Search engine optimization — onsite and offsite, keywords and linking

Search Engine Optimization

A Summary of SEO Topics

by Cameron Powell, Feroce Coaching





Search engine optimization (SEO) is complex, arcane, often highly technical, and ever-evolving.  Because even the most basic terms in SEO are not terms in use in mainstream language and business, it is very difficult for any SEO instruction to speak to an audience not already sophisticated in Internet and website terminology.  And following bad advice can waste your money and time, and even get you banned from search engines.

In this section, I’ll lay out most of the elements we’ll consider in working to optimize your web pages. My SEO is based on several years’ of experience with site optimization as well as readings of all the well-reviewed books you’ll find on the subject – as well as a few even more useful ebooks, written by the real experts, that you are very unlikely to find.

There are a number of key elements to search engine optimization, and they fall into two major categories: onsite optimization, and offsite optimization. Onsite optimization is about how to build your pages and the links among them. Offsite optimization concerns itself with the number and importance of the links to your site by other websites. Here’s our agenda:

Navigation Layout
Onsite Optimization

Keyword Identification
Keyword Placement
Keyword Repetition
Site Structure and Page Linking
Offsite Optimization
Inbound Links
That Which is Verboten

Navigation Layout

Whether you intend to optimize your website for search engines or not, you need a sensibly defined navigation bar. By using keyword identification tools (discussed below) and studying your competitors, you need to settle on 5-7 keyword-categories for the navigation bar at the top (very top or top-right) and bottom of your pages.

For example, on a website dedicated to all sorts of loans, your navigation categories would be:

Home Loans
Auto Loans
Business Loans
Student Loans

Some terms that would properly be designated as sub-categories may be so popular that you may want to move them into the main navigation bar as well, such as by adding:

Home Equity Loans
Refinance Loans
VA Loans

You will want to repeat these category-terms (or variations of them, such as with plurals, if you want to experiment, but then you need to produce original content for the linked-to plural pages) at the bottom of your web pages. At least one of your navigation bars should be in text, for the search engines to read. (If only one is in text, it’s typically going to be the lower nav bar, because the upper nav bar is sensibly the one devoted to any graphical design.)

Onsite Optimization


A few basic points. First, search engines love text. They are not impressed with graphics, Java, Flash, and other tools that the typical artistic web designer is probably fond of. And search engines like lots of text, not necessarily all on one page (nor would such a page be readable or quickly loadable if too long), but distributed on many pages in a hierarchy on your site. And since search engines return results based on the search terms people type into them – the “keywords” – the text that search engines love most are your keywords.

Let’s define a keyword. A keyword consists of a single word or, more often, a string of words (you might say a “keyphrase”) that a visitor to a search engine types into a search engine in order to find something related to that keyword. I’ll use the term “keyword” in place of awkward constructions like “keyphrase.” Generally, the fewer the number of words in the keyword (e.g., “loans”), the more competitive the search engine optimization for that word is (as opposed to “New Jersey home refinance loans”).

Second, each keyword must have its own dedicated page. Put differently, each page will have its own dedicated primary keyword (along with some secondary and tertiary keywords, about which more below). When I use the term “keyword,” it will mean the primary keyword – the one the page is dedicated to. Keyword optimization is therefore in part about building keyword-dedicated pages.

Keyword Identification

If you think you already know what your keywords are, you are probably mistaken. That is, you may know a small fraction of the keywords you should be shooting for (“home loans”), but there are at least hundreds and often thousands you should know about (e.g, “Houston debt consolidation loans”). And what you need to know is exactly what searchers are typing into their search engines! Anything else is a waste of time. If you’ve spent a few dozen hours on SEO, you can guess a few of the variations on your main keyword with some precision – plurals, geographic qualifiers, common adjectives and verbs, common misspellings – but how do you go about identifying all of them? I’ll show my clients a few easy-to-use tools to do just that.

Never dedicate all your forces to attacking a defended beachhead. The larger problem in knowing only a few keywords is that the keywords you know are the most obvious, and therefore they will be the most competitive. They’re the very keywords in which you’re unlikely to be competitive against larger, more established companies. Part of the reason for identifying hundreds or thousands of additional keywords is to locate keywords in which you can actually do well. So it becomes more important than ever that you have a way of discovering them.

Undefended Beachheads. I can show you some very quick ways to collect hundreds or thousands of keywords. Google’s AdWords tool, which some of you may know about, is only one of them, but it provides fewer words than other tools, and it does not tell you which are relatively more searched for than others, nor by how much. There are stronger, better, more time-efficient tools. Those are the ones my clients are using.

My clients also learn how to identify and use secondary and tertiary keywords on the same pages as the primary keywords – and why.

Keyword Placement

Keywords (including keyphrases) are critical. Identification of them is followed by their placement on the page – in the title bar, in areas that humans can’t see on the page, in the body, associated with graphics, and so on. Areas in which your primary, secondary, or tertiary keywords should show up include:

Title Bar
Search engine description field
URL page names
Content Headings <H1>, <H2>
Other Content Emphasis <bold>, <strong>, <italic>
ALT text
Graphic names
The body text

Keyword Repetition

Where to use the keywords in each of these fields, how often, how many words to use in total, and how to phrase some of the fields so that users who see your entry in a search engine, are all part of the secret sauce I give my business clients. You don’t want to use the keywords too often.

(There are also special places in the page’s HTML where the title bar, search engine description field, and metatags should show up).

Other important considerations include:

1. How to create page content yourself
2. Where to get content written by others

Site Structure and Page Linking

You need to build a site with a navigation hierarchy that will signal the relative importance of each page to the search engines. And link the pages to each other just right.


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