20 Indispensable Tips for Webmasters New to SEO

Search engine optimization (SEO) is more art than science. But there are many tried and true optimization tips which almost everyone agrees on.

If you are just starting out in SEO for your own website, don’t overwhelm yourself. It’s likely that 80% of your optimization gains will come from the top 20% of the SEO tips out there. These are the bread and butter, white hat, can’t miss tips that every good webmaster should follow.

To get you started, I have put together 20 indispensable SEO tips for you to apply directly to your website, and to the links which you build for your website. Most of these are easy to implement. However I recommend you have a SEO plan in place before you write your first line of code, as it is easier to build from the ground up than it is to make changes to complex code.

1. Content is still king. Text should be well written, with humans in mind instead of search engines. Engage your visitors. The longer your viewers spend time on your website, the stronger message you send to the search engines that you are relevant. Engagement leads to higher rankings.

2. Your text content should contain the keywords and phrases important to your website. But don’t overdo it. Too much optimization can hurt your rankings, and make for a poor user experience.

3. Keep your content fresh. If you can include blog articles on your front page, do it. Change up the content on a regular basis to send a message to the search engines that you are relevant, and that they should visit you more often.

4. Optimize all page addresses. For instance a good blog post title is “Top-Basic-SEO-Tips.html”. Keep the page address condensed and rich with keywords which describe the page. Think of how your visitors might search for you. And use dashes, not underscores, to separate words. This prevents search engines from concatenating the words by mistake.

5. Use captions with photos and images. Think in terms of a magazine or a newspaper, and have a keyword rich caption right under the image.

6. Optimize image file names the same way you optimized page addresses in tip number four. If you are using a downloaded stock photo, make sure you change the name to a search engine friendly name which describes the image.

7. Always take advantage of the alt attribute and title tags for all of your images. These should be descriptive of the image or photo, and should include important keywords for your web page as long as it makes sense to include them with the image.

8. Keep all your content, page titles, descriptions, and meta keywords unique. Being lazy and allowing each page to have the same title, description, etc., will be seen as duplicate content even if the pages are very different. Luckily Google Webmaster Tools will point out all of your duplicate content issues and allow you to fix the problems.

9. Create content for others in the form of excellent guest posting, or information sharing. In exchange for the content, ask for one or two links back to your website. These links should include anchor text relevant to the content you are providing, and important to your website.

10. Paid links do not send you link love, even if they use good anchor text. Advertise as much as you want, but don’t do it for the purpose of link building.

11. Diversify your link building. Use different anchor text variations in links, and link from many different domains.

12. Keep in mind that the importance of each link you build is based on the rank of the page linking to you. The Google Page Rank (PR) is logarithmic. In other words, a link from a page with a PR of 6 is ten times more important than one from a page with a PR of 5. High Page Ranks are what you need to shoot for when link building. However Google’s PR is often several months old. Their more up to date internal PR is not shared with the public. A good proxy for current PR is to use the well researched MozRank from SEOMoz.

13. Each web page can only send so much link juice. If the link you acquired is part of a page with many other links on it, the value of your link is diminished. The fewer the number of links going out, the more value your link carries. For this reason I have little faith in directories and long link lists.

14. All things being equal,  links from .edu domains carry more value than those from other domains. A few good .edu domain links can pass a lot of value to your website.

15.  Use phrases rather than single keywords. In my case, I run a photography website. If someone wants to download one of my images, I make sure the text says something like “download sunset images” instead of just “download”. This helps me rank in a search for websites to download sunset images from.

16. Choose whether you want your domain preference to include www or not. Do you want to be called “www.mywidgets.com” or “mywidgets.com”? There is no SEO advantage to choosing one over the other. But if you don’t choose, both will exist in the search engine’s eyes and that will cause you canonicalization problems. Use Webmaster Tools to choose your preference, and use a 301 Redirect from the other choice to your preference.

17. Be focused. Each webpage should concentrate on a single keyword phrase. If you try to catch two rabbits, you will lose them both.

18. XML Sitemaps are nice. Easy site navigation is better. The easier it is to crawl, the quicker the search engines will index your content.

19. Use absolute links, not relative links. Absolute links are easier to crawl. They also cause fewer navigational headaches for a web programmer who needs to make changes.

20. Social Marketing is part of SEO. You don’t have to be on every social network. But you do have to know as much as you can about the networks you are a part of. Making waves in social settings affects search engine rankings. This trend is likely to grow in strength. If you aren’t Tweeting, Digging, or Yelping, it’s time to start.


Daniel Padavona is the lead web designer and founder of Warmpicture Royalty-Free Photos. Daniel is an avid photographer, blogger, web designer, and enjoys hiking during the warm weather months. He often works with photographers looking to set up their own websites and diversify their income stream away from traditional stock agencies.

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