Search Engine Optimization Round 1

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So you’re all ready to start blogging, or maybe you’ve been blogging for a while, and the question on your mind is the same one on everyone else’s…

“How do I get to the #1 spot on Google?

And let’s be honest here–when we’re talking about search engine optimization (SEO), we’re actually just talking about Google.  Not that we’re going to turn Yahoo! visitors away at the door, but Google is the search engine that matters for now.  There are countless sites, eBooks, and marketing firms that say they can show you how to reach the top slot on Google.  I’m not going to tell you that.  I’m not telling you you won’t get there either.  I’ve made it to the #1 spot before and hope to again, but I can’t promise you you’ll make it there.

What I can do is tell you (for free) some basic things you can do to improve your rankings and increase your chances of making it to #1.  None of these things are “blackhat” or shady, just some very fundamental and easy techniques that will help you out in your quest to take over the internet.  I’ll be covering these in several posts, one topic at a time.  And today’s topic is on…

Letting Google Know You Exist!

Sounds too simple right?  Actually it is.  There are two basic ways Google will find you.  One is by following a link to your site from someone else’s.  When I started blogging that was not a possibility for me, so I chose the other route–telling Google about my site.  Even if you are getting links from others, you absolutely need to tell Google about your site.  In fact, they want you to tell them and even provide you free tools to do so.  They call them Webmaster Tools.

Webmaster Tools actually give you a lot of good feedback about your site’s relationship with Google.  For instance, you can find out how many links to your site and articles Google sees, how many pages of yours Google has indexed (included in their search results), and any problems it sees with your site.  But you have to begin this conversation with them.

Luckily, it’s pretty simple.  Go to Webmaster Tools and register your site.  You’ll be asked to verify that you’re the actual owner, and this can be done one of two ways.  One way is to FTP an empty file to your website’s directory.  Google will tell you what to name this file.  The other is to include a tag in the header of your homepage.  Both are relatively easy to do.  Once you’ve uploaded the file or added the tag, you can verify your site.  One more step and you will have opened the doors of your site wide open to the big G!

Create a Sitemap

A sitemap is a file that does exactly that–it maps out your site in a logical way that allows Google to efficiently flow through your site and drink up all of your wonderful content.  If you are using WordPress, you’re in luck.  There’s a plugin that generates sitemaps automatically.  It’s one of the first plugins I activate on a new installation.  Before I even write a word of content, I install this plugin.

Once your sitemap has been generated (it will be at http://yoursite.com/sitemap.xml if you keep the defauls), all you have to do is go to Webmaster Tools and let Google know the address of the sitemap.  They do the rest of the work for you.  You can check back in a few days to find out just how much Google has learned about you.  Don’t worry–you’ll have plenty of other things to do in the meantime.

We’ve only hit the high points here of course.  If you want more information you can take a peek at this comprehensive guide to Webmaster Tools.

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2 Comments

  1. lovable liberal said January 5, 2009 | Permalink

    Cool! I look forward to learning much more here.

  2. Dag said March 12, 2009 | Permalink

    This is not bad advice, unlike a lot I have come across.

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