How to Raise to the Top of Search Engines for Free

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The need for websites to rise to the top of search engine results has become so widespread that it has brought about a cottage industry known as "search engine optimization," or SEO. It's an ever-changing field, full of underhanded tricks that stop working once search engines figure them out, and SEO "experts" offering to reveal their "secrets" for a price. The truth is, the most reliable SEO practices are well-known, but not often done well, which gives you a leg up over the competition. They often involve using proper HTML tags on web pages you create.

  • Give your website and web pages clean URL structures. For example:
    This is preferred: yoursite.com/cheap-recipes/desserts
    Rather than this: yoursite.com/section1.php?id=673

  • Write proper titles for each of your pages using the <title> tag. The <title> tag is a required HTML tag that goes at the top of each page's <head> section. When creating a title, accurately describe the content of the page and don't bother including the name of your site unless you're particularly interested in branding. For example:

    Bad: <title>YourSite.com - Article 1</title>
    Better: <title>Cheap Dessert Recipes | YourSite.com</title>
    Best: <title>Cheap Dessert Recipes</title>

  • Use <h1> tags frequently. <h1> is an HTML tag denoting a large heading. Search engines typically give the words inside <h1> tags more weight than the words in the body of an article. So use <h1> tags for all your article titles and pack your article titles with relevant keywords:

    <h1>Cheap Dessert Recipes Anybody Can Make</h1>

  • Include the "alt" attribute whenever inserting an image. Normally, an image is inserted into a page with the following line of HTML code:

    <img src="image-file.jpg" />

    You can and should include an "alt" attribute after the "src" attribute describing what the image contains. For example:

    <img src="image-file.jpg" alt="Key Lime Pie" />

  • Make sure the content of your articles contains relevant keywords. If you're writing an article about cheap dessert recipes, phrases such as "desserts," "inexpensive desserts," "delicious desserts," "easy-to-make," and "chocolate pie" should probably all appear in your article. Don't let your writing sound unnatural, but keep in mind what someone searching for dessert recipes would likely use as search terms.

    Likewise, if you're using a blogging service that allows for "tags" or "labels," create as many as you want, but make sure any tags or labels you create also appear naturally in the article. This way search engines don't penalize you for stuffing your pages with unnecessary or irrelevant keywords.

  • Create backlinks. The single most important SEO strategy is to get other websites to link to your own site. Naturally, this is also the hardest. Write compelling content and post it to social bookmarking sites such as Facebook, Digg, Twitter or Reddit. Find similar sites with link pages or blogrolls and email them to ask if they want to exchange links. Don't be afraid to link to other sites, either; they'll discover that you're sending them traffic; once they know about you, they might link to you in the future.

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