Tips from a College SEO Course – Duke University

SEO for Startup Businesses: Optimization

Our first article on SEO For Startup Businesses outlined the grand view of an SEO campaign. We are now going to demonstrate some of the simple methods that you can use to make your website not only more search engine friendly, but more user friendly as well. For the purposes of the article, let’s create a fictitious startup that built an online project management system.

Keep in mind that some of the below implementations do require the research that was mentioned in our first article, but others simply require a little know how and some elbow grease.

Relevant Titles

When creating content on your website, it is logical from both a usability and search engine standpoint to make your titles as explicit as possible. The more relevant your title tags are, the quicker that users can find what they want on your website and the easier it is for search engines to categorize the content. Using relevant titles applies to both your site’s pages and blog posts, so avoid creating flowery titles such as “Ways to get in touch” in comparison to “Contact Us” or “Web-based project management tool ” when you can say, “Online project management”.

As you are determining your titles, the research you have done on targeted search terms can really make all the difference in your website’s visibility. Let’s say that Task Smashers wants to name their home page, “Task Smashers – Online Project Management”. This title is a great start since they are being descriptive, but “online project management” doesn’t get searched for very much on its own (only 40,500 searches monthly in Google). Naturally, Task Smashers wants their website to be found by as many people that search for project management as possible, so let’s expand upon the title and bring it to be much larger targeted audience. Adding in some more terms that describe their product’s functionality, we can create a title such as “Task Smashers – Project Management, Task Management and Collaboration” that has 3 major search phrases instead of 1 and an estimated 2,440,500 searches per month – what a huge difference in potential visibility!

Organized Content

Header tags (H1, h3, H3, etc) are designed to allow website owners to define the importance of text on their page and organize it accordingly. With the exception of the title, the H1 tag is the most prominent text on a page to both users and search engines and is used to help establish the theme of the page; in addition, the other heading tags are used to label subheadings under the H1 tag in order of importance. For example, if Task Smashers has a “Tour” page highlighting the various features of their product and they name the page, “Take a Tour of Task Smashers Project Management”, the H1 tag should be something like, “Project Management Features Tour”. The H1 tag can be used multiple times if you have a few important headings, but using a sole H1 tag and then categorizing the rest of your content using h3, H3, H4, etc tag yields a more organized, keyword targeted page. However, you should not encase large sections of text in the header tags to attempt to spam the search engines – your goal is simply to organize your content and define the overlaying themes on a specific page.

By default, header tags are not the most attractive pieces of text on a web page so you can use CSS to style them. For example, we use the below css code here on Forge Search Marketing for our H1 tags:

.post h1, .post h1 a {font-family:Georgia;font-size:28px;margin:30px 0 10px 0;font-weight:normal;line-height:32px;}

Readable URLs

By default, many websites are structured using dynamic URLs and while these do not greatly hinder your search engine rankings, utilizing readable URLs has a variety of benefits:

  • Easier to remember and associate with a specific website
  • Higher keyword visibility from search engines
  • Users can identify what content the link provides, creating trust
  • Higher click-through rates on search engines, emails, IM’s, etc.
  • More easily read by all major search engines
  • Website analytics becomes much easier to read and decipher

A caveat to implementing readable URLs is that if you already have a dynamic structure in place and your website is live, it is best to NOT convert it over to a readable/static URL structure unless you are working with an SEO professional. Changing your URLs without taking certain preventative measures could be catastrophic to your search engine rankings – as we said before, dynamic URLs are not bad, they are simply not as preferable.

Implementing readable URLs depends on what platform you developed your website, so here are a few resources to help get you started:

Meta Tags

One of the most commonly overlooked tasks when doing basic search engine optimization is implementing the appropriate meta tags into your website. Let’s take a look at the example below:

<head><title>Task Smashers – Project Management, Task Management and Collaboration</title><meta name=”description” content=”Task Smashers online project management is easy to use, easy to track, and won’t break the bank.” /><meta name=”robots” content=”index, follow” /></head>

Some of you may be asking, “Where is the keywords meta tag?” Due to the keywords meta tag being abused by spammers some years ago, all major search engines with the exception of Yahoo do not currently use it as a ranking factor. If you do choose to use it, only fill it with a few central keywords to your product or service so that you are not seen as attempting to spam.

The description tag content shows up on the SERPs right under the title of your website and should be limited to around 160 characters. If you do not have a description meta tag in place, the search engines will automatically generate this text for you based on the content of your website; however, you should always fill this in so that you can accurately describe your site and convince searchers that your site is of value to them.

Description meta tag shown on the Forge listing on Google



meta tag is an easy (but somewhat inefficient) method for instructing search engines how to, or how not to, crawl your website. In the above example, the instructions are “index, follow” which search engines will do by default. In contrast, if your website is still in the development stage, it would be wise to list this as “noindex, nofollow” so that your website’s content does not prematurely show up in the SERPs with outdated information. Alternatively, utilizing declarations in a robots.txt file is preferred by more advanced users.

This entry was posted Sunday, November 8th, 2009 at 8:53 pm and is filed under SEO, Startup Business. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.