In the beginning, there were no search engines. To find a site, someone had to tell you the URL, or you found it by a link from another site.
Directories – like Yahoo! and the WWW Virtual Library – tried to make discovery easier for the average user.Created and administered by hand – Not scalable!
This led to the introduction of on-site optimization.Meta Keywords were widely used to tell search engines what a page was about.But….they were easily spammed, so the SE’s started to ignore them.You used to be able to rank based on how many keywords you had on a page, and how many times you repeated them, if they reached a particular keyword density…which was also easily spammed when webmasters started doing white text on white backgrounds. All of that just looks too spammy and SE’s discount it.
What other elements can be used?Meta descriptions are still used today – but don’t factor into any search algorithms – only used to try to entice users to click your results over your competitorsTitle tag – still used as a factor, so make sure your main keyword appears here, preferably closer to the beginningBoth of these – the SE’s will bold the term a user has searched for if it appears in either one.URLs are a minor factor – but they also get bolded if the keyword appears in the SERPsThese are really more about click-through rate and conversion rate – and that’s harder to game.
Page content is one of the biggest factors – your page has to have content on it that is about what you want people to find that page for!Don’t stuff the page full of keywords – keep it to 1 or two main keywords and a handful of their variations. Make sure it makes sense to the user!Make sure the content is in actual text! Don’t use flash or hide it all in images. Actual, readable text.
If you have a particular kind of content, tell the search engines exactly what it is!Microformats, RDFa and microdata can help tell the search engines if you’ve got reviews, products, event or recipe content.Might help rankings in specific verticals, like recipes…but even if they don’t help rankings, they help click-throughs.
No man is an island, and no page should be either. Links within your own site are the ONLY place you have 100% control over the anchor text you use.Include sub navigation, breadcrumbs, related posts, Amazon does this with “customers who bought this also bought”, etc. There are WordPressplugins that will do all of this for you if you don’t want to bother.I’ve seen the addition of good internal linking boost site rankings from position 10 to 7.
External links are still the biggest factor in SEO, period. This is the original factor used, and it’s not going anywhere soon.Links from other websites are seen as “votes” towards the quality and topic of your site/page.Not all links are equal – depends on number of links to *that* site, quality of *that* site, relevancy of page/site link is coming from, how many other links you have from that site, even how many links you have from other sites on that same server.So no, you can’t just build up a network of sites yourself just to build links, that’s been tried and failed many many times It’s possible to game, but the SE’s have algorithms in place to discount certain link schemes, they have people who judge the quality of websites in relation to what they rank for, and they have whole departments dedicated to figuring this stuff out. So if you try to game the system it may work in the short term, but they will find you someday :P
Because it keeps getting easier and easier to game links, SE’s are starting to take signals from other places like social media.Social media buzz indicates that the information is fresh and timely. Tweets can influence rankings in the short term, and Facebook “Shares” have been highly correlated with rankings. Now that Facebook “Shares” are just Facebook “Likes” it’s not clear what that correlation might be, but they do still have some value.And social media sites that you wouldn’t expect to be that great, can send a LOT of traffic to your site – StumbleUpon, Reddit
Track your rankings, see what causes them to increase.Track you visits, see what causes traffic to increase.Try making changes to a few pages at a time on your site…if the results look good, implement it site-wide.