Search Engine Optimization’s Four Cornerstones

- March 17, 2011

Making up the foundation of search engine optimization are four key concepts on which you should build your SEO strategy.   The four cornerstones are: content, keywords, linking, and architecture.

What is content? Why is it important? Content is all of the words that appear on a page or in the code of your website.   Think about your business and what you wish customers knew about your product, service, location, or team.   Do you have special promotions or certain offerings you would like to feature?   Writing about these different subjects fills your site with content.   Adding new content to your website in a timely manner helps search engine spiders recognize that your site is active.   Additionally, websites can develop an onsite blog as a place for announcements, information, and other pieces of new content that could embellish the website.

What is a keyword? What is a keyword phrase? What are long tail keywords?   You may have heard or read about keywords when trying to develop an SEO strategy.   Keywords are words that represent the main topic of each page of your website.   For example, if you have a business like an Italian pizzeria in South Florida, your main keyword will most likely be “pizza.” Since you are not the only (theoretical) pizzeria in the world, you will want to have pages on your site that have more specialized words describing your specific pizzeria.   These combinations of keywords are called keyword phrases.   Keeping with the pizzeria example, three keyword phrases could be “Italian pizza by the slice,” “Theoretical Pizza by Juan Carlo,” and “pizza delivery near University of Miami.” Very granular (and often long) keyword phrases are called long tail.   An example for our pizzeria could be “New York style pizza with garlic bread crust near University of Miami.” Choosing your keywords carefully and monitoring to see which bring in customers can help you grow your online presence and your business.

Why do you want related sites linking to your webpage? Why is proper internal linking so important? Related sites linking to your webpage (not just your homepage) show search engines that your site is relevant to your industry. A webpage’s ranking potential is partially determined from the quality of relevant sources that link to the website.   When structuring the links of your website, make sure that there are no dead ends.   It frustrates users and search engine spiders alike.   Use proper sitemap syntax.   This will tell the search engines which pages to index, in case they missed any when crawling the rest of the site, and how to prioritize the pages they have found.   Additionally, a large push to increase the number of links coming into your site all at once could have an adverse affect.   Search engines know that it is a slow process and understand that as you add new pages and additional content to your site more people will link to you.

Site Architecture
Do you know how to communicate with the search engine spiders? The robots.txt file contains information of where you would like search engines to visit (such as a link to your sitemap), but also information on where the search engine spiders should not go.   Making sure search engine spiders can find all of your pages that you want indexed and none of the pages you don’t should be a part of your strategy and not left to chance. How your website is designed is also important.   Search engines have a hard time reading Flash along with some other fancy design features.   Users visiting your website may also complain of slow load times and music they can’t figure out how to turn off.   Simple, user-friendly design is often better for SEO.  

Additionally, structuring your site so a majority of your content is contained in images is troublesome for search engines.   Other than the image’s file name and alt tag (if there is one) the search engines see empty space.   Paying careful attention to site architecture when designing your website can save you from a costly redesign down the road.   If you did not have a strategy in place during the formation of your current website, a redesign may improve sales and show a significant return-on-investment.

These four cornerstones make up the foundation of a solid SEO strategy.   They work together to increase the number of indexed pages on a website and to increase the chances those indexed pages will show up in search rankings.   All can be optimized for placement of your website near the top of a Search Engine Results Page (SERP).

Search is vital for all businesses, whether B2C or B2B, big or small, eCommerce or service based.   Any industry can benefit from search engine optimization.   Having a sound SEO strategy in place is increasingly important as more and more consumers rely on search engines.

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