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February 12, 2009

SEO Steps For a New Website – Part 1

In part one of this guide, we cover everything from domain names, through to carrying out the research needed to prepare for On Page SEO. In part two, we get you started with On Page SEO practices. When looking to start a new website, or even redesign an old one, it can be confusing. There is a seemingly limitless amount of search engine optimization info on the web these days for any budding webmaster; however there is a problem…

The vast majority of the advice will be contradictory, and another percentage will be out of date.

This guide should hopefully provide some help. Rather than focus on any single SEO point, we will cover all the main points, giving a brief overview. This is in no way meant to be a complete guide to everything regarding On Page SEO, such a guide would be of a ridiculous size. This is just a step by step guide to covering the basics of SEO. Pretty much any one of the topics below deserves a whole article on their own, however we do not really have that much space, so please forgive anything you feel we have missed out here.

When we think of SEO, it pays to remember that like most things, balance is the key. There are lots of variables to be looked at, especially with On Page SEO. It would be hard, and not really necessary to build your site solely for On Page SEO scores. In fact, Google would more than likely frown on the site, especially these days!

Instead, try to realise that with ethical SEO, when we are carrying out On Page optimisation we are not actually trying to trick Google (or any other search engine for that matter!) All we are really trying to do is make it easy for Google to discover the topic/subject of our website and its pages, and thus decide when it should appear in its results.

Step 1) Domain Names.

There is a lot of debate on this is the SEO world. Should you choose a domain name that is relevant and memorable, or one that has lots of keywords in it?

Whilst it is widely believed that having keyterms in your domain name is a good idea in terms of SEO, it is not essential. In most instances, an easy to remember and short domain is best. It would probably pay for both SEO and also brand recognition for you to have a name that sounds relevant to your website, and is easy to remember.

Regarding what TLD (Top Level Domain) is best, many say .com extension sites will rank easier than, say, .info domains. What I would say here is that if you value your site, go for a decent TLD. Cheaper domains may give the impression to your visitors that you don’t really value your site, as you are not prepared to spend $10 (or £) per year on your name!

One thing worth considering is that there is evidence that geo targeted TLDs work well, so if you are targeting solely the UK for example, a domain may well be a good idea. – That said, do try to be ‘future proof’ and consider buying the .com and .net versions of your domain. If nothing else it helps to stop other people buying other TLD versions of your domain when you are successful, with the aim of relieving you of $$$ in exchange for the domain!

2) Plan Your Content Pages

The next step would be to plan out your pages, and what you want on them. No need to actually make the pages or write the content at this stage… just plan the topic of the pages.

Be sure to plan for a contact us page, a privacy statement page, and ideally a sitemap page. (HTML Sitemap, not to be confused with an xml sitemap which is meant to be submitted to Google).

Try to focus your pages subject matter as much as possible, to help them be relevant. So, for example, if you run a Garage that services cars, motorbike and trucks, and also sells spare parts for vehicles, and does race tuning, plan a page for each of these services.

3) Plan Your Keywords.

Next, take a look at the pages you have planned, have a brainstorm and scribble down on a bit of paper they keyterms you feel to be relevant to your site… Don’t think single words here, think keyterms. Try to scribble down about 5 TERMS for each of your pages (inc. homepage) – For Example “motorbike race tuning” is one term, despite being 3 words.

Next, check out your competition. What words do they use in their meta keywords? (view page source and check for [meta name=”keywords” content=”(keywords are here) “] This is the meta keywords the webmaster has set for this page. The meta keyword tag is thought by many to be unimportant these days, especially for Google optimization, but it is a good place to look to check your competitions keyterms. It is said that Yahoo still uses the meta keyword tag.

Whilst on your competitions page(s), look at the browser title (you know, the very top bar of the browser, usually blue) – See what words they use here as, if they know what they are doing, they will have at least some of their main keyterms in here). If you are struggling to understand where to find the title, view the source code again, and look for <title> </title> – this is the title tag, and we are looking to see what is between those 2 tags.

Write down your competitions keyterms for pages that are similar in topic to your pages. Write this next to the words you thought of yourself.

Next, go to the Google adwords keyword tool ( Paste or type in the keyterms you wrote down in the previous stages, using the keywords for one page at a time (so, for example, motorbike race tuning, and all it’s associated/scribbled down keyterms). Make sure you have 1 keyterm per line.

One note here, many people may forget or not even realise this, but the tool I am showing your here needs to be configured to be focused on your countries results… so, look for “Results are tailored to …” and set it to your target audience. (UK or USA etc)

Next, enter the captcha code, and click “Get keyword ideas”… but Wait… we are not there yet…  you should look for the words “Match Type:“, at the top right hand corner of the table, and set it to “Exact”. This will help ensure we don’t get disappointed by expecting too high a search volume for a given keyterm.

The resulting table will give you the average search volume. Now, this is a free tool made for Google adwords users… so it is meant only as a guide. For true accuracy, a premium service such as wordtracker should be used, but this data IS helpful, and the vast majority of people tend to be happy with the results, so long as you ensure all the variables for country and ‘match type’ and correctly configured.

If you click on the term: “Approx Avg Search Volume Help“, you will be able to sort the terms by this field/result.

Try to find keyterms with over 1000 average searches per month. Make a list of the terms with a higher search volume than this and type them into Google. Check the number of results for the term (Look for the words:  Results 1 – 10 of about: below the search box on the results pages, on the right of it)

If your website is relatively new, try to focus on terms that have less than 1 million results.

Once you have made a chart with all this data (did I say that bit right? – make sure you write all these results down!) Choose your key terms for each page. When trying to decide which key terms to use, the overriding factor should be relevancy.

Save your keyword tables, you are going to need it in part 2 of this guide… Coming Soon!

About the Author:

Mike Gracia works for kingpin-seo, an SEO consultancy focused on ethical and cutting edge SEO techniques. Kingpin-seo also run a Google News approve Press Release agency, offering professional Press Release Distribution