In order to understand what search engine optimisation, or SEO, is you must first walk a mile in Google’s shoes and ask yourself what it is they are looking for. Google is the number 1 search engine and if they want to stay that way they must out-do their two biggest competitors (Bing and Yahoo) by offering more up-to-date and relevant search results on a consistent basis. Google knows that if they display out of date pages that aren’t relevant then the searcher will move on to another popular search engine.
Why should you care about this? Well, if you make it as easy as possible for Google to know what your site is about, then they will reward you by showing your website higher in the results page. So by optimising your site correctly, you are essentially making it as easy as possible for Google to know what key phrases to display your site for in its listings. For example, if someone searches in Google for ‘kitchen cabinets’ and you have optimised a page on your website for that key phrase, then Google will be more likely to display your page in its listings for that phrase – meaning more sales for you.
Unfortunately, over the years, unscrupulous companies and individuals have tried to exploit loopholes in the way Google categorises their search results by attempting to optimise their web pages for key phrases that it has nothing to do with. For example, if someone searched for ‘celebrity gossip’ these companies would try and trick poor Google into thinking that their page advertising an enlargement product was really about Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.
In retaliation, and to protect their searchers (us), Google has to constantly redesign and update their search algorithm (the code they use to determine which sites are shown) to keep these con artists out of their database and out of our faces. Effectively, these bad seeds have made it more difficult for everyone, even for companies like us that only optimise legitimate sites.
Much like the recipe for Coke, Google keeps the details of their search algorithm under lock and key and maybe only 1 or 2 people in the entire world are allowed to see it in its entirety – for obvious reasons. But where does that leave us when trying to optimise our sites legitimately? Google doesn’t tell us much, and we certainly aren’t allowed to see their algorithm – therefore, only through rigorous testing and backward engineering can SEO experts really know how to get your website to show up on the first page of the Google results page. Years of this testing has shown that the only techniques that really matter and produce results fall into two categories:
1. On site search engine optimisation
Keyword Optimised Meta Tags
This one’s pretty obvious really – you need to make sure that the code to your website follows a particular structure and contains the correct meta tags. In these tags you can help Google to determine what your site is about by making sure that your Title tag, Description tag, and Keyword tag all contain your very broadest key phrases in the correct way. For example, if you are in the business of offering free mortgage advice then you will want to be sure that you at least include the key phrases ‘mortgage’, ‘mortgage advice’ and ‘free mortgage advice’ in your Title, Description, and Keyword meta tags.
Do not worry if you don’t completely understand what a meta tag is or how to change them on your website. You can check out number 4 of our Free SEO Guide PDF for more details, or you can give us a call and we will talk you through it.
Proper Optimisation of your Individual Pages
Another aspect of on-site SEO is to ensure that you optimise each web page for ONE of your key phrases only. What does this mean? Well, if you want Google to list one your pages in its search results then you need to optimise it properly. A common mistake with on-site SEO is to try and get one of your web pages to show up in Google for 3 or 4 different key phrases. For example, if you have a website that sells kitchen cabinets as well as kitchen floors then you are better off having separate pages for these two items. If you have a page that discusses more than one topic then you could confuse Google – and remember, we are trying to make Google’s life as easy as possible.
Again, do not worry if this is all greek to you, or you don’t have time to do it, we will be happy to take a look at your site and give you our no-obligation analysis on how your website measures up in terms of on-site SEO.
Internal Link Structures and On-Site Navigation
It’s important not to get too hung up on this one. So long as you make it as easy as possible for the people who come to your site to find their way around, then Google will be happy. However, there are a few little tips you can implement to get even more appreciation from Google. For example, if you implement a sensible internal linking structure on your site Google likes to see this and will give your site a boost in the results page. This is easy to do, if you have some text that is discussing kitchen cabinets, then link this word to your kitchen cabinets page on your website. Don’t do it more than once or twice on any individual page for the best results.
2. Off-site search engine optimisation.
Now we move on to the most powerful of search engine optimisation strategies when used correctly. In fact, if your off-site SEO is of a high enough quality then you don’t even need to worry about the on-site stuff. Need proof? Do a search in Google for ‘click here’ and you will see that the first website listed will be a link to Adobe’s free PDF reader. You can bet that Adobe hasn’t done any on-site SEO work for the key phrase ‘click here’. But the reason why they show up so highly is because of the number of QUALITY sites out there that all have a link to the Adobe reader that says “Click here to get Adobe PDF reader for free”. This is the power of off-site SEO in action and is a good example of the importance Google (and the other search engines) place on links that are pointing to your site. Although very powerful, you also need to tread very carefully. If you start fabricating your links too quickly and from the wrong places then you could do more damage than good.
Getting backlinks is easy when you’re a large company with a big brand like Adobe, but what about the rest of us? Well there are ways of creating your own backlinks, a couple of which we have listed below:
Article writing is a very effective way to get some high quality backlinks back to your website. You can probably come up with 5 or 10 article topics that are relevant to your market off the top of your head. You can then write 500 or so words on each of the topics and post these articles for free to some of the better article directories that are out there. Each one of these articles will have a one-way link to one of your relevant web pages with the appropriate anchor text. But as mentioned above, there is a right and wrong way to distribute your articles so that you don’t get penalised.
Another powerful strategy to get one-way backlinks to your website is through blog commenting. You can search for a blog in your market and make a useful comment which (if allowed) can contain a link back to your site.