First page placement is the holy grail of web business – and anyone can achieve it if they put strong organic SEO practices into play early and constantly. In the last article, we talked about how pay-per-click management is a great way to give a new web business a very fast start — but what about the rest of the race? That’s where you need to optimize your page for the search engines while keeping it natural enough that humans can intuitively use it without hiccups.
That optimization falls into two categories — on-page and off-page SEO. The number of detailed rules to follow in each category is far to great to meaningfully condense into a single blog post, but the basics are generally quite sensible.
On-page SEO consists mostly of making sure that your page is arranged in a layout that the search engine’s spiders will understand, having a clearly accessible site map, and emphasizing the most important part of your content. There are other rules regarding meta tags, outgoing links, and various other tiny little tricks like putting keywords into the alt and title tags of your graphics, but they start to get very minor very quickly. The big impact comes from what you choose to put first and last on the page. The search engines generally assume that, like a college essay, your point comes first, and then is repeated at the end — so those two areas have the most impact on what Google thinks your web page is about.
Off-page SEO is a far more robust and interesting topic than on-page SEO under most circumstances. While there are only so many things you can do to your website, there are a virtually infinite number of things you can do on OTHER websites that have an impact on your website. Some people who know a little bit about SEO are content to think of off-page SEO as various versions of ‘making backlinks’, but that’s much akin to saying that engineering a bridge is one version of ‘building stuff’.
By applying the precepts of on-page SEO while you first build a website, and then continuously using the power of off-page SEO to create an ever-increasing network of support for your website, you will eventually rank well for a wide variety of keywords relevant to your niche — and that’s how you win a marathon.