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I think it’s safe to say that everyone is familiar with the Hokey Pokey. You know, that song where you put a body part in, take it out and then shake it all about. Then in the end, you put your whole self in to finish the song.

Surprisingly, this song relates really well to doing search engine optimization for your site. The problem is many people are so focused on the foot, head or arm of SEO that they never get around to putting their whole self in and getting real results!

So let’s break down the SEO Hokey Pokey so you can make sure you’re doing all of the essentials to get your site ranked for your main keyword phrases.

You Put Your Head In…

Let’s start our SEO Hokey Pokey with the head. This would include everything that goes in the head section of your website. Here are a few things to consider for this section:

Title Tag

As you’ve probably heard, this is one of the most important parts of your site for keyword usage.

You want to make sure that your titles are unique for every page and use the most important keywords. A good format to follow is this: Descriptive Keyword Based Title | Site Name or Brand.

Keep your titles to around 65 characters or else they will be truncated in the search engine results pages (SERPs).

Meta Tags

When it comes to meta tags, the most important one for search engines is the meta description. This is what most search engines will use as your description in the search results pages. Include your keyword phrases for that page and a call to action. Limit its length to around 165 characters.

For the meta keywords, either leave them blank or keep them very simple. This meta tag is not as important as it used to be, and if you put your best keywords there, your competition will easily know what your keywords are.

There are other things you’ll want to include in your header in certain situations, but the essentials really are the title and meta description. Get those right and you will have this part down. Put your head in!

You Put Your Foot In…

The foot is your foundation, and for this analogy we’re talking about the foundation of keyword-optimized content and crawlable site architecture.

If you want your site to rank well for certain keywords and phrases, you have to make sure you’re using them in your site. Otherwise, your site won’t look relevant to those phrases and will not rank well. Use your keywords in your text and link from other pages of your site with the right anchor text.

When it comes to architecture, you have to make sure that your site is set up in such a way that it is crawlable by the search engine spiders. If it isn’t crawlable, it does not matter how good your content is, no one will see it! Avoid Flash sites, JavaScript navigation bars and anything else that would impede the search engines from crawling from page-to-page.

Your foundation has to be strong, so put the time in to get it done right! Put your foot in!

You Put Your Backside In…

Your backside in our Hokey Pokey analogy is all the behind the scenes, or back-end things that go into your site. Here are a few to check on:

  • Do you have a robots.txt file set up to disallow search engine spider access to parts of the site that you don’t want indexed, or that can’t be indexed?
  • Do you have an HTML and XML sitemap to help the search engine spiders find all the pages of your site?
  • Is the content management system (CMS) or e-commerce system you are using creating search engine friendly URLs?

A lot of the backend stuff will depend on the way your site is built, whether done page by page or with some kind of CMS or e-commerce system. Make sure you’re using one that can create a search engine friendly site. Then take the time to get your robots.txt and sitemaps created properly. Put your backside in!

You Put Your Arm In…

I’m sure you’re dying to know what the arms are in this analogy. Well, they’re the links you get from other sites!

You see, if you are going to get good rankings, you have to reach out and get links from other sites. I’m not going to go over all of the different strategies on how to do this, but this is going to be the bulk of your ongoing SEO work.

Here are a few articles from the SEO.com Blog that will teach you more about link building:

Sadly, this is an area where many people either don’t put in enough time or just don’t get the right kind of links. I’ve seen a lot of sites that are very well optimized, but they are missing this critical piece. Learn how to link build and then take the time to do it! Put your arm in!

You Put Your Whole Self In…

SEO is the combination of a bunch of little things that give you a result in the end. You can’t just focus on one or two of the essential tasks and expect to get great results. Just like the Hokey Pokey, you have to get to the point where you are putting your whole self in to get results.

If you’re new to SEO, I hope this analogy helps you understand what the essentials are. If you’re an experienced SEO, now you have a dance you can do while you work! Now do the SEO Hokey Pokey!