something you’d necessarily think about, but directory names and filenames both add weight to the keywords of a webpage, as well as adding meaning to a file. Keep in mind search engine spiders don’t deep crawl every page on your site each time the bot visits. What would your best guess of the content of a website be if you could only look at directories, filenames, and anchor text of links? If the files were labeled 1.html, 2.html, 3.html, etc. it would be pretty hard to get a good feel for what the site was about without opening some files, wouldn’t it? If a search engine crawls only the index page of your website, and sees links to 1.html, 2.html, etc. even though the anchor text might be there a search engine may not accept that until it does the deep crawl of a page. Most search engines do not deep crawl a website often, perhaps once or twice a month if you’re lucky. This makes keeping relevant links, filenames, and directories much more important.

Dynamic URL’s, and how they affect search engines

The advent of dynamic pages and the Content Management System, or CMS, has only aided the laziness and poor directory structure webmasters often use these days. Granted, a content management system can greatly reduce the maintenance time of large websites and offers the option of posting information that otherwise non-savvy web users wouldn’t know how to post, and these systems can be a great thing. However, most websites that use a CMS do so out of sheer laziness, and not because a real need for a dynamic system. Check out my article on content management systems for more information on this particular topic.

Healthy internal linking

Sometimes webmasters get so caught up in trying to get inbound links from other websites they forget relevant links from one webpage on their domain to another will affect search engines being able to properly find all the content of their website, and can also positively affect those pages within search engines. If you’re writing on a topic you’ve also covered elsewhere in the site, link to it within the context of the writing. This is the foundation on which the web was built!

Healthy external linking

Sometimes a directory listing of websites is warranted, however a directory with links all over the place to lots of unrelated sites is not healthy for your website. If you must keep a directory listing, link only to websites that have closely related material. When I run a games website, I don’t link to four gardening websites, a site on vintage auto’s, and a flower sales shop. All this would tell a search engine (and my users) is that I’ve got no focus, and my website probably doesn’t have much of value pertaining to games.

Again out of laziness, most webmasters don’t even separate their directory into general catagories. The general rule of thumb is that a webpage should never have more than 20 to 25 outgoing links (links to other domains) on one page. There are exceptions to this, and it’s not going to kill your page to have more, but in general when building a directory keep it to 10 or 15 related links per page.

Meta tags shouldn’t be ignored

Many websites will tell you to ignore meta tags, skip them, or they’ll scare you into believing using meta tags could damage your rankings. I’ll let you in on a little secret. Using any underhanded tricks on a search engine will likely damage your rankings. However, using meta tags properly will only help, and many search engines use the meta description tag as a description for the web page when listing it in their search results. When you get done writing a page, read through it and use some of the keywords in the meta keywords tag. I usually aim for 3-10 keywords or combinations. Write a good catchy, but objective description of the page content. Try to include at least the major keyword(s) in this description, and use 5-20 words for the description. Keep it short and to the point.

Writing relevant text content

Unbelievably, the most overlooked aspect of search engine optimization is also the most overlooked aspect of building traffic: good content! It seems ridiculously simple, and it is! Google, Yahoo, MSN, and all the other search engines out there still only know how to read one thing well from a website: text. They aren’t yet able to understand graphics or images, and they are still a ways off from properly understanding proprietary technologies such as Flash or Shockwave.

Text is the golden key to search engine optimization. Of course, you won’t be able to push the door wide open without the weight of these other techniques on your side, but without text you’re effectively trying to knock down that door with your head – and that’s a painful way to get the job done.

Though copywriting text to emphasize certain keywords can greatly improve a webpage’s rankings for those terms, simply writing lots of relevant content is the most important part. If you’re writing useful, quality information on a subject optimization of certain terms is going to occur naturally.

Some extraneous things you can do to benefit a page

Those are the basics, though there are other small things you can do to help as well. Use the alt text property to write descriptions for images. Use the strong (or em) tag to emphasize important phrases or keywords a few times through your page. Use cascading style sheets to apply style to your pages, keeping the html as simple and semantic based as possible. Using many nested tables can confuse a search engine and diminish the importance of text within those tables. Remember, tables are meant for tabular data – use paragraph tags for text and learn design with CSS. You’ll be so glad you did you might feel an uncontrollable urge to send me lots of money. Go ahead, don’t fight the urge. Frames and iFrames can also cause problems for search engines, though for the most part the big engines have frames figured out these days. Frames are hardly ever best option though, so try to avoid them unless absolutely necessary.

Basic SEO in review

Let’s review the important aspects of page design as seen by search engines:

  1. Lots of related text content
  2. A short, unique, and descriptive title on each page
  3. Use of H1 and H2 tags to separate and catagorize paragraphs
  4. Descriptive directory structure and filenames
  5. Avoid dynamic URL’s when possible
  6. Don’t neglect interal linking
  7. Use common sense with external linking
  8. Use meta tags, but don’t abuse them

That’s it! Basic search engine optimization on a webpage is pretty simple, huh? Many people pay ‘professional’ search engine optimizers in excess of $100 an hour to do this kind of stuff. Granted, the good ones do copywriting, keyword analysis, link building, and other things not covered here – which can be well worth the investment. However, what I covered here are the most important aspects of building the proper webpage. You will get you great rankings, assuming you have some relevant, useful content users want and some quality inbound links. Search engine optimization efforts usually take a couple months to really start kicking in, because a given search engine will only complete a full crawl of the web and reindex every few months.

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