When you've been watching search engine optimization changes for as long as I have you tend to recognize the big neon signs that clearly tell you what you should be doing and not doing on your website.
Basically, if you want to rank well in Google's search results then you simply need to read their Webmaster Central Bog and seriously take to heart everything they tell you to do.
The blog is located here: http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/
Unfortunately, Google doesn't normally smack you across the face with exact directions. Instead they say things like "we look for descriptive content for products" or "you need to make sure your page titles describe the intent of your web page."
When you see vague directions like that you simply want to strangle someone because it leads many search engine optimization professions to argue with one another over the "best practices."
After years of begging, Google finally created a single page SEO direction sheet with 7 simple directions on it. Here's the URL:
This links directly to the PDF, and a popup will appear on your screen to download it.
Stated on that sheet, Google says "Follow these simple tips to help Google understand the content on your site."
Excellent! Let's review...
1. They say to write a concise page title. -- It doesn't say "stuff the title with keywords," and it doesn't say "blab at the mouth." It says "concise."
I get really upset when I see other SEO "professionals" insisting that they can write full sentences as the page title. That's totally stupid. This is a "page title," akin to the title of a book, or the title of an essay. Keep it under 67 characters.
2. They say to keep domain names easy to read and URLs easy to understand. -- Always try to use your business names as your domain name, and don't buy a keyword rich domain name like "diamondbridalrings.com" because that screams of spam.
They also suggest that you need to completely do away with the website URL structure that uses variable strings as the URL. They prefer written words so readers have more of a reason to trust you.
3. They say to write a meta description that summaries the page. FINALLY they are admitting that these descriptions need to be fewer than 160 characters. Alleluia!!! This is now in writing and is definitive proof that those SEO "professionals" that stuff paragraphs of text into the meta description are wasting your time and money.
4. They say to give your images short, descriptive file names. -- In other words they do not want you to use PIC0001.JPG as your image name, but rather something that would actually describe the photo. Is the photo a halo ring? Then perhaps "halo-engagement-ring.jpg" is appropriate.
I'm not exactly sure how "short" of an image name they want. Since I don't have any empirical data, I'll assume from past experience that they will allow image file names to be as long as needed without triggering a "keyword stuffing," or unnatural appearance to your images.
5. They say to use the "alt" attribute for your images. -- Again I'm going to sing praises that they have put this in writing! So many people are lazy when it comes to correctly tagging images with descriptions inside the "alt" attributes of the images.
Although they didn't mention it on this 1-pager, you do need to use the "title" attribute for your images too.
6. They say to include a short caption below every image. -- Hooray! Again, proof that putting a caption below all the images on your website is important. The captions should be a brief description of the image without going overboard. The caption does not have to repeat the same information that is already explained in the adjoining text.
7. They say to keep it up to day. -- I love what they wrote there: "Your website is like a virtual storefront. You wouldn't leave a store unattended for 6 months, right?" I've written plenty of Daily Golden Nuggets about my tracking of the slow death that occurs on websites that are not updated regularly. And now, for the record, they are stating that it's important.
They gave specific examples saying you need to be blogging, announcing new products, showing sales, and special offers.
So there you have it, a smack upside the head with the 7 basic requirements for search engine optimization. But remember, these are the basics. Google probably will never publish a more advanced version of this 1-pager.