by Michael Fleischner

Don’t believe it when you hear that search engine optimization is totally free. The truth is that organic results themselves don’t cost a whole lot but the effort required to achieve those results are expensive. Whether you are paying someone to optimize your website or build inbound links, achieving top rankings for your website require time and money.

Before undergoing any changes to a blog or web site, you must determine what keywords people are using to search for your programs. You want keyword terms that are frequently used but have little or no competition from other websites. This improves the chances of increasing web page ranking significantly. Marketing professionals can research possible keywords by talking to current students and using free online tools such as Google’s Adwords External Tool which provides estimates of search volume and advertising competitiveness.

After choosing a keyword or set of keywords you’d like to optimize for, it’s time to do a little research. Do a search for the keywords you are considering and evaluate the websites in the first three positions of search results. Take a look at each website and determine their page rank, age, number of inbound links and other ranking factors. After doing a bit of research you’ll have a good determination as to whether or not you can out rank them based on your SEO efforts.

Another good way to learn about your competition is with the help of Alexa. Alexa is a website about other websites. Essentially, you can learn a lot about those websites you’re trying to outrank by collecting data related to web site age and the number of site’s linking in. I only compete with websites that have a low number of competing pages and in bound links. As a result of doing my research and finding the keywords that match this criteria, I almost always achieve number one rankings.

After choosing the most effective keyword phrases for your niche, design web pages to optimize readability for web site browsers and search engines. Basic areas of on-page optimization you should consider include having the appropriate headers for landing pages, a clear call to action and clean navigation. Your keyword phrase should also be used in meta tags and throughout your web page. Don’t overdue it though, keyword stuffing can result in significant penalties from search engines.

The most heavily stressed factor for Google is the PR of those sites linking to your website. The best links are those from highly ranked pages, particularly in relation to your chosen. A hundred links from strong web pages are worth more than a thousand weak ones. So focus you link building efforts on sites that are in your niche and have a high Google PR. Links should also use your keyword phrases as the link text instead of your URL.

Succeeding with search engine rankings is easy if you take the time to optimize your website and focus on building in bound links. The result is a site more valued by search engines, improving rankings for keywords and keyword phrases. Stay the course and build links over time. This ensures that you outrank your competition over the long term.

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