19 Jul 2010

SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is a great way to get people to your website

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) refers to techniques that make it easy for search engines to find, understand and rank your web content. SEO is important because of the massive market exposure it can reward you with. More than 14 Billion search queries are processed by search engines on a monthly basis compared to a paltry 285 million monthly TV viewers. SEO has been shown to be the most effective online marketing tactic for generating conversions for business.

Search engines work by searching a copy of the web – pages are collected, categorized and ranked for relevance and quality. Several criteria and signals (“the algorithm”) determine which pages should be displayed in the results for what keywords. SEO aims to enhance the signals ‘sent’ by an optimised page to increase relevance in search engines so that it will be positioned highly in the search results. Google dominates the search engine market with a share of 70% while the last 30% is largely made up by Bing and Yahoo! (Yahoo! will soon be powered by Bing ).

You can also pay directly to advertise your website along side the organic (non-paid) search results for chosen keywords, but organic results get more click throughs than paid results do.

The very basics of getting your website to perform well in the search engines:

  • Content must be visible to search engines (i.e. plain text based – not Javascript or Flash based)
  • Content must be added often
  • Content must be organised into a logical layout
  • Content must contain relevant keywords in the body and links
  • Content must have lots of relevant pages linking to it
  • Monitor and record your SEO efforts
You can see a central role is played by good content, the rest of SEO is about keywords and links…

Valuable Keywords that will drive traffic

You need to understand how your customer is thinking in order to be able to understand the sorts of search queries they may use to find your website so that you can target these keywords and focus your efforts on keywords that have business value.

Ideas to determine good keywords:

  • Brainstorm around the solutions you provide
  • Brainstorm around your customer’s needs
  • Interview customers
  • Review keywords that are currently generating traffic
  • Speak to sales about the words that prospects use
  • Speak to customer service about the words that clients use
  • Review competitors content
Now you need to analyse the keywords that you have identified to help you understand what phrases are popular and worth focussing on. You can use the Google Keyword tool, or Google Insights for search. Also visit SEMrush.com to analyse your competitors domains for more keyword ideas. Sort your keywords by popularity, competition and relevance in each of your website categories.

Now that you have identified valuable keywords you are ready to insert them into strategic positions to optimise your pages. The following elements of each page need to contain your keywords:

  • Title tag
  • Headings
  • Paragraph titles
  • Keywords in body copy
  • Anchor text in links
  • URL
  • Image alt text
  • Meta description tag

The title tag carries a particularly heavy weighting and your most important keywords should be included close to the left of the title with a maximum length of 65 – 68 characters. Each page should have a unique title tag and description and should that is relevant to search engines (to rank well) and appealing to humans (to secure click throughs).

Do not over optimize though, each page and each element of each page should focus on only 1 or 2 keywords.

Make your website visible to search engines

Your website must be easy for search engines to find and index and provide them with motivation to keep coming back.

Simple guidelines to a “search engine friendly” website:

  • Use plain text links for your navigation (NOT Ajax or Flash)
  • Link keyword phrases between pages
  • Build lots of high quality inbound links
  • Build HTML & XML site maps
  • Avoid complex URLS & session ids
  • Avoid Multiple URLS with the same content
  • Redirect old URLs to new URLS using a 301 redirect
  • Structure your content using a general top down to specifics hierarchy
  • Use the robots.txt file to exclude pages you don’t want listed in the search engines
  • Include “breadcrumb” navigation
  • Make use of the “Canonical tag” to avoid duplicate content issues
  • Link consistently site wide – choose between example.com or www.example.com
  • Monitor your 404 logs for pages that are not found and redirect them using 301

Push your site to the first page by getting links

Links generate traffic and infer meaning based on the “anchor” text used in the link. A text link that contains valuable keywords is good. Links that say “Click here” aren’t as good. The more links there are to your page with a specific keyword, the better your page will rank for that keyword. However, not all links should contain exactly the same text or the search engines will be on to you. Variety will prevent your links from looking contrived. Links from websites that already rank well in the search engines but internal links from other pages within your website are also important

Link code can also contain a “nofollow” attribute rel=”nofollow” whereby search engines will not recognize the link.

Blogs are great way to generate new content that can be pushed into social media networks to gain awareness and get the community to link to your great content. You can also use tools such as Linkscape to determine who is linking to your competitors but not linking to you.

Other ideas for link building include profile pages, article submissions, unpaid directories and paid directories, but you can be quite creative about how you get links. After all, as long as you want to be competitive in the search engines, you need to be building and acquiring back links.

Monitor your SEO efforts

“If it can’t be measured, it can’t be managed. If it can’t be measured, it’s not worth doing. Etc. etc…”

Take benchmark measurements so that you have a reference point and then set goals for yourself and monitor your progress so that you can change tack as required.

Some parameters to keep an eye on include:

  • Number of pages indexed
  • Google Webmaster Tools Reports
  • Your website rankings (Geographic location and Google domain will influence results)
  • Inbound links: quantity, quality
  • Keyword referrals from search
  • Referring websites (Link traffic)
  • Social media traffic
  • Conversions

You can make use of Google Analytics or Clicky to track your analytics and sheerseo.com generates excellent ranking reports and keeps track of your ranking history. Page Rank Checker also offers free ranking reports for several Google domains.

Homework for HubSpot Inbound Marketing Certification Exam Class 2: SEO Crash Course to Get Found (GF102)

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