Being in the SEO industry for over 8 years I decided to put this tutorial of SEO practices together that provided success in my years of experience. One of the major recent sources of my knowledge is a book that also helped me to put this tutorial together and provided majority of the information in this thread called Outsmarting Google by Bailyn Ingredient One: Keyword Selection Selecting your search terms (or keywords) is not difficult. All you do is think about what you would like people to type into Google to make your website pop up. For example, I would like it if my personal website, www.alex-19841.com, were the first result when someone typed in Who is the most handsome man on earth? This would cause some people to believe that I am considered the most handsome man on earth. Why? Because Google says so! People put a lot of trust in Google?s rankings. The phrase, who is the most handsome man on earth? is a keyword phrase. I chose that keyword because it seemed like the best search to bring new visitors to the website in question for its respective purpose. Of course, there are more scientific methods for choosing keywords in addition to the ?think about it for two seconds? method. Here they are; Take an Informal Survey Ask your friends what they would type into Google if they were looking for the product or service your company sells. If you own a website that sells shampoo for people with dry hair, ask people around you: What would you type into Google if you want to find a new moisturizing shampoo? Their answers might be as general as buy shampoo, or they might specifically search for dry hair shampoo, or they might start with some research and type, what are the best shampoos for dry hair? Use the Google AdWords Keyword Tool This free tool is the standard for keyword selection in the SEO world. It shows global and local(country) statistics of how many people are searching for the keywords you enter, along with a list of related terms and their search volumes. You can access the tool directly using this link: https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal BE CAREFUL WITH ADWORDS? SEARCH VOLUME NUMBERS A crucial note about this tool is that its search volume numbers are inflated. In reality, the keyword they are referring to will deliver a small fraction of that number of visitors. To get a more accurate picture of the type of search traffic you can expect from the Keyword Tool, filter your results using the Exact match setting rather than the default Broad match setting. Then look in the Local Monthly Searches column. Take that number and divide it by three. The final number you get is somewhere close to the number of visitors your site would get if it ranked #1 for the search term in question. Capitalize on Competitors? Work Your competitors have probably already spent a lot of time and energy doing research on the keywords that make them the most money. Why not take a few seconds and avail yourself to all that work? To do so, simply type into Google what you believe to be your main keyword, and look at the blue underlined heading of each of the 10 results that subsequently appear. The keywords you find in those headings are probably the ones that your competitors have determined make the biggest difference to their bottom lines. After a quick glance at the headings of these results, I can immediately see that my competitors believe the keyword gourmet gift baskets is a lucrative one. Two out of the top four websites have the keyword gourmet in their headings or descriptions. So I will now add it to the list of keywords I want to optimize for my gift baskets company. It also seems that my competitors like birthday gift baskets, food gift baskets, and wine gift baskets. Another somewhat sneakier and more awesome way of capitalizing on your competitors? hard work is using free traffic measurement services to spy on the keywords for which your competitors are already ranking. The best free keyword-spying tool is Alexa. Go to http://www.alexa.com, type in a competitor?s website, click the Get Details button, and then click the Search Analytics tab. On the right side, you will see Top Queries From Search Traffic. I also ran them through iBacklinkPRO to see under which keywords they are being backlinked; Using Alexa or other keyword-spying tools is one surefire way to know which keywords are actually delivering traffic to your competitors. The keywords from which they receive traffic might be the best keywords for you; however, keep in mind that just because a keyword delivers traffic to a site doesn?t mean it delivers new sales to a site. Spend a Few Bucks on a Pay-Per-Click Campaign This is essentially what you can do with a Google AdWords campaign ( http://www.google.com/ads/adwords/ ). For a few hundred dollars, you can get your website to show up above the regular (organic) search results, in the shaded Sponsored Results area. The most significant benefit of running a paid campaign on Google is that you can quickly learn which keywords produce the most sales for you. In the keyword selection process, this knowledge is invaluable. Not only can you try out the couple of keywords you think would bring the most benefit to your business, you can try out hundreds of keywords at once and not pay unless someone clicks your ad. So, you might stumble upon the fact that the plural of your main keyword performs much better than the singular; one of your three most obvious keywords outperforms the other two by a wide margin; or some random keyword you never would have thought of is a sleeper, producing numerous sales. Ingredient Two: The Meta Page Title When your website was first created, whoever was programming it had to fill in a section of the coding called the meta page title. The reason this primitive bit of information matters so much is because search engines have, for a while now, considered the meta page title to be the one true description of a website. The meta page title is like the headline of a newspaper story or the front cover of a book. Google?s decision to make it such a huge factor in ranking websites is pretty arbitrary. They could have made the meta description title, the meta keywords, or any other section of the website code the defining attributes of a website. But because they decided that this area matters so much, we are compelled to pay attention to it, too. The meta page text is what appears at the very top of the user?s web browser. The only other place you will encounter meta page titles as a normal Internet user is when you are looking at search engine results. Those blue underlined headings on the first line of every Google result are simply a direct copy of each site?s meta page title. The key to a really effective meta page title is including all of your most valuable keywords in a human-friendly and Google-friendly way. It is your job to decide what your page title should be before asking your web designer or tech person to put it into your site?s code. But not to fear?when creating a meta page title, you need to know only the following three things: 1. It needs to summarize what your site is about in a simple way for the sake of visitors but also contain keywords so that Google knows which terms your website should rank for. 2. Keep it to a maximum of 100 characters, although Google will show only 65 or so. 3. After you?ve finished formulating it, send it to your web designer (or anyone who does your web work) and say, ?Please make this sentence the meta page title of my site?s home page.? An example of an effective title: My Company Name, providing Keyword Phrase One, Keyword Phrase Two, Keyword Phrase Three. Ingredient Three: Links You should now understand the meta page title, but how does it fit within Google?s algorithm? Well, if I were an oversimplifying kind of person, I would tell you the following: When someone does a search on Google, the first thing Google does is locate every site whose meta page title contains the words in that search. It then looks at how many trustworthy (high quality) links each web page in that result set has and puts the ones with the most trustworthy links on the first page and the ones with the least trustworthy links at the very end. In other words, once you?ve got the right page title, it?s all about links. It amazes me how often I still hear that SEO is about the things that are on your website. In fact, the main service most so-called SEO companies sell is one where they work on your website to cause it to attract search engine traffic. This boggles my mind because, other than the meta page title, what?s on your website barely even matters to Google! It?s all about links. Links are to Google are what grades and SAT scores are to a college admission officer. Does the admission officer care what you look like on your interview? Sure. But he wouldn?t have invited you for the interview in the first place if you didn?t have high enough grades and SAT scores. Similarly, does Google care about how user-friendly your website is, what?s written on it, and how fast it loads? Absolutely. But they won?t even look at it if you don?t have the right quality and quantity of links. That being said, if you have great links but maintain a poorly coded, slow website with nonsense copy written on it, you won?t have much luck ranking on Google. Just as you wouldn?t have much luck getting into college if you have perfect grades and SATs but show up late to your interview wearing sloppy clothes and making wisecracks at your admission officer. The point I?m trying to make is this: Links matter far more than any other factor. And if you get the link component and the meta page title component right, you?ve got 85% of the job done right there. You know, by now, that Google gives your website credit every time another website links to your website. However, certain types of links are more valuable than others. Text links are the most valuable types of links because Google can easily read the words in and around the text link to get a sense of what the link is referring to. An image link has the same magnitude of value as a text link, but without all the description. In other words, an image link is like an overall vote for a political candidate, one that says ?I like this candidate.? A text link is like a detailed vote for a political candidate, the equivalent of ?I like this candidate because of his stance on health care and education.? Text links are valuable because they tell Google what a site is about. This information allows Google to decide which specific keywords to rank that website for. Although, an image link with an alt tag containing your keywords is just as effective in telling Google what your site is about. However, keyword-rich text links were overused by optimizers and were unnatural looking. In mid-2009 Google slammed the SEO world with an algorithm update that punished sites that have too many same-keyword text links pointing to them. In other words, if I had been telling webmasters for years to only link to me like "business cards" my site would have dropped way down in the rankings. So our goal is to make backlinking practice look as natural as possible. The following recipe makes for the perfect ?natural? linking pattern for your site. In other words, this is the formula for how other websites should link to your website under ideal circumstances. I have used ?business cards? as the example keyword that I am aiming to optimize for; 20% links in text around your keyword but not on your keyword (for example, ?When I need business cards, I contact <a mysite.com>this company</a>.?) 30% links that include your keyword but also include other words in a sentence (for example,?<a mysite.com>I ran out of my brand new business cards today.?</a>) 30% links that include only your keyword (for example, ?I love my <a mysite.com>business cards</a>.?) 20% image links Dummy Links I call these types of links dummy links because they look just like real links but contain none of the substance that helps your website to rank. You should keep dummy links in mind because there is nothing worse than finding out that some of the links you have worked hard to earn are not actually passing any TrustRank. Here are the two types of dummy links: Redirect links ? If a webmaster is trying to prevent TrustRank from being passed via the links on his site, he can have them coded in such a way that when someone clicks a link to an outside site, that person is first sent to a page on his own site before arriving at his final destination website. You can identify this kind of dummy link by hovering your mouse over any link on another site that seems to be going to your site and then looking at the bottom left corner of your screen where the URL that the link is pointing to is displayed. As long as it reads www.yoursite.com, you?re good. If it reads something like www.othersite.com/redirect.php?url=www.yoursite.com, it is a dummy link. No-follow links ? The most sinister type of dummy link is the no-follow link, simply because you can?t tell that it isn?t passing TrustRank without looking at the HTML code of the web page. No-follow links are normal links that have been intentionally crippled via a short bit of code to prevent TrustRank from leaving a web page. They are an invention of Google, created to give webmasters a way to link to advertisers without ?voting? for advertisers. If you?d like to check a link yourself for a no-follow tag, find the View Source button on your web browser?s menu (often you can access the code by right-clicking the page as well) and do a search for your site?s URL. If you see rel=nofollow next to your link, you know that the webmaster is withholding TrustRank from being passed to your site. Ingredient Four: URL Structure Simply put, your main keyword should be in your URL. Preferably, it should be the entire URL. For example, if you own a video-sharing site and your keyword is funny videos, the best domain name you could ever get is www.funnyvideos.com. If you have many keywords, as most webmasters do, you?ll want to make sure that every keyword has its own landing page with the keyword somewhere in the URL. The most standard way to format keyword-specific URLs is as follows: www.yoursite.com/keyword1.html www.yoursite.com/keyword2.html www.yoursite.com/keyword3.html Remember what we went over in the ?Ingredient Two: The Meta Page Title? section: Your meta page title should contain the keyword that your page is about, as well. Ingredient Five: Time Like the prom-goer who has impressed his date?s parents on the first meeting, you will be in great initial shape to rank high on Google if you?ve implemented the first four ingredients correctly. Now it?s up to you to continue this good behavior. Bring her home at 4 a.m. on prom night, and you are out, buddy. Bring her home before midnight and keep exhibiting good manners in the coming weeks and months, and you?re building real trust. Google is just as unforgiving as a pair of protective parents; they can handle imperfections and a few awkward missteps, but cross a line that violates their trust, and you will not be welcome inside Google?s house again for a long time. Google intentionally imposes a ranking delay on new websites. This tradition originates back in the days when Google was still combating spam sites, which were threatening to take over their index. These spam sites, most of them automatically generated blogs made up of paragraphs of senseless content to fool Google into thinking they were legitimate websites, had found a way to rank on Google for hundreds of thousands of keywords. The situation had gotten so bad that it was threatening the relevance of Google?s results. The new ranking delay (which used to be more severe?preventing most sites from ranking for up to one year) stopped the spammers cold in their tracks. No longer could they throw a website up, get it to rank in a week, make a few bucks from ads or identity-theft schemes, and then disappear. Now they had to stick around and prove their worth for a while, a task very few of them seemed eager to take on. A website can rank after two months but will be playing with a handicap for about four years in progressively smaller degrees. If I had to guess the amount of ?holdback??that is, inability to rank?a website suffers from its inception to its fourth birthday, the chart would look like what?s shown below; Another way of expressing this chart is that, in month one, the TrustRank of your site?s links will have no impact on its Google rankings because your site is completely held back. In month six, however, every link gets about half credit for the TrustRank it should be conferring on your website. By the 3-year mark, your links receive almost the entire value of their TrustRank, and therefore your website can rank quickly for any term for which it has enough links. That slow-release system is the reason why it is extremely advantageous to buy an old website that already ranks for some of your keywords rather than starting a brand new site. Time is not just a friend of your website; it is a friend of your website?s links, as well. Confusing as it may sound, a high Google ranking is not just dependent on site age, but also on link age. That is to say, if you have a very old website, and thus experience none of the holdback period whatsoever, you still wouldn?t rank high for the keywords referenced by your links if those links were only a few days or weeks old. Google likes to make sure that your links are there for the long haul, not just rented for the month to see whether they will boost your site?s rankings (a common situation among buyers of commercial links). In summary, time will be kindest to websites that have waited long enough and whose links have been there from the very start. I hope this thread will help answer a few of your questions and to be more successful in the SEO industry, certainly for new people but also for people who have been in this industry for many years!