The Beginner’s Guide to Search Engine Optimisation
A number one ranking on Google is more desirable than a front row seat at the Royal Wedding and in some cases is harder to get. High Google rankings are certainly not passed down through generations, but search engine optimisation (SEO) including links back to your site, quality content and a well constructed website can go a long way to achieving that coveted first page ranking.
How Search Engines Work
Search engines work by using bots (spiders in Google speak) to crawl through webpages, analyse the pages and index those pages in the search engine’s servers. When the end-user types a search query, the search engine runs the query through its complicated series of algorithms to determine which pages from their index are most relevant to your search.
Many ranking factors come into play within the algorithms (and the exact algorithms remain closely guarded), but it is generally accepted by SEO pros that the major positive ranking factors are keywords within the content of the webpage, keywords in urls and backlinks with keyword anchor text. There are also negative factors that can get your page dropped down the rankings such as too many links to low quality sites, viruses festering in your site or stealing other’s content.
Keywords, Keywords, Keywords
Every search is actioned by the end-user typing a keyword (or keyphrase, the terms are interchangeable) into a search engine and clicking search, so all results that are returned are based around the keywords entered. For example, if you typed “wedding dresses” you would get very different results than if you searched “dressing for a wedding“. This means that if you want to rank for a certain page, you need to ensure your website content targets specific keyword queries and you use off-site linkbuilding to point links with keywords in the anchor text to your site.
SEO Starter Guide
Step 1 – Build a website that is spider friendly
Before you even consider building backlinks, you need to ensure that your website is constructed in a way that allows the bots to crawl your website easily and pick up the keywords within your website code (HTML). This means putting keywords into your title tags, heading tags, using alt tags on images, title tags on links and having a easy-to-read url structure (http://domain.com/getting-started-with-google-analytics/ as opposed to http://domain.com/index.php?=211213-124634/). Generally your web design agency will do this for you while designing and coding of your site but if you want to learn some more, you can read my on-page SEO tips.
Step 2 – Write keyword rich QUALITY content
As search engines crack down on poor quality content it is becoming more and more important to create original content. When writing for SEO, you should ensure that you use the keywords (and their synonyms) that you want to rank for within your content. For example, if you were writing a page about wedding dresses, you would use the phrase “wedding dresses” a few times, but also drop in synonyms and alternate phrases like “frocks for a wedding”, “bridal gowns” etc etc etc.
Step 3 – Create links within your content to other pages on your site
By creating links with keywords as the anchor text you are saying to the bots “here is another keyword that is relevant to my site, come see what I’ve got”. This helps bots navigate your site and ensures they pick up as much information about your site as possible. Here is a sample link to another Zhoom Blog article about Winning Travel Vouchers . The anchor text in that link is “Winning Travel Vouchers” and this will ensure that the bots follow the link, knowing the page will be about winning travel vouchers.
Step 4 – Build backlink relationships
Backlinks with keyword anchor text are widely considered to be one of the most important ranking factors when it comes to search engine optimisation. Sure you can go ahead and spam blogs with comments, reply to forum posts with meaningless tripe or submit your site to thousands of web directories, but the only real way to get quality backlinks is by building relationships with other webmasters and encouraging them to link back to you. Here are a few ways to do this:
- Write guest posts for other blogs/websites with the caveat that you get a link (or two) back to your site.
- Write reviews.
- Write testimonials.
- Participate in online forums and blog discussions.
- Offer a link exchange with related websites.
- Ask your friends to give you links.
- Share articles (yours and from other sites) on social bookmarking sites.
Of course some of those methods mentioned earlier (blog comments, forums, directories) can be useful in building your core backlink profile and for building relationships with other webmasters, but don’t rely on them as your only method of backlinking.
Step 5 – Monitor your search engine traffic
You should regularly check if your keyword traffic is increasing due to your SEO efforts and check to see if your SEO has inadvertently got you traffic from other keywords. Then you can determine where you need to focus your SEO and decide if you need more backlinks with certain anchor text or articles with certain keywords. Google Analytics is great for this and you can read my previous article on Getting Started with Google Analytics for some Google Analytics goodness.
Step 6 – Repeat steps 2-5 over and over!
Sorry, SEO is not a set and forget web strategy. It is an ongoing labour of love that, when done properly, can keep your website in the money pages of Google and the like.
Other SEO Quickies
- Keep up to date with industry changes. Some leading SEO websites I follow are: SEOMoz, SEO Book, Search Engine Land, Search Engine Round Table and GrayWolf’s SEO Blog.
- Use social media. It’s looking more and more likely that this will affect search engine rankings soon.
- Optimise your site for mobile devices.
- Make your website fast. Load speed has become a ranking factor for Google.
High search engine rankings do not happen overnight! Expect 6-12 months to see the results of your hard work and if you can make a commitment to SEO, you will reap the rewards over the long term.