A Week In Digital – 15th June 2012

The Basics of SEO

Search Engine Optimisation

How would you get your website onto Page 1 of Google? This is the holy grail of search engine optimisation (SEO), but like all good things, to achieve it takes a lot of work.

Before we start though, it is important to understand that SEO is a journey. There are a lot of companies who promise to get your website onto Page 1 of Google’s search results, and you need to be wary of such promises. SEO is not a one-off exercise, it is an ongoing project which requires continual investment (either time, money or both!) to maintain and improve your search engine ranking.

So what are the basics of SEO:

Where are we at now? The first step of any project is to work out where we are now. There are a number of tools which can help you to understand how optimised your site for search engines. They will identify the areas where you should be focusing your time. I use Woorank, but there are other good tools out there like Hub Spot or Open Site Explorer.

What should my keywords be? Before you start, you need to have a keyword strategy – what words are used by your potential customers on search engines?

You need to decide if you are going to have a short-tail or long-tail strategy. A short-tail strategy would be targeting just one or two words that when searched in Google – this will generate a lot of traffic, but the competition levels are high. For example, if you sold blues music and your keyword is ‘music’, there are a lot of other companies that want this word as their keyword, and if you start a PPC (pay per click) campaign, it will be expensive. The traffic will be high, but so will the cost.

However, if the company chooses ‘hill country blues music’ as their keywords, the competition for this is going to be lower. And while less traffic will be searching for these keywords, they will be more likely to buy as their search is so specific. Your keyword strategy will determine the level of visitor traffic, competition and cash required, so it is important to get this right. The Google AdWords tool is a good place to understand the level of traffic for each keyword search.

How often should I use keywords? This is an important area, but its not just about cramming as many of your chosen words into your copy as you can. Search engines can now understand the context around your key words and if they suspect you’re cramming key words, this will count against you. As a guide, make sure that the copy makes for an interesting read – if this is the case and your keywords are included in the copy, it’s likely that this has got the right level of density.

How often should I update my site? Search engines love new content – it shows that the website is active and assumes that the website is serving its audience. Having a blog or news section of your website means that you will be constantly updating your content – and don’t forget to use your keywords in this new content!

Why are back-links important? Search engines try to understand the authority of every website. It uses back-links to understand this. If your site has a lot of links from other websites, the search engine will see this as a positive thing – you must have content that is worth linking to!

The technical stuff! The structure of your site can help out search engines. Search engines are not yet able to view an image and work out what it is, so you need to tell it – this is done via the alt tag, so use this to explain what the image is. Similarly, Meta data will tell the website what each web page is about, so make sure that this is inputted using your keywords. Also, make sure that you use headings – there are various levels of heading (H1, H2, H3, etc.) and search engines will read what your heading says about the page and use this data in its rankings. Every web platform will have different ways of inputting this data.

It’s important to realise that these are the absolute basics, and I have tried to kept the descriptions deliberately short. But as a principle, search engines need good quality results or people will go elsewhere – if you optimise a site to make it engaging for humans, then it’s likely that search engines will agree with you.

Do you have any SEO tips? If so, share them here!

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