Opinions on what constitutes the three prongs of the SEO fork may vary, but there are three essential components of any web page that must be in place in order for that page to rank highly. And it’s not just ranking highly that’s important; the page has to stay there for a lengthy time under reasonable circumstances.
The first prong in the SEO fork is the web page’s Meta tags. These are the parts of the page that you don’t see when you access a site with your browser. But the search engine robots see the Meta tags, and they will use them to assist in the decision of how that page is ranked.
The obvious Meta tags, and really the only ones you absolutely should have, are the title tag, the keyword Meta tag, and the description Meta tag. The title tag is not, strictly speaking, a Meta tag. However, it is often referred to as one. It is the one tag that your page must have, as it is the single most important of all the ‘invisible’ elements on any web page.
Your title tag should include your primary keyword phrase. It should be readable by a human, as people will see it in the top browser bar. It should be fairly short and to the point, less than 80 characters optimally. The title should start, if possible, with your primary keyword, and can include a secondary keyword if you wish. Or it can simply consist of your primary keyword phrase alone.
The keyword Meta tag is one that many web developers ignore these days. They reason that the major search engines no longer heed the keyword Meta tag, so why bother including it. This is at least partly true, but some of the minor search engines do still consider the importance of the keyword Meta tag, so I would advise its inclusion. You will never be penalized for including it, and it may help on occasion.
The description Meta tag is still very much used by most of the search engines. It is often the text that is used in the listings description. For this reason it is wise to craft a good description of about 200 characters. Don’t praise the web page – let others do that. Be factual and non-emotional. In short, provide an honest description.
The second prong in the SEO fork is links, both internal and external. A properly designed web site should have its internal linking structure set up in a natural and economical way. There are no hard and fast rules, but the main page will usually link out to every page, and every page will usually link back to the main page. The main page will often have a link to a site map, which will have links to every page in the site. There can be more internal linking, but it should not become confusing or excessive.
External linking can often mean mutually agreed links between two complementary web sites. It can also mean a one-way outbound link, or the greatly desired one-way inbound link. The ideal situation is a large number of one-way inbound links from relevant sites that use appropriate anchor text. This will give the pages a considerable boost in the rankings.
The third prong in the SEO fork is content. “Content is King” they all cry, and they are right too! Without good content your web site says nothing. People visit web sites to gain information. Even the visual sites hosting nothing but video clips have information. That’s why people love the sites with the best information.
Have you ever done a search for something and chosen to go to a site, only to find nothing but AdSense ads? That’s not useful information, and the major search engines don’t like that either. Original good content will always win out over useless garbage. The best original content is written exclusively for the web site it is published on, and it appears nowhere else.
When you have the three prongs of the SEO fork in place, you will be in an excellent position to have your web site rise naturally up the search engine rankings. You will be providing exactly the kind of site they like to see, and so you will be rewarded for your efforts. There are many so-called black hat techniques that can achieve pretty much the same results, but why bother when doing it ‘right’ is really so much easier.