Friday, January 27, 2012

Tutorials for SEO Beginners from

Search engine optimization is the process of improving the visibility of a website to search engines. While that is a simple idea, putting SEO concepts to work can seem daunting to a beginner. Luckily there are a number of SEO tutorials to get started.

Here is a list of SEO tutorials for beginners. There are comprehensive guides, as well as shorter quick-start tutorials. There are SEO overviews, SEO blog tutorials, a SEO video tutorial, and a SEO case study tutorial. All of the tutorials are free.


"The Beginner's Guide to SEO"

"The Beginner's Guide to SEO"

"The Beginner's Guide to SEO" from SEO management platform SEOmoz is an in depth tutorial on how search engines work. It covers the fundamental strategies that make websites search engine friendly. Topics include how people interact with search engines, keyword research, myths and misconceptions about search engines, and measuring and tracking success. Access the tutorial online for free, or download the guide by joining SEOmoz PRO for $99/month.



"Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide."

"Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide."

"Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide" is a best-practices guide PDF download available on Google's Webmaster Tools page. The document began as an effort to help teams within Google. It outlines how to make it easier for search engines to crawl, index and understand site content.


Knight Digital Media Center

"Search Engine Optimization — Basics."

"Search Engine Optimization — Basics."

"Search Engine Optimization — Basics" is a tutorial from the Knight Digital Media Center, housed jointly at the Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication. The tutorial features sections such as keywords, site structure and navigation, optimizing images for SEO, additional training, and related links.


Search Engine Guide

"SEO 101."

"SEO 101."

"SEO 101" is a tutorial by Search Engine Guide, an online magazine for small business SEO. The guide is a fifteen-part series on the essentials of SEO. The series covers SEO basics, title tags, meta description and keyword tags, site architecture, keywords, SEO copywriting, linking, and more.


SEO Book

"The Blogger's Guide to SEO."

"The Blogger's Guide to SEO."

"The Blogger's Guide to SEO" from SEO Book is a tutorial on SEO for blog sites. It explains why blog SEO is different from SEO for other websites. It also features sections on keyword research, optimizing site structure, web analytics, and lists additional links to learn more about SEO.



"Beginners Guide: Doing a Site Audit Using Google Webmaster Tools."

"Beginners Guide: Doing a Site Audit Using Google Webmaster Tools."

"Beginners Guide: Doing a Site Audit Using Google Webmaster Tools" is a tutorial by SEO agencyDistilled. The tutorial focuses on using the free tools that Google provides as a starting point for a comprehensive SEO site audit.



"The Definitive Guide To Higher Rankings For Your Blog."

"The Definitive Guide To Higher Rankings For Your Blog."

"The Definitive Guide To Higher Rankings For Your Blog" from Yoast is a comprehensive WordPress SEO guide. The content is also presented in video presentation.


Practical eCommerce

"SEO Case Study."

"SEO Case Study."

"SEO Case Study" is a Practical Commerce series from Contributing Editor Jill Kocher — an SEO professional — on the SEO struggles of The Motor Bookstore, a retailer of automotive manuals. Kocher writes frequent articles for Practical eCommerce and Ecommerce Developer — our companion publication — on SEO topics that help merchants and web developers, respectively.

SEO: Title-Tag Optimization for Ecommerce Sites - from

Optimizing title tags is a bit like eating your vegetables. No one wants to do it, but everyone knows it's good for you. Search engine optimization professionals universally agree that title tags are the most influential on-page element. SEOmoz recently confirmed the importance of title tags in a report that strongly correlated title tag optimization to higher rankings.

Remember that title tags are the primary text that defines a web page. They are required for all HTML documents. Search engine bots use them to help identify the content of a page. Moreover, title tags appear on search engine result pages and in browsers' tab and page views, as shown below.

Zoom Enlarge this ImageTitle tags appear near the top of the underlying HTML markup, as shown in this Practical eCommerce article.

Title tags appear near the top of the underlying HTML markup, as shown in this Practical eCommerce article.

Zoom Enlarge This ImageSearch results pages — this one is from Google — prominently display the title tag for a Practical eCommerce article.

Search results pages — this one is from Google — prominently display the title tag for a Practical eCommerce article.

Zoom Enlarge This ImageTitle tags are shown clearly in browsers: at the top of the browser window and in the brower tab, as shown above with a Practical eCommerce article.

Title tags are shown clearly in browsers: at the top of the browser window and in the brower tab, as shown above with a Practical eCommerce article.

Title Tag Optimization Best Practices

The guidelines for optimizing title tags are simple. Begin the tag with the most valuable and relevant keyword phrase, use the exact keyword phrase, end with the brand, and keep the length to 70 characters or less.

The positioning of the keyword phrase relates to the importance the search engines place on text at the beginning of any element, whether it's title tags, anchor text or body copy. Using the exact keyword phrase is important because it will be more relevant to a search for that phrase than a title tag that puts other words in the middle of the phrase. For example, if the exact phrase the title tag is targeting is "free online games for kids," the title tag should start with that phrase rather than injecting other words like "free fun online games and puzzles for kids."

Many sites begin their title tags with the brand, resulting in every page sending a stronger signal for the brand and a weaker signal for the phrase for which the page needs to drive organic search traffic. Sometimes the site's content management system or shopping cart drives the order of the title tags to lead with the brand by default. In these cases, working with the vendor or in-house development teams can usually provide a way to customize title tags.

The last guideline pertaining to title tag length is related to the amount of visual real estate search engines will give to the title tag as the blue underlined link in the search results. The engines display 65-70 characters, truncating the rest with an ellipsis — a series of three periods. Because searchers won't see those truncated characters, spammers historically crammed the ends of title tags with repetitive keywords. As such, the search engines algorithmically discount the characters past number 70 or so. If the title tag is 73 characters long and ends with the brand, the worst that will happen is that the user will see the brand truncated. Rest assured the page won't face any sort of dampening or penalty for slight length variations unless the algorithms detect spammy behavior.

Applying Title Tag Best Practices in Real Life

Within those four simple guidelines lie many opportunities to improve or degrade the title tag's optimization. The most obvious way to go astray is choosing the wrong keywords for title tags. Conduct methodical and thorough keyword research — the Google keyword tool is a good place to start — and use it to create a keyword map from which to optimize the site. Every page that will be optimized must be assigned its own relevant and unique keyword phrase, known as the primary keyword. Depending on the depth of the keyword research, each page my also be assigned several closely related secondary keywords. These secondary keywords lend contextual relevance and help strengthen the overall keyword theme of the page without requiring as many repetitions of the exact same word. Consequently, secondary keywords that have been chosen well can make title tags, body copy and other on-page elements read more naturally while preserving the unique and valuable keyword theme required to demonstrate relevance to the search engines.

For example, a page that offers free online games to kids might assign that page the primary keyword of "free online games for kids" based on the phrase's 14,800 average searches a month in Google and its immediate relevance to the page's content. This phrase would be the first words in the title tag, as well as prominently included in other SEO elements on the page. In addition, several closely related secondary keywords could be assigned to the same page:

Search Term Frequency
online games for kids 12,100 searches
kids games online 12,100 searches
kids games online for free 2,100 searches
kids online games 9,900 searches

As for applying the primary and secondary keywords to create the optimal title tag, experts disagree on whether it's best to include a single keyword in the title tag, or a mashup of related keyword phrases. Some prefer to use solely the primary keyword phrase and the brand in an attempt to laser focus the title tag:

  • <title>Free Online Games for Kids | MyBrand</title>

Others prefer to craft the title tag in such a way as to include several secondary keywords while keeping the prominence on the primary keyword:

  • <title>Free Online Games for Kids: Games Online for Free | MyBrand</title>

This example was both tough and simple, and the resulting title tag isn't a great example of grammatical eloquence. But it serves well as an example. It was tough because the keyword phrases are all rather long at three to five words each. That makes combining them creatively while maintaining exact phrasing much more difficult. However, it was also easy because the phrases were all so similar the title tag managed to hit the four most valuable phrases exactly and the least valuable phrase, "kids online games," in phrase match. It's important to note that punctuation is not considered as a separator in title tags. Therefore, the section of the title tag that reads "Kids: Games Online" is still considered an exact match, even though it includes a colon.

The method of title tag optimization that works best for your site can only be determined by testing. Perhaps start with the primary keyword and brand only, as it's easier to implement. While those title tags are live and collecting data, start working on a batch of title tags that include secondary keywords as well, paying close attention to arranging them to get the most exact keyword matches. After a month with the first set of primary keyword title tags, switch to the second set with secondary keywords for a month and analyze the impact.

Using Social Buttons to Enhance Search Engine Optimization from

Social "signals" increasingly influence search results in both Google and Bing. The search engines are coming to consider social signals as more indicative of how searchers value a page than traditional link signals — though links remain very important to search engine optimization. In addition, the engines consider social signals harder to falsely manipulate than the content and link signals that have traditionally driven SEO. I recently wrote about this growing trend in "Managing SEO and Social Media Together." Ecommerce merchants can increase social interaction with a site simply by including the right social buttons or widgets on the right pages of the site.

Search-Engine Access to Facebook and Twitter

Bing and Facebook have an agreement to include Facebook social data into Bing's search results, both as actual results and as a way to influence rankings of other pages that Facebook users "Like" or link to. Google doesn't have access to Facebook data as directly as Bing does, but signs point to Google's ability to crawl public portions of Facebook to cull some social signals. In addition, Google has its own social network in Google+, enabling Google to harvest all sorts of juicy user data about which sites and pages users like and link to. Both search engines have the ability to crawl Twitter for social signals as well. Social signals are clearly important to search engine optimization, but many ecommerce sites struggle with how to encourage more customers to behave more socially with their brands.

Give Customers an Easy Button

For starters, make it easy for consumers to be social when they're on your ecommerce site. Say a consumer is looking for a pair of wool socks that are warm when wet, not itchy and are comfortable enough to hike in all day or lounge around the house in. Wool socks are not that interesting, but to the right person the search for the right pair of wool socks is captivating. That person — and millions of others bent on their own pursuit of things interesting to them — will very likely Tweet, Like, +1 or blog about that product when he finds it. If the product page contains social buttons for Twitter, Facebook or Google+, that consumer is far more likely in his exuberance at having found the perfect pair of wool socks to Tweet, Like or +1 that product page on the spot. Conversely, if the product page does not contain those buttons, behaving socially may not even occur to that consumer. Or it may cross his mind and the thought of copying the URL, going to Facebook, pasting the URL, and thinking of something to say is just beyond the effort he's willing to make.

Including social buttons in the right pages and at the right stages of the conversion funnel is key to increasing consumers' social behavior. The payoff of that social behavior is that the consumers' friends who also search for wool socks are very likely to see that same product page in their search results. Of course, those same friends are also very likely to see the Tweet, Like or +1 and click straight through to the product page to shop on their own as well.

Zoom Enlarge This provides the Facebook "Like" and the Google+ buttons on its product pages. provides the Facebook "Like" and the Google+ buttons on its product pages.

Which Social Buttons and Where?

The big three buttons are Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Choosing which buttons to include comes down to a few key factors.

  • Find your customers. Which social media sites do the site's target audience use most? If you're not sure, check some recent studies like KISSmetrics' findings on social media site usage by gender, income, and other relevant demographics.
  • Consumer or business? Is the product or service targeted toward a consumer or business audience? Business-to-business sites may want to focus on Twitter and LinkedIn sharing.
  • Communicate with the marketing department. Which social media sites does the marketing team focus on? If marketing is working hard to drive transactions from the Facebook channel, it will be important to include Facebook sharing buttons on the site.
  • Space considerations. How much space can be carved out of the existing page templates? Is there room for one button, three buttons, or one widget? Work with design and user-experience teams to balance the social and search benefit with the user and brand experience.

KISSmetrics can help merchants identify which social media sites their prospects use.

KISSmetrics can help merchants identify which social media sites their prospects use.

Choose the Right Social Graphic

After choosing the social sites to support, choose which types of icons, links, buttons and widgets are most appropriate on each different page type. For example, many sites include in their headers or footers a set of icons that link to their Facebook or Twitter profiles along with their email newsletters and RSS feeds. Icon links like these enable customers to interact with a brand over time, but do not encourage point-of-excitement sharing such as the wool socks customer would engage in. Linking icons are important for their own reasons, but they're simply not functional enough to encourage the sharing of individual pages.

Each social media site offers a variety of sharing buttons and widgets to encourage visitors to sites all across the web to share content. These buttons and widgets are free from the sites themselves and come in a variety of sizes, shapes and functionalities. Facebook alone offers 11 social buttons and widgets from the basic Like button to Facepile, which "displays the Facebook profile pictures of users who have liked your page or have signed up for your site." The other major social sites' button and plugin offerings can be found at Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.

Facebook's "Social Plugins" page.

Facebook's "Social Plugins" page.

Beyond Social Logo Links

For example, if an ecommerce site chooses to enable stronger sharing for Facebook across its site, it may use the following buttons, depending on the type of page.

  • Header or footer on every page. Insert icon links to the Facebook profiles for the site. The goal is to enable longer-term communication with customers via the site's Facebook profile.
  • Category pages. Place the Facepile widget in the side navigational channel to show customers which of their friends Like the site as a whole. The goal is to inspire confidence in the site based on the number of people overall — or friends specifically — that also trust and like the site enough to Like it on Facebook.
  • Product pages. Place the Like button near the product image or name. The goal is to capture point-of-excitement Likes regardless of whether that person eventually buys the product or not.
  • Shopping cart order confirmation page. Place the Like button near the images or names of the products purchased. The goal is to capture Likes from people who are proud of their purchase and want to show it off. Each product needs its own Like button, however, because the goal is to increase Likes for the product pages for purchased products, not to Like the confirmation page itself.
  • Blog and marketing pages. Insert the Like button under the main headline or near the primary visual. The goal is to enable customers to spread the word about initiatives and charitable programs to increase positive buzz about the brand naturally. The Facepile widget could also be beneficial on these pages to engender trust.
  • Email newsletter. When products or initiatives are featured, include a Like button at the end near the "Read More" link that the customer would click to visit the product or initiative page. The goal is to capture Likes from customers who have read enough in the newsletter to know they Like the product or initiative but have no intention of clicking through to the site to transact or read more.


This article has been a single example of using two plugins for one site. Major etailers like Amazon use all of these tactics and more to capitalize on the value of social buttons and widgets to their organic search and other marketing channels. The easier and more pervasive the social buttons are across the site, the more likely customers are to engage socially, but it doesn't have to be an all or nothing proposition. Consider dipping a toe in the social plugin waters with a single page type and a single social network to get the feel for how the buttons interact with the platform and how consumers interact with the buttons.