Learn more with dummies

Enter your email to join our mailing list for FREE content right to your inbox. Easy!

Cheat Sheet

Search Engine Optimization All-In-One For Dummies Cheat Sheet

From Search Engine Optimization All-in-One For Dummies, 3rd Edition

By Bruce Clay

Effective SEO (search engine optimization) is critical for any business that has a website. You want your business’s website to show up on that first page when people search for what you’re selling, and that’s where SEO comes into play. Here you’ll find the key components of a website that should be crafted with care to help a web page rank, the server status codes that help or hinder SEO, and advanced search operators that will have you searching the web like a pro.

SEO Checklist for On-Page Optimization

Search engine optimization starts on your own website. Focus on ensuring that your content, server setup, and internal links communicate expertise and professionalism to search engines and visitors. Strive to make your website equal to your competitors first, and then focus on surpassing them. As you work to improve your website, stay organized by using this checklist to coordinate your SEO campaign:

  • Do keyword research.

  • Create a Title tag (<title>).

  • Create a Meta description tag.

  • Create a Meta keywords tag.

  • Create heading tag(s) in hierarchical order, headline style.

  • Have a minimum of 400 words of textual content.

  • Include descriptive Alt attributes on all images.

  • Consistently use Strong and Bold tags (<strong> and <b>).

  • Use fully qualified links (begin all links with http://).

  • Use a sitemap to outline silos.

  • Never exceed 99 links on a page.

  • Use text navigation, rather than image maps, JavaScript, or Flash-based navigation.

  • Externalize JavaScript/CSS code.

  • Have a Robots.txt file.

  • Use web analytics tools to monitor traffic and ROI (return on investment).

  • Include image names.

  • Create a privacy statement.

  • Include contact information.

  • Check server logs or webmaster tools for server errors.

  • Use 301 Redirects over 302 Redirects.

  • Test mobile usability of your site (with tools like Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test).

  • Check Google Search Console for reported manual penalties.

  • Improve site speed using tools like Google PageSpeed Insights.

Advanced Search Engine Operators for Power Searching

Search engine optimization (SEO) requires some technical knowledge about how search engines work and how to research what makes sites rank and find out how your competitor sites are successful. The advanced search operators in this table show you how to filter search engine results to find just the information you’re looking for, including limiting your results to just a single site or getting back results where your keyword is used in a page title or URL.

Google Bing Yahoo Result
cache: Shows the version of the web page from the search
engine’s cache.
related: Finds web pages that are similar to the specified web
page.
info: Presents some information that Google has about a web
page.
define: define: or definition: define: or definition: Provides a definition of a keyword. You must insert a space
between the colon and the query in order for this operator to work
in Yahoo! and Bing.
stocks: stocks: stocks: Shows stock information for ticker symbols.
(Note: Enter ticker symbols; don’t type web
sites or company names.)
site: site: site: Finds pages only within a particular domain and all its
sub-domains.
allintitle: Finds pages that include all query words as part of the indexed
Title tag.
intitle: intitle: intitle: Finds pages that include a specific keyword as part of the
indexed Title tag. You must include a
space between the colon and the query for the operator to work in
Bing.
allinurl: Finds a specific URL in the search engine’s index.
(Note: You must include http:// in the URL you enter.)
inrul: Finds pages that include a specific keyword as part of their
indexed URLs.
inbody: inbody: Finds pages that include a specific keyword in their body
text.
“phrase” “phrase” “phrase” Finds instances of the exact phrase within the quotation marks
everywhere it appears within the search engine’s index.
(Note: Substitute [phrase] in the search operator
with the exact phrase you’re searching for.)
Removes results that contain the word following the minus sign.
(Note: This search operator is added on to the
keyword or phrase being searched for. It should follow the search
query. For example, the query [site:www.bruceclay.com -training]
will give you all indexed web pages on the domain without the word
training on the page.

Must-Know Server Status Codes for SEO

Your hard work on search engine optimization (SEO) won’t matter if your server isn’t set up to properly deliver pages and codes to search engines and your customers. You have to keep your server happy and healthy. Use this table to diagnose server problems, sort out redirects, and ensure that everything is working as it should, and you’ll minimize SEO problems.

Code Description Definition What It Means
200 OK The web page appears as expected. You want to see this status. Your server and web page have the
welcome mat out for search engine spiders (and users, too).
301 Moved Permanently The web page has been redirected permanently to another
web-page URL.
When a search engine spider sees this status code, it moves
easily to the appropriate new page. A 301 Redirect status
doesn’t cause a problem for search engine optimization.
302 Found (Moved Temporarily) The web page has been moved temporarily to a different
URL.
This status should raise a red flag if you find it on your web
server. Even though people claim legitimate uses for a 302 Redirect
code, this code can cause serious problems for your optimization
efforts. Spammers frequently use 302 Redirects maliciously, so if
you don’t want a search engine mistaking your site for a spam
site, avoid them.
400 Bad Request The server couldn’t understand the request because of bad
syntax.
A typo in the URL could cause this status. Whatever the cause,
you don’t want to block a search engine spider from reaching
your content pages, so investigate what’s causing this status
code on your site.
401 Unauthorized The request requires user authentication. Usually, this status means that you need to log in before you
can view the page content. Not a good error for spiders to
hit.
403 Forbidden The server understood the request but refuses to fulfill
it.
If you find this status code on your website, find out why. If
you want to block the spiders from entering, have a good
reason.
404 Not Found The web page isn’t available. You see this error code as the Page Cannot Be Displayed page
that appears when a web site is down or nonexistent. You definitely
don’t want a spider following a link to your web site only to
be greeted by a 404 error! That’s like visiting a house and
finding the lights off and the doors locked. If your server check
shows that you have a 404 error for one of your landing pages, fix
it ASAP.
500 and up Miscellaneous server errors The 500–505 status codes indicate that something’s
wrong with your server. Check them out.