SEO Basics – A guide to optimizing for Google, Bing and Yahoo!

by | Oct 19, 2011

There are lots of good resources out there for learning how to do some basic optimization of your website for search engines like Google, Yahoo! and Bing. These search engines have their own formulas for how they rank websites and ultimately present their Search Engine Ranking Pages (SERPs) – actually, Yahoo! and Bing’s are the same – but here are some of the basic things that you should do to increase your chances of showing up on that coveted first page of search results. If it appears on the SERP, it’s important to optimize it.

SEO Elements

  • Page Title – this is what shows up as the blue link for people to click on when you show up in a search. The beginning of your title should include the TOP keywords about the page. The page titles should be unique for each page of your site, and should accurately reflect the content of that page. If your company name is the only thing that shows up in the title, then you need to change them. Keep the page title no longer than 70 characters long. The page title code should be formatted like this: <title>Pittsburgh Search Engine Optimization (SEO) by theBrewRoom</title>
  • thebrewroom seo pittsburgh buffaloPage URL (path/filename) – The URL – the actual link for each page – is what appears on the SERPs, under the page title of each of your pages. Believe it or not, but this is also an important SEO factor. If you can have the main keyword for the page within the actual link to the page, this will help your SEO efforts. Example:
  • Page Description – This is the short description that appears below the page URL when you do a search. This field doesn’t show up on the page, but search engines can see it. It should accurately reflect the topic of the page, and should contain the important keywords about the page. Keep the page description to no more than 140 characters. Here is an example of a page description: <meta content=”Pittsburgh based theBrewRoom provides Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to companies in Pittsburgh as well as other areas of Pennsylvania and New York.” name=”description”>
  • Meta Keywords – there is some debate about the relevancy of Meta Keywords. These do not actually appear on the page. They show up in the code of the page, just like the page title and descriptions. They once were a way for people to load up each page with keywords. Well, this was majorly abused, so Google completely cut them out of their algorithm. Now, if you load up your page with keywords that actually don’t work with the copy on your page, this will actually HURT your ranking. The search engines will think you are trying to fool with them, and well, they don’t like that. You can add a few keywords to your pages using the following format – <meta name=”keywords” content=”SEO,Google,SERP,PageRank” /> – but don’t add them at all if you are just going to overload it with words that don’t relate to your page. Do will do yourself more of a service by using relevant and important keywords within your page copy.
  • Copy Keywords – copy is king!!!! Search engines always want to show you the most relevant search results for the query that you enter. If your page contains a lot of good, updated keyword rich information about a particular topic or subject, then your chances are good.
  • thebrewroom-image-alt-textImage Alt Text – since search engines can’t really tell what is in a picture on your website (yet), they rely on a small snippet of code within you <img> tag to determine what the image is. And since search engines like pages that have videos and images, it’s best to use them, and optimize them so that the search engines can see them. Think of it this way: How would your site look to a blind person? Confused, well if you think about it, blind people use screen readers to read the copy on a site. If there is an image on a page and you want that reader to know it, the alt tag would do this for you. If you hover your mouse over an image and some text shows up, that is the alt text for the image. Here is an example of a good <img> tag: <img src=”image.jpg” alt=”my picture of foo”> And while you are at it, make the image name itself something meaningful. Check out the filename of the image above by clicking on it. You’ll see the image name in the address field of your browser. This also helps your images show up in Google Image Search.
  • Canonical Links – these are the actual permanent link to a page. Believe it or not, Google will think that each of these pages are different :

Since Google thinks that these pages are all different, they will actually all compete for ranking against each other. Yes, that’s weird. By using a canonical link tag, you tell the search engine exactly what you want the URL to the page to be. Put one of these canonical link tags on each of your pages, within the HTML code. Here’s an example: <link href=”” rel=”canonical”>

SEO Tools

Here are some of the basic tools that we use to review the search engine optimization elements of websites.

  • Screaming Frog SEO Spider

Want to see all of the links, page titles, descriptions, external links for your website. Check this tool out. Very cool and useful!
Download Screaming Frog SEO Spider

  • Quirk SearchStatus Plugin for Firefox

This tool can quickly show you the meta data on the pages of your site. It’s a plugin for Firefox, so you would need to use the Firefox browser to use this tool.

  • Google Adwords Keyword Tool

This is a good way to do some research to see why keywords are popular for your topics. You can get a good idea of what the top searches are for your subject, the phrases that people are frequently using, and how competitive the market is for your subject. Let us know if you need some help learning how to use the Google Adwords tool.

There are lots of other very good tools out there, but you can spend days trying them out. If you have a particular need, and don’t know what tool works best for that need, send us a message or leave a comment below and we’ll try to help you out.

Feel free to post any other tools that you are fond of in a comment below. Sharing is good. :-)