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December 29, 2009

SEO Checklist: 10 tactics to rank higher Written by Scott Fasser and posted on Optify.net/blog

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a black box for most people. The reality is that SEO can be boiled down to some very tactical best practices for your website. Here’s an SEO checklist you can share with your editorial and development teams to keep on task for optimizing pages to rank highly in search engines. 1. Identify your target keyword(s) for each page Each page should target only one primary keyword phrase. In addition, each keyword phrase should have only one primary page with it as a target. Maintaining a rigorous focus for each keyword and each page will help you rank higher for that phrase. The keyword phrase should be relevant to the content, be supported by the content on the page and be a term that will help drive your business. 2. Use the target keyword in the page name/URL The URL or page name is one of the top content signals for the search engines. Including the target keywords in the URL is a great strategy for optimizing the page. For example, if your target keyword phrase is “portable ultrasound”, a great URL would be http://www.portableultrasound.com or http://www.medicaldevices.com/portableultrasound.html 3. Use the target keyword in the first four words of your Title Tag The title tag sits at the top of the browser bar and not on the main page of your site, which means that often the visitor to the site does not see it. However, it is an extremely important piece of content for search engines for two reasons: 

It is seen as the title of the page (hence the name of the tag), which is a major signal of what the important keywords are for the page

The title is used as the headline of the search engine result when this page shows up in the engine so it functions as double duty with an incentive to actually click on the listing

The first four words of the title tag are most important and should contain your target keyword and NOT your company name or brand. You will be found for your brand name


regardless of its position in the Title tag so use this valuable slot for you focus keywords. If you want to include your brand name in the title tag include it after the target keyword separated by a "|". An example title tag targeting the term "portable ultrasound": "Portable Ultrasound | Acme Medical Devices" 4. Keep your title tag to less than 65 characters and make it unique The search engines only display the first 65 characters of a title tag in the search engine results. If you have more characters than this, you get an ellipsis with the Title Tag content which cuts off your marketing message. The Title Tag should be relatively tight anyhow so edit it down to 65 characters or less. The engines are also on the look out for duplicate content that is getting re-used throughout the site. The engines value unique, original content above all else so making sure each Title tag is unique is an important signal that youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re not just replicating the same content all over the site. 5. Use a single <H1> style tag for your page headline <H1>, <H2>, <H3> are content styling tags used in HTML that changes how text looks on a page when the browser displays the content. Search engines look at these tags as information hierarchy that helps them determine which content is the most important on the page. The <H1> tag is seen as the highest priority and should be used only once on each page to display the headline. <H2>s & <H3>s can be on a page multiple times for subheads, captions, etc. 6. Include your target keyword in the <H1> tag Now that you have a single <H1> tag for each page, be sure it includes your target keyword for that page. The <H1> tag is a signal to the search engines for the important content on the page. 7. Make sure the body copy includes the target keyword The body copy on the page has to support the work youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve put into the URL, Title Tag and <H1> headlines. The page content should include at least 3-4 instances of the target keyword, with at least one instance in the first paragraph. 8. Write a unique, compelling meta description that includes the focus keywords The meta description is not a piece of content that users see when they visit your pages as it is hidden inside the code. However, the engines will often use the meta description as nd

Optify, Inc. | 710 2 Avenue, Suite 840, Seattle, WA 98104 | p: 206.388.4234 | f: 206.787.1410

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the description in the search engine results page. This means the meta description functions more of a marketing purpose (getting people to click on the result) than a ranking purpose (getting your page ranked higher against a specific keyword). You should use the focus keywords early in the meta description so that they are in bold when the search result shows up which will help with keyword association and click through. 9. Create a network of cross-linked pages wherever target keywords are used One mistake we see on many sites is the use of text such as “Learn More” on a link. The search engines look at the visible text (called “anchor text”) in a link and give it a very high value as an indicator of content on the page that is receiving that link. Instead of just using “Learn More” as the anchor text use something more descriptive like “more about portable ultrasounds” and link to a page that has information about portable ultrasounds. The point is that you should be using cross-linking to help tell the search engines which pages are important for which keywords. 10. Use alt-text and descriptive file names for your images Search engine bots cannot read the text built into an image, but they can read the alt-text associated with the image and the file name of the image. Both of these can add target keyword content to the page and give you an opportunity to be found in the image search databases of engines. Google Image Search is the fifth largest search engine so ensuring your images are information rich is a solid strategy. For file names of your images, select a system for naming them that fits your development platform AND contains good keywords. For example, “cute-kitten-small-x3245.jpg” is a much better file name for an image than “small-x3245.jpg”. It might take some planning up front, but can pay off with big search numbers from the image databases.

Optify can help you analyze and track how well your website is optimized for search engines and covers almost everything on this SEO checklist. Start your 30 day free trial today.

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Optify, Inc. | 710 2 Avenue, Suite 840, Seattle, WA 98104 | p: 206.388.4234 | f: 206.787.1410

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SEO Checklist: 10 tactics to rank higher