As the founder of an independent SEO firm I am asked almost daily “What is the easiest way to optimize a web site?” It is harder to answer than you might think. It depends on who is asking and what their knowledge or experience level is. But last week I read an article written by the person who taught me search engine optimization ten years ago, and I now have an answer… Learn the secret recipe, then use it.

There is no magic bullet that works on every web page like so many SEO ‘miracle’ books and programs would have us believe. Each page has its own unique ‘secret recipe’ that has to be discovered and then applied because every single page it is trying to outrank, is unique. If this seems confusing, just remember my new favorite quote that I borrowed from that author’s website: “Think about it. Anyone could bake Mrs. Fields famous cookies – possibly better than Mrs. Fields herself – with the secret recipe. And that’s all SEO is; knowing the secret recipe for any given web page.

And it really is that simple. We will look at how to discover the secret recipe in a moment, but first there is one crucial thing to understand about search engine optimization before you go any further:

SEO means making a web page as highly visible as possible to search engines… for a given keyword.

Just about everybody knows the first part; but too many people forget the second.

Remember that your soon to be visitor types in very specific keywords (search terms) on search engines like Google, because they are looking for something very specific.

If you know your most important keyword that is great! If not, do not waste your money on expensive keyword software that SEO professionals use. Use a free keyword tool like Google’s, found at:

Just enter in the keywords that you think people are searching for to find your product or service and then check the search numbers for those and related keyword suggestions.

So what about the secret recipe? Once you know your main keyword or keywords you need to see how well your site is optimized for that term already. This is called getting your SEO Quality Score.

What you do is make a list of the most important optimization aspects of a webpage, for the search engine of your choice (because Google looks for different things than Yahoo or Bing.)

Here are ten critical factors for Google, but there are nearly 140 to be aware of…

• Keyword use in document title
• Keyword use in body text
• Link texts of inbound links
• Global link popularity of web site
• Keyword density
• Keyword position and proximity
• Number of words
• Readability level of web page
• Keyword use in H1 headline texts
• HTML validation of web page to W3C standards

Once you have all of this information for your webpage, you need to get it for the pages currently occupying the top ten positions for that keyword and then see how your page compares.

You can buy software that does a lot of this for you but it generally costs $500 to $2,500 for the ones that really work and even then you might need to buy an hour of an SEO consultant’s time to help you really understand it.

Doing it yourself is very educational. You will be an SEO pro after a couple of these. So if you have the time, I would not hesitate.

In my case I did not have the time – or let’s be honest, the patience – to invest what would be 20 plus hours doing this manually and not really understanding what I was looking for. At the time I was a lawn sprinkler installer looking to optimize my company webpage and knew nothing about SEO, except that it was too expensive for me to hire someone else to do it. So I went the cheap and easy route paying a company called DotCom Pirates $50 for something they called their SEO To Go package that reviewed my site for all 140 SEO factors and provided plain English instructions to fix every aspect of it. I did most of them and hit number two on Google.

Here’s my dirty little secret… Realizing this was much easier than breaking my back in irrigation, I picked up a couple local shops as SEO customers, ordered reports for those sites, followed the directions and my SEO business was born. I no longer need their help, but it made for some easy success when I needed it most.

Knowing the secret recipe is the foolproof answer to DIY SEO. Once you have the secret recipe it’s easier than you ever thought possible and you’ll be laughing all the way to the bank with the money you saved.

By Scott Jason (c) 2010