As anyone who owns a web site should know, search engine optimization requires a multifaceted approach. Many think that all they need to do is throw up a site, set the values for their pages’ <title> and <meta name=”keywords”> elements, and then sit back to watch the traffic roll in. Unfortunately, nothing could be farther from the truth.
There are literally hundreds of things that affect how a single URL (or web page) ranks for a particular keyword phrase. Googlers like Matt Cutts (head of Google’s quality/anti-spam team) say that Google is evaluating over 200 different factors each time they rank a URL for a particular keyword phrase. And the number of ranking factors they are considering is only likely to increase over time as their algorithm becomes more and more sophisticated.
So there is never any one technique that you can use to make a page rank well. Great search engine optimization requires doing lots of little things well so that when all of those things are taken as a whole, they result in great rankings.
3 Categories of SEO Techniques
Many SEOs divide optimization techniques into 2 broad categories:
- On-Page Optimization and
- Off-Page Optimization
They consider things that they do to their site to make its pages rank well to be on-page optimization. They consider things that they do on other sites (primarily link building) to be off-page optimization. But I think having only 2 categories of SEO techniques is not enough.
I like to divide SEO techniques into 3 categories. My three categorizations are as follows:
- On-Page Optimization – The optimization techniques I can use on a page to make THAT page rank better in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
- On-Site Optimization – The optimization techniques I can use on OTHER pages of my site to make a particular page rank better in the SERPs. This also includes general techniques and coding standards that can help all pages on the site rank better.
- Off-Site Optimization – The optimization techniques I can use on other sites to make my site’s URLs rank better.
This classification of SEO techniques is a bit more granular but more accurately describes the various types of SEO techniques IMO.
Implementing sound on-site optimization techniques is synonymous to laying a strong foundation for a house. I typically consider this first before I even begin to worry about optimizing specific pages or building links.
On-site optimizations include but are not limited to:
- Site Architecture
- How you organize your content
- How you implement site navigation and internal linking structures such as top navigation, left navigation, and footer links… widgets for blogs such as category, archives, recent posts, popular posts, and tags widgets
- Selecting appropriate link text for those site navigation and internal linking structures
- How you choose URL structures for pages and page elements like images
- Planning for site expansion and targeted keyword expansion
- URL canonicalization
- SEO-friendly coding standards
- Using CSS instead of HTML elements to format or style pages
- Placing CSS in external files
- Use of alt attributes for images and especially image links
- Use of title attributes for links and images
- Using lowercase only URLs
- Using keyword rich URLs with hyphens as word separators (avoiding the use of underscore as a word separator)
These are just some of the choices you make that affect how your site’s URLs rank in the search engines.
As I mentioned previously, on-page optimization covers those things that you can do to the page that lives at URL X to make URL X rank better in the SERPs. This includes but is not limited to:
- Optimizing the title element
- Optimizing the header elements (h1, h2, h3, etc.)
- Selecting the correct keyword rich page name based on your page’s targeted keyword phrase
- Writing great content
- Optimizing the meta description element
- Optimizing the meta keywords element (which does little if anything at most search engines for rankings)
Off-site optimization is all about building links. If there is one thing that can affect rankings in a major way, it is having inbound links from other authoritative and relevant sites with your URLs’ targeted keyword phrases as the link text.
There are lots of ways to get inbound links to your sites from other sites on the web. In some cases, you can build links yourself using what are called “unnatural” link building techniques where you “plant” links on other sites pointing back to your site.
Some examples of unnatural link building techniques are:
- Blog commenting
- Forum posting with signature links
- Article submissions
- Directory submissions
These are things that you can do yourself to help your site rank, get traffic, and gain visibility on the web. These types of links, however, are generally low quality and their effectiveness tends to fade over time.
“Natural” links, on the other hand, are links given free by other webmasters. Gaining natural one-way links from other web sites generally happens slowly over a much longer period of time unless for some reason your web site’s popularity goes viral in which case it can happen suddenly. These types of links are generally higher quality links.
It should be noted that sites with links from lots of other sites pointing to lots of different pages on their site are seen as much more of an authority than sites that have most of their links simply pointing to their home page. Domain authority can help all of the pages on your site rank. So when building links, do not just link to your home page. Link to inner pages as well.
More SEO to Come!
Learn SEO here at WannaNetwork. Stay tuned for more in depth discussions of the above specific on-page, on-site, and off-site SEO techniques.