Some Straight Talk About Search Engine Optimization

When I was working for a large, international publisher of numerous, well-known trade publications, we had a full-time person on staff whose job it was to make sure our sites were optimized for the search engines.

From working with him, here's what I've learned about SEO (Search Engine
Optimization):

1. There's no way to keep your site perfectly optimized for the Search engines. They deliberately change their indexing algorithms periodically. It's a full-time job to keep up with what they're doing, so for most of us there's really no point in trying.

2. There are some things that are worth doing, though, to be sure your site
is search-engine friendly.
Those include:
-- Use keyword and description meta-tags.
-- Have a "title" tag on your site.
-- Have "alt" tags on all your images.
-- Make sure that important pieces of content are included on your home page. The first few text paragraphs in particular should be the most relevant information about the purpose of your site.
-- If your main links are done with graphics, have text versions on the page as well.
-- Use titles and subtitles on your pages, marked with Header (<h1>, <h2>, etc.) tags

If you're working with a web designer he or she should take care of this for you. The search engines may not be using Meta Tags as much this week, but that doesn't mean they won't be using them again next week. They're too valuable a tool to ignore.

3. Choose your key words carefully. Don't have too many or the search engines will regard them as spam. I think 15-20 is optimal. Be sure whatever words/phrases you use are relevant to the information on your site. Use words and three- or four-word phrases, but try not to repeat the same word too often.

4. Exchange links with others who have sites similar to yours. I can't emphasize the importance of this one enough. Not only do the search engines evaluate the quality of both outgoing and incoming links to your site, but those links also drive traffic directly.

5. If you have a completely database-drive site, (not usually the case for authors), you need to be sure there are some flat HTML pages for the robots to crawl.

6. Have a sitemap.