SEO Tips

Improve your Rankings with Search Engine Optimization Strategies

Search engine optimization (SEO) is very important to enable your website to appear as high as possible in the Internet search engine results page (SERP). Most experts concentrate on Google as it is the largest and most frequently used search engine (64% of USA users and 90% of UK users in 2011).

There are hundreds of millions of websites on the Internet and those with any commercial intent strive to appear on the first page of Google and ultimately work hard to reach the top position of that front page. Therefore, to beat the competition you have to be aware of how to use SEO effectively to get as much qualified traffic to your website as possible.

One of the most important factors of SEO is the effective use of keywords in the website content. You need to research which keywords are used by your potential customers and the website content then needs to incorporate these keywords in the right density and optimally distributed through the text, headings, image descriptions etc. There are a multitude of free and pay for services for researching keywords but it can be a time consuming and baffling experience.

As well as optimising your pages for the search engines they also have to be appealing to your customers and provide them with all the information that they want in order to make a purchase. The search engines and your potential customers also want your site to provide all the reassurances of a reputable business. Contact details, Terms of Service and a Privacy Statement. Financial transactions require appropriate security and membership seals of reputable business associations also serve to enhance respectability of the website. These are all things that can be carried out “on site” to improve the visibility of your website.

“Off site” optimisation is also very important. In the main this involves the acquisition of links to your site from appropriate external web sites. External links are highly significant as these tell the search engines that your site is in some way “approved” of by the site linking to you. The “approval” (link from) of an important authority site is much more significant than a link from an unknown blog. A certain amount of the authority of the linking web site seeps down to your site, boosting your authority. These links are possibly the most important factor in helping raise the status of your website and consequently raising the ranking of the site for certain keywords.

Getting these external links is a time consuming business and it needs to be done well. The linking should look fairly natural to the search engines and it should build steadily over time. Links need to come from a wide range of sites and the links should be “one-way”. Trading reciprocal links with sites doesn’t work anymore. They seem to cancel each other out.

There is an enormous amount of software sold that purports to provide automated linking. On the whole it doesn’t work, the links are invariably of poor quality and on well run websites they often get quickly deleted. Search engines look out for this type of linking, often referred to as SPAM linking. If you step outside reasonable boundaries it is possible to get your site de-indexed altogether.

By now you’re probably thinking that SEO is impossible. It isn’t and there are people who are good at doing it and can achieve remarkable results at a very reasonable price. My message is “Don’t waste your valuable time with SEO. Get someone who knows what they are doing to do it for you.” After all, you wouldn’t pay an accountant to decorate your house. So why divert your skills, which should be used to run your business, to learn about and then carry out tasks which others are far better suited to do. They will also do a better job than you will!

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Effective Use of Keywords in SEO

Search Engine Optimization or SEO is the process of increasing the online presence of a website and a lot of businesses are turning to SEO companies to help them improve traffic to their websites. SEO companies have perfected systems to help improve your company’s rankings in the search engine results pages (SERPs).

The search engines have software robots that “crawl” the Internet and figure out which web sites are popular and these sites rise in rank for the appropriate keywords.
The important thing to remember in all of this is the keywords that you choose to rank for. The search engine results all depend on what the people type into the search box. The ideal is that your website will be on the first page of the search engine results for your specific chosen keywords. Consequently it is extremely important to choose the right keywords for your site. Your entire online success or failure depends on choosing the correct keywords.

Choosing a keyword can be very difficult because you do not want to be competing with other sites that optimize for the same keyword and have more online presence than your site. Some companies have been working with SEO companies for years and so they have more marketing backing them up.

The domain age of a website also matters a lot and a website which is over ten years is really hard to compete with assuming they have good SEO. This means that a new website will never be able to compete with the popularity of a good site which has been around for a long time. In order to choose the right keyword you will need to do some good keyword research.

There is software to help in this. A couple of recommendations here are Keyword Blueprint and Market Samurai as well as Google’s own External Keyword Tool. These are very effective programs for keyword research and analysis. However, you still need a lot of knowledge to be able to interpret the results. It can be very hard to manage all of this and understand which keyword to use. Ideally you want: a “buy now” keyword, which is searched for frequently and has SERPs that show a few competing websites without great SEO. Find 5 to 10 of these keywords and then select the best 3 to concentrate on.

As in all things to do with the Internet, competition is improving and these decisions are not easy. Often the best approach is to analyse the websites of your biggest competitors. Where do they get their visitors from? Have they found some “easy to rank for” keywords? A specialist can be a very great help and very cost effective especially when implementing a reasonably long term strategy such as SEO. If you spend months improving your search rankings for keywords that do not bring paying customers to your site you will have wasted a lot of time as well as money.

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On-page SEO Checklist

On-page SEO is the improvements that you can make to your own website in order to assist the search engines in ranking you for relevant keywords. This involves optimization of different components on your website to make it Google friendly. If it’s Google friendly then it is probably going to also rate well in the other search engines.

Much of the on-page SEO is to do with HTML, which in simple terms is the web page programming language. If the terms below don’t mean anything to you, it is probably best to use an expert. However there are numerous websites eager to educate you. An example is: w3schools.com/html.

However if your website’s on-page SEO is poor then you’re going to be fighting an uphill battle trying to get your site to rank well for your chosen keywords. The first 3 points are only relevant if you do not have your domain or website set up yet.

The On-page SEO checklist:

  • Domain age – if you have the chance to acquire a domain (www.something.co.uk) that is more than 2 years old then do so – the older the better. Older domains seem to be treated with less suspicion by search engines than new ones.
  • Keyword domain – if your domain name also contains one of your keywords that is better still. However if you already have a business name and a domain to match do not worry – these are only slight advantages.
  • Domain nationality – generally .com, .org and .net domains are said to rank best but this is not true if you are a UK business targeting UK customers. Here .co.uk is more appropriate. Getting both the .com and .co.uk domain can be a good international solution for a UK business.
  • Title tag - each web page should have an appropriate title. It should be a good one liner that describes the webpage at a glance. The title should not be more than sixty characters long as some search engines and/or browsers may truncate the text. It is best to have a unique title and the title should contain your targeted keywords.
  • Meta name tags – there are two important types: i) Description - this is a unique summary of the page. Adding your main keywords in the Meta description will make a big difference. The tag should be simple and easy to understand by the visitors to your website. The description should not be more than 150 characters long. This is the text displayed by the search engine in the SERP; ii) Keywords – a comma separated list of a few keywords that are relevant to the page.
  • Header tags - these are the headlines, section titles etc.; there are 6 levels of header in theory but not many sites use more than 3. They are often bolded and they help the search engines as well use your visitors in understanding that this is important information. It is essential to put the keywords into these headers.
  • Image optimization - A search engine such as Google cannot see images. They are optimized for fast loading and are in different formats like (PNG) and (JPEG). If you want the search engine to recognize your image then it should be labelled through the ‘alt tags’. Again try to use relevant keywords if possible.
  • Sitemap - this is a table of contents for your website pages that is updated each time that the website changes. It is accessible to the search engine crawlers and users. It can be created in a number of formats and all these should be made available.

There are other aspects of technical on-page SEO such as Robots.txt, 301 Redirects, Google Webmaster and Google Analytics registration. If all these steps are carried out as well as producing a compelling, easy to use website, half the battle is won.

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Off-page SEO Checklist

Here are a few tips for Off-page (or off-site) SEO. It is all about building a network of links that point back to your website. The search engines can only glean a certain amount of information about your website from the site itself. They can analyse the words on the pages and index these and get a good idea of what each web page is about. However they have no idea if the content of the site is good or not. This is why external links coming into your site are so important. They confer importance as well as bringing direct traffic.

More links means more importance. More links from authority (high PageRank) sites means even more importance. A distribution of inbound links from loads of different sites also indicates importance. When text is hot-linked the content of the clickable text is called the anchor text. If this anchor text is one of your targeted keywords then the link back to your website confers added authority to the link.

I could go on but hopefully you get the picture – links to your website flag it up to the search engines as a site worth looking at. Why, otherwise would anyone link to a site? They also provide direct traffic through the clickable links. These links can come from a host of different sources:

The Off-page SEO checklist:

  • Articles – these are a powerful offsite SEO tool. They are published to specialist article directories such as ezinearticles.com. Within closely defined limits, you are allowed to link to your website from these articles (check the rules for each directory). A well written article will include your website’s main target keywords. These keywords are then picked up by search engines and are used to categorize your site. Articles need to be unique (not plagiarised), informative, and well written. If employed properly articles are a free and lifelong SEO tool – providing linking authority as well as direct click-through traffic.
  • Blogs – A blog is a great way to generate traffic to your site. A blog on your site allows and encourages you to create pages on a regular basis and, if it is interesting and relevant, it will attract traffic and repeat traffic. Each page on your site has the potential of gaining you more visitors to your site. Blogs on a site will also give credence to your site with search engines. You can publish material for your site on the blog and link it to other articles of yours. An external blog also works the same way and gives you the chance to place more links to your site. Commenting on posts in other blogs is another excellent opportunity to place a link to your site or blog. Leave a comment and add a signature after the post. Make the comment relevant and add value to the site otherwise it will get deleted.
  • Editorial – Newspapers and websites are crying out for interesting content. You can provide this and in return they will let you have a link to your website.
  • Free Directories – Yellow pages is the obvious source but you will probably have to pay for a hot-link to your website. However there are loads of free online directories which will allow a link. The link is what you want so it is generally unnecessary to pay for an up-rated entry as long as your website link is displayed.
  • Forums – Join forums and online groups which relate to your business. Add your primary keyword(s), linked to your website in your signature. By doing this you automatically create a number of links to your website each time you post on these forums. Often a good forum will want to see some quality posts before allowing you to add links to your signature.

Off-site SEO is a slow process. However a slow and steady build up of links is seen favourably by the search engines.

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