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In this course, search engine optimization (SEO) expert Peter Kent walks step-by-step through the process of reviewing the content and markup of an existing web site to improve its ranking in search engine results. This course offers a consultant's take on how to analyze each component—from keywords to content to code—and determine what improvements are necessary to become more visible to search engines like Yahoo!, Bing, and Google.
This course was updated on 10/12/2012.
The ideal situation is to think about SEO before you build a web site, but in most cases SEO is an afterthought, something done to web sites once they are finished, not something considered before they're begun--not a perfect situation, but that's just the way it is. Most of my clients come to me looking for help after they've already built the site, and I know many of you out there are in the same situation. You already have a web site. Perhaps you inherited it from another employee at your company, or it's a site you built site for yourself long ago, or something more recent even, but regardless, a site that was built without thinking about SEO.
And now here you are. You want your site to rank well in the search engines. Luckily, all is not lost. You can in most cases modify a site to make it more search-engine friendly. You can often take a site that appears to be nowhere in the search engines, modify a few things here and there, and start to see real improvement. It's cheaper to build it correctly in the first place of course, but you can't go back and change history. So this course is all about modifying an existing site, analyzing the site to see how it has been built, and modifying it to make it work better in the search engines, to make it 'friendlier' to the search engines, as we often say.
But of course we're really trying to get the search engines to be friendlier to the site. First, a little background. There are today only really two important search engines: Google and Bing. If you get your site into those search engines and get ranked well, then you're doing well with the search engines that provide search results for most of the world's searches, in particular 97% or more of North America searches. What about Yahoo? Well, Yahoo gets search results from Bing. What about AOL and EarthLink and Comcast? These sites get their searches results from Google.
So, do well with these two systems and you'll do well on most search sites. And the things you do to optimize your site for Google and Bing will help in the other search engine anyway, search engines such as ask.com for instance. What then do we mean by optimizing a site? We mean, in effect, putting our best foot forward in the search engine game. We mean structuring our sites and creating search content in such a way that we're optimally positioned in the search engines, so that when someone searches for your service, business, or information, your web site ranks at the top, or near to the top.
Consider what the search engines do when someone searches. They have to figure out which pages out of more than a trillion index pages are the most suitable ones to present to the searcher. And they do that in essentially two ways: by looking at the text in the web sites and by looking at links pointing to the web sites. Of course the devil is in the details, and the search engines have literally hundreds of criteria that they look at. Are the keywords the searcher is looking for in this site, and if so, where in the site: in the URLs, title text, page headings, body text? How are the words formatted? In bold text, near the top of the page or at the bottom.
Are there keywords in the links pointing to the site? Where do the links pointing to the site come from? There are, as I mentioned, literally hundreds of things the search engines look at, and unfortunately, the search engines don't provide details. That's why there's so much misinformation in this business, because there is so much hidden information, so much guesswork. It's like engineering without understanding the laws of physics. And every few weeks, by the way, the laws change. You may have heard the SEO field is constantly changing, and it's a full-time task trying to keep up.
That's partly true. Of course Google's and Bing's programmers are constantly innovating. On the other hand, most of the principles, the foundations of SEO, remain pretty constant. I have clients who ranked well years ago and rank well today without constantly worrying about keeping up with the search engines. So let's get started. Let's take a look at your site.
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