SEO Sage.net Free Customer Guide to SEO
What is Search Engine Optimization, and why do I need it?
As a modern business owner making your way on the internet, you realize that there is not much difference between it and the
real world of business. You need potential customers to visit your website; that is the ultimate goal, to bring people to your site so
they may buy your products, or learn more about them, or to hear about the cause you support, or for whatever other purpose you
have built your site. You need to figure out how to get your website ranking in the search engines. You must be prepared to really
work because it takes a lot of time and a lot of money spent on tools and services to move up in the SE's. As a business owner,
you should already have a good idea of what the most commonly used words are in your business field. So that is where you must
begin, either by buying keyword research from professionals with the right tools for the job, or going at it yourself with the tools
and your own knowledge of the internet and advertising. While the latter is quite possible, it is also quite time consuming and has
a steep learning curve! Who will be running your business while you are working full time on this?
Most people and even companies approach search engine optimization as an afterthought. They build their website, and then
think, “Now it's time to get people to our site.” This practice never works out well for the site, either it never really takes off, or it
costs more than the development of the site to get it "on it's feet". You really should not construct a site until you have considered
all the different ways you are going to generate traffic to the site. A website without traffic is virtually worthless, and if you have
built a site without traffic in mind, you have already cost yourself a great deal of time and money without any prospect of making it
back. It is truly akin to putting the cart before the horse and only makes for more work in the future!
You simply should not start building a site without keyword research and some small understanding of the search engines. Most
major websites these days are built by teams of developers who have little to no understanding of search engines. These sites are
launched, and then someone decides to hire a search engine consultant to do the work of getting people to the site. The search
engine consultant always discovers all sorts of unnecessary on page problems, and then had to research the proper keywords to
go after. Good business for the consultant, but an expensive waste for the site owner.
The fact of the matter is that most website designers do not understand search engines to any great degree. Most web
development companies these days tell their clients that they know how to handle the search engines, and even that they are
experts. In most cases, that is simply not true. Many web designers tell their clients that they are search engine experts, then
simply use meta keywords in their code and submit to search engines. Just submitting to search engines does not mean they will
index your pages or give them any real rankings at all without good content and some sites linking in.
For the benefit of all who want to rank their websites, we will break down the process in order to educate those who are interested.
This writing is meant for potential customers so they can see what goes into the work that they will buy, and it is also meant for
those that want to compare the cost of doing it themselves in stead of hiring an SEO company such as SEO Sage. For them both,
it will be a help because whether you hire us or not, following the methods and practices here will work in your favor!
It does not matter if you will buy SEO services, or if you intend to do your own backlinking yourself, you need to understand SEO
as much as possible to make informed decisions regarding your website promotion. If you decide to buy services from a
professional, then you are going to need to understand what they do, how, and why they do it. If you choose to do your own web
promotion then you need to be prepared to spend a lot of time and money on training and tools that you will need to eventually
succeed. In fact, to rank a site, you will spend more money in the long run on tools and the time you spend learning, than if you
went to an SEO specialist in the first place. Even for the simple SEO projects it will take months for you to get anything going. It
takes months anyway, but your time learning and trial and error will double or even triple that time spent. Search engine
optimization is hard work and time consuming no matter your skill level and ranking a site will take time, so you will need patience.
The positive side to doing your own SEO is that it's not terribly technical like actually designing a website.
Now, don't let this sound like we're trying to push you into buying seo services, as opposed to doing it yourself. We simply want
educated clients, who at least to some digree understand the labor and skill that it takes to get a website ranked, whether they
choose to work with us or go at it alone. We like for all of our clients be educated enough in SEO to know what they need from us,
and what they should expect. The understanding of what goes into search engine optimization work is of utmost importence if you
plan to own and operate a website for any reason today, we are glad to help inform those who are looking to understand the
process of search engine optimization.
The First Steps to Ranking a Website
No matter what route you go with when it comes to your website promotion, the success will be determined by the market you are
in, the keywords you have chosen, and how much you can devote to your marketing. Whatever you are able to devote to your
marketing, whether in the form of time spent or money spent, will be just as important as the keywords you have chosen. You can
actually spend just as much time failing to make your online business work as you would to make it succeed, and if you make the
wrong choices at the start, you are doomed to failure. That is why keyword research and promotion strength are so important to
ranking a website in the search engines. However, you need to get the foundation put down before you build anything else, and
keyword research is that foundation.
The Most Important Aspects of SEO
• Keyword analysis. To rank high in the search engines, you must first determine for which keywords and keyword
phrases you want to rank. You can take a wild or even educated guess, but you will almost certainly fail to pick all the right
keywords. A keyword analysis is the best way to select keywords and decide which you should target. You may believe
that you know enough about your business to take an "educated guess", but what do you know of the competition? Is the
keyword a "critical" or "buying mood" keyword? What do you know about what exactly people are looking for? In order to
find this out, you must have the right tools and know where to look, much like Gold Digging! Many in the Internet
Marketing industry refer to the best keyword as "gold nugget keywords". However you find these is up to you, but be
warned it is a process that can take forever and end up wrong if you don't know what you are doing. Sometimes the
keyword you target may get no searches, or have a high amount of powerful competition. Either way, you would be better
off trying to rank for a different keyword.
• Competition Analysis. After you know what keywords you are targeting, you will want to know about the sites that
are ranking for those keywords. It is a good idea to analyze the top 10 competition to see just how strong they are. If the
main keyword you choose has a high level of strong competition, you will need to work very hard in order to rank for it!
Working needlessly, just like working on an "unprofitable" keyword can kill your online business altogether!
• Creating clean proper pages. If you want your site to appear as an authority in the search engines, you have to
create pages that the search engine spiders or bots can read. This may sound easy, but if not thought of in advance, it
can end up being a hard problem to fix. You would be surprised to hear that millions of pages on the web cannot be read
properly by the search engines, and that is because they weren't designed properly or their content was not laid out
properly. The page you create must be able to load fast, it must not have broken or sloppy HTML, it must not have
excessive flash use. Search Engine Bots cannot watch movie intros and flashy logo's catch fire, and even if they could
why would they rank you higher for that useless fluff?
• Creating content rich pages. Having readable pages is just a start. Next you have to write good informative
content and put your target keywords into that content properly. The more good info you have to read on your website the
better your site will look in the search engines eyes. The more content you have that is relavent to your market or "niche",
the better your chances are for ranking many keywords. Generally the more genuine, unique, content rich pages you
have, the faster you will rank and you will rank with authority! Rich content sites will always outrank generic rewritten junk
when promoted with the same methods and backlinks. Also, always remember the rule above; if you have a lot of well
written content, but it is placed on your page in a silly manner, such as flash or image, it will not help you one bit.
• Get other sites to link to your site. The number and type of links pointing to your site greatly affect how high you
rank in the search engines. The best are, of course, one way authority links or partner links you can get from other
webmasters. The best way to do this is by mailing them and offering a reciprocal link on your website. This works best
trying trades with sites within your niche or field. The same applies to any other form of links, if the niche is closely related
the links count for more. But you want to get links from everywhere because the more links you have the better in the long
run. The top search engines rate your page by how many "votes" it gets in the form of links from other respected websites.
• Backlinking to your Website. The final important aspect of Search Engine Optimization is to obtain backlinks from
trusted and related sources to your website steadily each month. A "backlink" is simply a link to your website URL, that is
posted on another site somewhere on the internet. The task of getting valuable white hat backlinks is not as simple as it
may seem though. You need to write a lot of unique content that is informative and helpful, and use that content to point
anchored links to your site. For instance, the use of Article Marketing Websites, or free web 2.0 blog hosts to write blogs
that link to your site. Those are just 2 examples of time consuming writing tasks that are used to get proper authority links.
The research and writing time that goes into this process is extensive but in the end it pays off with top spot rankings and
massive traffic to your site. The process of building backlinks properly can only come with experience and study. Be
warned the SEO business requires a lot of reading and a lot of writing before you can even rank for an "easy" keyword.
If you will be doing a lot of market research at first to build your SEO foundation. You need market research tools such as Market
Samurai or Micro Niche Finder to test all the factors of keywords for use in your SEO campaign. You then need tools like SERP
Attacks, to analyze the data of your competitors. The rest of the tasks can be completed without the use of any third party tools,
but there are many that can make the process less labor intensive. However, the cost of the most basic toolset is already more
than what one would pay for a month of well done SEO work.
Understanding the Limitations of SEO
Before you get started working with SEO or hiring someone to do your SEO, you need to know the few limitations of search
engine optimization: what is possible and what is more likely. As with anything business related, the search engines are a
constantly moving and evolving marketplace of different websites vying for the various selling and informational keywords that
people use to find desired information daily. It is possible for anyone to rank for a keyword, but the likelyhood of ranking a tough
keyword or phrase is completely dependent on the work that goes into advertising. For a huge fortune 500 company this is quite
easy, because they can have a team of people dedicating their 9 to 5 jobs each week to ranking and maintaining the company.
However, most small business owners cannot afford to hire people to build content rich backlinks for them on a daily basis, nor do
they have the budget to create websites that act as supporting links from various different paid hosts. The solution is to steadily
build targeted backlinks each month at whatever rate you can afford. If you are going to do the work yourself, you need to
understand that a couple hours a week devoted to writing and building links may not be enough. You need to build as many links
as possible on a monthly basis for at least a couple of months in order to see rankings begin to rise. Not doing enough may result
in no rank changes at all after a few months. If this is the case you need to seek a professional SEO expert.
Sometimes it is easy to get a first page position in the search engines, but usually it is quite hard, and no matter what it is time
consuming. Competition for your chosen keywords and the searches they get daily for an exact match term will determine how
hard the full task will be. Search engine optimization is labor intensive, and you may not see results for weeks, if not months. Do
not believe in trickery and "fast ranking" gimmicks or you will end up sorry. It takes hard work and constant effort to rank and stay
ranked. The search engines do not like poorly created mass links, or automated links with rehashed content used to promote
them. What you need is well researched and written content that is relevent to your market or niche, or at least related to the
market or niche. Such well written articles, blogs, and mini sites will build trust with the search engines that will carry over to your
site when they link to it. To create such well written and content rich web properties, you will need to spend a lot of time on
research, and even more on writing a quality article or post on whatever topic you are using.
Ranking any site can be very difficult, and is a tremendously laborious task. After all, why would it be easy? There is huge
competition in every market, so it can’t be easy. If it were easy for your site, then it would be easy for your competitors’ sites,
wouldn’t it? And, after all, there can only ever be one number one! If you are not a strong and fast writer, you will need to hire one
at the very least. It is a good thing that most true SEO experts are master writers as well, and that you are already reading a
document written by one of the most affordable and talented ones out there! If this wasn't the case you would have to go through
the trouble of finding one now wouldn't you?
The Big Decision
Now that you understand what the limitations are and what must be done in the long haul, you can begin down the path of getting
your website ranked! No matter what you decide to do, it all boils down to time spent laboring on proper writing for your linking
properties, and getting as many links as possible from as manny different sources as possible. If you analyze any of your
competition using any of the tools available on the market today, you will see that the top 10 websites for any decent keyword will
have thousands of links, and they are all from different sources across the web. It just makes sense, the search engines want to
award the highest rankings to the sites that many others on the web believe is a good source of information. A properly anchored
link is like a vote from that website that it trusts and regards the website it is linking to, and it is the main factor that the search
engines use to determine the position of your site.
Recommendations to Consider
We are assuming for most people that you have a website already, while we always recommend doing the research prior to
building your website, we understand that many people just simply have a site they want to rank. After all, if you found the SEO
Sage website by searching for "SEO Services", or any of the other keywords we are ranking for, you are probably looking to have
SEO done on an existing website. Of course we recommend that you use professional search engine optimization services, such
as our own. However, for those of you whom are still yet undecided, we have detailed some common SEO practices and info you
can utilize to begin down the path of doing the work yourself. We do this for two reasons, firstly to show customers just what the
work is all about so they have a greater appreciation of it and understand its value, and secondly to help those who simply cannot
afford our services or who don't want to pay for SEO services. This way those people can learn to work on it themselves and truly
appreciate all the work that goes into marketing a website properly.
The path Alone
In the pages below, we will attempt to help you understand how to rank an existing website, even if that means having to rewrite
content to match the proper keywords. Keyword research can be done after a site is made, it just means that you will have to do a
lot of rewriting, meaning twice the labor. If you own a website and have yet to do keyword research, please understand that you
will have to make the time to do it now before moving on to attempting to optimize and rank your website. I am quite sure by now
you fully understand the importance of targeting proper keywords, and optimizing your pages to be relevent to the terms you will
Doing your own On Page SEO
If you do not want to hire a professional Search Engine Optimization service to work on your page content, and you are
comfortable with writing, you may want to do your own editing to your on page content once you have had proper keyword
research done. Just remember that this step is pointless if you do not know the proper target keywords to optimize for.
Starting With Your Keyword Analysis
You have to do a keyword analysis or you are wasting your time. Imagine spending hundreds of hours optimizing your site for a
keyword you think is good, only to discover that another keyword or phrase gets two or three times the traffic or has half the
competition. By doing a keyword analysis, you can identify terms that are searched for frequently but have little or weak
competition. If you then use these keywords on your pages, your pages are more likely to rank high in the search engines
because you face little competition from other sites. When you have finished searching with a keyword tool, look at the final list to
determine how popular a keyword phrase actually is. You may find that many of your original terms are not worth bothering with,
and that terms you never thought of would be much better.
Examine Your Pages
Making your web pages “search engine friendly” was probably not the first thing on your mind when you sat down to design your
website. That means that your pages probably have some problems with being optimized for the search engines, and will have
problems when trying to rank. Fortunately, many such problems are quite easy to spot; you can fix those problems quickly, but
page content problems can be far more troublesome and time consuming (like re-writing all of your content).
Your Page TITLE tags
The TITLE tags tell a browser what text to display in the browser’s title bar, and they are very important to search engines. Quite
reasonably, search engines figure that the TITLE tags may indicate the page’s title and therefore the main subject.
Here are a few problems you may have with your TITLE tags:
• They are missing! Many pages simply don’t have TITLE tags. If these tags aren’t there, you are not giving the search
engines one of the most important pieces of information about the page’s subject matter.
• They are in the wrong position. Sometimes you find the TITLE tags, but they are way down on the page. If they are too
low in the page, the search engine bots may not find them.
• They are there, but are poorly written. The TITLE tags don’t have the proper keywords in them, or the wrong words in
Do your pages have anything for search engines to read?
You don’t necessarily have to scan through the HTML code for your page to evaluate how search engine friendly it is. You can find
out a lot just by looking at the page in your browser. Determine whether you have enough relevant content on the page. Page
content is text that the search engines can read and it is essential, but many sites do not have any page content on the front page
and often have little or any on interior pages. (For example: the fools with all flash websites!)
Here are some common problems:
• Having a (usually pointless) Flash intro on your site.
• Embedding much of the text on your site into images, rather than utilizing readable text.
• Using wrong or misleading keywords in the text that you do have.
If you have these types of problems, they can often be quite time consuming to fix, and may require a total page rewrite!
Replace unneeded images with text
If you have an image heavy website, in which all or most of the text is embedded onto images, you need to get rid of the images
and replace them with real text. If you have a lot of images because of the nature of your site then you must at least put alt text in
your image code and captions wherever possible. If the search engine cannot read any related text, then it can’t index your site for
I'm sure you have seen those silly animations when you arrive at a site, with a little Skip Intro link hidden at the bottom of the
page. Words and pictures appear and disappear, fly across the pages, etc etc. People create these (annoying) animations with a
product called Adobe Flash. I would suggest that if you have one, you replace the Flash intro on your site with something else. I
have rarely seen a Flash intro that actually served any good purpose. In most cases, they are nothing but an irritation to site
visitors. You may notice that many famous people have flash pages, that is because they do not need SEO, they get traffic as
soon as their pages are indexed, and usually go to page one; the number 1 spot right away.
(Usually Flash intros are created because the designer thinks it looks "cool", but cool does not get rankings, unless you
are already famous!)
Use more keywords
Having too little content can be a real SEO problem. Some sites are designed to be light on content, and sometimes this approach
is perfectly fine for its design. However, search engines have a bias for content, for text they can read. In general, the more text
with good keywords, the better.
Use your keywords in the right places
Lets say that you do have enough text. But does the text have the right keywords placed optimally within it? Where keywords are
placed and what they look like are also quite important. Search engines use position and format as clues to importance (think
Here are a few simple formatting tricks you can use:
• Situate your most important keywords near the top of the page.
• Place your main keywords into <H> (header) tags.
• Use bold and italic keywords within your content.
• Put some of your keywords into bullet-ed lists.
• Use keywords multiple times on a page, just don’t use a keyword or keyword phrase too often. If a word makes up more
than, 4 percent of all the words on the page, it may be too much.
Understanding the Importance of Your Page Keywords
When you go to a search engine and try to find something, you type in a word, or several words, and click the Search button. The
search engine then looks in its index for those words. Suppose that you used the words turtle thumping. Generally speaking, the
search engine will look for various things:
• Pages that contain the exact phrase turtle thumping
• Pages that have the words turtle and thumping somewhere, though not necessarily close together
• Pages that don’t have the phrase turtle thumping, but do have the words turtle and thumping in close proximity
• Pages that have links pointing to them, in which the link text contains the phrase turtle thumping
• Pages with links pointing to them with the link text containing the words turtle and thumping, although not together
The process is actually a great deal more complicated than this. When considering the order in which to rank pages, the search
engine takes into consideration many other characteristics of the keyword or phrase, including:
• Is the keyword phrase found in bold text?
• In italic text?
• Is the text underlined?
• Is the text larger than most of the other text on the page?
• Is it in heading text (<H> tags)?
If a search engine can’t relate the words that people use to search to the content on your website, it has no reason to return your
site as part of the search results. Picking the right keywords is the most important factor in your design and SEO work.
Doing your own Off Page SEO
If you have the free time to focus on this aspect of your business, and you have exceptional writing skills, you can do all of your off
page backlinking work yourself. It is a time consuming task, and may seem hard at first, but once you understand what it is that
you are doing it is simply a matter of labor time spent.
Backlinking Your Site
The basic rule of backlinks is that the more links that point to your site, the more important the search engines will regard your
pages. Links are also important because they provide a way for the search engines to find your site. Indexing your site in Google
is much quicker through linking than through registration. I have had sites picked up and indexed by Google within two or three
days of having put up a link on another site. If you simply submit your URL to Google, you may have to wait weeks or longer for it
to index your site. The rule is, the more links you have pointing to your site the better. Don’t think your work is done when you
create a site and then submit a page or two to the search engines. Building links from other sites is an essential part of SEO. It’s
frustrating and requires tremendous patience, but that’s the way it works! Before you run off to look for links, think about what you
want those links to say. The keywords in links are tremendously important. The position of a page in the search engines not only
depends on the text within that page, but also on the "anchor" text in the links.
Also please don't forget that in order to maintain a rank in a competitive market you simply must continue to add backlinks even
after you have reached your number one spot! This is because in a competitive market, your competition will constantly be trying
to out rank you by getting more and more links themselves. This truth is less important with lower competition markets or niches
but you should always add backlinks pointing to your site on a weekly basis. The number depends on your niche and your comfort
in your ranking.
White Hat Ways to Obtain Links
There are many ways to generate backlinks to your website, most of which are laborious and tedious but sometimes they can be
fun. We will only list a few here because this topic alone could fill it's own 90 page document quite easily! For more ideas feel free
to sign up to our monthly newsletter where we will be publishing link methods and all other sorts of free SEO info and tips.
Contact association sites
Association sites are an often overlooked source of free and powerful links. Contact any professional or business association of
which you’re a member and ask for a link. Are you in the local Better Business Bureau? The Knights of Columbus? How about the
turtle Lovers Association of America, or the Association for Professional turtle thumping Competitions? Many of these sites have
member directories and may even have special links pages for their members websites. It's also a good idea to join new groups
that have pages for you to link with.
Contact manufacturer websites
Another mostly overlooked source of links are manufacturer sites. If you sell products, ask the manufacturer to place a link from
their site to yours. I know one business that sells a particular gadget that it gets from a single manufacturer. The link from that
manufacturers website, which does not sell direct, brings the company most of its online business. This is a valuable link in itself,
the manufacturer’s website has a Page-Rank of 7 on its home page. The link to the retailer is on the manufacturer’s home page,
so not only does the link bring plenty of business, but it also gets plenty of respect from the search engines. If you sell products it
is a good idea to ask the makers for a link to your site, you will be surprised at how many respond positively!
Contact companies you do business with
Just like contacting manufacturer websites that you deal with, contacting any company you work with is also a great idea for
getting backlinks! Many companies that do good business with people will be more than happy to trade links with people they do
their business with. If you are a valued customer or supplier then you can get a nice easy link this way, just send them a mail
asking for a reciprocal link trade. This is a job best handled by the site owner, and not something you hire someone to do.
Send out press releases
You should distribute press releases as widely as possible. You may want to write a few press releases and send them out
through the free press release distribution services, just to generate some good links. This works especially well if you area good
writer and can get readers interested in your company or cause. Mind the rules of the press release sites you will be using so as
to look for where you can put a backlink to your site. The best search engine optimization experts do this task on a daily basis, so
hiring one to do the work for you is a good idea.
Find sites linking to your competition
This is one of the biggest and best kept secrets of linking. Spying on your competition is the most effective way to find the best
links. The only problem is that it requires a lot of time and analysis! Even with automated software it is quite time consuming and
tedious. This method, however, is pretty much one of the best methods of getting links. If a site links to your competition, it may be
willing to link to you, as well. If your competitors sites are useful, and yours is too, you have a good chance of getting a link from
them. Sometimes you don't even need to ask, they may have an automated form to use for links. You can see what article
marketing or web 2.0 properties the owners may have used to link to their website, and even get an idea of all the different
keywords they are ranking for.
So how do you find out who links to your competitors? You will need to buy a program such as SEO Spyglass or SERP Attacks, or
a program like Internet Business Promoter. No matter how you do it, or what you use to do it, searching for competitors backlinks
is a very good way to find sources for high quality backlinks!
Backlinking with Articles
Writing and submitting articles is still one of the best ways to get permanent one way links. While it is a chore to write the articles,
they are well worth your time. When you have your articles ready, you need to get them into the hands of people who want to read
them. You will need to register with as many article directories as possible. Please remember that each unique article that you
write should go to a different directory, and you should never submit the same article to more than one different directory. It is
wasteful and produces duplicate content which the search engines absolutely hate. You will want to sign up to as many different
article directories, and there are plenty out there for you to do that. A comprehensive list is something you will have to build in time
and is beyond the scope of this writing.
You at least want to make accounts at these top directories:
Backlinking with Free web 2.0 blogs
Obtaining backlinks from the use of free web 2.0 blog and website hosts is another common and powerful backlinking method
much like article submittions. While there are some small changes such as linking in the content itself as opposed to in the author
bio of an article, the work is pretty much the same. You need to create a lot of well written content, and link back to your website
from the blog you create. Just like article sites, there are many to utilize, and you should use as many as possible to link back to
You should at least make accounts at these top sites:
There really is a lot of detail to each step in search engine optimization, but we covered the all important basics. Now that you
have the knowledge needed to make the right choices for your website promotion, you can begin working on your rankings
however you see fit. Remember that proper writing is of critical importance, keyword density is important and using the right
keywords, in the right places, with the right formatting is important as well. The long uphill battle that you will be fighting to get to
the number one spot begins with the first step, and in this case the first link. Begin with whatever method catches your fancy first
and continue building links daily. Don't stop even after you are on top of page one. You can slow down linking but you do want to
maintain that rank! Getting there will take months depending on your keywords and work ethic, but being on top is well worth all
We hope this guide taught you something about SEO, what we believe is the truth of the business. The hard truth is that search
engine optimization is a lot of work and requires many things to succeed. We hope you appreciate all the people who do the work
of SEO and give a chance to companies like SEO Sage before trying to tackle it on your own.