SEO. It’s one of the more commonly used terms in the world of internet marketing. While you probably know that effective SEO will help you rank higher in search engines, how many times have you wondered how the right combination of a few words can end up with you ranked first on Google search return.
Is it magic? No and to be honest, it’s really not that hard to understand or put into practice if you take a few minutes to learn the basic guidelines of search engine optimisation. So, if you are working to boost traffic to your site in order to increase your sales, the following SEO guide will take you through everything you need to know to do just that.
How SEO REALLY Works
It’s a common misconception that SEO is simply a source of free traffic to your site. While this is the end result, it doesn’t really explain how SEO works. Its actual purpose is to direct the people who are looking for you, to you. For this to work, you have to match what people are trying to find to the content on your website.
Here’s an example:
Jane creates and sells hand knitted scarves. She has a blog that shows the process, while also discussing the various types of yarn she uses. Now, there is not a lot of competition for keywords pertaining to yarn and Jane is constantly posting great content, so before she knows it, she has first page rankings for a variety of types of yarn.
Good for Jane, right? Wait, Jane actually has a problem on her hands.
When someone is searching for a type of yarn, it’s probably because they are a knitter themselves. So, they probably don’t want Jane’s scarves. While Jane may be getting plenty of traffic, it won’t convert because her visitor’s goals of learning about or purchasing yarn do not match her own goal of selling a scarf.
What can you learn here? Traffic isn’t the goal. The goal of SEO is to figure out what you want and then optimise keywords that will attract visitors who want the same thing.
Okay, that seems simple enough, but how do you determine what these keywords are. It’s going to take research.
Research: Finding the Right Keywords
While you may not enjoy research, it’s a crucial part of identifying the right keywords. When researching, your goal is to discover keywords that:
Have a high volume of searches (In other words, people are looking for these keywords.)
Are relevant to the content on your site
Have minimal competition (The smaller the amount of results there are, the better your chances of a higher ranking are.)
Keep in mind, there are plenty of tools available for finding the right keyword. Right now, Google’s Search-Based Keyword Tool is the most popular because it gives you results based on actual Google searches. Plus, if you are logged into an AdWords account, you get a list of keyword suggestions that are customized to the account linked to the site.
“The Long Tail”
Before we go any further, we have to discuss “The Long Tail”, a concept that helps decide how narrow or broad you want your keywords to be. Essentially, it describes a phenomenon where plenty of low traffic keywords in a group direct more traffic to you than a few high traffic keywords.
Here’s an example:
Amazon gets tons of visits daily from the keyword “DVD”, but they also get millions of visits for individual DVD titles, such as Kill Bill DVD or Finding Nemo DVD. On their own, these titles do not get anywhere near the traffic that a term like DVD does, but when they are put together, the volume is much more than a single keyword.
This is particularly true when creating content, such as videos, images or audio tapes that bots can’t read. To make it easier for them to understand and rank them for the appropriate keywords, you will need to describe them.
What does the long tail have to do with you? Well, when you combine them together, all of your long tail (unpopular) keywords should contribute to almost 80% of traffic. Of course, you can forget about the unpopular keywords ; you still have to factor them into your overall strategy.
Crafting Your Content
Once you have the right keywords, move on to crafting your content. Keep in mind that search engine bots are automatically looking and “reading” over your site to determine what it’s about. Then, they decide which keywords each page should rank for. Fortunately, you can influence their selection by tactically optimising your content for specific keywords.
However, here’s an important word of warning. Writing content specifically for search engine almost always ends up in boring content that doesn’t convert visitors into customers. The best thing to do is focus on potential visitors first. Make your content easy to read and interesting. Then, optimise for bots where you can, without sacrificing your content’s persuasiveness.
Here are a few things to pay particular attention to.
Titles: Your first impression is key. Opt for eye-catching titles that make a visitor want to continue reading.
Keywords: Choose relevant keywords that will bring people to your site.
Freshness: Even if your content doesn’t really age or become outdated, it is still important to add new content regularly. If this requires too much time, look at others options, such as adding a blog or Q and A section to your website.
Quality: Make every effort to ensure your content is both high quality and unique. Visitors will make an effort to return in they can’t find the content easily somewhere else.
Not only do search bots read the text on your website, but they also read the code. There are 8 different code sections to optimise.
Title tags encase your site’s title.
Family Lawyer in Bristol | Company Name
In the example, there is emphasis on family lawyers in Bristol and the business name. To find it in search engines, you would likely search for “family lawyer Bristol” or “company name.”
The main point here is that ensuring your keywords are in the title when coding title tags.
The “meta description tag” should be your primary concern. While it doesn’t have as much effect on your ranking, it does tell visitors what your site is about. This can be the deciding factor as to whether or not they click through.
In this case, headings are much like those in a book, but they have a specific order. H1 starts the page as the main heading before moving to H2, H3, H4, and so on. Typically, you should have one H1 tag on each page, while you can have as many of the others as you want. Just be certain your headings include keywords and are relevant to your site’s content.
Sitemaps act as a roadmap for search engines by giving directions to the bots regarding the different pages of your site. This is done to make certain they find everything they are looking for. There are two types of sitemaps. It’s your responsibility to link to them to give visitors a quick guide to where to go.
HTML sitemaps: easy for people to read. If you have less than a couple of hundred pages, link each page to your HTML sitemap. If our website has thousands of pages, opt to link to those that are most important.
XML sitemaps: coded especially for search engines to read, they contain every single page of your website. To make this easy, use a tool, such as XML Sitemap Creator, to automatically create one. After it has been created, submit it to Bing and Google Webmaster Central so the biggest search engines can go ahead and index your site.
Although URLs are an important part of SEO, they tend to be forgotten about. For example, a messy URL is difficult for a search engine to look through. If this happens, the bots can’t index your site. This means you can say goodbye to a high search engine ranking. To ensure your URL is search engine friendly, keep the falling tips in mind.
Use dashes instead of underscores (search engines aren’t fond of underscores).
Sub-domains usually rank higher than sub-directories.
Do not use irrelevant and annoying characters, such as ! # ^ * =
Stick to letters and numbers.
Domain names that include keywords will rank much higher than domains without any keywords. However, an exact match domain name will head right to the top of the rankings. But keyword rich domain names will become less effective over time as Google opts for Brand names.
Before you run out and start looking for an exact match domain, stop! There’s a downside. Exact match domains aren’t all that unique. This is why a number of companies opt to use made up words for their domain name. Then, they work to build a brand around it.
So, which one works better. There’s really no clear cut answer. However, if your traffic is derived entirely from search engines, an exact match domain name is probably the best decision for now at least…And remember, Hotels.com are always going to rank high when someone searches for them because they have a keyword rich domain name.
However, if SEO is just a small part of your overall marketing strategy, opt for something more unique.
How your web pages are linked together has a significant impact on your rankings. When cross linking your website, use the following tips.
Make an effort to keep the number of links on a page below 100.
Links that are included within content usually carry more weight than links in a footer or sidebar.
Do not follow links that are low quality content. (A good example is links to a Feedburner page.)
You will run into some SEO’s that state you should not follow internal links, such as to a terms of service page. However, pagerank sculpting no longer works. (Don’t worry if you don’t know what this is…it’s irrelevant today.) To block pages, such as your terms of service, exclude it from your robots.txt file.
Tags and a quick description should be added to each image in order for search engine bots to correctly index images. Also, be certain that you choose an image name that is pertinent to the image. For example, if you have a picture of a pink dress, call in pinkdress.jpg instead of image8.jpg.
Most people consider links (links can be classed as votes) to be the most important aspect of SEO. After all, your web page ranking will increase as more websites link to your website. Why are links so valuable? Well, it’s simple. It’s pretty easy for someone to do research and create new content or alter their existing content, but it’s really hard to convince other websites to link to yours. Search engines see it this way. The more legitimate, non-spammy , trustworthy sites that are linked to you, the more authority they assume you have on the topic.
Before we discuss building links, here are a few things to know.
Links within content are more effective than those in a footer or sidebar.
Go with links from related sites instead of those from sites that are irrelevant.
Anchor text is crucial in link building. If you want to rank for “pink dress”, then you better make certain “pink dress” is the anchor text of the link.
Obviously, there are several things to stay away from too. They include:
Site wide links…they hurt more than they help.
Reciprocal links (well, of course I’ll link to you, if you link to me) are usually ineffective.
Links from irrelevant or spammy sites are ineffective.
A bunch of links that are rich in anchor text can hurt you.
By the way, if you are caught purchasing links, you can be banned from search engines.
Now, if you want to legitimately increase the number of links you have, here are several options.
Forums: Usually forums let you create a signature that includes a link back to your own website. Provided these links aren’t no-followed, they will help your rankings.
The top 100: If your goal is to rank for a certain keyword, your best links will come from sites that are in the top 100 search results for that keyword. Some links are sure to be for your competition that won’t link to you. However, others will not be competition. Send them an email that is short and sweet asking them to link back to you.
Directories: The web has plenty of directories, so take the time to submit your site to those that are relevant to your content.
Dead links: With billions of links on the web, many of them will eventually die out. While a web site may simply cease to exist, there are sure to be other sites that are still linking to that website. Email these sites and let them know about the dead link. There is a good chance they will swap out the dead link for one that goes to your site, provided your content is similar.
Competition: Check out who is linked to your competition. Send them an email that makes them aware of the benefits of your site compared to your competition. Around 5 percent of these websites will add your link as well.
Social media: Being active on social media doesn’t simply drive up traffic to your site. The visibility will also increase the odds of your site getting linked to.
A Few Final Thoughts
Putting the advice above into action will definitely increase your traffic coming from search engines. However, it will take time. Keep in mind that search engines have billions of websites to crawl, so it does take time to update their records.
Also, be aware that everything that works for one site won’t necessarily work for your own site. It will take time to determine what is going to work most effectively for your website. Just don’t be tempted to look into shady shortcuts to speed things up. Before it’s all said and done, you’ll get caught and the punishment won’t be worth it.
So, what’s the best way to increase your traffic? Simply following the SEO guide above.
1. Determine what everyone is looking for.
2. Design a site that gives this to them.
3. Search engine optimise so people can find you.
This is really all search engines want you to do. Their goal is to provide the best website for any search topic. If you can create that website and promote it, search engines will find you. Just keep everything discussed above in mind. Yes, it is going to take plenty of time, work, and effort on your part, but in the end, it will be worth it.
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