Matthew Laurin

Learn The SEO Basics

An image representing learning the basics of SEOSearch engine optimization can get pretty advanced.  If you don’t have the basic elements squared away though, most of the other stuff isn’t going to work very well.  Whether you’re a novice or you’ve been practicing SEO for a while, it never hurts to review the basics.


The terms and phrases we use on our websites are the core of everything else we do to market them in search.  When optimizing a site, you should have a clear idea of what the overall theme of your site will be about and which sub-themes your pages will be about (a concept known as content siloing).

Here are some quick tips related to keywords:

  • Choose keywords based on what your site is about as well as search volume and competitiveness
  • If you have a limited number of pages (i.e. 10-20) choose a keyword for each page of your site
  • Avoid using terms that are misspelled or that are grammatically awkward
  • Make sure you choose terms that you can put a lot of content behind
  • Keep variations of keywords on the same page, you don’t have to optimize a whole new page for a keyword that’s only slightly different
  • An icon representing Google Webmaster ToolsUse keyword research tools like Google’s Keyword Planner, Google Trends, or Keyword Spy
  • Submit your site to Google Webmaster Tools and see the terms you are already ranking well for and which ones you might need to improve on

It’s important to get the keyword part of your optimization work right.  It will influence all the other work you do.


Create a Sitemap

Sitemaps ensure search engines know about all the URLs of your website.  You can make a sitemap using one of the many free sitemap creation tools, for example  Google also has a list of free downloadable tools  that can generate sitemaps.

Sitemaps give search engines a clear roadmap to all the pages of a site.  By creating and submitting one to the major search engines, you can get more of your URLs indexed faster (meaning they will be showing up in search quicker than if you let a search engine find your site on its own).

An image of a robot representing robots.txtCreate a Robots File

A robots file is a file that sits on the root of your domain (the first file level), and can be configured to instruct software programs on which parts of a site are and are not off limits.  Software programs (often called bots, spiders or crawlers) don’t have to obey the robots file but major ones do (i.e. Googlebot, Bingbot, etc).

Google looks for the robots file when it arrives at a website to crawl it.  Not having one doesn’t necessarily mean Google won’t crawl the site (it probably will) but having one is like an invitation to do so (as long as bots are allowed).

You can also use a robots file to exclude search engines from pages that you don’t want showing up in search just yet or at all.  For example if you have a site that is in development or pages that you aren’t finished making content for, you can exclude them from search.

perfectly-optimized-pageOn-Page Optimization

You’ll find many definitions for on-page.  For the most part it refers to SEO done to a website directly as opposed to things done off the domain.  On-page can also refer to the way content and keywords are placed on a page and the different elements that are optimized.

Once you have a working list of target keyword phrases that you want to rank a site for, one should be reserved for each page.  That phrase should then be placed in specific locations on the page (that are both visible and hidden from users).  Place your target keyword phrase in the following areas of a page:

  • In header tags
  • In copy of the page
  • In title tags
  • In meta descriptions
  • In alt attributes
  • Image file names
  • In URLs of pages

All of these elements together work to make a page as relevant as possible to the keyword phrase it is meant to rank for.


Few other activities are as impactful as building links to a website.  Each link from another website to yours counts as a vote for your website in the eyes of Google.  The higher the quality and quantity of links coming to your site, the more authoritative it appears to search engines.

Be careful what kind of links you build to your site.  For instance making links that come from low-quality websites, building links too fast, or configuring them in a way that looks unnatural can get you into trouble with Google.

Focus instead on getting inbound links from higher quality sites.  Check the PageRank of a site using a free PageRank checker.  If it has a PR3 or higher, it may be a good link target.  Get links by collaborating on content projects with other webmasters.  Some directories, citation sites, or guest blogging are other ways of getting high-quality links.

Keep in mind that building links is not easy.  It is one of the more tedious and time-consuming SEO activities but it can really pay off.  Also remember that one of the best ways to attract links to your site it do develop high-quality content.

What basic SEO tactics do you feel are important to remember?  Join in the conversation by commenting below.

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