Wednesday, May 13, 2009

SEO Cheat Sheet

● KeyWord Research
Use WordTracker for an estimate on daily searches and Overture for an approximate report on KW usage in the last month. Use Wikipedia, dictionaries and other resources for KW inspiration to try and stretch your long tail. Remember, this is the cornerstone of your future actions and it may determine what domain name, titles, URLs, and content you chose.
● Competition Spy
Every gosu player knows that scouting early in the game is crucial. Find out who your top 3 competitors are and determine their marketing strategy, before you even buy your domain name or write a single line of code!
Check for backlinks using the “link:” query on Google. Don't stop at the directories they submit to. See if they have a Wikipedia page or reference; see if they have any links on social bookmarking websites, like, and what do people commonly associate them with; check for blog posts on Technorati; check for buzz on digg and other prosumer websites.
See what they did best and think of ways you can do better and differentiate.

● Title Tag
Probably the most important of them all. Use relevant KeyWords, yet do Link Baiting; remember that this tag will show up in SERPs. Use a different title on each page to avoid duplicate content penalty. But keep them standardized by branding them with your website name. Trust a separator character. (eg: ACME | Buy Red Bicycles on Discount)
● Meta KeyWords Tag
Try to stick to a maximum of 20 KW combinations; stuffing is no good. Use different KW tags on each page to avoid duplicate content penalty.
● Meta Description Tag
Describe the page content as accurate as possible, while using relevant KW. Remember that this should be no longer than 250 chars and that the first 150 chars may show up on SERPs. Use a different tag on each page to avoid duplicate content penalty.
● Meta Foo Tags
Don't forget about the http-equiv, resource-type, classification, rating, distribution & other meta tags out there. Try teaching the spider as much data about the page as you can.

● URLs
Describe your content and keep it short. Separate words with hyphens, as they work best. Watch out for too many subfolders, as the further away from the home page you are, the lower the Page Rank will be. Careful with subdomains, they will be treated almost as separate websites. KeyWords won't hurt, you know!
● Dynamic Pages
Use a URL rewriting engine, like mod_rewrite on Apache, and turn your string of parameters into meaningful folders. Take the time to understand this technology and you will harvest the goods. End your URLs in a .html. A good starting point would be reading Professional SEO with PHP.
● Session IDs
If you serve a crawler the same page, with different URLs, for a thousand times, it will eventually get angry and do nasty things to your ranking. Turn those ugly numbers off and implement cookies if you really have to. Or, if you feel like living dangerously, use cloaking for spiders.
● Canonicalization,,,, will be treated as separate pages. Permanently redirect (301) all of the above combinations to a single address, preferably
● Frames
It ain't '97 anymore. So just forget about frames, as weird thing will happen to your indexing if you use them. Yes, the same with iframes!
● Forms
Crawlers are smart, but not smart enough to input text in search boxes and then index the resulting pages. Content available only by forms won't be indexed. If your website is designed in such a manner, engineer a workaround with HTML sitemaps.
● Navigation
If your website is structured on different levels and you need a drop-down menu, don't use JavaScript or Flash (with cheesy background music). Use a SEO friendly, list menu. If crossbrowsing issues drive you crazy and you must go with DHTML, find a script that hides the list div instead of generating it on-the-fly.

● Semantic Code
Emphasis your keywords and essential info with font weight, size and color attributes. Always use heading and subheading tags (hx) and apply whatever style you like to them. Use li tags when displaying a set of items; use tables when displaying a grid; use blockquote when quoting. Remember what the semantic web is all about: data about the data, and give meaning to your markup.
● Anchor Text & Title
Use KW combinations that clearly describe the page you are linking to. Click here is not an option. Remember this is very powerful as it has been used for link bombing. Stay away from JavaScript links as chances are they will not be crawled.
● Valid Code
Don't hurt the web and do your best to stick to standards. Write valid XHTML/CSS2. There are hundreds of communities that use valid code and design superb websites, like csszengarden. Find your support group and Reboot your website.

● Copy writing
Write your own, original content. Surf for editorial tips, like CopyBlogger and pay much attention to scannable text. Study Jacob Nielsen's articles on readability. Remember to use an inverted pyramid structure, with the essential info at the top. Organize your copy into sections, short paragraphs and lists.
● Freshness
Spiders love fresh and juicy content. And so do your visitors. If you sell stuff, get a Latest Products section; if you write stuff, get a Latest Articles section; if you're a boring company, at least get a Latest News section. To make things even more attractive, generate an RSS feed and advertise it on your home page.
● Crawlable Content
Although bots have achieved great technical progress, Ajax, Flash, JavaScript generated content, text in images are all blind spots on your page. Put your important info in plain HTML. If you must really show your fancy font, use sIFR as text will still be indexed. Most bots behave as a text browser, so use a tool like Lynx to analyze your website.
● Image Name & Alt Text
Think of crawlers as visually impaired beings, learning to comprehend images. The text will come naturally to you. If you have multiple sets of images, like in a shopping cart, group your images into folders named appropriately.

● robots.txt
Make use of the robots.txt file on your web server. This file tells crawlers which directories can or cannot be crawled. Make sure it's current for your site so that you don't accidentally block Googlebot . Visit to learn how to instruct robots when they visit your site.
● sitemap.xml
This file is now a standard practice. Visit to get the protocol specifications. There are plenty of free tools for automatic generation of the XML. Submit it to all major search engines: Google, Yahoo!, MSN.
● Server Config
Make sure your web server supports the If-Modified-Since HTTP header. This feature allows your web server to tell the bot whether your content has changed since it last crawled your site. Check that your server outputs a 404 header even if you use custom error pages. Get a reliable hosting provider; if your server goes down during a crawl, you could flush away months of hard work.

● Blog
Start blogging even before you launch your service or product. There are thousands of great resources, tutorials and cheat sheets for you to learn how to do it properly. Some of the most important aspects for you to remember: be transparent, be informal, be remarkable.
● Online Reputation
The Web is such a depersonalized environment that people crave for a human presence behind the screen. Become the spokesperson for your business. Put your paranoia aside, drop your nicknames and create a professional virtual identity. Sign every article or comment with your real name. Attach a smiling photo of yourself to your accounts. People will be googling for your name. You should manage what they find.
● Networking
Comment on the blogs you read and leave your URL all over the place. Put your blog & website address on your email signatures; on your letters, business cards and everything else you print. Join a Social Networking Community, like LinkedIn, ask for connections and give recommendations.
● Buzz Generation
If you're not worthy of getting digged, write your own Press Releases and spread them with free PR websites. Try your luck by asking for a review with well known bloggers in your field.

D O N ' T S
● Black Hat
Cloaking, KeyWord stuffing and invisible text are probably the easiest way to get delisted, sandboxed or be put in Supplemental Results hell. Most amateurs start with the pick-up lines instead of the basic body language control. Study the fundamentals, don't let yourself fooled by some secret techniques your neighbour's kid told you.
● Duplicate Content
Needless to say you must not steal other people's content, for it will hurt your karma and ranking. But make sure you don't show the same content with different URLs and titles; like a product configurator, where a URL parameter only changes the shoe color; or Session IDs.
● Page Rank Mania
Focusing on increasing your PageRank is a narrow-minded approach to SEO and web marketing. It's not only inaccurate, as Google keeps is outdated for some months after it has really changed, but it is irrelevant. Bringing visitors to a poorly crafted page or dull content is suicidal. You want conversions, not traffic.
● Link Exchange
Reciprocal linkage is a thing of the past. Google already ignores reciprocal link accumulation on real estate websites. And never liked spammy/link farms anyway.

● “You will never really know exactly how Google works (unless you work there)”
- “Search Engine Optimization: An Hour a Day” By J. Grappone, Gradiva Couzin
● “Most of the right choices in SEO come from asking, What’s the best thing for the user?”
- Matt Cutts
● “Good HTML titles, good body copy, great content, ensuring that your site doesn’t have
roadblocks to crawling — these have worked for nearly a decade.”
- Danny Sullivan


Mihai's SEO Cheat Sheet
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