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SEO Basics

Posted by Administrator On April - 10 - 2009

SEOBefore you begin serious SEO you must ensure that your website is ” search engine friendly”. This means making sure that each individual page is compliant with search engine standards and ready to be indexed correctly.

Follow each of the steps below for each page on your site.

Have your list of target keywords ready, you’ll need to insert them into your pages.

Page Title
The title of the HTML page should be relatively short and describe the page content accurately. Wherever possible, try to include keywords (without distorting the true purpose of the title). For example:

Metatags
Use the description and keywords metatags in the head of each web page. Make these tags different on each web page.

<meta name= “description” content= “Suppliers of quality office furniture and accessories at discount prices. ” >
<meta name= “keywords” content= “furniture, office, store, shop, retail, discount” >

Heading Tags
Use heading tags. Many search engines place more emphasis on text within heading tags, so make sure they use keywords. Use one <h1> tag per page with the most important keywords. Use other head tags (<h2>, <h3>, etc) to provide variations and support the main heading.

<h1> Desks</h1>
<h2> Large Desks</h2>
<p>… information about large desks… </p>
<h2> Small Desks</h2>
<p>… information about small desks, etc etc… </p>

Page Text
Make sure the text of your web pages contain keywords and common phrases which people might search for. Be careful with the frequency of your keywords ‾ you want to have them occur at least a few times if possible, but don’t repeat yourself so much that the copy becomes unnatural. The idea is to discretely spread keywords around without making it obvious.

<p>Buy office furniture at affordable prices from any of our retail stores. < /p>

Remember that text contained within images won’t be picked up by search engines. Only actual text on the page will be indexed.

Note:
• Use all these methods in moderation. If you include a hundred keywords in the metatag or saturate your page with heading tags they will lose their effectiveness (and you may be penalised in other ways). Keep it simple and under control for maximum impact.

Inbound Links (Backlinks)
Having links from other websites to yours is a critical part of search engine optimisation. As well as the obvious bonus of having people follow these links to your site, inbound links provide the following benefits:

• Search engine robots follow links between websites. The more inbound links you have, the more often robots will visit your site.
• Many search engines count links to your site as “votes” for you. They assume that if lots of websites link to your site it must be high quality. Page Rank is Google’s system of counting links.
The general rule is that the more inbound links you can get, the better. Getting more links should almost certainly be near the top of your priority list when optimising your site.

Important: Before you start trying to acquire inbound links, read this page and take heed of the warnings!

Check for Inbound Links
You can use search engines to find out how many inbound links you have. For example, with Google, enter the word link: followed by your URL to see a list of all websites which contain a link to your site. Try it here with www.cnn.com or enter your own URL: link:www.yourpage.com
ote: Google only returns a selection of inbound links — it doesn’t show all links to your site. Other search engines have the same feature and may provide more comprehensive results. Each one works a bit differently — visit any search engine and look for “Advanced Search Options” for more information.

Natural Links
The best way to get inbound links is simply to create web pages which other webmasters will want to link to. These are known as natural links — the type of link which is created purely to increase the usefulness of the internet (in an ideal world all links would be natural). Natural links have many advantages:

• You don’t have to work to acquire them (except creating the content in the first place).
• They are free and you don’t have to reciprocate the link.
• The links will be diverse, with different anchor text.
• The referring pages tend to be similarly themed (this is likely to become more important in the future).

If you are lucky you will attract enough natural links to give your site a boost. However most websites need to make an effort to acquire inbound links. You must be very careful about this! There are many ways to create links to your website — some of them are acceptable and some aren’t. If you use the wrong methods, search engines may detect this and penalise you severely.

Acceptable Methods of Acquiring Inbound Links
These methods, used sensibly, are all good ways to acquire inbound links:

• List your website in directories.
• Contact other websites with similar themes to your and ask for a reciprocal link.
• Use your URL as part of your signature in discussion forums and newsgroups. Don’t overdo this — keep your signature brief and never spam forums. Make sure you are genuinely contributing to any discussions and not just posting for the sake of displaying your signature.

Unacceptable Methods of Acquiring Inbound Links
There are no official laws or rules about what is unacceptable linking, but the following methods are widely accepted as being a very bad idea and likely to damage your rankings:

• Free-for-all link pages and link farms. These are websites which allow you to post your URL freely without being part of any structured or useful directory. Link farms exist to benefit the linked websites rather than any person trying to use the links. Search engines hate link farms, and participating in some of them may cause your site to be banned from certain search engines.
• Buying links. Some websites sell links from pages with a high PR value. These can be very effective but they are frowned upon and search engines such as Google have been known to identify and blacklist the websites involved.

Summary
To have any real chance of being noticed by the search engines you need at least a handful of inbound links. Without any links at all you will be at a serious disadvantage. The more genuine inbound links you can acquire, the better your search results will be.

Advanced Search Engine Strategies
The steps covered up to this point are all fairly standard and universally agreed upon. However more advanced techniques are less straightforward. There are many different ideas about what works and what the most effective strategies are. In addition, each search engine works slightly differently and advanced strategies require you to consider these differences.

It pays to learn as much as you can about different ideas and trends, and spend time deciding which is most appropriate for you. Most likely, you will find a certain combination of techniques is the best plan.

To simplify the situation we can say there are two main areas of SEO:

1. Content-based SEO: Building and optimising the content of your website.
2. Non-Content SEO: Any optimisation technique which is unrelated to the actual content of the site.

The relative benefits of these techniques are debated regularly in SEO circles. Many people lean heavily toward one philosophy or the other; that is, “Content Is King” versus “Content is Secondary”. The arguments can get very heated but our advice is not to take either side too strongly. Both philosophies are perfectly valid and should co-exist peacefully. The smart webmaster will carefully consider all techniques and work towards the best mix.

Content-Based SEO
This school of thought adopts the principle that the content of your website is what really matters. This could be described as the “purist” view which assumes that if people develop high-quality websites, they will be rewarded with high-quality search rankings.

The theory is that good content will attract attention, inbound links and other referrals. Over time the accumulation of good press will give you many of the same benefits as other methods of SEO. In addition, this type of “natural” referral tends to be more genuine, diverse, robust and long-lasting.
This approach is better suited to websites which can provide large quantities of content, especially unique content. If, for example, your website is about the life cycle of the native New Zealand tuatara lizard, you will probably have plenty of content in a field without much competition. In this case a modest amount of content and a few links from other sites will give you a good chance of being well-placed in the SERPS.

If your website covers a more popular topic you will need to try harder. For example, Basicxpressions.com provides content in the area of promotional products and corporate gifts. This is a much more competitive field, with many thousands of websites competing for the same keywords. At this level it is much harder to get good SERP placement through content alone, although it is still possible.

It gets worse for those competing for the very top keywords. If your site provides content in the area of “debt reduction” or “online gambling” you will find the competition is so fierce that content alone won’t be enough.

Content-based SEO alone may or may not be enough to give you good SERP placement, but in any case it will ceratinly benefit your website to some degree.

Content for Non-Content Sites
Many webmasters complain that they do not have a “content-based” website and they are therefore at a disadvantage. This often applies to business sites. For example, the owner of a furniture store website might bemoan the fact that their content is not unique and they have no hope of attracting customers unless they rely heavily on non-content SEO.

In most cases this simply means the webmaster is not being creative enough. Almost any topic you can name can be written about. If you sell furniture on your website, write pages of advice about how to choose furniture, care for it, remove stains, make simple repairs, etc. You could employ an interior decorator to write articles about how furniture integrates with design. Do some research of your own and write about the history of chairs. This may sound an unlikely recipe for attracting customers but you would be surprised at how much it can help.

Except in very rare cases you can add unique content to your site if you are sufficiently motivated.

Quality vs Quantity
It’s not only the quality of content which matters – quantity is also very important. People search for a huge variety of words in all sorts of combinations. The more text you have, the more chance that some particular phrase will match the exact phrase someone is searching for.

Some search engines also place importance on quantity – they assume that a large website has had more effort put into development and is more likely to be high quality.
In short, it is not a case of quality vs quantity. The more of each you can get, the better.

Summary
Content-based SEO is usually hard work in the initial stages and slow to reap rewards. It can also be difficult for some websites to create enough content to be effective. However it is likely to give you the best, most stable long-term results. Once established, content-based SEO becomes easier to maintain than other methods.

Non-Content SEO
This school of thought maintains that the actual content on the website is less important than the way it is optimised. Whilst the content should still be good quality, content alone is insufficient to compete in the top SERPs. Instead, webmasters must use other methods to increase their rankings. For simplicity’s sake we will call all such methods Non-Content SEO.

With non-content SEO the focus is on understanding the methods and algorithms used to rank web pages. The webmaster must therefore have a very good technical knowledge of how search engines work. For example, knowing exactly how Google’s PR is calculated means you can structure your site to give the best possible PR value, which in turn will lead to improved SERP rankings.

This is a much more mathematical approach than content-based SEO. It’s like solving an equation – you figure out the way the calculation is made and then provide the correct mix of components in your website to give you the highest score.

The specifics of non-content SEO are beyond the scope of this tutorial. Becoming proficient in this art requires many hours of study and effort. In addition, search engine technology changes constantly and you will need to keep up with the latest developments. This is hard work but it can also be a lot of fun – in fact many people treat it like a game.

To get you started, here are a few non-content SEO techniques:

• Acquiring inbound links from web pages with high PR value.
• Arranging navigation structure and linking methods to maximise PR value in your site.
• Tailoring the anchor text of hyperlinks (the text which you click) to emphasise keywords.
• Paying to list or advertise your site with search engines, portals, etc.

Ethical Considerations
It is often said that non-content SEO is unethical, since the webmaster is forcing pages to the top of the SERPs which would not be there on their own merit. The truth is more complex than this though, and it is not fair to cast all such SEO in the unethical basket. Even the search engines themselves advise some non-content SEO.

Having said that, there is a limit to how far you can ethically use non-content SEO. The following tactics cross this line and are considered to be search engine spamming:

• Misleading optimisation, such as purposely optimising pages for keywords which are not relevant.
• “Keyword stuffing” – filling the page with a ridiculously high percentage of keywords.
• Attempting to gain multiple SERP positions by duplicating content on different pages.
• Creating misleading “doorway” or “cloaked” pages which distort the true content of the website.

There is a fine line between legitimate SEO and SE spamming. Err on the side of caution.

Google Bombing and Other Games
Every now and then you will see an example of pure non-content SEO appear in the news. A common game is known as “Google Bombing”, which usually involves a group of people working in unison to create links to a website in order to produce an unusual result. Some well-known examples include “French military victories”, “weapons of mass destruction” and “miserable failure”.

These examples testify to the power of non-content SEO. It is quite possible to gain top SERP positions with basically no relevant content if you can play the game well enough.

SEO Tips
Here are a few more tips and tricks to help you do well in the search engines…

Be a “White-hat”
Above all, be one of the good guys. Keep your optimisation efforts honest. This may (arguably) take more effort but it will definitely pay off in the long run.

Use Statistics
Any decent web hosting packages includes the option to see how many visitors your website is getting, where the referrals are coming from and which search keywords were used to find the site. Monitor these statistics so you can keep improving.

Experiment
It’s good idea to try different tactics and see what works best. This takes patience – you may have to wait months for your pages to be indexed and build up statistics. After watching your search referrals for a while, change your web pages and see what the effect is. Remember to keep good records of the exact changes and dates so you can compare these to your statistics.

Keep Abreast of Developments
Stay in touch with the latest news and developments in the search engine world. As technologies and companies change you need to change with them.


5 Responses to “SEO Basics”

  1. Gregory Despain says:

    interesting blog post. Have a extremely good week!

  2. antivirus downloads says:

    I guess I’m going to need to read up some more, but this was a really good starting point.

  3. Longhi says:

    Thanks for spending the time to describe the terminlogy towards the newbies!

  4. Bowersock92 says:

    You wouldn’t believe it but I have wasted all day digging for some articles about this. You’re a lifesaver, it was a great study and has helped me out to no end. Cheers,

  5. Hannem92 says:

    PageRank can also come from other pages on your website, trickling from one page to another through your internal linking, menus and such. The trick is to “sculpt” the flow of your PageRank so that it “pools” in your most important pages.