Summary: This article looks at the basics of SEO, and what you should know about how Google ranks your website up against your competitors.
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation. It is a term familiar to just about everyone these days. Anyone with a website wants their site to appear on the first page of Google for their keywords. This is indeed a worthy goal, but is becoming increasingly difficult as thousands more websites are created and indexed every day.
SEO is also a field that changes rapidly, as Search Engines – like Google continue to shift the goal posts as they modify and improve the way they rank pages. Further these ranking algorithms are closely guarded secrets, so the exact dimensions and location of the goal posts, are actually only known by the inner sanctum of Porsche-driving boffins at Google.
However there is a whole industry of people that do SEO for a living, and they’ve figured out a lot – mostly from vast amounts of trial and error. There will always be a lot of debate about the most effective way to do this or that at the advanced and pointy end of the SEO curve, but the fundamentals are pretty simple. What I am going to focus on in this article are these basics, and this article is targeted at the non-technical website owner, interested in the essentials.
The field of SEO is basically split into two distinct topics. “On Page” and “Off Page” SEO.
On Page SEO
On page SEO is the easier part, as you have control over the content on your own website. It is about tweaking the content of your website, so that Search Engines can look upon your site in the most favorable light possible. The following list includes the most important aspects of On Page SEO.
- Have a keyword appropriate title tag for each page.
- Have a keyword appropriate description meta tag for each page.
- Use headings; H1, H2, H3 & <strong> tags throughout your pages to highlight the key content and structure of each page to search engines (and your visitors)
- Have plain text links internally to your key pages. (A footer is good for this)
- Include keywords, in the page path. eg www.site.com/services/keyword/
- Include alt tags for your images, so Google knows what each image represents.
- Have a content rich site full of useful information for people, this will naturally create a keyword rich site.
- The bigger your site the better. The more content google can index the better. A great way to add to your site over time is through a blog. (like this one) This also provides useful industry information to your audience.
- Blog writing also keeps your website fresh, update frequency is also something Google considers.
With those points in mind any website owner can take steps to improving their SEO. If there’s a particular search term you’d like to rank for then, the first step is make sure your site has the content! If you don’t create a new page or blog article and publish it.
Unfortunately there’s a lot of competing sites out there all rich in the same keywords you’d like to rank for, to rise above these a SEO campaign will also involve Off Page SEO efforts.
Off Page SEO
Off page SEO is the tricky one. One of the main ways Google measures your site’s relevance vs all the other sites out there, is by how many other sites link to your one. If your site has 20 incoming links, and your competitor has 2 – then all other things being equal, Google will consider your site far more relevant and list it higher.
Getting other sites to link to yours, isn’t that easy and is one of the key activities SEO companies traditionally offer and is commonly called “link building”. Google does not like to be tricked though, and the old techniques of building thousands of incoming links automagically via networks of spammy websites, no longer works. Infact you would be seriously penalised for attempting this or any other ‘black hat’ tricks that might have worked 5 or 10 years ago. Quality SEO companies do not engage in these activities. Google now measures all inbound links themselves for their quality and relevance.
A good way to increase inbound links, is to publish quality content out there on the interweb, with links back to your site. This could be on Social Media, or sites like articlebase.com, squidoo, youtube, digg etc.
Also posting useful (non spammy) comments on related industry forums or blogs, with a discreet backlink – is a possible strategy.
Another idea is to get on the phone, and try organising reciprocal website linking with suppliers and business partners.
Or you could volunteer to write guest blogs or articles on industry forums.
This is clearly a lot of work, a good idea is to take a long term approach at off page SEO, and make frequent small bites at it. Or engage a quality SEO company to assist with an off page strategy.
Social Media & Content Creation
I mentioned before it is good to have a large site, and even more important to have a freshly updated site. Well one way to do that is to use your blog. Write an article a week. Make it useful (hopefully like this). Google will like that content is changing each time it pays a visit, over time the indexable content of your site will continue to grow and grow!
The other thing that is cool about blog pages, is they act as new entry points to your site. If you write a blog reviewing the new xyz widget your company sells, and an xyz widget is a relatively unique product. There is chance your article might just show top on google for a search of xyz widget. Over time, blog pages can have a large impact on your sites traffic.
Make the most out of the fantastic article you’ve just written, and hit your Social Media channels, with a quick excerpt and a link back to your blog post. Get some eyes reading it.
Finally your site needs Social Media buttons on every blog post. Allowing visitors to Facebook like, Google plus, tweet or even Pinterest pages is great because it give visitors the ability to very easily spread the word about your site. There’s no reason why you wouldn’t have them.
The PPC option
PPC stands for pay per click. It is paid advertising. Google’s version of this is Google Adwords. Many many websites, that don’t list on page 1 organically in a Google search can still bring a reliable stream of traffic to their website (better yet targeted landing pages) through paid advertising. You can advertise for as little as a $1 a day, and can be scaled up and down as necessary. It can be a good supplement to your SEO efforts to get the phone ringing now, while your site climbs the stairs of Google.
SEO is journey. The days of getting to number 1 easily are gone, there is just too much competition. You need a site that is built right, that’s number 1. But you also have to commit to a long term strategy of quality content publishing, and quality link building. It is a big task, but like any big task over time it can easily be managed with lots of small consistent efforts.
Also the more you do it, the easier it gets.
If you’d like to get the professionals to handle it, iCreate partners with Reload Media for SEO campaigns. Let your iCreate account manager know if you’d like us to arrange an introduction.