A blog post like this might seem like suicide to some SEOs, but I’m a big believer in teaching people how to fish. Not to mention, there are far too many factors when it comes to SEO to be solved by tools, but these 10 beauties will help you get on the right track, helping you save money, and helping any future SEOs you may hire precious hours working on menial tasks.

Let the experts focus on the more technical issues, while you focus on the basics.

1. Form Your Initial Set of Keywords

Keywords are at the heart of every optimized website. Keywords determine where how and where you will be placed in search engine results, so you need to make sure you choose the best ones for your website. You should obviously have an idea of certain keywords you would like to appear for, but what you really need to know is what keywords you should appear for. The SEOmoz Term Extractor tool will analyze your site and give you a basic list to start with, from short keywords (broad) to longer keywords (longtail). Also be sure to use some of your competitor’s sites to find out what keywords they’re targeting.

2. Expand Your Initial Keyword List

The Google AdWords Keyword Tool will help you expand your list and even provide some keywords you hadn’t thought of. Simply put the terms you have into the tool and click “Get Keyword Results”. Make sure to choose a good mix of short and long keywords. You will be rewarded with a nice list of short keywords, medium keywords (2 terms) and longtail keywords (3 or more terms). Look at the “Competition” bar and try not to aim for the fences.

3. Check Out Your Competitors

Now that you’ve got your starter set of possible keywords, you’ll want to check out what your competitors are doing with theirs. The SEOmoz RankTracker tool allows you to input keywords (try some of yours for a start) along with any URL and shows you where that site ranks for that keyword. Get the lay of the land, find out if you have a shot at ranking for certain terms. NOTE: You’ll need to create an account with SEOmoz, but don’t worry, it’s free and will probably come in handy again later.

You can also simply search Google using your keyword set and see what comes up. Take note of the title and description the top 20 results use. How many times do they use the keywords you searched for in the Title and Description? This will come in handy later.

4. Rewrite That Page Copy

With your new keyword set ready, rewrite the copy on your homepage, sprinkling in the 5 top terms out of your set. Try not to repeat them more than twice. Make the copy sound natural; Do not just stuff the keywords in. If a sentence sounds clunky, don’t use it.

5. Create Your Meta Tags

Depending on what type of website you have and who built it (your own designer, WordPress site, Tumbler, Blogger, Typepad), you may have noticed a section somewhere to input a Title and Meta-Description for your site and its various pages. Apart from the actual keyword-focused content on your site, these are probably the 2 most important aspects when it comes to improving your search engine rankings.The title should include 1 to 2 keyword along with the site name. Separate them anyway you like (I prefer pipes: “|”), but make sure these are terms that are just in the mid-competitive range; something you have a shot at ranking for. The title should not exceed 65 characters.

The meta-description should contain those 1-2 keywords again and give a brief, basic description of what your site offers. You’re even allowed to repeat those keywords a second time, but don’t push it. Try mentioning each one once in the description to start and see what happens. To insure your description doesn’t get truncated in the results pages, keep the description should not exceed 135 characters.

Don’t worry about meta-keywords, they’re relatively useless.

Repeat for every page on your site, making sure each page has a distinct and unique keyword-focus, including page copy and meta tags.

While this list works for smaller sites, a larger, more dynamic site will require a lot more hours of research and implementation depending on the number of pages you have. If this is the case, it would be in your best interests to search for plugins, modules or tools specific to the type of platform you are using (the same ones I listed above). There are many aids out there for every platform that can create dynamic meta-tags for every page in your site. If you’re still flummoxed, it might be time to look into hiring a freelance SEO consultant and have them take a look.

Next week we’ll be giving you some tips on how to find and what to look for in a great SEO consultant.

Brian Thomas Clark

Brian Thomas Clark

Owner, Auditor, Janitor

I'm a Dad, Husband, Brutal SEO Auditor & BBQer. I do SEO, Analytics, Backlink, and Local Search Audits in Orange County, CA, where no one uses turn signals and there is a Chase Bank on every block for some reason.

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