Search engine optimisation (SEO) refers to a series of activities that involve creating backlinks to a website, getting relevant on page content and the most important part, picking the right keywords. By doing this, the expectation is that a website will receive free listings in the search engines. The major search engines being Google, Yahoo and Bing. However the top search engine that every webmaster wants to rank on the first page of is Google. Google knows this and it has taken measures to ensure that only the best websites appear in the search engine in order to give users the best experience. The key to successful search engine optimisation is to find out what Google wants and give it to them, unfortunately this is easier said than done, that is why SEO is not for the faint of heart, it requires hours of long tedious work and patience, if you want to get it right. You might decide to do your SEO work yourself or hire an SEO company to do it for you. An SEO company will normally charge a fee, to get you at the top of the search results. If you are doing it yourself you may also use an automated SEO tool but remember that a tool is only as good as the instructions it has been given, in fact giving the wrong instructions can get your site penalised and defeat the purpose of the tool.
Keyword Research is an important part of search engine optimisation and involves the use of tools such as google adwords or a software bought for this purpose, there are many of them on the market to choose from. These will usually tell you how many people are searching for a keyword online and help you to decide whether or not you want to pursue the keyword. If the volume is too high the competition might be fierce, if it is too low it means there is no money to be made, a medium volume keyword is always a better bet.
Perhaps the most important and often overlooked part of SEO is competitor analysis, you should always check to see who you are going up against for a keyword before you even think about going after it. If you pick a keyword that has too many heavy hitters in the top position, it is going to be like a recreational boxer going into the ring against the heavyweight champion of the world, it is pretty obvious how that will play out. Many people lose at the SEO game before they even enter the ring because they choose keywords that are virtually impossible to rank for because the sites in the top positions have been around for years and have massive backlinks from highly reputable sites and flawless on page SEO. Do not set yourself up for failure, do your research, there are several software on the market that will show you the details of your competition, including the amount of backlinks they have, the domain authority and the age of the site, all these are factors that you should consider when deciding on a keyword for building a site around.
On Page Search Engine Optimisation
This refers to what the optimiser does to the page he or she is trying to rank, on page SEO involves strategies such as putting keywords in header tags, placing keywords in the description of the page and placing the keyword on the page itself in just the right density, so that google doesn’t think it is spammy. The keyword you are trying to rank should also be in the title of the page. On page optimisation is where you have the most control, after all you get to decide where to put your keywords and how many of them to use.
Off Page Search Engine Optimisation
Off page SEO refers to factors that are used by search engines to judge the relevance and importance of your page, this is where the real work of SEO begins. Off page optimisation requires that one gets a certain amount of backlinks from a variety of places in order to rank a site. Off page SEO can involve, blogging, forum profile posting, blog commenting, social bookmarking, social media, guest blogging, document sharing, submitting to article directories and a whole lot more. As you can see there are many things you can do that fall under the umbrella of off-page seo, how effectively you do them will determine whether your SEO campaign is a success or not. This too is where a lot of people can get themselves into trouble with search engines especially Google who has rolled out both the Panda and Penguin algorithm to penalise those who use off page SEO in a spammy way.
The first to roll out was the Panda which specifically targeted those who were reveling in duplicate content. It is important for clarity that the difference between duplication and syndication be pointed out. Google sees duplication as the copying of content and using it on one or more sites. Syndication however occurs when a website such as any of the popular news source puts out a story and it is indexed on their site first in the search engines, after that other bloggers and news sites can go ahead and publish it as long as they give credit and/or provide a link back to the original website. There has been much debate among those who use article syndication as part of their off page SEO strategy as to whether or not it is duplication or syndication. A safe rule for article marketing though is to always get the article indexed on your site before distributing it, so that Google knows it originated there.
The penguin update targeted those who were sending out spammy links to their webpages in order to get them ranking higher. For example, say a webmaster wanted to rank a page on the first page of google for the keyword “dog collar” what some webmasters would do is to get a bunch of links, sometimes hundreds with the anchor text “dog collar” pointing back at their website. Sometimes they would do it in a day or two and this worked for a few years and got most of them to the top of the search engine, however along came the Google penguin whose mission was to destroy spam and so the penguin penalised them by throwing their sites to the bottom of the search engine or removing them from the results all together, this is referred to as de-indexing. De-indexing occurs when no pages from a site can be found when the term site:www.example.com is put in the search box. This is usually the kiss of death and means that the website is officially dead and rarely has a chance of coming back.
In light of all that can happen when one does do off page SEO it is important to note that it is always better to stay white hat as much as possible rather than go black hat unless you really know what you are doing. The technique mentioned in the last paragraph that can get sites de-indexed would be what google considers black hat, as you can see when Google thinks someone is trying to trick them they fight back and they fight back hard. The loss of a website is almost always a loss of part or all of someone’s part or full time income, people who build sites for recreational purposes rarely take drastic measures to rank them, those who do, do it for the income it provides. Needless to say the panda and penguin updates left many in a financial quandry. Now that we have discussed the Panda and Penguin updates, it seems as good a time as any to discuss the two hats of the SEO world.
White Hat vs Black Hat
If you are wearing a White Hat in SEO then you are doing things that google will not penalise you for when you are creating links to your site, on the other hand if you are creating links using methods that google will most likely frown at then you are involved in black hat SEO. The truth is many webmasters and search engine optimisers fall somewhere in between, most are not totally white hat and most are not totally black hat. Even with panda and penguin people are still finding ways to rank their sites to the top while breaking some of google’s rules, those who stay totally white hat usually take a lot longer to see results but eventually they do and they are likely to have a site that lasts. However, many people still have sites that last using a combination of white and black hat techniques, but it is not fail safe, if you are not careful with what you are doing, you’ll suffer the consequences.
Manual Backlinking vs Automated Backlinking
If you decide to backlink manually you will have your hands full but many will tell you that they prefer to do it this way as they feel it is the safest method. If the keyword you are trying to rank does not have massive competition then manual link building is good, in fact doing some SEO work manually is always good. If you cannot manage you can always outsource some of the work although you will need to find reputable people. A good SEO company can usually handle this if you are squeamish about getting one individual to help you. If you decide to go with automated software, then you need to make very sure you know what you are doing, visit tutorials online for the software and join forums on SEO so you can get help from more experienced members in using the software effectively.
Hiring A SEO Company
If you have the money then you should go ahead and find a reputable company that has received good reviews in the past and one that will be respectful of what you want or tell them to do, to promote your site. The worst thing that can happen is for you to engage a SEO company that is rogue and does what it wants instead of what the client wants. You need to be sure that the company will communicate thoroughly to you the kinds of links they are building to your site and how many. Of course there are those webmasters who don’t care what kind of tactics their SEO company uses as long as they get to the top of the search engines, the crux of the matter, however, is can your rankings last or will you end up dealing with a negative penalty down the road. A SEO company is only as good as its ability to produce quality work and make you feel as if you can trust them with your site.
Linking With Other Webmasters
This is critical, do a search of the web and you will find some great websites, you don’t even have to join if you don’t want to, you can just lurk and see what they are up to, although it is always better to join so you can direct your SEO questions to them. This is invaluable especially if you are a newbie and want to do your SEO work on your own. You will also be able to find people you can outsource the work to on many of these sites but be careful and ask questions and look at their reviews before you pay and leave your rankings up to them.
Hopefully you have learnt a lot about SEO from reading this article. SEO changes regularly, what works now may not work six months from now, so it is important to keep up with current trends and to always keep an open mind and be patient, it can take months to rank a site and many give up just before they succeed due to a lack of patience.
A Brief Guide for Webmasters
Ever since Search Engine Optimisation came into use, it has been the topic for several debates. There are people who believe that paying money for search engine optimisation isn’t worth it, while there are others who believe that it plays a huge role in maximizing a website’s value. Before coming to a conclusion, it is very important to understand what search engine optimization is all about. And believe me, not many people understand it completely; because if they did, there wouldn’t be a debate in the first place.
Search engines were created by humans and so was search engine optimisation. I believe that studying the evolution of search engines is a great way to understand it’s relevance today. Early algorithms focused on just one thing-Keyword density. It completely relied on webmaster-provided meta tags. And the problem with this system is not difficult to see. Inadequate or incomplete data in in meta tags could take the user to a completely irrelevant page. The last thing a common user would want is to search for ‘potato chips’ and be shown the history of potato chips. And that’s when the PageRank system came into use. It was a function of the quantity and strength of the inbound links. This meant that a higher ranked page would have more chances to be reached than a low ranked page. Then came personalized search and then other updates like Google Panda and Penguin. Search Engines today use complex algorithms which are not disclosed. The pages are ranked based on their relevance and their content quality.
If you’ve ever argued with or seen someone arguing against Search Engine Optimisation, there is one thing that you will surely notice. They usually embark on creating quality expert content. They believe that the owner should take major ownership of the site and only quality content can really get a site going. And well, they are completely right! You cannot do anything with a website if the content itself is bad. But, the point made here is actually pretty irrelevant. Because no SEO expert would create the content for you. People are usually under the misconception that Search Engine Optimization is all about keyword density and gateway pages. But like I said previously, Search Engines have transformed completely. And today there are many more factors that attribute to a site’s visibility. So, what about SEO friendly content? Who’s going to create it in an ideal scenario? The SEO expert or the owner? The answer is simple. It’s the owner who’s going to create the content but under the guidance of the expert. Great content and SEO-friendly content are quite different and a perfect mix is the ideal scenario.
But Search Engine Optimization does not stop here. With the increasing requirement of search engine algorithms and the competition, the work required in the SEO field has increased tremendously. Here are a few things SEOs do. This shall give you a gist of the work carried out by SEO experts and should encourage you to learn more.
Canonical Link Elements: The ‘canonical’ location in search engine terms, is the preferred location of a specific URL. One canonical URL is chosen and is linked consistently within the site. All the non-canonical are made to do a permanent (301) HTTP redirect to the canonical link. It’s best to do this when two pages are truly the same thing.
hreflang: The difference is subtle and pretty confusing for someone new to it. Usually used for pages available in multiple languages.
Parameter handling: The main purpose is to strip out useless pages.
rel=”prev” and rel=”next” : Helps the search engine to understand the website structure and helps the search engine to differentiate distinct pages with same meta tags and titles from duplicate pages.
XML sitemaps : Help the robots to read your website easily.
Google Plus authorship : Site Specific SEO
Open Graph meta data (Facebook). : Site Specific SEO
Schema.org implementation: Site specific SEO
This should have given you a clear idea of what Search Engine Optimisation is and what it’s not! It should be quite clear to you now that great content alone cannot let a site reach it’s true potential.
I’ve often seen people not understanding the whole concept of Search Engine Optimisation. People who have used Search Engine Optimisation believe in it because they see an increase in traffic but they don’t completely understand it. And I strongly believe that even though technical knowledge of SEO, is not a must have, it’s good to know the entire system. Most people believe that SEOs optimize the web, the search engine or the website. But in reality, they do none of them. SEOs try to understand the framework and algorithms of the web, search engines and social networks and try to provide maximum value to a website.
Those of you who have used SEO services before will have a fair idea of the kind of boost it can give you. But for those of you who haven’t tried any, here are a few SEO tips. This will help you notice the improve,emt in performance due to SEO.
Canonical elements are used quite wrongly sometimes. Some people redirect all their links to the homepage using canonical elements. This isn’t a good idea and can be very catastrophic.
Use a 301 permanent redirect every time you move or rename a page.
Wordpress has become a very popular web platform and majority of the people today are using wordpress for their sites. I’ve seen many people using free wordpress themes for their sites. But most free themes have spammy links in the footer; even the ones themes available on highly ranked websites. So it’s a good practice to look for spammy links and eliminate them. I would always recommend a premium theme though.
SEO is not about getting ranked on the page one of google. Its about generating appropriate traffic for your content. So, this should always be kept in mind. There’s no point in getting ranked for a keyword that has no traffic.
Use good plugins. There are several excellent free SEO plugins for wordpress. I highly recommend All In One SEO, SEO Jacking and the XML-sitemap plugin for your website.
Speed up your site using W3 Total Cache plugin!
I hope this article gives you ample information about Search Engine Optimisation and helps you appreciate the value added by SEOs.