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Posted June 28, 2009

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What Is SEO? - SEO Do's and Don'ts

What Is SEO?

how to get more hits to my site or blogThis page contains some SEO (Search Engine Optimization) strategies that will help you increase traffic to your Website or Blog.

What is SEO? Search Engine Optimization or SEO is the is the science or art or magic of optimizing a web page or an entire web site so that its chances of scoring a high ranking in search engine results pages (SERPS) like Google's are vastly increased. By using SEO strategy you improve the chances that a particular page on your blog or website will appear on the first or second page when someone types a phrase into Google that closely matches the content of your blog post or web page.

Anyone interested in Search Engine Optimization should familiarize herself or himself with Google Webmaster Tools and Google Trends.

Scoroncocolo TechPages SEO Search Engine Optimization

Search Engine Optimization

Another fantastic tool for those of us who are trying to SEO our Web pages and blogs is Niche Watch. This site lets you check your Page Rank against your competitors for key words and key phrases in all of the dominate search engines. These three tools are invaluable assets for those of us engaged in Search Engine Optimization.

There may be times when you'll want to view the html code of this page. To do that, use the keyboard shortcut ctrl u. If that doesn't work with the browser you're using, just mouse up to the top left-hand corner of the page and click View and then click Page Source in most browsers or Source in Internet Explorer. For instance, you may want to use this method of looking at my code to see how I used the alt attribute in all of my "img src" tags.

SEO Do's and Don'ts

This article on SEO Do's and Don'ts assumes you have a basic understanding of how to create and manipulate a html document. You can learn some of the basics of creating a web page by reading my Tech Page post on the subject How to Create a Web Page - Part One. If you are totally unfamiliar with HTML, I recommend that you read that article before you continue on with this one.

The article you're reading now is aimed at webmasters charged with optimizing individual pages within multi-page websites but almost all of the information contained here would benefit anyone who maintains a simple blog.

Obviously, the purpose of SEO-ing your site or blog is to attract more visitors. The only way you're going to know if you are doing that is to use software that monitors visitor activity on your pages. Using Google Analytics is a good way to do that. But StatCounter is even better. I would strongly recommend that you sign up with StatCounter and install its code on every page of your site or blog. Both Google Analytics and StatCounter are free to use.

To learn more about StatCounter and Website analytical tools in general, you may want to have a look at my TechPage review of StatCounter.

SEO Do's

how to get more hits to my siteQuality content is supremely important. Write for your readers and NOT for Google.

High Quality, Original Content

There is nothing that is more important in SEO than content quality and originality.

The Most Important Tag in Your HTML Is the Title Tag.

It's imperative that the title of your page is the number one key phrase in the content of the page itself. Optimally, the title and the first H1 tag in your content read exactly the same - letter for letter, punctuation encluded.

Key Words and Key Phrases

Try to SEO for no more than one or two key phrases per page. The definition of a key phrase is the words that someone might type into the Google search box that would point them to your site. For instance, I'm trying to SEO this page for the phrases "What Is SEO" and "SEO Do's and Don'ts". So try to SEO for phrases that you, yourself, might search for.

Provide ALT Attributes for All Image Tags

Googlebots, the the Google spiders that crawl our sites, can't read images but they do pay a lot of interest to the alt attributes within our image tags. Make sure that you that you put information within the ALT attribute that is relevant to the content that is adjacent to the image. And try to include one or both of your key phrases. Google will read no more than 55 Characters of an Alt and that includes spaces.

Scoroncocolo TechPages SEO Search Engine Optimization


Use Your Key Phrases Wisely

Once you've chosen your key phrase or phrases, you need to make sure those phrases are in the title of your page. By that I mean that they should appear between the opening and closing Title tags in the Head section of the HTML. Then make sure they appear at least once in the first paragraph in the main content section in the Body of the html. And be sure to use them in at least one h1, h2, or h3 headings (Preferably an H1). Use them in link text. By link text I mean the words in the clickable portion of a hyperlink. Use them in alt attributes of image tags. And then use them throughout the rest of the text on the page. But be very careful how you do all this. The content section of your page must flow naturally. Don't write for Google. Write for your viewers. When you're finished, your content should be as polished as an article in the New York Times. If you over use your keywords and key phrases in a way that intrudes upon the continuity of your content, you may be deemed by the Googlebots to be guilty of "keyword stuffing". Keyword stuffing is harshly penalized by not just Google but all search engines.

Validate Your Code.

It makes good Search Engine Optimization sense to go to W3c's Website and run your html and CSS through the validation process. I haven't yet formed an opinion on the issue of validated code getting preferential treatment from Google or any other search engine. But using W3C's code validation could help you clean up some things that might help you get a better PR or Page Rank. By the way, not many people know this but doesn't validate! Neither does! Oddly enough, does validate.

You Need Two Sitemaps.

Your Website or blog needs one html sitemap and one xml sitemap. An html sitemap is essential to any Website. It's like a Table of Contents in a book. A link to your html sitemap should be prominently displayed on every page of your site. An xml sitemap is every bit as important. The xml sitemap should be in the root section of your server. In other words, it should be in the same directory on your server where your index.html or php.html resides. Once you've created an xml sitemap you'll want to go to Google Tools and submit it. This will help the Googlebots when they crawl your site. There are free tools available on the Web to help you quickly and painlessly create html and xml sitemaps.

Content Positioning

A good SEO technique is to place your main content as close to the Body tag as possible. If you type "ctrl + U" or click View and then Page Source to look at the source code of this page, you'll see that I'm not following my own advice in this regard. My content is a mile away from the Body tag. All I can say is: "Do as I say and not as I do". Robots read like we do. They read left to right and top to bottom. The quicker they come to your content the better.

Each Page Needs a Unique Title

This seems like such a simple thing but so many people disregard this. Google will penalize your site if you have two pages with the same title. Don't do it!

More SEO Do's

Clean Up Your URL's

When you link to another page on your site, that page has a unique URL. Make sure all your URLs have no capital letters, no spaces and no special characters. And try to name your URLs so that they accurately describe the page. The UrL for this page is SEO-wise, I would be better off re-naming this page but definitely NOT That special character "?" and those capital letters might work just fine on my Apache server, but it would confuse the bejesus out of googlebots.

Use the Correct Doctype

Using a valid Doctype Declaration (DTD) is essential. The W3C has a list of valid DTD's that you can copy and then paste into your webpages. The Doctype goes at the very top of your html. Don't make the mistake of thinking that you can put a Doctype statement at the top of your home page and you're done! No, you need a DTD on every page of your site.

Still More SEO Do's

Put a Robots.txt File In the Root Directory of Your Server

When a robot comes across your site, the first thing it looks for is a file named: http://www.yoursite/robots.txt.

Scoroncocolo TechPages SEO robot.text file

You Could Make an SEO Checklist

If it finds this file it reads it and uses the information in it as a guide to help it "spider" the rest of your site. If it doesn't find this file it will continue to the top of your domain and begin reading the files in your directories one by one, top to bottom, left to right. That means, on Apache servers, it will likely go through the entire cgi-bin (Common Gateway Interface) directory before it reaches the root directory for your site. If you're using cgi scripts that's a good thing. But most of us aren't using the cgi-bin directory for anything. (Important! Don't try to delete this directory from your domain! Apache Servers use scripts in this directory to, among other things, allow our visitors to upload and download files to and from our sites.) But normally, there's no reason for you to want a googlebot or any other robot to waste time crawling the cgi-bin directory. You can instruct googlebots and other web spiders to disregard this directory using a robots.txt file. Placing a properly configured robots.txt file in the root directory is the best way (the only way) to communicate with the robots that find and spider your Website. Forget about meta tags! For the most part, robots ignore meta tags. (See below -SEO Don'ts.)

Go to some big, successful site like and look at their robots.txt file. All you need to do to do that is to type into any browser's address box and hit your Enter key to look at it. You'll notice that the first line in's robots.txt file is: Sitemap: They're instructing the 'bots to go straight to their xml sitemap. That's smart. And that's what we should do.

Here is the robot.txt file for my site:

User-Agent: *
Disallow: /cgi-bin/
Allow: /
Allow: /sitemap.xml

SEO Don'ts

Don't Waste Time and Effort on Meta Tags.

There are no meta tags that will enhance your Search Engine Page Results. The only tag in the Head section of your html that will have the slightest bearing on your Page Rank (PR) in Google's SERPs or Search Engine Results Pages is the Title tag. Occasionally, Google will use the content of your Meta Description tage for the description of your page in its search results.

Scoroncocolo TechPages SEO Search Engine Optimization

The Do's and Don'ts of SEO

The tag I'm talking about reads: meta name="description" content="your keywords and phrases". Use it if you want to. Google won't penalize you for it, but it will have zero effect SEO-wise.

The Meta Keywords tag is a total waste of time, bandwidth and server space. Google entirely ignores this tag and for good reason. In the early days of the web people used to try to "game" the robots with this tag. Don't waste your time with it.

Robots Index and Follow tag is another waste of space and time. The only reason you would need to use this tag is if you DON'T want the Googlebots to cache your page and follow its links. In that case your tag sould read: meta name="robots" content="noindex, nofollow". If you want Google and other search 'bots to index your pages and follow all of the links on those pages, and most of us do, then you could use the meta tag that looks like this: meta name="robots" content="index, follow". Or simply don't bother with this tag at all. If and when the Googlebots and Yahoo and MSN or Bingbots find your page they will spider it. They don't look for an Index and Follow meta tag to give them permission. Again, Google will not neither penalize nor reward you for including this tag in the Head of your html. And too, the Robots Follow , Index meta tag has been deprecated in favor of the robots.txt file. (See the above text box - More SEO Do's)

Don't Use Tables or Frames for Layout.

Using Table tags for layout is a deprecated method for displaying html documents. The same could be said for frames. Modern browsers and modern spiders like the Googlebots are designed to display and crawl html documents that use CSS or Cascading Style Sheets in conjunction with DIV tags for layout. Be aware that you could be penalized by Google and other search engines for using deprecated layout methods.

Don't Link To Your Home Page Using ""

Don't do that. Link to your home page with "". To do otherwise confuses robots.

Don't Use In-line or Embedded Styles.

Here again, do as I say and not as I do. If you type ctrl + u or click View and then click Page Source to look at the html of this page, you'll notice that I'm linking to two separate CSS documents and that's good. But you'll also notice that I'm using a lot of embedded and in-line styles. So I've got a lot of SEO work to do myself. In-line styles are style statements placed within html tags in the Body of the html document. They may look similar to this: p style="color:red;" (with brackets of course which I'm not using here for obvious reasons). Embedded styles are style statements placed in the Head section of the html and look like this: .headline {text-align:center;}. You and I would be far better off SEO-wise if we placed all of our CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) style statements in one or more css document that we link to in the Head section of our html.

Thanks For Visiting the Tech Pages

use seo to get more hitsQuestions? Comments? Did I get something wrong? Email me at and I WILL get back to you.

Please add this page, or better yet my entire site, to your Favorites and keep checking back. This page is a work in progress. what is seo -seo dos and donts I intend to edit it and add to it from time to time. I've learned a lot about SEO while researching for this post. I intend to learn even more about SEO in the near future. And soon I'll be sharing some more insights on Search Engine Optimization with you. In the meantime, if you have any ideas about how I could enhance the content of this page, please email me about it.

Tech Pages, email me at and I will get back to you. . And if that's how you got here in the first place, hit your Back button and look around. You can read my other Tech Pages posts by going to my home page and looking for them there. You can also look on the left side of this page and click on any of my Previous Posts.

Tech Pages easy to find, type Ctrl + d to bookmark me and come back once a week or so and see what's new.

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