The last couple weeks of the year is usually down time in most offices, distracted by holiday parties and run on skeleton crews. We have a productive idea for making the most out of these last nine days of 2011: do a little something to improve your search engine results. We wouldn't dream of taking you from those festive glasses of bubbly, so we've come up with a task-a-day SEO checklist that won't overwhelm you but that will leave your website performing better in the new year.
1. Know and use heading tags.
These are widely misused but can help visitors as well as search engines navigate your site. The W3C says, "A heading element briefly describes the topic of the section it introduces." This Improve the Web article has a great break-down of how you might use the H1 tag, suitable for people who are less than acquainted with HTML mumbo jumbo.
2. Swap out your outdated bold tags.
Search engines like Google scan through the text on your page for keywords - the words that best represent what the page is about. One of the things they look for is words in bold, assuming that you bold things that are important. Bolds should use <strong> tags, not outdated bold <b> tags. The Spunky Jones SEO Blog has a nice description of why strong is better than bold for SEO.
3. Submit your site to some directories.
Don't assume everybody knows your site is there already. Submit it to directories that address what you do. Library Spot has links to some of the most popular nonprofit directories. Don't forget to look for directories in other countries.
4. Bookmark it.
You might already Tweet the heck out of your site's articles or pages, but don't forget other social bookmarking sites. Search Engine Journal has a wicked long list of 125 social bookmarking sites.
5. Add a sitemap.
Search engines use sitemaps to quickly find each page on your site. Add one. If you have a big site, make sure it's automatically updated.
6. Beef up your content.
Search engines like meaty text. Make sure your site has an adequate amount of text instead of a few floating headlines. If your pages should be longer, go ahead and beef them up. Just make sure to optimize for easy reading.
7. Plan your blog.
The best way to keep the search engines (and people) coming back is to blog. If you don't have one yet, take a couple hours and plan out some ideas for a new blog you can launch in 2012. If you do have one, still sit down and plan out some ideas for 2012. You'll appreciate being organized.
8. Update your content.
Everybody - humans and search engines alike - hate old content. Conduct a search-and-destroy mission on old dates and duplicate junk on your site. Our Definitive Website Pre-Launch Checklist is a handy tool for systematically updating.
9. Don't lose yourself in your quest to be Number One.
Listen, everyone wants to be number one. While it helps to be the first listing in Google, but it's not worth obsessing over. No matter what certain SEO charlatans promise, it's impossible to guarantee being listed number one. Just concentrate on building a useful site that works well, and more people will use it.
Free SEO Analysis Contest
Improve your search engine readiness with a free SEO analysis - a $600 value. If you win our drawing for a free analysis, we'll comb through your site to tell you where you can improve your site for better performance on search engines.
How can you be entered to win? Just use the comments below to tell us about the next step you're going to take to improve your search engine rankings (it's OK to use one of the tips above - that's why we wrote them!), and you’ll be entered into a drawing to win.
Deadline for entries is Jan. 23, 2012. We’ll pick one winner at random from all entries on Jan. 24, 2012 and will notify the winner via e-mail. You must leave your name and a correct e-mail address to qualify.