SEO - or Search Engine Optimization - is a complex area of web development. I've been working with SEO for a number of years, and with Joomla and SEO for almost 4 years now.
In this post, I talk about ten important factors you should consider when optimizing your site.
For me, SEO is about what you do every day. SEO is a long term strategy - not a quick fix.
If you implement these factors, you will see increased search engine traffic to your site. All without breaking your neck performing them ;)
1. The TITLE tag is very important
Take time creating your TITLE tags – this is the tag Google takes most notice of so include your main keywords if possible. The Title tag is what shows up in the search engines as clickable headlines for your page.
Make sure the TITLE tag includes at least your main keyword. I also believe that most websites can omit the name of the site itself from the TITLE. It's in the URL anyway and will dillute the uniqueness of the TITLE. Read more about Joomla meta tags.
2. Don't stuff your pages with too many keywords
Most webmasters know that you need to include the most important one or two keywords for a page multiple times in an article if you want to compete for positions. However, this must not be overdone. Keep in mind that the text must be readable and fluent for the reader, not stuffed with keywords to 'please' the search engines. It annoys your readers and can backfire by excluding you from the search engines.
To analyze your content, consider using a tool like Scribe SEO for Joomla. It can help you remember all of the content 'rules' that impact SEO.
3. Get lots of inlinks
Inbound links to your pages are very important. Try to get inbound links from relevant sites. Still, the best way of getting inbound links is to create compelling content that the readers want to share with others. Use Digg, StumbleUpon and other services to spread word of your pages. If the content is good, bloggers and other site owners will link to it. This is why Wikipedia has such great rankings. People are linking as crazy to it, because it contains relevant information about almost everything.
4. Internal and external linking
Consider where you link, both internally and externally. Do you have a page with content relevant to what you're writing about at the moment? Link to it internally - it will improve your rankings. You can see examples in this very post.
Linking externally, you might want to consider using the rel="nofollow" tag in your links. Too many links from a page can be bad for SEO, so setting some of them to nofollow can be good. To understand more about how Google consider links, read this post from SEOmoz.org.
5. Pay attention to anchor texts
Linking does not mean linking randomly. To get the most from a link, consider the text you are linking from (the anchor text). For instance, a link saying the product will be less efficient than a link saying iPhone 4. The word or phrase you link from will be the one Google will improve the ranking for. So, the page you link to will get a boost for the word iPhone 4 when you create a link on the word (to put it simply).
For links on images, the alt tag will be considered as the anchor text for the link. According to SEOMoz, it will give slightly lower value to the resulting page than would a text link.
6. Create an XML Sitemap
An XML sitemap is an XML file showing all pages in the site for easy inclusion on a search engine. If you have just a few pages, you can use a service like xml-sitemaps.com to create it for free. Or you can install (my favorite) XMap to create the sitemap automtically from your Joomla menus.
7. Use the robots.txt File
The robots.txt file is in your site root folder. It contains info on which folders should be indexed and not. I can also include information about your XML sitemap.
One tip: Remove the line excluding the Joomla /images/ folder. Otherwise, none of your site images will be indexed in the Google image search.
8. Use Google Webmaster Tools
Google Webmaster Tools will give you tools to analyze and improve your site. Using these tools, it's very easy to spot any place in your site where you might have missed the title and/or description. You can also submit your sitemap XML and test your robots.txt file, to mention some. Read more about Google Webmaster Tools and Joomla.
9. Track and analyze
To improve your site, you need to track the traffic and analyze it regularly. I use Google Analytics for reporting. Take a look at the reports frequently. You should consider things like:
- Traffic sources (search engines, direct, reffering sites)
- Bounce rate (the number of people seeing only one page)
- What keywords are generating traffic (get ideas for content and consider creating more to get additional traffic on these words)
- Most popular pages (what do they have in common?)
- Most common exit pages (how can they be improved?)
Using the segmentation tools of Google Analytics, you can combine these and other factors to see how people interact with your site. This can form the basis for your future SEO work. There is a nice article about often ignored Google Analytics features over at Problogger.net that you might want to read.
10. Do your keyword research first
To know what words and phrases to optimize for, you need to know what people are searching for. You can use the Google Adwords keyword tool, or a specialized software like Market Samurai (which I use).
These are but some of the things you can do to improve your site's search engine visibility.
Now, go do it! :)