Thursday, October 1, 2009
Search Engine Optimisation - The Options
By Jason Kendall
SEO is essentially a constantly evolving study of what factors the search engines take into account when they ‘rank’ you in their natural search listings. These organic listings are what we predominantly see when we search for any keyword. They are not to be confused with the Pay per Click entries. On the major Search Engines, you’ll see a box at the top, and a column down the right hand side. These are the paid adverts. Whereas the free listings are taken from the main index. The Search Engines look at a site’s relevancy and value when establishing its position in the hierarchy.
We want to be right up there where we can be seen. Nobody will know we’re there if we’re way down on page eight! It isn’t possible to say for certain exactly which measures SE’s use to grade sites. They keep it a closely guarded secret!
Because of this, much technical expertise has developed around the subject. We have Search Engines constantly developing new technology on the one hand. Leading to great mystique over their ratings methodology. On the other hand, there’s Search Engine Optimisation. SEO empirically measures and tests data to establish the more significant factors that the SE’s are using.
The objective is to maximise both ‘on-page’ and ‘off-page’ optimisation. There are also ‘off-web’ factors such as demographic and geographic information - but we have no control over this area. (We’ve covered ‘Off Page’ factors in a separate article, as there wasn’t enough room here.)
It’s possible to change the pages of your website to make them ‘friendly’ to the Search Engines. It’s not too complex - it just requires setting your website up the right way. Doing things such as: Keyword seeding (in the right places and the right amounts), using H1 and H2 header tags (and to some extent meta-tags) and internal linking.
Don’t worry if you don’t understand the technical terms. The bottom-line is, that while it is the easiest to control, it has the LEAST affect on your ranking. To be blunt, some would say it hardly has any effect at all. Search Engines used to credit on page factors in the past. Not any longer though.
The only time that ‘on-page’ becomes important is when you have taken care of ‘off-page’ and have a lot of inbound ‘back-links’. If that’s the case, internal linking and a certain amount of on-page fine-tuning can reap rewards.
Some Words Of Caution… A phrase that shows vast numbers of results should not be your first SEO target. For instance, if you typed into a Search Engine the term Car insurance, seventy million results would be listed for the UK alone. It’s fairly obvious that seventy million competitors is a few too many for someone just getting started.
And Yet - When car insurance is prefixed with ‘Southampton’, it becomes a less intolerable three hundred thousand. (Which could be useful if I sold car insurance in Southampton!) You might think that still sounds a lot, and yet it’s not in SEO terms.
I could expect to get ranked far more easily for the longer phrase. In reality, getting ranked for car insurance would cost a fortune! I’d actually be head to head with the really big boys. So not a great idea - especially, in fact, when there are much better ways to go about it.
Therefore, we’re looking for phrases that yield less overall results - but quite accurately sum up what we do or what we offer. These ‘long tail’ phrases might contain a number of specific keywords. They could be anything from two to seven words in length. Generally we use 3 to 4 words.
It’s sensible to start SEO work on terms that yield under half a million returns. (If the sites on the front page haven’t used SEO techniques, then we might go with bigger yields). Over time we’ll gain ground on the larger search terms. This will happen automatically through building back links. We can go for some of those after several months if we’ve SEO’d well. A line of attack like this makes business sense. Basically we zone in on people who are specifically searching to purchase.
Your home page isn’t the only place for back-links. Spread them liberally around your website. This technique is referred to as Deep Linking. For example, build links to the pages that group products. That’s because pages like this generally have links to several individual pages. So don’t limit the back links to one page. Google and the other SE’s are looking more and more at how individual pages on your site are listed and treated.
About the Author:
(C) Jason Kendall. Pop to EvolveSEM.co.uk for superb advice on SEM Consultants