SEO can be confusing. Google releases new algorithms and updates every now and then, and your hard-earned rankings suddenly go down. You need to adjust your SEO strategy and start climbing up all over again.

However, there are basic optimization techniques that still work – more or less effectively – regardless of any changes in the search engine algorithms. If you’re struggling with your website optimization, may be you should focus on these ten simple ground rules before you get to the more advanced SEO tricks?

1. Choose the right keywords.

It’s a common mistake to add generic keywords to your content and hope to get your website rank for them. This doesn’t work. For example, using “flowers” as a keyword will get the website of a flower delivery firm nowhere: millions of websites will be competing for a generic query like that, and only a small percentage of the people who use it will actually be looking for a flower delivery service. So choose more specific key phrases that people looking for your business would use, like “flower delivery in Orlando” or “order flowers in Orlando” (Google’s Keyword Planner is a good tool for picking these keywords).

What you shouldn’t do is stuff your copy with the keywords so that it shows. Google has a policy against that, so your website will be penalized.

2. Optimize your titles.

Titles are a great place to use your keywords, because they let the search engine spiders know what the page is about right away. Don’t abuse the key phrases, though: catching the reader’s attention remains the primary goal of any title, so it should sound natural.

What you shouldn’t do is make your title longer than 70 characters. Extra characters will not show up in search results, and your title will end in “…”. Not very catchy, is it?

3. Use and optimize your image descriptions.

Search engines can’t read images, but you can help them find your pictures by adding alt attributes to them and using your keywords in the descriptions.

What you shouldn’t do is make the descriptions too long or overuse the keywords. Make sure the key phrases you add to the description are actually related to the image.

4. Generate a sitemap and use it on your website.

Sitemaps help search engine spiders index your content faster and guide them through your website. An XML sitemap is easy to create and use, and will do your rankings good.

What you shouldn’t do is make the sitemap too big, that might be confusing for the spiders. 25-40 links (pages) will do.

5. Watch your links.

That is true both for your own links and the websites you link to. Make sure your website is free of broken links, and all the outbound ones work well and are helpful for the visitors. This will improve your website’s quality for the search engine, and it will get better rankings.

What you shouldn’t do is link to websites you are not confident in. Connecting your web page to a spammy or low-quality resource will impact its reputation, and ultimately its position in the search results, negatively.

Start with these all-time SEO methods, and you’ll be on the safe side when the next algorithm update comes along! Now, what other ground rules do you stick to when optimizing your website? Feel free to share them in the comments.