- SEO from the beginning – You should incorporate SEO planning into your website project right from the start. Many builders opt for the “build first, ask later” approach and inevitably get fried as a result. Don’t be like the entrepreneur who spent thousands on a marketing and advertising campaign around his new website’s launch which was built entirely using Flash. Save yourself time and money by making SEO a priority right from the beginning which will influence the way the design, layout and content of the website is built and placed. Constantly meet with the SEO project team to ensure that all site elements are addressed, such as tags, links, content, site architecture, URL, code and redirects. SEO matters should always be considered from the website planning and development stage all the way to the maintenance phase, and beyond. Things to take note of:
- Flash-type websites are not good for SEO because Google’s spiders can’t read flash.
- Websites full of graphics and little text cannot rank well, as spiders can’t see images.
- Focus on building text-based content. The longer and more useful information there is, the merrier.
- Focus on having only one main keyword per web page.
- Use the right keywords – Sounds easy? Picking the right keywords to use requires a thorough understanding of what words and phrases your target audience is likely to use when entering search queries and a strong research effort to optimize said words. Stand in their shoes and determine what words they are going to enter to find your website and web pages. Don’t use technical and sophisticated terms; searchers don’t understand what they mean and won’t bother inputting them to find what they want. Instead use layman terms. As mentioned, use phrases that narrow down the focus and attract your intended target audience. Devise a list of words that you think are relevant to your website, and then use keyword research tools to further refine and whittle down the list. Take the following into consideration when deliberating on the choice of keywords:
- Strong relevancy for which you can create content to support and build on.
- Low number of search results and small competition.
- Popular terms that many people use and, hence, a high search volume.
Conduct careful research to find the right balance. You do not want keywords that are so generic that you will have a hard time getting into the rankings (let alone finding your target audience) and yet you also do not want them to be too narrow and specific that no one will search for them. Also, consider the following once the keywords have been chosen:
- For best results, each web page should have 1 main keyword and 4 related keywords at most.
- Support your keywords with relevant text and content, and all of this information should be placed high up on the web page, at the very beginning of the body of content.
- Be sure to include keywords in the following elements: navigation links, headings, all tags (title, description, and meta), and alt text.
Keep the keyword list updated and anticipate cyclical changes when keywords will evolve to suit a particular event or circumstance. Store keywords into an inventory and constantly run keyword research tools on them to see what’s hot and what’s not at any given moment. As your website grows and evolves along with customer needs and wants, so too will your keyword list grow in tandem.
Do not go overboard and saturate your web pages with keywords, hoping to rank high on search engine rankings this way. You may find yourself pushed lower instead. In SEO, keyword density means the percentage of times a particular keyword appears on a webpage compared to the total number of words in that webpage. Spiders that crawl and detect a high keyword density may conclude that you are merely padding your webpage with that keyword (keyword stuffing) to try to attract traffic and they may penalize you by downgrading your search engine ranking based on that keyword. A general rule of thumb is to keep the keyword density around 2 to 4 percent in body content. This is the best range from our experience.
- Targeted, directed traffic over mass traffic – Your SEO efforts should be about getting qualified traffic, traffic that matters. Fact is, general visitors to your site are going to spend just a little amount of time on your website. Targeted visitors are going to see if your site really has what they want, what they need. A sound SEO plan will answer the visitor’s query and attend to his needs as soon as he arrives at the website, such as through optimised content management whereby rich, relevant information such as articles and links are strategically placed on the body of the page.
- Every page on your website is an access point – Remember: Google ranks pages, not domains. Gone are the days when the website’s homepage served as the primary access point from which visitors examine and navigate the rest of the website. SEO has flung wide the doors of opportunity and now searchers can be directed to their destinations without having to navigate through a primary homepage. Indeed, they can land anywhere on your website as long as it pertains to what they are seeking. Smart online business owners will know that the importance of SEO is not limited to just the traditional homepage of the website, but every page has the potential to attract potential customers and be the setting point from which they further explore their website. Hence, be sure to address potential customer needs and wants by having clear, easy site navigation, well written site content that tells the visitor which part of the site they are on and where to go to further their queries within the site, an internal search tool, comparable listings, and site anchors. Every web page should have a clear main keyword, appropriate meta tags, descriptions, page titles and qualified content so that they go with your targeted audience’s queries and needs when they search online and navigate to your webpage.
- Content, Content, Content – At its heart SEO is about the proper usage of words, words and words. Clear, easy to understand content that informs and answers the queries and questions of searchers will attract traffic. Most importantly, good and relevant content can retain traffic. Whether you like it or not, Google is extremely good at tracking visitor behavior. If a site’s visitors show satisfaction, then Google will reward that site with better ranking, since it means that the search results displayed is very relevant to what the searchers want. It will also give spiders a lucid idea of what your site is about and what it aims to achieve. Be sure to observe proper grammar and spelling, proper placement and usage of keywords and phrases, and the content must be fresh, up to date and be presented in short, easily readable paragraphs. You don’t have to do all the writing by yourself. Make use of user generated content such as reviews, feedbacks, news feeds and research reports to bolster your existing content.
- Your image is at stake – Do a quick search on Google and see what results you get when you enter your business’ name, your name, your employee’s name, the nature of your business, and other queries related to your online business. You may be surprised to find that there are negative things said about you out there. Worst, it could be very first thing you see on the first page. It might be negative content that has since lost its relevancy as time goes by. It might have been a fault about your product that your business has since corrected. However, just by sitting there on the first spot of search engine rankings today, it’s going to give searchers and your audience a negative perception about you right off the bat. What’s an online business to do? Engage SEO and make sure that you optimize your web site’s on-page and off-page leverage so it gets to, and stays, at the top, knocking off the bad press pages. Marketing and branding wise, be smart and generate useful content to project a positive image. Engage your viewers, both good and bad, to see what needs to be done. Have constant, frequent dialogue with bloggers, customers and online communities. Spread good things about your online business that you know will set tongues wagging (and fingers clicking) on the Internet, such as contributions to noble causes and charitable donations. Good image helps branding, which in turn builds word of mouth on the Internet, which translates to more backlinking to your web site. Others will pick up the good news and create their own positive content about your online business. Over time, quite simply, the good content is going to grow and grow, meaning more free backlinks!
- Whenever you can, be specific – Use keywords and phrases instead of Don’t use “we”, “us”, “our”, for example. Spiders aren’t going to understand what those terms are referring to. Instead, use terms like “ABC corporation” whenever you can.
- Place the keywords and phrases at the beginning of the content – Spiders allocate more value to words and phrases that are placed near the top of the content, especially the first 100 They may read the entire content from top to bottom, or they may not. Similarly, your visitors may read the entire content from beginning to end, but they aren’t likely to read all of it if the first few sentences don’t have the keywords or phrases that will anchor their attention to your webpage. Present yourself clearly and effectively from the beginning.
- Use keywords and phrases as often as possible – Just don’t go overboard and place words and phrases for the sake of spider crawling alone. Be intelligent and creative in how you present your content. Keep in mind the content is for your target market, not for the spiders. Before starting to write, research the keywords and phrases that are relevant to what you are doing and that will accomplish your goals, and make sure that they match precisely what your intended target audience will be entering into their search engine queries.
- Use semantically related words – To take advantage of latent semantic indexing, use words and phrases that are related to your main keyword or phrase and include them into your web page. Search engines give more priority and rank higher those pages that back up their keywords with related terms. For example, if your website is about computers, use related terms like PC, hardware, software, laptop, desktop, computers, computing, mouse, monitors, hard drive, motherboard, processor, and so forth, throughout your whole website.
- Observe differing versions of keywords and phrases – Consider the plural and singular form for words and phrases. Ascertain the way searchers enter the query words if they have various spelling forms (digicam, digital camera). Be consistent about the way you enter keywords and phrases into your web page. Use only one form of spelling for one particular web page. So, as an example, you can use the term “digital camera” as the main keyword for one web page, and its variant term “digicam” as the main keyword for another page. Doing this also helps you rank for multiple keywords.
- Use phrases over single keywords – Searchers are more likely to enter phrases than keywords into search boxes to narrow down their search results and be more specific in finding what they want. “Computer” is too generic as a keyword. Searchers may instead enter “Dell studio 450”. In this case, you want to have a page that targets this keyword. Use relevant phrases that will direct your target audience to your web pages.
- Don’t use images if you can write it instead – Spiders read and interpret text and cannot decipher images. If you can write it out, then do so. If you want to put in images, at least make sure to tag and label them accordingly along with a proper caption. A description below the image to tell what the image is about works very well.
- Proper grammar and spelling – Proofread and edit your content frequently to catch spelling mistakes and grammar errors. It does no good if you spell your keywords wrongly and searchers aren’t going to find your website on the search engines. Whenever your website is updated with new content, make sure they are properly proofread. The exception to the rule is, if you are targeting misspelled keywords, you probably want to “intentionally” misspell the words so you can rank for the misspelled keyword.
- Snippets are important – A snippet is the short text that accompanies every search engine result. These are added as a meta-description on your pages. They are important in drawing searchers to your site since they can be used to encapsulate what your website/web page is about. Write a unique description meta tag for every web page that you have so that searchers get a clear understanding of what you offer on your site. Snippets are gaining more importance nowadays as Google is tracking the click-through rates of search results listings. If you are ranked #7 yet you have a better click-through rate and retention rate than listing #5, you are probably going to rank higher very soon.
- Don’t use Flash – Spiders don’t read Flash. If you really must, create another HTML site to complement your Flash site. Flash sites may be flashy and look very cool and modern, but when it comes to SEO they might as well not exist.
- Don’t duplicate your content – Spiders don’t look too kindly on blocks of the same text and content that appear on multiple domains or pages of the same website. Vary your content from page to page, domain to domain. Use “nofollow” and “noindex” to block spiders from accessing the duplicates otherwise.
- Create your website using clean, efficient coding – Avoid clunky, messy coding that will confuse spiders as they crawl through your website. Search engines like websites with clean, uniform, precise and efficient code that are more semantically defined and that comply with the latest Web standards.
- Don’t use splash pages – Splash pages, in order to grab the viewer’s attention, are rich in visual graphics and sound but have minimal text content. This is poor optimization for spiders when they crawl through your site. Therefore don’t use splash pages if you can help it.
- Use internal linking – Include links that navigate to other areas of your website whenever the occasion presents itself. Structure them in such a way so that visitors will connect the dots and navigate from page to page because the contents are relevant to what they want and need. Internal links also give spiders a chance to investigate your website deeper and delve into more and more pages. Good internal linking: Every page should be less than 2 clicks away from your home page.
- Text first, graphics second – Spiders pay attention to what’s placed on your webpage first. They look for words and give higher priority to words that appear near the top of the page. If you put too many images at the top of the page, the spiders may give a lower ranking for your webpage. Put images at the bottom and text on top for best effect. However, if you have a video, place it at the beginning, above-the-fold. Videos have proven to lengthen visitors’ staying time on your site, which can positively affect how Google judges your site.
- Title tag is paramount – What you type here for the title tag will be the exact same words and phrases that appear in the title bar. More importantly, they also appear as the text for links for search engine results. When spiders enter your site, the first thing they are going to see is your title tag. Therefore, make sure that the words used in the title tag are related to the keywords for your SEO. Since each HTML or XHTML web page on your site requires a title tag, customize and optimize for each web page by using highly-targeted, focused keywords that are relevant to each. Use proper grammar and apply seperators such as commas and semicolons when writing text for title tags to make text structure easier to comprehend. While it’s very tempting to squeeze as many keywords into the title tag as possible, bear in mind that the content of the web page is also very important in determining SEO as well. You may end up with a long and rumbling web page that would have served SEO purposes better had it been split up into several web pages. Hence, it may be necessary to make two or more separate web pages so that the keywords and content are aligned in purpose and optimization is achieved.
- Get linked – Much like how we humans have friends who exert more influence and popularity than others in a social network, the same can be pretty much said for websites who share a common background or network. Links are therefore the relationships that connect websites to each other. Similarly, one of the criteria search engines use to determine your placing on the page rankings is by looking at the quality of the links to your site. The more links to your site from other places on the Internet, called inbound links, the more esteem you have according to the eyes of the search engines. However, quality matters over quantity. To get quality inbound links, they must come from related and relevant websites that have high page rankings. Usually, these websites are perceived as the authoritative head by members of the relevant community and hence have great sway and prestige. Request the site owner for a link to your website politely and return the favour if accepted. It is also good marketing and business practise to provide links to these websites from your own. Finally, manage your links and discard those that link to non-existent web pages, or have not been updated in a long time.
- Avoid bad apples – Just as you would do your best to get quality inbound links to your website, you have to be mindful of bad apples that could potentially ruin your page ranking standings by way of association. Websites that have a spotty reputation and that use unethical and sneaky means of getting visitors to their site or to increase their page rankings are definitely to be avoided at all costs. Some of the methods these websites employ include:
- Duplicitous content
- Keyword stuffing
- Violating copyright laws
- Link farming
- Doorway pages
- Installation of software without the user’s permission or knowledge
Likewise, refrain from the above practices or you will find yourself losing more than just your page ranking standings. Check the background of sites that you are linking to, and that are going to be linked to you. Link only to contextually relevant websites with a solid, proven background and reputation. At the same time, constantly update your website with original content and observe ethical business practices so that your website is beyond reproach, which in turn means more quality inbound links.
- Avoid farming – You may have come across web pages where the only thing you can see is a sea of links, with minimal or no useful content whatsoever. These are link farms, which exist solely to stuff the site with as many links as possible to boost their visibility to spiders and searchers alike. This is a deceptive practise and all search engines frown heavily on this kind of link stuffing. That’s why it is very important that when you create outbound links to other websites, make very certain that those websites share a contextual relevance with your own and harness only good quality links. When considering whether to link to a site, check the website and especially take note of the content of the website. If the contents appear to be irrelevant to what the website is purported to be about, or if the contents seem to be duplicated or otherwise dubious, then it is best not to link to that site. Also, see if there is some contact information on the website. You have the right to be highly suspicious if the web site provides no contact information of any kind. As always, exercise caution and due diligence when you want to consider outsourcing and hire the services of search engine optimizers who promise you thousands and thousands of quality links to boost your page rankings in no time flat. There is a high chance that the person is using unscrupulous methods to get those links such as software- generated link farming.
- Avoid keyword stuffing – Keyword stuffing is the practise of overloading web page content or its meta tags with keywords for the purpose of increasing search visibility and page ranking. Some ingenious technics used back in the day include hiding text in the background by blending them together in the same color and using cascading style sheets (CSS) positioning. It goes without saying that search engines have clamped down hard on this method and it is now no longer effective in SEO. However, there are still black hat SEOs out there who want to outsmart the system and still employ keyword stuffing albeit in a different form. These now include:
- Tiny text (to maximize page space for keyword stuffing)
- Duplicating the content
- Hiding text
Be sure to write content that is geared for the end users rather than for the system to increase your page ranking. A world of good can only come if you constantly provide quality content.
- robots.txt. Robots.txt files are essentially barriers that prevent spiders and other search crawlers from accessing a particular web page. For example, if your website has web pages with duplicate content or sensitive information, you will want to include a robots.txt to these pages so that they don’t get indexed and appear on search engines. The common format is:User-Agent: [Spider or Bot name] Disallow: [Directory or file name]Simply open notepad or another text editor and enter the lines of text. One of the foremost reasons for using a robots.txt file is to protect privacy and to block out certain sections of a website that have no relevancy to its primary uses and functions. Take note that robots.txt files are not a complete safeguard against intrusion of privacy, however. Always take safety precautions and build smart website structures and hierarchies to minimize risk.
- What to look for in an SEO Company – There are many different kinds of SEOs out there, and with the increasing sophistication and diversity of both search engine optimization and Internet devices, you should pick an SEO company that would best suit your needs, aims and objectives. Check the credentials of the SEO and make sure that he walks the talk, so to speak. Speak with clients whom the SEO company has worked with before and determine what methods he employs to optimize page rankings. To get a better understanding of the SEO:
- Request the SEO company’s portfolio of work and testimonials
- Past experience and current outlook about SEO company
- Clients and referrals
- Value-added services, if any
- Affiliations and associations that the SEO company is a member of
- Practices and methods used
- Fees and charges
The expected duties of SEO companies today also encompass the areas of site traffic, link and network building and helping increase conversion rates. Consult with the SEO company about the services offered and how that would best fit in with your overall strategy. Make sure to discuss the following points with your SEO company and improvise and adjust as necessary as the project progresses:
- Site coding, structure and hierarchy
- Optimization by media platform
- Keyword and phrase research
- Content development
- Linking and networking strategy
- Ongoing monitoring and rank reporting
Avoid instant quick fix offers and solutions that “guarantee” instant high page rankings or other such dubious claims. Some SEO companies may indeed give you fast short term gains but with awful long term consequences. Don’t get scammed and if an offer seems too good to be true, it usually is. Generally, stay away from black hat practices and work hard and diligently at ethical, legal SEO methods and the results will come.
- Search is getting more personalized – The major search engines are already offering users and searchers many options and choices for narrowing down their searches so that they can get to what they want quickly and efficiently. Many other factors are also playing havoc with the concept of being ranked highly in the search engines, particularly now that search engines are getting more and more personalized and detailed in their search criteria offerings. Depending on region, personal details, language, filters and preferences, what may be a number one ranking for a particular query may not even appear at all for another similar search. What this means for SEO is that SEO is never a one-and-done deal; it is an organic process that continues to evolve and adapt to externally changing situations and circumstances so that a particular site will remain high in its rankings.
- User generated content (UGC) – User generated content, also known as user created content (UCC) are publicly available media content that are created by end In the world of SEO, they are a major force to be reckoned with as they increase visibility and spread awareness of a brand or website. Examples of UGC include reviews and testimonials. You may have already seen reviews done by your friends or family on a product and may have even done some reviewing of your own. Some UGC may link back to your website, while others may provide quality content about it. It is good practise to create and foster an online community where users get to trade information and opinions with one another so that you can maximize your site’s exposure and increase its page rank through content creation and keyword generation on the community’s part. However, the community must be genuine and be free from outside interference, even your own. Moderation is practical so long as it deals with abuses and other infractions that would harm the community. Encourage user participation on your website by having contests and other such events so that more UGC is created. Lastly, keep in mind that UGC such as reviews can be either positive or negative. You cannot satisfy everyone 100%, but know that the good outweigh the bad by far when it comes to user created content for SEO.
- Google Sandbox Effect – Many falsely refer to the Google sandbox effect as either their website being delisted or listed under supplemental results. Sandbox merely means Google is testing the ranking, nothing bad about that. However, getting delisted is a problem, while getting into supplemental index is another case. The real sandbox is the one that new domains are indexed to. For Google to determine a new domain’s ranking, they will place the new domain a little bit higher on the search rankings so that more visitors will go to it initially. Google can then profile the web site’s visitor response, from which Google will be able to determine the correct placement of the website. Usually, new domains will experience high ranking on the early stages, and then suddenly experience a drop. This is because the early ranking was only temporary and Google has since determined that the site does not deserve a high ranking, hence dropping it. We also have cases where google decided that the site deserved a higher ranking and got pushed further up. This is the true sandbox.The sandbox fear that says too much backlinks will hurt a site is just a rumor. It was true somewhere back in 2006 to 2007. Back then, SEO firms exploited this and started spamming competitors’ site with thousands of backlinks a day to see them drop dramatically in the rankings. After that, Google decided that off-page linkbuilding will not affect your ranking. Google has even publicly confirmed that off-page linkbuilding will NOT affect ranking anymore: https://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=34449
- Duplicate content is fine (wait, what?) – This may sound ridiculous. You know that Google penalizes websites for duplicating content. Actually, this is true only if you duplicate content within your own domain. For example, if you have the same content on both www.domain.com/ page1.html and www.domain.com/page2.html, then Google is going to penalize you. However, if the same content were to appear on two (or more) different domains, such as www.hisdomain.com/page1.html and www.herdomain.com/page1.html, then Google will treat the content as if it were unique and not penalize either site. This only makes sense as articles, press releases and other content do get copied and duplicated over many different web sites. What this means is that you can submit the same content to as many sites as you want, for example submitting the same article to dozens of article directories, without fear of being penalized or downranked. Bear in mind that Google will be placing excessive duplicated content in their supplemental index, which means, duplicates won’t really show up in search results. It is still a useful practice to submit the same content to as many relevant sites as possible so it gains maximum exposure to readers and Internet users. These readers may very well link to your original site from their own blogs, web pages or sites and therefore increase traffic and the number of backlinks to your site.More on duplicated content and getting flushed into supplemental index: Most of the time, duplicate results are shown in a supplemental index (that means, not displayed). Google has a problem determining who is the original and who is the duplicate. This can happen if someone else copied your content and Google actually thinks the other person is the original and you are the duplicate. However, there is still a way to let Google know who is the original. For example, you have the same article on your site and on 1,000 article directories. The best way to tell Google you are the original is to have the 1,000 sites point a link back to your site. This is the same as academic referencing where 1,000 sites referenced your site. Therefore, this tells Google your site is the original source. Also, since 1,000 other sites referenced your site, it makes Google think that the content is quite important and hence, rank better. If your content has been copied and Google mistakenly puts you in the supplemental index, what you can do is to change your content afresh and make a press release. This way, you have unique content and the press release will bring the spiders back to your site so Google can re-cache your site. This often rescues a site from getting binned in the supplemental index.
If all of this sounds too complicated to do yourself, call us at 281-816-6932 or fill out our contact form to see how we can help your website rank higher in the search engines and, more importantly, make you more money.