If you’re looking to get listed on Google or Yahoo!, this is our top ten list of things that you need to do to get listed properly. It’s not a comprehensive list, but these are what I believe are the top ten most important things you need to do to get some search engine results.

I’ve listed these in reverse order, a lá Dave Letterman, and they are listed in order of difficulty. The first is the easiest to implement, that last takes a bit more work.

10. Fix Your Title Tags

One of the easiest places you can have a dramatic impact on the position of your Web site is to fix the <title> tags on your site. Most people don’t know what to do with them, and just put the name of the page like “Home”, “About Us” or “Contact Us”. Do you know how many pages are in the index with a <title> of “Home”? Too many to count.

Your <title> tag should have your primary key phrase for that page at the very beginning, and some other information taking no more than 65-70 characters (yes, including spaces).

Type site:yourdomainname.com into Google or Yahoo! to see what your <title> tags say. It’s the first line of each page entry.

2. Fix Your Description Tags

Your “Description” META tags similarly are abused or omitted completely by many people, and it’s probably the second most important factor that influences the position on the search engine results pages (SERP). Never copy/paste your “Description” tag from page to page. They should always be unique and specific to that page on your site. Again, make sure your main key phrase is at the beginning of the “Description” tag and have some other descriptive information up to about 165 characters.

Use site:yourdomainname.com again in Google or Yahoo! to see what they see. It’s usually the two lines listed below the <title> tage. If you’ve omitted the “Description” META tag, you’ll probably see random text from your site listed in the SERP.

8. Fix Your Header Tags

Your header tags are like telling Google (and your readers!), what that or page is all about. You should always have one <h1> tag at the top of your body content, and no more than one. Your <h1> tag should have your primary key phrase in it, just like your <title> and “Description” tags. Use <h2> or <h3> (up to <h6>) tags on your site and include your key phrase or variations on a theme. There is no difference in Google’s eyes between an <h2> and an <h6>. They are just typically formatted differently.

Never put “Welcome” or “Home Page” or useless words like that in your <h1> tag. The <h1> should match or be close to your <title> and “Description” tag.

7. Body Content and Check Key Word Density (KWD)

You need to have a good amount of quality text that describes your key word phrase. A good amount is 300-500 words, and use your key phrase in the body content where it makes sense. Never “stuff” your key word phrase, but use it in natural text so that it flows and makes sense. Use synonyms where you can (these count too), and even antonyms if you can. It all adds up to good quality content.

Check your key word density to make sure you’re not overusing your key phrase. There are several automated tools available.

6. Build Internal Links

Internal links are important in the structure of your site. Internal links are those that you build between pages on your own site, and you have complete control over the words in the text and the URL. They don’t have as much influence as external links, but are still helpful.

  • Always use your key phrase for the target page in the actual link text
  • Never use “Click here” or “Read more” in the link text
  • Use the full URL including the Web site and page address, instead of the shortcut “relative” link.

5. Build External Links

External links can help your site by building link reputation as well as helping build PageRank. You often don’t have full control over the external links coming into your site, but the more you build quality content, the more people will link to you. This is called “link bait”.

4. Use Google Webmaster Tools, Yahoo! Site Explorer

Make sure you play by the rules and register your sites with Google and Yahoo!. By using their tools to manage your site, you’ll be seen as one of the “good guys”. Google’s Webmaster Tools gives you more insight into what’s in Google’s index, and what they see when they look at your site. Always fix any errors you see listed in their tool.

Yahoo!’s Site Explorer is also very useful, and always register your site with them.

3. Create an XML Sitemap

By creating an XML sitemap for your site, you’re giving Google and Yahoo! a full map to your site. It’s kind of like giving them the floor plan to your Web site, so it’s easy for them to figure out what’s in there. You’ll be more trusted by them, and they’ll be able to discover new pages more quickly than having to discover them through new links.

Always manage the XML sitemap and keep it up to date. If you add a page, make sure it’s listed in there. Register your sitemap with Google’s Webmaster Tool and Yahoo!’s Site Explorer (they call it a “feed”).

2. Create an Industry Specific Blog

By creating and maintaining an industry blog of your information, you are automatically building great quality content. People will read it, link to it, and value it. It’s a great place to put links back to your own corporate Web site. Keep at it, and keep it fresh. If it goes stale, people will stop reading.

1. Post Online News Releases

Online news releases are a terrific place to generate targeted traffic, and get quality links coming back to your site all at the same time. The cool thing about online news releases is that they typically show up in Google’s index within a few hours of going live.

News releases require a specific format, and should be newsworthy. If you’re not sure how to write one, hire a professional writer who has experience in the press. Someone that I highly recommend is Evan Denbaum. I’ve used him for many projects, and he’s terrific at getting punchy articles for either your blog or your news releases.