As you get settled back into your normal routine after the holidays, it may be time to review your site's search engine optimization health. It's always a good idea to review these basic aspects of your site every now and then just to make sure your site is as optimized as possible. SEO is no longer the knowledge of the few; the basic concepts have made their way into many people's vocabularies, and almost every industry, even the least technical, have become highly competitive.

So let's get started.

Check your title tags. Let's start from the top...literally. The

tag determines the text that appears in the title bar at the top of the browser window. For example, this blog post has a title of, "New Year's SEO Review >> CommonPlaces Gazebo". This title should accomplish three goals: 1) Tell visitors where they are, 2) Entice search engine visitors (this is the page title displayed in search engines, after all), and 3) Contain the keywords for which you are optimizing your site. <p><strong>Are your URLs readable?</strong> Does the URLs on your site look like <em><a href="http://www.greatshirts.com/shirts/yellow-t-shirt">http://www.greatshirts.com/shirts/yellow-t-shirt</a></em>, or so they look like this: <em><a href="http://www.greatshirts.com/product?id=1vsfg42353">http://www.greatshirts.com/product?id=1vsfg42353</a></em>. With the first URL, you have valuable keywords in place if someone is looking for a yellow t-shirt. Also, your users will know what they will be seeing before the even see it, giving them added confidence in clicking through to your page.</p> <p><strong>Are you using the keywords your customers use?</strong> This tip sounds obvious, but many people violate this rule without even realizing it. It is critical to optimize your site to target the keywords your customers are using. For example, you may have optimized your site for "automobile repairs" but the fact is, the vast majority of people will enter the search query "car repair". Use Google tools such as the <a href="https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal">AdWords Keyword Tool</a> and <a href="http://www.google.com/trends">Google Trends</a> to research the most popular keywords in your field.</p> <p><strong>Is your site's content well-organized?</strong> Is your site easy for users to navigate? As a general rule of thumb, if users can't figure out how to navigate through your sites, search engine spiders won't either, and will either miss content, or give up halfway through. Map out your site on paper, and develop a clear hierarchy for organizing content. Ask others to try out your site, and see if it makes sense to them.</p> <p><strong>Check for broken links</strong>. Links on your site that go to 404 ("Not Found") pages are never a good thing. Not only does it represent a dead-end for search engines spiders, but it means potential frustration for your users as well. Use an online tool to scan your site and identify any broken links that may exist (several such tools are easily found with a Google search).</p> <p><strong>Do you have a sitemap?</strong> A sitemap most often takes the form of an XML document in the root directory of your site which tells search engine spiders how your site is structured and which pages they should be looking for. Some question the effectiveness or necessity of sitemaps, but considering they take very little time to create, they are easy to justify, and definitely cannot hurt. Ultimately, if they made no difference, why would Google provide an interface for identifying them in <a href="http://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/">Google Webmaster Tools</a>?</p> <p><strong>Review your meta data.</strong> The most common attributes of the <meta/> tag that you will use are "keywords" and "description". You can use the description attribute to provide the text snippet that appears in search results. The keywords attribute is a little more controversial, but personally I place it in a similar category as sitemaps; that is, it might help, and it couldn't hurt. Provide a few (not thirty) keywords that capture the message of the page in question.</p> <p><strong>Check the your web analytics (You have analytics, right??).</strong> Web analytics are a critical part of SEO success. They will clearly show the success or failure of any changes you make to your site. These stats will also be helpful in identifying potential dead-ends in navigation where visitors leave your site. There is really no limit to the amount of information analytics software can provide to the diligent researcher.</p>

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