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Search Engine Optimization 101 *Revised* (Part 1)

By John Buchanan
Posted Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Search engine optimization is the cornerstone of many webmasters' online businesses. If you are just starting out or on a small budget, it may be your only true form of advertising.
While there are many articles on the basics of SEO out there, many of them are outdated. With that in mind, and knowing the numerous changes that have taken place with the search engines in the past year I decided to write a somewhat revised guideline to SEO. While some things have stayed basically the same, other areas have seen some pretty big changes.

So...let's jump in.

1. Know Your Target Keywords

Without a doubt, knowing your target keywords is the single most important part of your marketing campaign. If you don't know the words and/or phrases your target audience uses to find sites such as yours, you have almost no chance of generating the kind of targeted traffic you need to succeed.

The suggestions below are assuming your site is targeting a specific area. If your site targets multiple distinctly different areas, you should repeat this procedure for each distinctly different genre your site targets.

While there is more than this, I am going to cover three of the best ways of developing a comprehensive list of keywords for your site.

The first way is to visit competing websites and analyze their sites. Look at what words and phrases they are targeting. You will find the target words and phrases in the title tags of the pages, the meta tags, and scattered throughout the body text. Grab a sheet of paper and copy down the phrases that they are targeting.

The second way is by using the Overture keyword suggestion tool. It can be accessed at:

Search Term Suggestion Tool (

Enter a word or phrase and it will return all associated searches that use that phrase as well as the number of times they were searched for in the previous month. Use your list from your competitors sites and gather additional phrases with this tool. I also like to write down the number of searches so I know which phrases are the most popular since this will be helpful later.

Finally, the third way is by using Wordtracker. It's not a free service, but it can be a huge time saver. Again, enter a word or phrase and it returns a list of searches utilizing that word or phrase and the frequency of those searches. It will also show you similar terms that may give you other ideas. Write these down on your list along with the number of times they were searched for.

The next thing I would suggest doing is taking your list and rearranging them in order of importance with the most searched for phrases at the top and working your way down.

Depending on your market and your site, this could be a list of only 10 or 15 keyphrases, or it could be MUCH larger.

Now that we have a good, solid list of keywords and phrases, let's move on to number 2.

2. Make all Your Pages "Doorway" Pages.

No, I don't mean the old style "click here" doorway pages we all know and hate. What I mean is that you should begin to look at each and every page of your site as a potential entry point or "doorway" to your site.

Many people believe the homepage is the only page they should focus on. This couldn't be farther from the truth. Don't make the mistake of trying to make your homepage target each and every keyword and keyphrase on your list. You will be sorely disappointed.

Look at your list of keywords and determine your 2 or 3 most important keywords or keyphrases. These are the words/phrases that you need to target on your homepage. Don't dilute the focus of your homepage by trying to target 75 different phrases. Keep it focused.

What about the rest of the words and phrases on your list? Well, that is what the rest of the internal pages on your site are for. Take each page of your site and focus it on another 2 or 3 phrases on your list, continually working your way down your list as you work deeper and deeper into your site. In this way, each page stays tightly focused on a particular "theme" and has the best chance of ranking well for those phrases, while at the same time, you have lots of pages all focusing on different phrases, giving you that many more chances of achieving a top ranking for numerous phrases.

3. Title Tags..Your Best Friend

Staying with the same theme as section 2, let's talk title tags. Your title tag is truly the single most important on-the-page factor in determining the ranking of a page. Numerous webmasters completely waste the potential of the title tag, often by placing their company name in the title tag instead of their target keywords.

In section 2 I had you pick a set of 2 or 3 phrases to focus each page of your site on. Those same 2 or 3 phrases should be incorporated into the title tag of that page. Leave the company name out of the title tag as well as the "About Us" or "Contact Us" titles. Focus each page and make the best possible use of the title tag by placing your target keywords and phrases in them.

Also, don't make the mistake of using the same title tag on each page. Remember, each page should be focused on 2 or 3 keyphrases that are different from the other pages and the title tags of each of the pages should reflect this.

4. Meta Tags

Wow are these STILL the most over-hyped tags in SEO. A few years ago these were fairly important, but today, they are of almost no use whatsoever. Google basically ignores both the Meta Description and Meta Keywords tags. Inktomi does read the keyword and description tag, but doesn't place anymore importance on them than anything else on the page. In fact, Inktomi doesn't even make use of the description tag unless you use it's PFI program.

To be honest, I rarely even use either of these tags on the sites I design or optimize anymore. If I do, I add a brief description tag and that's it. I certainly don't waste any time on crafting a killer description and stuffing in as many different keywords as possible. Just a simple description... after all, almost no one will ever see it anyway. :)

About The Author
John Buchanan is the author of the book "The Insider's Guide to Dominating The Search Engines", and a search engine optimization professional. Visit him at ( for more information or with any questions.


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