Search Engine Workshops - Intensive hands-on search engine marketing training during a 2-, 3-, or 5-day workshop Search Engine Workshops Home PageRegister for onsite search engine marketing workshopsContact us for more information about our onsite search engine marketing workshopsLost? Find it in our site map.

Search Engine Workshops . . . the premiere onsite search engine marketing workshops in the world! Click here to go back to the index of SEO articles.

Topics covered at our search engine marketing workshopsDates for future search engine marketing workshopsRegister for onsite search engine marketing workshopsArticles on search engine marketingTestimonials from our search engine marketing workshop guestsSearch Engine Workshops PartnersCommonly asked questions about search engine marketing and our workshopsLinks to useful sites and search engine marketing informationAbout Search Engine Workshops

Top Tips from Some of the
Best SEOs in the Business

by Robin Nobles

Have you ever wondered what types of strategies the top search engine optimizers use for their own sites or the sites of their clients?

In an industry like the search engine industry, where no one can possibly know everything, it's important to learn from trusted experts in the field. So for this article, I interviewed some of the best SEOs in the business in an effort to share their winning strategies with you.

Important facts about these tips

Please remember that these tips aren't necessarily the fundamental strategies that should always be used when working on a Web page, such as including your keyword phrase in your title tag or capitalizing on headline tags or link text. Instead, many of these tips are meant to be applied to the top of the basic strategies in an effort to give you an edge over the competition.

Also, these tips aren't in any particular order of importance. The first tip in any category isn't necessarily the most important, and the last tip certainly isn't the least important.

I've identified each tip with the SEO who wrote it. Then, at the end of the article in alphabetical order, I highlighted the various SEOs who participated in this article, along with brief information about their qualifications.

Enjoy these tips from some of the best SEOs in the business!


* Stick to the basics of search engine optimization for your existing Web pages (i.e. optimized titles, header content, keyword density, the order your text is presented in the code, etc.), before you move into supplementary techniques like doorway pages, doorway domains, and the like. The odds are that if you have not mastered the basic skills to optimize your existing Web pages, you are not going to be able implement supplementary techniques successfully. (J.K. Bowman with Spider Food)

* My advice to everyone is always to remember the basic, simple things that have not changed rather than get lost in details that may change on a regular basis. I find that even very advanced people sometimes need a reminder of the basics to see the forest from the trees. (Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Watch)


* Focus on building useful ""research content." Remember that the Internet is constantly being used for all types of research. Take advantage of this and develop content that will appeal to the people who are doing the research. What is it that people want to know? People are looking for "how to" articles, "inspirational" articles, reference material, financial advice, technical advice, comparison charts, phone numbers, historical information, serial numbers, and the list goes on and on. Don't just do up a general page on a topic. Do a little research. Talk to some real people and see what it is that fascinates a specific group. Look for a newsgroup and see what they talk about. From your research, try checking a few keywords in WordTracker. From WordTracker, you can discover trends that people are using to conduct research. If you have a garden center online, perhaps you'll want to build a content rich doorway page that offers detailed blue prints for building a birdhouse or an article on "How to attract hummingbirds to your garden," etc. If you have an online jewelry store, perhaps you'll want to offer articles on how to determine the real value of a diamond or a tutorial on Victorian gemstones. (John Alexander with Search Engine Workshops)

* If your site makes heavy use of graphics and has no substantial real text content, this will severely impact your ability to get good search engine listings because there is nothing for the search engines to read when they index your Web site. You should consider redesigning some of your pages to include real text rather than graphical text. (Paul Bruemmer with Web Ignite)

* Customize content for each page. Every URL is a potential entry point. Keep content in the header tags focused and terse. Simplicity is so important in search engine optimization. (Marshall Simmonds with

* Use cgi-based date scripts to keep the site fresh. (Ginette Degner with and Search Engine Workshops)


* Proper submission to the major directories is critical. One of the most significant changes in search engine marketing in recent years has been the rise in popularity of human-reviewed directories and catalogs like LookSmart, Yahoo, and Open Directory. Some search engines prominently display directory listings for many popular searches. MSN is a prime example. Some of the other major engines also list directory results prominently, or at least emphasize them in various ways. You can recognize directory listings since they are often called "Web Site" results rather than "Web Page" results. Once you submit to a directory, it's difficult to go back and correct mistakes later. Some of them like Yahoo and LookSmart charge you for the privilege of simply being reviewed for inclusion. Therefore, it's of utmost importance to get it right the first time. (Brent Winters with FirstPlace Software)

* Get listed with the human-powered directories of Yahoo, LookSmart and the Open Directory. If this is all you do, you'll get plenty of traffic. All either get lots of visitors or "power" other sites that get plenty of visitors. In addition, getting listed with them helps crawler-based search engines locate your site and perhaps help it rank better, because of the link importance these sites provide to you. (Danny Sullivan with Search Engine Watch)


* It's important to experiment and diversify your optimization strategies. The algorithms of each engine change frequently to keep content fresh -- so should your techniques. It is important to abide by all the rules and regulations as set forth by the engines to avoid spamdexing. (Marshall Simmonds with

Due Diligence

* First comes content, then optimizing your pages for the search engines, checking your HTML code, etc. Next comes the submission of your pages to the search engines. Possibly resubmit your older content, depending on ranking and various other factors. (Introduce at least some minor changes before you do.) Follow the rules of the craft. Later, check your logs daily. Learn how to recognize search engine spiders to see if your submissions were successful. Check out all search engine generated hits to determine: a) your ranking, b) what people are really searching for and finding you under -you may be in for a surprise or two on that score. (Ralph Tegtmeier, a.k.a. Fantomaster)

* Read, read, read - learn the trade from scratch. Test out stuff - your mileage may vary immensely from the gurus' -every Web site is different, or, at least, should be. (Ralph Tegtmeier, a.k.a. Fantomaster)

Frames, JavaScript, and Dynamic Delivery Systems

* Framesets need NOFRAMES content added to the FRAMESET section. Also, sites using frames, image maps, or JavaScript navigation do not get properly indexed by search engines because the frame containing links to other pages within the site gets overlooked. A remedy for this is to create a redundant set of text links in as many of the frameset component pages as is practical, such as at the bottom of your main content page. (Paul Bruemmer with Web Ignite)

* Build crawler-friendly. Avoid using frames or dynamic delivery systems, and ensure that you have good internal linkage between your pages. (Danny Sullivan with Search Engine Watch)

* Consider putting your JavaScript in external files. This also will streamline your source code and make your pages load faster and more search engine friendly. (Bill Gentry with Look Sharp Designs)


* Know what you want to be found for. You should know the top two or three terms that are most important to your Web site and have incorporated them into a 25-word description that doesn't use marketing hype, which can then be submitted to human-powered directories. You should also know a list of the top 10 to 100 terms you'd like to be found for and ensure that you have pages within your Web site with good, solid content for these terms to please the crawlers. (Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Watch)

* Don't make the mistake of picking the wrong keywords. Nothing is more disappointing than taking the time to achieve top rankings and then seeing no increase in traffic from all your efforts. Also, don't pick keywords that are too popular or broad like "games" or "entertainment." You'll not only get visitors that are far less likely to buy your product, but the amount of work needed to gain that ranking will not be worth the trouble. You'll then join the ranks of misinformed critics screaming "search engine optimization doesn't work - don't waste your time!" SE optimization works and works well, IF you take the time to do it right. (Brent Winters with FirstPlace Software)

* Research your search phrases. If you can, also check your referrer logs or other traffic tracking program to help you. If you don't have referrer logs, install a traffic tracking program such as Web Trends Live on your site and let it gather stats for you for a couple of months before you decide on your search phrases. A program such as this or your referrer logs will tell you which search phrases are currently bringing you search engine traffic. You might want to use some of these for your optimization, since you already know that people find you using these. Then, check your rankings for the search phrases that you researched from WordTracker, or other search phrase research tools, as well as those from your traffic tracking program or referrer logs. I suggest this because you may find that you are already doing fairly well with some phrases and you may not want to mess with those. (Bill Gentry with Look Sharp Designs)

* Build focused pages around "real world" queries. Use phrases exactly how they are typed into a search engine, such as "How can I" and "Where can I." You will notice that sites with FAQ pages like this can end up garnering an awful lot of top placements and traffic. (Ginette Degner with Service Brokers)

* Searching for the key phrase in Yahoo and noting the Yahoo Categories returned can suggest key themes and words useful to the site for optimization as well as showing the quantity and quality of the competition. (David Johnson and Annam Manthiram with Position Research)

* I like to thoroughly explore all possibilities when researching keyword phrases. I like to think of keyword phrases as "fuel" for specific topics. After much study using a resource like WordTracker (one of my favourite tools), I like to identify several "high performance" keyword phrases. Then I try not to simply settle for the first ideas that come to mind for how that topic might be employed. I try to "think outside of the box." Learn to develop topical content with a unique spin on it, always keeping the visitors in mind. In a nutshell, understand your visitors' demand for useful topics and then give them what it is they are seeking. Focus should not just be on how to get tons of general traffic to a page. Use page optimization strategies to create useful pages with content that is "in demand" by a target audience. When you start thinking this way, it has a wonderful compound effect on making actual sales or achieving your site objectives. Isn't this why you started a Web site in the first place? (John Alexander with Search Engine Workshops)

* Check log files for user country location and most often used keywords in search engine search. This may demonstrate the need to offer the site in another language (or to provide a link to Alta Vista's Babelfish or the Lycos equivalent) if there are a lot of hits from another country. Knowing the keywords used to arrive at the site helps to decide on variations and changes to the site theme. (David Johnson and Annam Manthiram with Position Research)

* Did you know that the KEI Factor used in WordTracker is an excellent guideline to follow? According to WordTracker, an excellent keyword phrase has a KEI (Keyword Effectiveness Index) of 400+. Are you having trouble finding appropriate phrases with high KEI factors? Try using one single word (appropriate for your site) in the "comprehensive search" feature. I very often extract excellent phrases with a KEI level well into the thousands or even into the hundreds of thousands. Always ensure that the search phrases you select are solidly related to site content. (John Alexander with Search Engine Workshops)

Link Popularity

* Submit to link popularity-based engines LAST after you have had a chance to build your inbound and outbound links up. (Ginette Degner with and Search Engine Workshops)

* Examine your internal link structure carefully. Even for large Web sites, to the extent that it is possible, you want every Web page linking to every other page. Complex linking structures will work to your disadvantage. (J.K. Bowman with Spider Food)

* Build links. Search for the top terms you want to be found for. Review the sites that come up. Visit those sites and ask the noncompetitive ones if they'll swap links with you. These sites are important because the search engines themselves are telling you they are important, by ranking them highly. That means links from them can help you in link analysis systems. It also means that if these sites get visitors, you may get visitors who follow links out of them. (Danny Sullivan with Search Engine Watch)

* Link exchange with other like sites, and be sure to interlink your pages. (Rocky Rawstern)

* Develop your inbound link popularity the old fashioned way, one link at a time. An investment of just 10 minutes per day to this with a personalized e-mail to Web site owners of similar and significant sites will produce immediate results. And you will never have to worry about the risk associated with link popularity programs. (J.K. Bowman with Spider Food)

* Upgrade your site to an info hub by offering prime outgoing links - such as a search engine portal. This will help boost your site's ranking with the search engines. Contrary to popular opinion, linkage counts both ways, incoming and outgoing. Check out this free distributed search engine portal: The signup page is here: Link to lots of useful sites not directly competing with yours. Request reciprocal links. Create more domains and interlink them all. Avoid mere link farms - there's a ongoing witchhunt targeting those currently. Also, check your linkage regularly. (Ralph Tegtmeier, a.k.a. Fantomaster)

Make it a Game and Have Fun!

* Make a game of it. I like to akin SEO to playing chess. It's a matter of thinking three steps ahead of your competition. For those who do this, the nip and tuck battle for the #1 spot can be quite fun. In fact, it's addictive! So, when you think about SEO, don't just think about it in terms how much money you might make. If you truly become interested in the art and competitive element of search engine optimization, you will be incredibly more successful. (J.K. Bowman with Spider Food)

Newsletters, Forums, and Lists

* The best thing you can do to help your search engine efforts is to stay informed via newsletters and forums. Some of those will cost a great deal of money, and others will be free, but staying informed of search engine developments is important. (Brett Tabke with Webmaster World Forums)

* Participate in discussion forums. Promote on Usenet via your sig file if you can answer (or ask) questions in areas you are either proficient or at least interested in. Contribute to mailing lists. (Ralph Tegtmeier, a.k.a. Fantomaster)

Online Marketing

* Generate lots of fresh, useful content. Keep your blatant marketing activities on economy drive (pardon the pun), be subtle about your promotion. People will notice, and will favor, less dumb hysteria, more openness, and honesty. Admit to mistakes if you make them (as you're bound to), but don't cringe and don't give the impression of reacting self-assertive or selfdeprecating for the heck of it. If you can, issue a newsletter of your own. Never mind if you only have yourself, your wife and your stepmother for subscribers - put it on site and submit it to the engines. They simply adore that sort of all-text stuff! (Ralph Tegtmeier, a.k.a. Fantomaster)

* Search engine optimization in only one aspect of a well rounded promotion campaign. That campaign should slowly broaden into more traditional avenues. Search engines aren't the formula for long term site success - it's up to your site to produce repeat visitors. (Brett Tabke with Webmaster World Forums)

* Make sure your top scoring pages include a call to action. This is not difficult or time consuming but it can make a real difference in getting results. You can easily provide a visitor with some sort of reason to take action now. If it is done well, you can even have customers place a order from a doorway or gateway information page. Every business is different of course, but if you don't believe it, give it some thought and try it. At the very least, experiment with placing your toll free phone number (if applicable) on your top ranking pages. I have a number of clients that do a really great business with a toll free number displayed prominently on their top ranking pages. One of the easiest ways to prompt action is to purposely leave an important piece of information off of your site. At first this does not sound too professional, but really think about it. If they are impressed with your site content, obviously the depth of your content has gained you some respect and credibility with the reader.... so just leave one vital bit of information out. This may start more phone calls and e-mail responses than you expect but it's one of the easiest ways to trigger response. You see, from those e-mails and phone calls, you can now enter further dialogue with the visitor and this will often result in the visitor becoming a customer. (John Alexander with Search Engine Workshops)

Pay Engines

* Open your wallet. If you have the money, paid placement and paid inclusion programs can be a fast, easy way to get good listings or better representation. But even if you have money, don't forget to do all the basic things that can help you get plenty of traffic for free. (Danny Sullivan with Search Engine Watch)


* There are countless tips for optimizing your page's content so that it will be more "relevant" to a given search. Each engine ranks pages differently, so most tips are not universal. However, there is one tip that overrides them all: Create pages that emulate the "statistics" of pages that already rank at or near the top of the search results. These statistics include: a) Frequency of the keywords on the page. Tip: This does not mean more keywords are better. b) Total words on the page. Tip: Mimic the approximate number of words of a top ranking page on your own page. c) Weight of the keywords on the page. (i.e. frequency divided by the total words) Tip: Too high a weight is just as bad as too low a weight. d) Area or location of the keywords on the page. (i.e., title, heading, etc.) Tip: A keyword is given more relevance by an engine when the keyword appears in the engine's "preferred" areas. e) Prominence. Tip: Generally, the closer to the front of the area you can place the keyword, the better. f) Proximity. Tip: The closer that the words of a phrase appear together, the better. g) Off-page criteria. (i.e., link popularity, click through popularity, etc.) Tip: Even when you've done everything else right, don't forget the off-page factors! (Brent Winters with FirstPlace Software)

* For best positioning, content should be placed at the top of a page. However, for splash pages or pages without any content, content can be added at the very bottom and the scroll bar can be hidden to prevent a visitor from reading the optimized content. (David Johnson and Annam Manthiram with Position Research)

* Keep the graphics low and the content high. All engines do two things: index text and follow links. Give the spiders the opportunity to do just that. Keep the content as high on the page as possible and give relevant links to quality content either on or off-site. The HTML title should be focused and accurately represent the content of the page. (Marshall Simmonds with

* If you run a regional business where most of your business is local, it's critical that you include your full company address on every page of your site. Otherwise people could search for "Ford dealer in Chicago" and you'd not appear if your company address is buried only on your contact page. Also take advantage of "proximity" by putting the word Chicago as close to the phrase Ford dealer as possible. Lastly, make sure the address is in text form since search engines can't read your address out of a graphical logo on your page. (Brent Winters with FirstPlace Software)


* Keep things simple. Write good content and titles, and use text links either as your main navigation or in conjunction with graphic buttons, image maps or flash menus. It's ok to use Flash animation on your site, but if you use it on your index page, be sure to integrate it with content so the search engines can index your home page. Also consider making your Flash animations smaller where possible, such as banner size. They are much easier to integrate into a page with content. Flash does not have to dominate the page to be effective or add pizzazz to your site. (Bill Gentry with Look Sharp Designs)

* Did I mention keeping things simple? General optimization will get you good results without a lot of extra time or effort. (Bill Gentry with Look Sharp Designs)

Site Maps

* Web Ignite recommends the creation of a site map page that includes plain text links to as many pages within your site as possible. This will increase the ability of search engines to spider your site and can result in more of your pages being listed. A plain text link to the site map should appear on all pages. (Paul Bruemmer with Web Ignite)


* AltaVista has been vocal lately with the statistic that approximately 95% of all submissions are spam. Therefore, take the time and effort to learn what search engines consider spam and do everything in your power to avoid these violations. It will save much grief if optimization and submission are done properly the first time. (Marshall Simmonds with


* Consider using a stylesheet to redefine html tags and define custom classes. Also make this an external .css file and link to it in the head. Doing so will streamline your source code and make future site-wide style changes much easier. Also, consider using layers instead of tables to further streamline your source code. Streamlining your source code will make it more search engine friendly and your pages will also load faster. (Bill Gentry with Look Sharp Designs)

* Use linked Cascading Style Sheets creatively. Using CSS, you can custom define how your HTML tags display text and links, which is a powerful optimization advantage. (J.K. Bowman with Spider Food)


* Properly done TITLE and META tags at the top of the homepage HEAD section are crucial to your SEO efforts. When applicable, all frameset component pages should contain those tags as well. Properly done ALT text tags are suggested for images. (Paul Bruemmer with Web Ignite)

* Take one minute, at least, and eyeball every page in your site when you make it, in order to write a descriptive 7-15 word HTML title. Think newspaper headlines! You want to grab the readers' attention when they see this title in search engine results and convince them to click through, though you don't want to be misleading. Look at the page, think of the top 1 or 2 terms you'd like it to be found for, then incorporate those words into a title. Don't worry if you go longer than 15 words or shorter than 7. Those aren't limits; just guidelines from my experience on making your titles attractive to readers. What about meta tags? Use the first sentence or two on your page for your meta description tag's content, and in the meta keywords tag, list any important keywords you think the page should be found for and which ALSO appear in the HTML copy of that page. (Danny Sullivan with Search Engine Watch)

* You need to create titles and descriptions that are focused on getting that click, not just on keyword density. The more clicks you can get, I guarantee you the more popular your site will be. (Ginette Degner with and Search Engine Workshops)


* Before you touch one line of code, make sure that you have diligently defined your Web site. You should be able to say, "My Web site is about _____ ______ ______" without any hesitation. You will be able to optimize for many keyword phrases, but this single one, two or three keyword phrase theme should resonate on every page. (J.K. Bowman with Spider Food)

* Use lots of text on each page [over one hundred words], specific to one extremely narrow theme. (Rocky Rawstern)

* The primary technique for good positioning is rich, robust visible text. A theme page is much better than a doorway page, since it emphasizes relevant body copy. (David Johnson and Annam Manthiram with Position Research)

* Create a themed mini-library that pays off in big numbers of targeted traffic! Using WordTracker, find an appropriately related "hot topic" for your Web site. What I like to do is to build a little group of information rich, top ranking pages and fashion them into a little mini-library (6 to 20 pages), all with slightly different variations of that hot topic. They are all linked together with a separate topical index page. The key to success is to first research the best keyword phrases (high KEI values), then build quality content (the stuff that folks love to learn about). Only use topics that appropriately apply to the overall theme of the site. Each content-rich "library page" should also employ creative text links into different parts of your main pages. You want lots of horizontal "click throughs" to your entire site. Make sure each optimized page within your themed library is for a DIFFERENT or slightly different phrase. Also ensure your library pages are not just slapped together from a template. Each library page should have a unique layout and differing content to avoid penalization with anti-spam filters. The result is a flood of targeted traffic to the "library" which can then move throughout your entire Web site. (John Alexander with Search Engine Workshops)


* As you learn more about search engine marketing, you'll discover it is not an exact science. Some of your pages will rank well the first time out, and some will not. In addition, your rankings will fluctuate, calling for tweaks in design from time to time. Therefore, as with any marketing strategy, you need a method to measure your progress. In this case, you need a convenient way to report your rankings for each keyword and engine you're targeting, and to track the number of visitors to your Web site, along with where they came from. WebPosition Gold ( helps you manage and automate both these essential tasks. (Brent Winters with FirstPlace Software)

Web Design

* Design the Web site with the search engines in mind. Use text links especially if you have image maps or frames, etc. (Ginette Degner with and Search Engine Workshops)

A special thanks to the following Search Engine Optimizers who were willing to share their tips for this article (listed in alphabetical order):

* John Alexander is a Professional SEO and Educator who co-owns Search Engine Workshops with Robin Nobles. They also own teach online training courses through OnlineWebTraining, conduct Ultra Advanced SEO Symposiums, and John has written Wordtracker Magic and co-authored the Totally Non-Technical Guides to Having a Successful Web Site (TNT Guides.)

* J.K. Bowman is the Editor of Spider, one of the largest tutorial resources on the Web for search engine optimization and Web site promotion techniques. He currently lives in Mississippi, where he also provides consultancy and positioning services.

* Paul J. Bruemmer is CEO of Web-Ignite Corporation, a search engine traffic agency. Founded in 1995, Web-Ignite provides search engine traffic for Fortune 1000 dot-coms and for B2B and e-commerce sites.

* Ginette Degner operates Service Brokers, a Web Optimization and Marketing Strategies firm providing expert search engine placement and consultation services since 1993. She works with Search Engine Workshops in their online and affiliate areas.

* Bill Gentry is the owner of Look Sharp Designs (Look Sharp Designs), an online marketing and design company that offers a wide array of online marketing solutions to a diverse clientele.

* David Johnson and Annam Manthiram are Search Engine Research Specialists with Position Research, a search engine optimization firm that considers "research" an integral part of optimizing Web sites.

* Rocky Rawstern is a Senior Search Engine Analyst with a prominent search engine optimization company on the West coast.

* Marshall Simmonds is the Director of Search for About, Inc., a division of parent company PRIMEDIA Inc. Marshall is responsible for maximizing search engine exposure for About's 700 topic sites which cover 1,000,000 articles. He also oversees search engine strategies for Primedia's online properties, such as and

* Danny Sullivan, Editor of Search Engine Watch, is often considered the Internet's "search engine guru." He has been helping Webmasters, marketers and everyday Web users understand how search engines work for half a decade.

* Brett Tabke of PHD Software Systems is also the owner of Webmaster World Forums and Search Engine World (, extremely popular informational sites designed "by Webmasters for Webmasters."

* Ralph Tegtmeier is the co-founder and principal of Ltd. (UK) and GmbH (Belgium) (, a company specializing in Webmasters software development, industrial-strength cloaking and search engine positioning services. He has been a Web marketer since 1994 and is editor-in-chief of fantomNews, a free newsletter focusing on search engine optimization, available at:

* Brent Winters was President of FirstPlace Software, Inc. and author of the highly popular MarketPosition Newsletter. FirstPlace Software developed WebPosition Gold (, the first software product to track your rankings on the major search engines and to help you improve those rankings. NetIQ purchased WebPosition Gold and now markets the software.

Robin Nobles is the Co-Director of Training of Search Engine Workshops with John Alexander. They teach 2-day beginner, 3-day advanced, and 5-day all-inclusive "hands on" search engine marketing workshops in locations across the globe. She also teaches online search engine marketing courses through, and she's a member of Wordtracker's official question support team. With partner John Alexander, she's co-authored a series of e-books called, "The Totally Non-Technical Guides to Having a Successful Web Site." And, they opened a networking community for search engine marketers called The Workshop Resource Center for Search Engine Marketers.

Click here to go back to the index of search engine marketing articles

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed
under a Creative Commons License.

Search engine marketing is the key to unlocking access to the world.

Unlock extraordinary traffic potential!

Search Engine Workshops
. . . the premiere onsite search engine marketing workshops in the world!

Click here to go back to the index of SEO articles

Search Engine Marketing Workshops | Site Map | Affiliate Program

Privacy Policy | Terms of Service


Search Engine Workshops     Phone 905-853-4472