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In this article I am presenting you the simple steps any site can take when they are about to launch on the internet and to help them get off on the right foot for the most basic of search optimization steps. 

The simple rules can launch your website off on the right foot.  Keep in mind that these are just simple steps, there's a lot more that goes into optimization of a website.  This list is just meant as a guide to start you off, and these should assist you in your efforts until you have a full search marketing strategy mapped out for your website.

Overview

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is one of the most important ingredients for getting large amounts of traffic to your website besides high-quality content. Because once your articles are a few weeks old, the majority of the traffic to those articles will come from search engines. That's why it's important to rank high in search engines.

1. Place Your Keywords In the Title Tag

The title tag is one of the most important things for ranking high for particular keywords. That's why it's  very important  to think of a title that contains important keywords  and  grabs the attention of people. Because when people search on search engines like Google, the title of your page will be displayed in the results and people will click on links that are the most attractive to them first. Remember that it's also very important and rewarding to have a unique title, so before you use the title, Google it and see if the title already appears in the top 10 results.

Please keep in mind that Google only displays the first 70 characters(about 8 words) of your page's title. Google does not even index the keywords in your page's title aft er the 12th word or so . Yahoo and MSN don't even index pages that have a page title that's too long. Source: Google – How Many Words In A Page Title Tag?

Note:  WordPress users should use the All in One SEO Pack plugin for WordPress. This plugin gives you the ability to easily place the title of your post in the beginning of your <title> tag.

2. Don't Re-Use Your Title Tag On Every Page

Many times your website designer doesn't even realize this is being done.  Your creative team is more concerned with the visual presentation than to worry about something they consider more of a minor 'nuisance".  

Most of the time, your website has been created from a template, which ensures that everything looks the same -design wise- from one page to another.  This is perfect to get the site off the ground and out there.  Most WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editors work this way as well, templates allow for easy production of web pages. 

The drawback to this from an SEO perspective is that the Title and Meta tags are all repeated.  To get your website off on the right foot, change each page's title tag to reflect what the page is about.  You'll be surprised at the good this can do for each of your web site's pages.

3. Optimize Your Robots.txt

Having an optimized robots.txt is important because this file can control which pages of your websites get crawled by the search engine spiders. For those of you who use WordPress, I recommend preventing search engine spiders from crawling wp-admin and plugin folders.

Here are some more resources about the robots.txt file:

Check, double check and go back and recheck that Robots.txt file.  Make sure it's in the root folder of your domain.  Ensure all the folders and files you want to be found by the search engines are allowed.  Any development folders, javascript folders, css folders or private folders, you do not want to end up in a search engine results should be disallowed.

For the proper syntax of how to configure a Robots.txt file, check out:  Robotstxt.org .

4. Don't Use Images for keywords

Your designer might yell at you, question your judgment, or complain that it will ruin the aesthetics of the design, but let me put it to you this way; "What good is a great design if no one can find it?"

If your keywords are embedded in images, the search engines have no clue that keyword is related to your page.  They cannot "see" your images.  So if the term "camel rides" is important to your business, make sure it's actual text somewhere within your content, not part of an image.

5. Proper Use of the ALT Attribute

The <alt> attribute should be used to describe an image, not to spammed with keywords that have nothing to do with the image.
Why? Because while it's true that search engine spiders cannot read images, they can however read the <alt> attribute, and having it spammed with keywords that are totally irrelevant to the image will make Google aware of what to derank you for.

Here's some more information about the alt attribute:

6. Anchor Text of Links

The anchor text is the text inside your <a> tags that links to other pages. Wether they're incoming or outgoing links, it's important for the anchor text to contain a description of where the link is taking the visitor. This is even more important for search engines because it tells its crawlers where the link is going.

So avoid using words like "Click Here" as an anchor text as it can hurt both your website and the website you're linking to. One more thing to keep in mind is to keep the characters in your anchor text under 55.

7. Quality of Inbound and Outbound Links

While most web developers know that having many web sites link to your can boost your rankings, a lot of them don't know that the quality of the websites linking to your websites plays a vital role in your website's page rank. Getting links for random dofollow blogs has a way smaller impact than if a website with a high pagerank links to your website in an article.

Who you link to matters, as Google warned webmasters that they can be penalized if they link to spam websites. Linking to really bad websites (malware injecting websites etc.) can easily get your site removed from Google's search engine results pages(SERPs). One thing to keep in mind is that Google's spiders might not follow all of your links if you have over 100 unique outbound links on a single page.

More articles about linking:

8. Proper Use of Header Tags

<h1>, <h2> tags etc. should be used when appropriate. Don't be using <h2> tags as a paragraph or using <div> class="title"</div> to display the title of your page or something.

Here's a few things to keep in mind when using header tags:

  • only use one <h1> tag per page
  • you can use as many <h2> - <h6> tags as you like in your pages
  • search engine crawlers only read basic html

More articles about header tags:

9. Importance of the First Paragraph

Your first paragraph is the most important paragraph in your page. This is because it's the first paragraph search engines scan and they assume that it's somewhat of a summary of the page/article. That's why it's essential to have the most important keywords of your page in the first sentence or two.

If you're using the All in One SEO Pack plugin for WordPress, the plugin will automatically take the content from your first paragraph and place it in the meta description, which is the text that search engines display under the title of your page.

10.    Ensure Your Site is Accessible

An accessible website should ensure that its content can be successfully delivered as often as possible. The functionality of pages, the uptime of the server, validity of HTML elements are all parts of site accessibility. If these points are either ignored or faulty, both your visitors and search engines will select other websites to visit.

Use tools like:

To know if your site contains broken links or when your site is down.

11.    Use SEO Friendly URLs

The URL of a page should be descriptive so both the users and search engines have an idea what the page they're being linked to consists of. SEO Friendly URLs also have the benefit of serving as their own anchor text when copy pasted to forums etc. due to URL having the keywords of the page in its URL. These type of URLs usually rank higher in search engines than pages with a URL like example.com/p=981489894.

Furthermore, when using Dynamic URLs try to keep your dynamic parameters under 2 or else the chance is high than it might not get crawled by search engine spiders unless they're perceived as very important(ie. have a large amount of inbound links).

More articles about SEO Friendly URLs:

12.    Keyword Research

It would be wise to do at least a little keyword research before your launch your website.  Understanding how your audience searches is the most beneficial thing you can do for your website.  Doing even the slightest amount of research can clue you into small idiosyncrasies that could be "gold mines" in disguise.

Keyword research can also let you know how to target the content on your page, how to word each page's title tag and whether people really are searching on your business name.  It's well worth the time spent to discover exactly what you need to target to have a successful website.

13.    Provide An HTML Version of Your Sitemap

Providing an HTML Version that lists the links to the pages of your site can guide the search engine spiders to all of the pages of your site.  If your navigation is currently in flash or javascript, this is a great alternative way of making sure the spiders find the site's pages.  Make sure that your link to your sitemap is a simple "a href" tag, not a link formed with javascript or flash as the spiders will not be able to follow that type of link.

14.    Site Usability

If your website is cluttered with ads and has a terrible layout, accessibility, navigation and low quality of content, chances are that you'll get less people linking back to your site than one that has better usability than yours, thus resulting in lower page ranking.
If your website was designed in the 90s you seriously need consider hiring a web designer to redesign your website.

Take a look at the an example at SeoMOZ.org.