What is SEO and what to consider when you’re trying to do it yourself?
TABLE OF CONTENTS
What is Search Engine Optimization?
Search Engine Optimization, aka SEO, is the term that refers to the things you can do to improve your website’s visibility in the search engines. Search engine optimization techniques focus on increasing the organic or natural traffic that you receive based on your ranking within the search engines.
The goal of search engine optimization is to ensure your website appeals to search engine crawlers or bots. Search engines take note of your site and its content, categorizing it in a way that allows it to show up in the SERPs (search engine results pages) when certain keywords are typed.
Search engine optimization is achieved through o wide variety of methods. Mony webmasters or SEO professionals focus on proper keyword research, clarity in the setup of your website’s headers, togs, file nomes, and descriptions, external backlinking, internal cross-linking, and quality content creation.
While each search engine uses its own algorithm for determining the ranking of every page that is indexed, it is possible to increase your rankings by making your site information visible via both on-page and off-page techniques. Sites that are designed with ease of use and quality information in mind tend to do better than those built sloppily and without out solid plan.
SEARCH ENGINE MARKETING
Search engine marketing, or SEM, is similar to search engine optimization but focuses less on natural rankings and more on the actual promotion of o website. SEM techniques generally include natural SEO but almost always branch out to include contextual or paid search advertising.
Paid search advertising models become more prominent in the tote 1990s, ofter the search engines themselves become more popular. SEM focuses more on business-oriented websites and their overall online marketing strategies. Because many of the poid advertisements appear at the top of the search engines, the FTC in 2002 responded to complaints by clarifying that poid advertisements and website listings must be clearly denoted so that consumers do not confuse them with websites that have obtained high rankings naturally.
It really doesn’t matter what type of website you have, whether it’s personal or geared towards your business. incorporating search engine optimization techniques into the creation and ongoing upkeep of your site will ensure you receive higher levels of traffic and, ultimately, greater success.
SEO Terminology – 5 Terms You Should Know
One of the reasons Search Engine Optimization seems so complex is that there are so many foreign terms used. In this short article, I’ll list some of the most common terms and will try my best to give you ·geek free· definitions.
SEO stands for “Search Engine Optimization.” This is the set of techniques and processes used by an SEO Specialist to improve your website’s rankings in the search engines for a particular set of keywords, or keyword phrases.
Of course, the real goal is to increase targeted website traffic in hopes of generating new business. It’s just that this is achieved through better search engine rankings. Studies have proven that the first page of search results gets 91% of all search traffic.
SEM stands for ·search Engine Marketing.” Defining SEM is a bit tricky as many authorities have varying ideas as to what the term means, but basically, SEM provides more visibility and exposure to o brand to its target audience. Each additional listing on o search results page provides a website a significantly greater chance of getting visitors.
However, as a general rule, SEM Specialists use four distinct practices to promote their clients· websites:
• Traditional SEO techniques including both on-page and off-page search engine optimization strategies.
• Buying poid ods from the search engines that offer this type of service … primarily Google, Yahoo, and Bing.
• Buying poid “inclusions· from the search engines. This is paying a search engine company for o guarantee that the website will be included in the search.
• Launching one or more microsites. A microsite is o website, distinct and separate from an organization’s main site that contains very focused relevant content about o specific topic or to o targeted audience. Oftentimes, the microsite looks just like the organization’s main site & all links on the microsite actually lead to the main site.
4. KEYWORD PHRASE
A keyword phrase is a set of two or more words that are searched by the internet ·surfers: It is the goal of the SEO Consultant to determine which keyword phrases are most relevant to your website/business and are likely to bring you targeted website traffic. These keyword phrases are then used in the optimization process with the intent of getting your web pages strong rankings for the chosen terms (aka keyword phrases).
Defining backlinks is o challenge only because there is o variety of other terms that mean basically something. You may also hear them referred to as text links, anchor text links, hypertext links, one-way links, or contextual links.
A backlink occurs whenever another site links to yours. The link could come from an image or banner-type graphic or it could be o linked piece of text.
For SEO purposes, the text links are of primary importance with the goal being to get links that include the keyword phrases you are optimizing for.
While there are hundreds of other SEO terms to learn, these five terms will give you o good framework to build upon. Whether you are learning more so you can improve your own site or just want to be able to communicate better with your SEO Specialist, I encourage you to keep studying.
Don’t Most Web Designers Know SEO
The world of web design is complex and fraught with misinformation. Chief among them is the belief that most web designers have a solid understanding of Search Engine Optimization (aka SEO).
In truth, the exact opposite is true. Most web designers know very little about SEO and this includes those with college degrees in Website Design.
A friend of mine received a Bachelor’s Degree in Web Design from a reputable University. When I asked her what she was taught concerning SEO she replied … “Not much.”
The professors gave her their definitions and spent a little time explaining the basic concepts. However, since they weren’t actually trained in the art and science we call SEO the web design students were told that the work should be performed by an individual company that specialized in Search Engine Optimization.
I agree with this as web designers are artsy” by nature and not best suited to things that are highly technical. That’s not to say that there aren’t some who are good at both, just that it’s probably the exception rather than the rule.
The real problem is that most clients know little about the web design process and mistakenly believe that their web designer has optimized their site for the search engines. As many web designers forget to discuss the topic with their clients, many sites 90 live without being optimized.
To improve your chances of getting o beautiful website that is well-optimized for the search engines, it’s important you understand these three factors:
In this phase, your web designer will work with you to create o nice-looking website according to your project specifications. This phase is primarily graphical in nature, so you can see what the website will look like when it’s created, but it does form the foundation of the entire project.
After the website design is finished, it will be coded such that it can be understood and displayed by browsers like Firefox, Internet Explorer; etc. Some web designers will use a program like Adobes Dreamweaver or o content management system like WordPress to code the design while others will hire o web coder to do the process manually.
As o general rule, designs that ore “hand-coded” by o code specialist are more likely to follow the standards set by the Worldwide Web Web Consortium (aka W3C). They are also more likely to be 1ighter” in their design, which is beneficial to SEO.
Search Engine Optimization
After the site has been designed and coded, the work can begin to optimize the website for the search engines. This is best performed by an SEO Specialist.
The SEO Specialist’s job is to work closely with the client in an effort to understand their business and what outcome(s) they are looking to produce. With this information, the specialist will begin the process of keyword selection and set about optimizing each page of the site.
In addition to the work performed on the site itself, the SEO Specialist will perform o variety of “off-page” tosks. These tasks may include link building, social bookmarking, creating citations os well os many others.
As you can see, successful web design is o rother complex topic and frequently requires the work of several specialists. Armed with this information, you’ll know what questions to ask to ensure your project is completed to your satisfaction.
After all, a beautiful website that receives few visitors won·t help you achieve much in the way of new business.
Keyword Selection for Search Engine Optimization
Search Engine Optimization really isn’t rocket science but there is a lot to know and consider when optimizing one’s website.
At the forefront is the understanding of keywords/keyword phrases & what effect they have on your ability to get targeted website traffic.
What is a Keyword/Keyword Phrase anyway?
It’s the word, or words, that internet users are typing in when they conduct an internet search. Fortunately for us, there are a variety of tools that keep track of this incredibly valuable data.
With that understood, here are some tips to help you choose the right keywords for your website … keywords that will draw the specific type of visitors you are looking for.
There are a variety of keyword tools, both free and paid. Unless you are an SEO professional, you’ll probably want to use the free tool provided by Google.
To find it, simply conduct a search on Google for the term (aka keyword phrase), “Google Keyword Tool.” As Google has done its job to optimize for this keyword phrase, you’ll find it to be the first organic” listing on page one of the results.
Search volume is an indicator that tells you how many times a particular keyword phrase is searched per month. The data is search engine specific so you will find that the numbers differ depending on which search engine data you are looking at.
It’s important to note that Google now tracks “local and “global” search volume separately and can even tell you how frequently someone is searching the term with a mobile device.
Most SEO Consultants disagree os to the accuracy of the data so you should consider the data to be more “comparative” than accurate. For example, if “keyword phrase #1” is said to get 3,000 searches per month and “keyword phrase #2” is said to get 500, it’s safe to say that keyword phrase #1 is searched more.
It’s vital to remember that most search engines only show ten ·organic” listings on one page of the SERPs (Search Engine Results Poges). Because of this, you are competing with the websites/web pages that are already ranked for the keyword phrase(s) you have chosen.
In order to get your web page listed on “page one· for a particular keyword phrase, you are going to have to outperform one of your competitors.
There are many factors to consider when gauging competition but the main ones include:
- On-page Optimization – In other words, how well have they optimized their page around the keyword phrase(s) they are ranking for.
- Age of the domain – Generally speaking, the older the domain, the better.
- Domain extension -Although you can improve the SEO of any website, those with a .com, .org, .net, .edu, .gov, or a country-specific domain tend to rank better than those with other extensions.
- Inbound links – The number of links the page has from other websites as well as those coming from other pages of the site itself.
Before finalizing your keyword list, it’s best to see if you can get into the mind of the person conducting the search. While your keyword research will tell you what keyword phrases are being searched, do you really know what they are looking for?
Here’s a real-world example:
Let’s say I wrote a book on emergency first aid and CPR and am looking for keyword phrases to promote my book. During my keyword research, I find that the keyword phrase, “how to save o life, ” is searched more than 40,000 times per month. I get excited because this phrase seems perfect for promoting my new book. But is it?
I dig o little deeper and find that this phrase will be meaningless for me. Why? It’s because the overage searcher isn’t looking to actually save o life, they’re looking for information (lyrics, the music itself) for the song, “How To Save A Life” by The Fray!
The search volume is great, but the intentionality of the search is different than what it appears on the surface.
Keyword research is paramount to Search Engine Optimization & the ability to increase targeted website traffic. It’s best to avoid rushing in as this is the foundation upon which oil other SEO tactics will be built.
Website Factors That Affect SEO
Search Engine Optimization is generally comprised of two distinctly different activities … increasing the relevance of the website, referred to as ·on-page” optimization, and increasing the authority of the website in the eyes of the search engines, referred to as “off-page” optimization.
While both strategies must be employed for the best effect, most SEO Consultants begin with the on-page optimization work before beginning their off-page optimization efforts.
In this article, I’ll cover some of the things that can be performed on your website in order to increase its ability to achieve better rankings. First, however, you must understand that for the page on your website to rank highly in search results it needs to be search engine optimized. This will not pose too much difficulty if you have only a few pages you want to rank well, but if you have dozens (or hundreds) of pages, the work to be done will be substantial.
Here are 11 Website Factors that may affect your SEO.
Before finalizing your keyword list, it’s best to see if you can get into the mind of the person conducting the search. While your keyword research will tell you what keyword phrases are being searched, do you really know what they are looking for?
Your “title tag is added to the page source (i.e. your website coding). This may be done manually by your web designer or added through a WYSIWYG editor if your site uses some form of Content Management System (aka CMS). On some dynamic platforms, the title tog is created automatically as soon as the page is published. This title becomes the clickable title in o search result listing and the page title displayed in the browser title bar or tabs.
Generally speaking, your title should be kept relatively short (no more than 60-80 characters) and should include the two to three keyword phrases you are specifically trying to optimize the page for.
The “meta description” summarizes your web page’s content. Some may argue how much this affects SEO but there are other benefits to writing o good meta description as well. Google only displays the first 156 characters (including spaces) of your page description in search results so ifs best to use thot os your maximum length.
Your meta description text should read well, include your primary keyword phrase to a minimum and be somewhat exciting. The page’s meta description will generally be shown to searchers just beneath the clickable title in o search result. If your description tells of o benefit or evokes curiosity in the reader, it will enhance your ability to get visitors.
Most will tell you that meta keywords are worthless when it comes to SEO and I would tend to agree. However, if you are going to add meta keyword information I would recommend that you keep the amount to no more than about five terms in total.
It’s bad practice to add dozens of meta keywords to each page and you may actually get penalized for doing so.
Your on-page content should be unique to your website if at all possible and should also include the keyword phrases you are targeting. You don·t need to worry about the specific ‘keyword density’ anymore so thot is mostly o thing of the past but it does help to include the terms you are specifically targeting at least once.
Your Web Page URL
If your website architecture allows you to control the nome of each page, it’s best to see that it includes your primary keyword phrase.
If you were targeting the term, ·seorch engine optimization,’ for example, you might cause the URL to be: domain.com/search-engine-optimization or even domain.com/search-engine-optimizotion.html Both examples work quite well so use whatever version is easiest for you to achieve.
Your Web Design
You may be surprised to see “web design· included in this list but it con affects your SEO in o variety of ways:
• Your design should be attractive, professional, and well organized so as to keep your visitors on your site as long as possible.
• Your coding should be as “clean” as possible and should validate with the “W3C validation tool” whenever possible.
• Your images and coding should be optimized so as to maximize the speed of your site. This is good for both SEO and human visitors … no one likes to needlessly wait.
On-Page Link Text
As you can control your on-page link text, you can increase your optimization for o term by using the term in the text link that points to your other page. The gain is generally considered minimal so this should only be done sparingly and only when the keyword phrase is relatively short.
Links Pointing to Other Sites
This topic may surprise you but most SEO Consultants agree … search engines believe that no one website is the “be all, end all” authority on a topic & therefore expect o website to link to others on the same topic. Of course, there is o downside to this practice … you may find that the visitor leaves and never comes back. An intelligent strategy is to link to information-only sites, like Wikipedia, that does not provide competitive products or services.
Many search engines now track how long your visitors remain on your site. The longer the average is, the more apt the search engines are to believe your site is relevant to the keyword phrase that brought them to your web page in the first place.
In addition, to visit duration, they can also track how many pages of your site the visitor looked at before leaving and which specific page they exited from. You can see this data for yourself when viewing your web stats and can use the data to help you improve your visitor’s experience.
Page Load Speed
I touched on this when I spoke about web design but your page load speed is also affected by the speed of your web hosting. It may not be a major factor, but the search engines are paying attention to how long your pages take to load.
It makes sense, really. The search engines do their best to deliver the best possible visitor experience and if your pages take forever to load, it’s easy to conclude that many are probably irritated as a direct result.
If you address the majority of the topics contained in this article, you1l be on your way to well-optimized pages. With a strong SEO framework, you’ll find that your off-page optimization efforts yield better and quicker results.
The Importance of Building Quality Backlinks
If you’ve studied SEO for any length of time, you know that there are things you must do to your web pages themselves, called “on-page optimization; and things external to your website, called “off-page optimization.”
While there are a number of tactics that fall into the off-page optimization category, the most important is the building of quality backlinks. A backlink occurs whenever an image, a piece of text, or your full website URL is linked “back” to your site from some other.
The best links are those that are ·one-way; meaning that a site links to you but you do not link back to them. It can be beneficial to ·trade links” (called reciprocal linking) with another webmaster for the purpose of gaining website traffic but it’s not a strategy that will improve your search engine rankings or SEO.
As each page of your website should be optimized for 1-3 keyword phrases, it’s best to build ·anchor text links” (aka text links, hypertext links, hyperlinks, contextual links) that include the keyword phrases you are targeting. The more links you build, the better your ranking will be for the terms contained in the links.
Here’s a perfect example of this in real life:
If you search Google.com for the term, “click here,” you will find o page that gives access to the free Adobe Reader (a page off of Adobe.com) ranked in the first position.
This is an interesting/valuable observation as their page is not optimized for this keyword phrase at all You won’t find it in their Page Title, their Meto Page Description, or anywhere on the actual page itself.
Then how is this page ranked in the top spot for this term?
It’s happening for one reason, and one reason only … o a huge number of backlinks have been built by webmasters from around the world, that link to this page. Wont to guess what keyword phrase they’ve used when creating their links? That’s right. .. they’re linking the term, “Click Here; to the specific page, that is ranking in the first position!
As I write this, Yahoo reports that 2,927,761 links are pointing to this page.
This shouldn’t be taken to mean that you should abandon your on-page optimization efforts, but it does reveal the power of anchor text backlinks.
The more links you build to your pages that include your targeted keyword phrases, the more likely your pages are to rank well for the terms … it’s just that simple.
SEO Tips for Small Business Owners
While there are a variety of ways to increase targeted website traffic, every business owner should consider optimizing their website for search engines.
Instead of putting all of your eggs in one basket, ifs best to drive website traffic! through several sources. This way, you can cast a wider net, resulting in more traffic, and track the efficacy of each source.
Before you begin, you should understand the core concepts of Search Engine Optimization (and Search Engine Marketing). In order to increase your website traffic and attract qualified prospects, you need to understand three things:
- Everything related to SEO starts with an understanding of what a “keyword phrase” is. Anytime someone conducts a search on Google or another search they enter some text to start their search. In SEO terms, the entered text is called a “keyword’ or ‘keyword phrase.” If you know what keyword phrases your prospects are entering when looking for the type of information, products, or services you offer, you will know what phrases to optimize your web pages for.
- Websites are not indexed or ranked by search engines … each web page is indexed and ranked independent of any other.
This is commonly misunderstood but so vital to understand! Just because you have one web page that ranks really well in the search engines, that doesn’t mean that your others will also rank well. Each page of your website must be uniquely optimized for a handful of keyword phrases … keyword phrases that are searched upon and those likely to attract your targeted audience.
If you pay close attention to the optimization of each page, you should see a dramatic improvement in terms of search engine placement.
- Like it or not, you’re competing against others! Some have a harder time with this concept than others but the truth
remains the truth … in order to get your web page listed on page one of Google, you have to kick one of the currently listed web pages off! This is valuable information because it will help you understand what you must do to achieve the ranking you’re after.
A thorough analysis of the web pages current[·, listed for a particular keyword phrase will tell you how hard it will be to overtake one of them. You need to pay close attention to a number of elements including:
- low well is their page optimized for the keyword phrase?
- low old is their domain (the older the better)?
- low many optimized pages does that website have (the more the better)?
While there are other elements involved, these three are of primary concern. If you find you can outdo your competitor’s web page in at least two of the three areas mentioned, you can probably kick them off the page and take their place.
After ensuring you are optimizing for keyword phrases (or phrases) that are likely to bring the kind of traffic you want, you’ll often find that it is the number of optimized pages your site contains that makes the real difference.
The more optimized pages a website contains, the more weight it has to bully its way to the top of the search results. In addition, sites with a large number of optimized pages are considered by search engines to have high overall relevance, which helps all the pages of the site obtain better ranking and higher placement in the search results. This is why large websites like Amazon, Zillow, and Wikipedia are consistently found at the top of the search results.