SEO News
Mark Jackson

Top Signs Your Site Isn't Ready for Prime Time, Part 2

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We've already looked at three of the common failings of Web sites for "newbies" who are trying to figure out this thing we call SEO: helping people find your Web site, making sure your home page resolves correctly, and content. Now let's look the title tag, domain age, and link building to see if your Web site is ready for prime time.

Title Tag

The importance of a title tag for SEO really hasn't changed at all over the years. Your home page title tag should target the "head" (the most competitive) keywords, as the home page usually receives the most backlinks and will have the greatest opportunity to rank for these competitive keywords.

Each page of your Web site needs to have a unique title tag that describes the content on that page (hopefully we have content on our pages now, right?).

There's a lot of debate among SEOs as to how to best write a title tag. Most would say that it shouldn't be too long (I use 68 or so characters as my limit; some believe that you should target only one phrase per page, which definitely works for more competitive keywords). Some believe that you should begin with the company's brand name and some believe that title tags should read like a sentence.

But I believe in placing the most competitive/important keyword at the beginning of the title tag, followed by the next most important phrase, followed by the third most important phrase (if there are three phrases that the page could be optimized for, or variations of these phrases).

Many SEOs will mention that the title tag isn't just about getting ranked within the search engines, but the "right" title tag can affect the CTR of your listing in the search engines. So, keep that in mind.

Obviously, a high ranking isn't worth much if people don't click through to your Web site. That's why you should also write unique and compelling description tags for each page -- this is what will often show up under the "blue link" in the search results pages (the snippet of copy that you see there).

Domain Age

It's not so much that an "aged" domain is the end all, be all. However, the things that come with an aged domain (links/trust/content) absolutely are critical to your Web site gaining the authority necessary to rank highly in the search engines.

If you just bought a domain on Go Daddy last week and launched your Web site today, I highly recommend you consider buying a domain that has existed on the Web for a number of years, already has a number of backlinks to it (perhaps it's already listed in DMOZ, Yahoo Business Directory, Business.com), and perhaps is still live on the Web, has content and already has some rankings that you would like.

Ideally, your domain name would be the "category killer" domain name. Your domain name would be the top keyword for your industry.

Do you sell books? Barnes & Noble does. They own the domain name books.com.

However, do not do like Barnes & Noble and have pretty much the same Web site on both domains (books.com is a slimmed down version of the Barnes & Noble site). Barnes & Noble should be 301 redirecting books.com to barnesandnoble.com, along with each of the possibly duplicated pages). Or, they could build out a unique Web site for books.com (unique content), host it correctly, and perhaps snag two of the top 10 placements in Google's natural results for the search phrase "books."

Check to see if you can own the main keyword or keyword phrase for your industry. Owning and using the keyword domain name will help your organic search engine rankings for that keyword phrase. If it's already taken, then consider purchasing it.

You can find domains that may be available by checking out these resources:

Links

It's still shocking that many newbies don't understand links. You don't need to link to a lot of Web sites. You need a lot of good Web sites to link to you. And, it's best if you can manage to get some of those links to include -- in some fashion -- the keywords that describe the page they're linking to.

For example, if I'm linking to Search Engine Watch, I would want to link using the words "Search Engine Optimization News" within the anchor text of the link. If I wanted to "deep link" (that is to say, link deeper within the Search Engine Watch Web site), I would link to the Promotion & Link Building page using the words "Link Building Resources."

The number of links you need is tricky. Certainly, you can refer back to the Yahoo "site:" search command. You can check inlinks using the same query there.

Once you click on "Inlinks," use the drop down to select "except from this domain." This will provide you with the number (and the actual Web sites) that link to your competitors (or at least those which are indexed in Yahoo).

Remember, though, it isn't purely about the number of backlinks that point to your Web site. The authority of the Web site linking to you matters. Reciprocal linking matters. Whether the page that is linking to you is on topic with the content that the link is pointing to matters. Whether the link is paid can matter greatly.

Hopefully, you've found this helpful. The last thing that I want to hear from newbies is that SEO doesn't work. It works. It's just that so many fail to understand how it works. Even years after SEO became a practice, so many don't understand or see through the very basics.

Submissions are now open for the 2009 Search Engine Watch Awards. Enter your company or campaign before July 17, 2009. Winners will be announced at SES San Jose.


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