Posted to Ben Finklea's blog on July 28th, 2010

7 Search Engine Optimization Tips for Finely-Tuned Search Performance

More websites than care to admit make horrendous mistakes with search engine optimization (SEO) tactics. These mistakes range from targeting the wrong keywords and keyword stuffing to hiring a black hat SEO company or ignoring the critical advice of honest SEO advisors. Whatever the crime, your site always pays the price in rankings.

A front page ranking doesn’t happen overnight, and if it does, more people than just your mother will be questioning this development. Implementing sound SEO initiatives on your site is a process. Volacci has a 120-Point SEO process that ensures our clients’ websites are finely-tuned for search engine rankings. This process can take weeks, but more likely months, to get a website running in superior search engine condition.

While I cannot reveal all 120 points of our SEO process to you (unless you become a client!), I will give you some tips to tune your site for superior search rankings. Join me after the jump for Seven Search Engine Optimization tips for finely-tuned search performance.

1. Choose Quality Keywords

Choosing quality keywords begins with good ol’ fashion research. If you pick terms that match your product or service but don’t check to make sure that your target audience is using those terms, you may rank well but you won’t be generating any traffic.

Pick terms that are relevant to your product and also produce human traffic. It may take a little longer for you to rank but you’ll get more business out of it when you do. Use the Google Adwords Keyword Tool to make sure you are on the right track. Here is what you will see when you are in the right place:

When you have entered your ideas into the box and hit ‘search’, a ton of keyword ideas come back to you with delicious data. Check out the results for the keyword: sprocket:

Good thing you did research. Looks like your audience uses the word 'pulley' instead. Create a spreadsheet of keyword ideas and how competitive and trendy they are. This will come in handy when you are making your final decisions. Consider targeting a set of quality keywords - both long- and short-tail. Not sure the difference between the two? Let one of our past posts clarify for you: The Difference Between Long-Tail and Short-Tail Keywords

2. Use Keywords Appropriately

Once you have chosen your all-mighty keywords list, it is time to use them on your website. One of the horrendous mistakes I mentioned earlier involved “keyword stuffing” on your site. Keyword stuffing is the act of abusing keywords on your website in order to rank higher in the search engines. This includes repeating your keyword unnecessarily in all your tags and on-page titles and headlines.

A severe case would be to change to font color of your on-page copy to match the background and repeating the words throughout your site in invisible fashion. A great way to test this theory is to have a human being read your copy. If it makes sense and flows naturally, then you are not keyword stuffing. If it feels forced, then you may have overdone it.

Here are a few tips within a tip (bonus!):

• Place keywords at the beginning of sentences, paragraphs, titles, and tags... once.

• Use keywords once or twice every 100 words in your on-page copy.

• Align your websites content into keyword silos on your site and use keywords on the appropriate pages for their respective content.

3. Search Engine Friendly URLs

A URL is an Internet address that tells you where a specific page of content lives, just like your physical address tells people where you physically live.

Unless you have turned on “clean URLs” in your content management system, any default URL created on your website will be a mess and will include random question marks or ampersands, such as this one:

Luckily, you can click on URLs and they take you where you need to go. But if this were a physical address and you were trying to get directions, you would be frakked. Drupal, as well as other open source CMSs, has a feature called “Clean URLs”. This feature rewrites the URL automatically with a cleaner, more SEO-friendly format:

Now we’re talking. Not only will this be more clear for your readers, but search engine spiders now understand how to index this page more accurately. Creating a clear pathway for both readers and indexing spiders to follow will help your chances of ranking higher.

Here are some additional tips for you to consider:

• Use dashes between words, not underscores.

• If appropriate, use your keyword in the URL

4. Create and submit a sitemap to all the search engines

As smart as search engine spiders are, even they can miss pages on your site while indexing. Maybe you moved a page without a redirect or maybe your site is too big to index all at once! But there is a simple way to get around this: a sitemap.

XML sitemaps are designed to be used by search engines for indexing your web pages. It’s like a building directory or table of contents for your website. By providing this upfront to Google, Yahoo!, and Bing, you are increasing your chances of higher rankings exponentially. Check out this sample:

Please note: Using a sitemap does not guarantee that every page on your site will be ranked high in the search engines. Rather, it helps more of your pages make the cut.

For a more thorough explanation for Drupal XML sitemaps, check out the blog post: X(ML) Marks the Spot: Your Drupal SEO Guide to XML Sitemaps

5. Use Header Tags Appropriately

Header tags – H1, H2, H3 tags – are often misused. And while this mistake doesn’t bring down the temple walls around your devious escape with the Internet treasure, it is an intermediate tip that must be understood by those pursuing SEO savvy.

Headings, and subsequently header tags, are very important to organizing information on your site. You should only use the H1 tag once on a page, H2 for a few of the sub headers, and H3 for less important titles.

6. Optimize Your Title Tag and Meta Description

Title tags and meta descriptions should be different on every page of your website in order to get the best search rankings for each individual page. Let’s take a look at the first and most important page on your site: the homepage.

Since Google only displays the first 66 or so characters, including spaces, you should keep your title tags under 66 characters. The title tag should also be relevant to your website. Here is our homepage title tag:

Drupal SEO Company | Volacci® Search Engine Optimization

Here are some other title tags from websites you may have heard of:

• Google’s Official Blog: Official Google Blog

• Mashable: Social Media News and Web Tips - Mashable - The Social Media Guide

• The Onion: The Onion - America’s Finest News Source

Make sure you get your keywords in there. As you can see, we used our keyword terms: Drupal SEO and Search Engine Optimization. Mashable focused on Social Media with their title tag and The Onion is obviously America’s finest news source just behind The Daily Show.

The same practice applies to meta tags. Get your top keywords into the description without being spammy and clearly indicate what your site is all about. If you can get your most important keywords and terms into the title tags and meta descriptions, you will be well on your way to a higher ranking.

7. Optimize Your Robots.txt File

The robots.txt file is a file that sits at the root level of your website and asks spiders to behave themselves when they are crawling your site. You can take a look at it by pointing your browser to Think of it as an electronic No Trespassing sign. Here is a quick glance at what you should see:

If you move all the excessive JavaScripts and CSS styles into their own folders on your site it will reduce the file size and load times of all the pages on your website. Once you have done that, add a simple “Disallow:/js/” to the file and it will tell the spiders not to crawl the files in the JS folder and to focus only on your content.

If you operate a Drupal-run site, which I hope you do, then check a very detailed, practical, step-by-step guide for optimizing your Drupal robots.txt file by going to this recent blog post: How to Search Engine Optimize Your Drupal Robots.txt File

If you like the SEO tips you read above, please continue to come back and visit the Volacci SEO blog, where we discuss Drupal SEO, Organic Search, Paid Search, Mobile Advertising, and, starting very soon, International SEO!

Thank You For Reading!

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