Back-to-school SEO

Every SEO can benefit from a periodic refresher of the important elements of every site. Sometimes it is the simplest things that slip by and trip us up.

It's that time of year again when the kids head back to school and the air begins to hint at the coming of fall. I'm sure the first few days of school are spent doing a little refresh to get all the kids back up to speed after the summer months.

Of course SEOs don't get summer breaks and the learning doesn't ever really stop or even slow down. But that doesn't mean that a little SEO refresher every now and again isn't useful or is any less valuable.

Here are 10 important elements that should always remain top-of-mind with every SEO.

Unique titles: The page title is one of the most important aspects of your site for both search engines and users. Every page should have its own, unique title that encapsulates what that page is about in a succinct, keyword rich manner.

Crawler friendly: Many sites get off on the wrong foot to begin with, or fall astray along the way. All the keyword research and optimization in the world will be of little use if the site can't be crawled because of poor architecture or all your links require JavaScript. Likewise, Flash and Ajax are highly enticing tools (think: "eye candy"), but less than optimal implementation can stop search engines at your front door or leave them looking at what appears to them as empty pages.

Research & test: SEO is a constantly moving target. Web sites come and go, search phrases rise and fall in popularity, sites gain and lose inbound links, and search engine algos continue to change and adapt. Keyword research, site metrics and analytics should be viewed as ongoing tasks.

Keywords: Keywords are the foundation of any SEO program. With these in hand, you can begin to incorporate them into your page titles, headings and body text, as well as incorporating the most evergreen keywords into your file naming.

Compelling meta descriptions: Compelling keyword rich meta descriptions provide an opportunity to communicate with searchers, giving them a reason to click through to your site.

Don't compete: Each page of your site should have its own topical focus. Don't let your pages compete against one another, either because of duplicate content or trying to rank for the same keywords.

Build strong internal links: A lot of attention gets paid to link building, yet many sites fail closest to home with links within the site. Be sure that your internal links are optimal...no 404 errors from broken links, use good keyword rich anchor text instead of meaningless "click here" and "next" kind of links. Take this one step further and look where it makes sense to incorporate internal cross-linking to your own content.

Don't lose what you've built: A lot of energy goes into optimizing a site, improving search rankings, and building links. All of that effort can be wiped away in no time if you change filenames, move pages or even move everything to a new site or change your CMS without properly implementing 301 permanent redirects.

Participate: Today, succeeding online is about more than just keywords, search engines and rankings. You must think outside the site and participate in the greater community. On-site blogging, participating in other blogs and social media sites are all activities that serve to round out any SEO program.

Create great content: It should go without saying, but all your SEO efforts won't make a difference if you don't have great content on your site. Great content is what keeps visitors coming back to your site and encourages others to link to your site. Write content for your site users and the search engines will follow.

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