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SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)
Because 87% of Internet users find products using search engines, your website needs to appear near the top of the most popular search engines and directories!
By top we mean the first page of a search result.
Most users don’t go past the first three pages of search results (usually the top 30 items). They then tend to select the top most search results first, and if they can’t find what they are looking for in those websites, users tend to start scanning the rest of the page looking at the blue text website links for clues that refer to what information they are looking for.
This is why it is so important that all facets of the website are as search engine friendly as possible, because if you can’t be number one, being number 10 can be acceptable if you have a brilliant page Title that attracts visitors. More on this shortly.
If you are paying for a listing on a major search engine or directory, it is even more important that you ensure your website will appear near the top of that search engine's search results.
What Affects Search Engine Ranking?
We will use “Blue Widgets” as the fictitious product you are selling on your website to show you how to employ SEO techniques to these elements of a website:
- Keywords are the key to why a search engine will rank your site highly. An Internet surfer seeking information about “blue widgets” will key “blue widgets” into the search engine’s search criteria word field, click on search, and wait to see what appears on their computer screen. The search engine then searches its data bases for any website pages that contain the words “blue widgets”. If any of your website pages contain the right number of keywords in the right places, that page will be ranked highly. The Internet surfer will normally choose a result that is at the top, or one that looks like it may yield what they are looking for.
When selecting keywords or phrases, choose something that isn’t used by too many other websites. Try to position yourself in a niche category. As an example, you may find there may be too many other people using “blue widgets” as their keyword phrase. You may choose instead “breeding blue widgets” because you have noticed there is a lot of interest in breeding blue widgets. Go to the Useful tools page and click the link under free tools that takes you to the Google Adwords keyword selection tool.
- Title. When we refer to title, we are referring not to title as in book, but the HTML (hypertext markup language) title that every website page has. This title appears in the search engine results as the blue underlined hyperlink to your website. Imagine if these two search results appeared in a search for “blue widgets”:
- Home page
- Blue widgets, all you need to know
Which link would you click on? Note the use of keywords in the title. The prominence of key words in the title has an effect on search engines. In the example above, the keywords are at the front of the title, and there is a low word count. If the keywords were at the end of the title, and consisted of 25 words, the prominence would be much lower than the example above.
Many companies put their name at the front of their Title, ABC Company Limited - selling blue widgets. A better version would be Blue Widgets – ABC Company Limited if you insist on wasting space on the company name in a valuable piece of cyberspace real estate. There is a limit to the number of words that appear on different search engines, but an average length title should be no more than 8-10 words or 65 charactors including spaces, bearing in mind that the longer the title, the less prominent the keywords will be.
- Description. The description is similar to the title, but a website page doesn’t have to have a description. If it doesn’t have a description, the search engine will randomly search out words surrounding the keyword and use these. That is why you often have nonsensical phrases following under the title such as “……blue widgets are not for……”. It is far better if you provide a description full of keywords with high prominence that is relevant for that page. It helps if the description makes sense, because if your ranking isn’t ideal, users start reading Titles and Descriptions to find what they are looking for.
Descriptions for each web page need to be different. Google penalises a website if the description is repeated on several pages.
There is a limit to the number of words that appear on different search engines, but an average length description should be no more than 20-25 words.
- Headings are used by search engines as an indication of the relevance of the page. By headings we mean actual headings used in the text that is seen by anyone reading the web page, but it is also identified as a heading by the HTML code. Headings text is surrounded by HTML code which search engines recognise. The headings are surrounded by h1 to h6 flags with the h1 flag giving the biggest text, h6 the smallest. You need to use keywords in headings, and apply the same rules as the Title.
Headings are used by visitors to scan a page. Visitors don’t read a web page like a book page. They want to quickly establish if the website is relevant with the information they require, and if it isn’t they will go elsewhere.
- Frames are not liked by search engines. Frames are evident on websites when only part of the page changes when a hyperlink is clicked. This is why you will notice even the best websites don’t use frames even though they are a nice feature.
If you do want to use frames, don’t use them on your home or index page.
- YouTube videos. If your website features a YouTube video, Google appears to favour those websites. This may have something to do with the fact that Google owns YouTube.
- Links can be external or internal. The links we are discussing here are external links coming in from other websites. Some search engines “find” new websites by following links from site to site. Google puts great emphasis on the number of links coming in to a website. The more links a website has, obviously the more important the website must be, therefore a higher ranking is given. Don’t bother joining a “link farm". These link farms provided huge numbers of links to a site when you sign up. Unfortunately Google knows about these now and penalises any web site with any such links.
Go to the Useful tools page and see how LinkAssistant and SEO Spyglass can assist you getting and managing back links.
- Keywords in hyperlinks. It is worthwhile using keywords in internal links to pages within your website. An example would be instead of using the hyperlink Click here, consider Blue widget colours here. The same applies to page names. Instead of “colours.html” as a page name, consider “blue_widgets_ colours.html”.
- Alt text is alternative text for images on your website page. It isn’t necessary to have alternative text for images, but some users turn off images to shorten the web page loading time onto their screen. It provides another opportunity to use keywords within the page. Google likes alternate text.
Check how much is present on the best ranking sites. You will find very little.
- Sitemaps are used for search engines such as Google to index your website, and identify all the pages. A Sitemap speeds up the process because you list all the pages of your web site so Google doesn’t have to find them organically over time. A Sitemap doesn’t help a website’s ranking, but it speeds up the start of the process.
To submit a Sitemap, you need to sign up for Google Webmaster tools.
- Meta keywords are ignored by all the major search engines because of abuse by webmasters. However, it doesn't hurt to include them in your meta tags. Be careful of spamming, because the search engine robots still look at them.
- HTML errors are not liked by search engine robots. Your web pages may appear perfectly fine on the computer screen because web browsers are very forgiving at interpreting what is required. Search robots aren't so forgiving. It is not known how badly a website's ranking is affected by HTML errors, but don't take chances, make sure it is correct. Go to the Useful tools page and download a free copy of HTML-Kit.
If you already have a website and want to fast track learning why your website isn't ranking, go to the Useful tools page and see how WebSite Auditor can speed up the process.
Sometimes you can strike it lucky and appear on the first page of search results, but if you are in a highly competitive sector, how else can you drive visitors to your site? Here are some ideas that cost nothing and can be implemented immediately: