Foundations in Search Engine Optimization

If you are reading this, I am assuming you have a website and you want people to actually find it.  That is why you put it up after all.  In this article I will give an overview of how to do just that, get found by your target audience.  This process is called search engine optimization or SEO for short.

No Quick Solutions

Let me give you an example of good SEO strategy.  If you want want some really good food, are you able to cook it in 90 seconds?  No, really high quality food takes time to effectively prep and cook.  The quick solution may fill your belly but is will never taste as good as some slow cooked bar-b-que.

Quality SEO works the same way, it takes time, but done correctly will work better.  I say this because some people offering SEO services promise the world (we will make your brand new site #1 on Google in 24 hours).  Don’t hire them.  If you do hire an outside consultant or do it yourself know that for it to be effective it will take some time and effort.

Do Your Homework

This is the first step.  You need to know your ideal audience and the terms that you think they may be searching for to find you.   The better you know them, the better you can utilize target keywords.  Many ways exist to find the right keywords including customer surveys, names of products or services you offer, and keyword research tools.  So how do you use the keywords?  There are two ways, which I shall discuss in the next sections.

Keywords In Meta Tags

The first strategy is to use the keyword meta tags.  Meta tags are loaded by the web browser but are not seen be the end user unless they view the page’s code.  These tags include descriptive information about the page.  One of these is a keyword tag.  If your website runs on WordPress or some other CMS, chances are that you can use a plugin to add the required keywords.

But only use a few keywords and only keywords that are actually relevant.  That is because in the past some people tried to improve their ranking by using keyword spam where they would put dozens of keywords onto their webpage’s meta tag.  This is rarely done anymore because the search engines became aware of the tactic and now penalize websites that do this.

As an example if you have a website for a hot dog stand you might have keywords such as: hot dog, corn dog, ketchup, mustard and relish.  But notice all of these are relevant to a hot dog stand.

Keywords In Your Content

The second method for using the keywords is to work them into the content of the website.  That is a best practice and is one of the recommended strategies by Google’s SEO guide.  To demonstrate this using our hot dog stand example, the website for our hot dog stand may have pages where they talk about serving hot dogs and corn dogs as well as their condiments of ketchup, mustard and relish.  All of the keywords they want people to use to find them are included in the content of the website.

One quick note about content.  I am a big believer that creating fresh content helps your website.  If you have quality content, it gives your users reasons to come back.  The search engines really like fresh content too.  So fresh content is good for both existing users and the users that have not yet discover you.

Recap

To recap we discussed why SEO takes some time, how to use keywords in meta tags and how to use keywords in your content will all help your SEO rankings.  There is a lot more to your SEO strategy but this should get you started.

So what do you think?  Leave your comments below.  If you enjoyed this article and would like to get more content, please follow me on Twitter and like my Facebook page.


Resources

Google SEO Starter Guide

Keyword Research Tool

Security Fundamentals

The bad news is that your organization’s website is at risk, because they all are. There are plenty of people out there with devious intentions whose aim is to embarrass you and steal you and your users information.  I have seen many variations of this in my time as a developer, some of them due to my lack of experience at the time.  In this article I will give you an overview of the most common ways you can protect yourself from threats.  I will expand on all of these topics in later posts but I wanted to start with an overview.  So lets begin.

Threat #1: Passwords

You have passwords for your website (if you are using a CMS like WordPress), email accounts, computers, FTP, social media accounts and more.  The easiest way to protect yourself is to have strong passwords.  An example of a weak password is something like: password123.  Now I have not personally seen a password this week, but in my time I have seen passwords almost as week.  What you are aiming for is a strong combination of Uppercase, lowercase, digits and special characters.  The longer the better.  As an example our week password from above, password123 could be made much more secure if it were pa$sWord123.  However, I still wouldn’t use that.  It’s still too obvious.

Threat #2: Insecure Sites

The second threat is an insecure site, specifically yours.  What you need to do is to never enter any sensitive date into a website that is not running on HTTPS with a  valid security certificate.  And by sensitive date I mean passwords, credit card numbers, driver license number, social security number or anything you don’t want to be made public.  Your should be running your site over HTTPS vs HTTP because HTTPS encrypts the data between the client (your device) and the server, which makes it much more difficult to steal.  Fortunety, running over HTTPS is not hard too do and I’ll show you how in a later post.

Threat #3: External Threat

The external threat are those individuals with malicious intent, that intend to cause harm on your website and to your organization.  There are too many varieties of this to mention but the best things I recommend are related to your website setup. The first is to purchase and run anti-malware software on your web host.  This is essentially the hosting equivalent of anti-virus software for your computer.  The second is to run security plugins on your website that are finely tuned to detect threats such a brute force attack.

Threat #4: Internal Threat

The internal threat are those individuals in your organization that can harm your site but do so unintentionally and not out of malicious intent.  Typically these people accidentally break something they should not have been given access to in the first place.  This is an easy one to prevent.  Your administrator should limit user permissions so that users can edit what is necessary for them to perform their role and nothing more.  For example, if someone in your organization is only responsibility is for posting articles they should not have the ability to add and remove plugins, update themes, etc.

WordPress vs. WordPress

WordPress is the most popular CMS in the world.  Approximately 25% of all websites use WordPress.  However, there are two varieties of WordPress.  In this article I explain both and why one of them is far preferential to the other.

Two Versions of WordPress

WordPress.com is the first version of WordPress I shall discuss.  Using the .com version of WordPress the WordPress organization takes care of all the hosting and all you have to do is login and create your site.  The result of this will give you a URL that looks like yourdomain.wordpress.com.

WordPress.org on the other hand is also called self hosted.  Using this type of WordPress you would download the latest version from WordPress.org and install it on your web host, which you choose, using a domain that you own.  Since it is so popular, almost any host offers WordPress hosting.  Using the self hosted version, would give your site a URL such as yourdomain.com.

Oh and both versions are 100% free to use. So there is no cost to get WordPress (either version).  That is one of the primary versions it is so popular (that and its really good).

Recommendation

My recommendation is to always use the self hosted version.  It will give you the most professional representation for your organization.  Think about it.  What sound more professional yourdomain.wordpress.com or yourdomain.com?

Also if you use the self hosted version it will scale much better.  For example, suppose your just starting out and you choose the WordPress.com version (yourdomain.wordpress.com).  Then you experience some growth.  How long are you going to want your website to be yourdomain.wordpress.com instead of yourdomain.com?

So do yourself and your organization a favor.  If you are going to use WordPress to build your website, use the self hosted version on your own domain.  And don’t think that hosting is going to break the bank.  You can get some really great hosting packages for little more than a hundred dollars a year.  If this is a concern to you, then you probably can’t afford a website anyhow because you will have many other costs beyond hosting such as development fees, stock photography, email hosting and more.