What is SEO? SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation. Search engine optimisation is a set of methods and activities that improve the position of websites in search engine results, such as those given by Google. Some websites may want to show up higher on the page, and so they pay for search engine optimisation from companies that provide it.
The primary aim of SEO is to rank better in search engines for particular keywords. However the primary activity of SEO is centred on generating links to a page. Search engines use links as a way of rating the quality of a page (more links means more people think the quality is high). Once a web page has been structured in a way to maximise the opportunities to use keywords, most SEO companies will then spend time working on a way to get links.
The First Rule of SEO
The prime directive of SEO is “Create what will interest your customers“. Links, pages, content and imagery can all be manipulated in the process of chasing after customers, but the more you compromise on this prime rule, the lower the impact of your SEO activities. We also have 10 more commandments of Google in an early post, for those that want to read about the other rules of SEO.
Why Bother with SEO?
The top result of most searches gets 50% of the clicks. Let me just put that another way. For a keyword like “Sydney Plumbers” that gets over 10,000 searches a month, they will get around 5,000 clicks.
How does Google rank?
PageRank is a link analysis algorithm used by Google it assigns a numerical weighting topages on the web. In the early days of the web it was the most important measure of the importance of a page. These days Google uses a range of methods to measure a page rank. The PageRank of a page is defined using the number and PageRank metric of all pages that link to it. A page that is linked to by many pages with high PageRank receives a high rank itself. This gives you the idea of how you can improve your rank. Further to this, Google ranks each page based on the keywords used to link to it.
Picking the right keywords can make the difference between getting paying customers, and people who just want to read your blog. The best start is to look at the marketing attention cycle which is; Attention, Interest, Desire, Action. You need to look to focus on the two word and three word combinations of keywords that will attract your key customers. The main purpose of choosing keywords is that you will stay consistent with your language throughout your website.
Long Tail Keywords
Long tail keywords are typically words you would not normally use, or optimise for. They are strange combinations of words that a searcher uses that are hard to predict. They might include keywords that are misspelled, or in a strange order. Most of the long tail keyword phrases on our website are 5 words or longer. Even Google recognises they are hard to predict, because 20% of all keywords used on Google are used for the first time. 1/5th of all users of Google are searching for that object for the first time, ever.
People type in strange and long combinations of keywords when they know what they are looking for. These are people that are doing research for something they know they need. As opposed to people searching for “marketing” or “web design” who could be anyone, long tail keyword users will be people who really need “magento ecommerce web design sydney”. This makes them very valuable, because you know the people using them are ready to buy.
A large part of the SEO process is about creating content for the customer. There are two main parts to creating SEO content. The first is creating content that meets web standards and meets the search engine criteria for content. For the web standards, the w3c validator can be used to test that the HTML is valid. To test the search engine criteria, there are no official tools that cover all the bases, but Google have their webmaster tools, and SEO MOZ has term target. For most pages aiming for a particular keyword ranking, using H1 for headings, meta title and description tags are all a good start.
Unique Content Development
First, most search engines look for content to be unique, because they need to know that a page is not a copy or a duplication from other internal pages. Second, unique content is a good indicator of the value and relevance of a page. Good SEO Consultants will work to creating pages that reflect the brand of the company, and also utilise the keywords that the company are targetting. The other upside to creating unique, interesting, content, is that users are shown to stay and interact with a page more if it is interesting and original. The more a user interacts, the more likely they are to purchase a product.
The more original, and interesting a page is, the more likely it can be categorised as Linkbait. Linkbait is a term used to describe the content that is can be shared and replicated in an effort to gain links back. Often, SEO Consultants help create blogs and blog poststhat are interesting to the industry and the customers in that field.
The other main benefit of building unique content is that you are more likely to get those long tail keywords.
Most search engines understand that websites will have a menu, and in recent times a blog, that will be structured in a way for users to navigate through a website. The frequency of links to a page is used to indicate how important that page is on a website, (a menu appears on every page, the same pages are linked to, those pages must be the key services pages). Search engines will give less value to a page that only has one link to it from a blog post.
Getting Web Pages indexed
All search engines use some form of a web crawler that follows links around the web to trace a map of pages. In most cases, any link from another website will result in a page being mapped by the search engine. There are some older methods, (pinging), that can be used to notify a search engine of a page, but these are use infrequently as their results vary. Google offers tools for Webmasters Google, for which an XML Sitemap feed can be created and submitted for free to ensure that all pages are found, especially pages that are not discoverable by automatically following links. Not every page will be indexed by a search engine. New websites, or websites that suddenly have a lot of content, will find that only the pages linked to from the front page will be indexed. Pages deeper in a website may be ignored by the crawler to conserve resources.
Link juice is a colloquial term for the amount of value a link has in the eyes of a search engine. The more links on a page, going to other sites, the lower the value of each one. Google also only assigns value to the first 100 links on a page. Links of high value would be from websites that are trusted by Google as authoritative, on pages that are focussed on the industry the linked page serves. Links of low value are from pages that are not indexed or ranked, where there are a significant number of links coming from that page.
Preventing Website Crawls
Some websites have a lot of content that companies want to be kept private, or only available to their partners. Websites can use a file titled robots.txr on their website to instruct search engines to ignore and not index particular pages or groups of pages. Additionally, a page can be explicitly excluded from the database of a search engine by using meta tag specific to robots.
The SEO Quandry: What is worth doing?
Most SEO activities are carried out by small business owners. As time is a limited resource, and not every SEO activity creates the same bang for buck, website builders and business owners need to assess the value of each activity. Some activities will be worth spending a few hours on each day, content development is definitely one of those. Others will not, and the ones that are not worth your time vary depending on the industry, the website, and the ranking. A low ranked website with no content and no links back is going to see bigger results that a well indexed website that is in a very competitive industry.
Local directories, such as the Yellow Pages, are useful both for businesses trying to gain attention, but also for search engines looking to analyse local search results. As such there are a few directories in every industry that rank well for search terms, pass data on to Google for local search results, and pass a reasonable amount of link juice. Because creating a directory takes little to no time, potential directories now number in the millions. The vast majority of these do not pass any link juice and are not trusted by Google. Depending on the amount of time and money a company has, submitting to most of these websites is not worth it. The best thing a company can do is submit their website to a few of their dominant local directories and stop there. Some smaller SEO companies offer submissions to thousands of directories for a very reasonable price, but companies should still wonder if they are worth even a small amount. If a link can be gained easily and quickly though an automated process, what value will the search engines assign to those links? The answer is very little.
In the early days of the web, there were only a few websites that professed to offer the opinions of people who were experts in a topic. Now there are millions of these websites, as companies realised the SEO benefits of having links back to their websites. The problems started when articles with little or now value were being published on the web. As a result of this, recently, Google released their “Panda” update that seriously reduced the value of links from article sites. As a result, we only recommend article submission as a tactic in highly competitive industries. We also suggest that articles are not “spun”, a process which uses software to alter some words in the page to make it seem new. The best method, or alternative to Article submission, is to ask/offer to guest blog at some other bigger websites, or become a blogger for a local newspaper, where you can have a link to your website in your profile, and you can write interesting and valuable content.
Social Media Submission
In the last 5 years, social networking has become as big as the web itself. Websites like Facebook regularly get as much traffic globally as Google itself. Taking content you have created and submitting to friends on Facebook, Digg and Reddit can be a good way to spread information about your business. If you are writing information that would appeal to the wide public, then this is a great method to increase the hits to your website. However, the problem arises when companies abuse systems like Digg and submit everything they have created just to see if anything sticks.
Link exchanging can be one of THE best ways to gain links when a website is first set up. There are some good directories like linkmarket.net that allow you to find link partners in your own industry. However, there are good and bad methods for exchanging links. Jim Boyd wrote a good post a few years ago on how to get the most out of link exchange. The main way to make it work is to write about each other in a blog, and make sure you review your partners before you post about them.
Link Wheeling is a tactic that is good in practice if done well, but again is open to abuse by SEO companies. Like the wheel on a bicycle, the aim is to create a ring of secondary websites, through systems like wordpress.com or weebly.com and then use those websites to primarily link to your central main website. The benefits are that you can get links from alternative domains, that can accrue a rank on their own, and you can control the content and the links. The best way to make this work for you, in an ethical way, is to set up websites that may be absent from your industry, a news blog, a pictures blog or a news aggregator that provide value to customers, as well as providing links to yourself.
No one can guarantee number one on Google.
Google changes their algorithm all the time. You may be number one for a few days, only to find yourself back on page 2 the next. No one can say that you will get to number one. You should get detailed analysis and reports. Not only should an SEO company have clear goals and give you targets and strategies, they should also give you reports on what has happened each month. SEO does not have to be secretive, and it should not be a mystery. You consultants should be able to tell you what they are doing. SEO is not about links Good web marketing is not just links. It is about a range of things including content creation, web structure and giving your clients the information they need.