Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is a billion dollar industry, and something that website owners and marketers can no longer ignore. Gone are the days when adding a long list of keywords into your metadata and a listing in the Open Directory (DMOZ) would boost your search ranking. Today it takes strategic planning and knowledge to ensure that your company climbs to the top of the SEO ladder.
This article is the first in a series that will explain the basics of SEO and help you to reach the top spot in search engines.
This article covers Content and Keywords.
Before you start
The main rule you should remember before starting your SEO journey is that there is no cheating allowed. The largest search engines are very large indeed, and the likely chance is that they are cleverer than you in terms of SEO. They know what they are doing. You won’t be able trick them into placing you within the first ten searches or sneak up there when they are looking the other way. Expect from the very beginning to do some hard work.
Do not think you can trick your way in via’ Link Farms, ‘alternative text spamming’, ‘keyword stuffing’ or other methods that seem 'oh so clever' at the time. They may work for a very short time, but the end result could be that you are banned from the search engines, and once you have been banned, it takes a lot of work to get back in again.
Do not expect things to happen over night, SEO is a game of patience and will not happen straight away. It can take months, maybe years, depending on the competition, but if you tweak enough, and constantly work at it, your hard work should pay off.
A keyword is a word or phrase used to find matching web pages in an internet search, and is the aspect of SEO that needs to be addressed before you even start trying to improve your standings on search engines. If you do not know your keywords, then how are you going to optimise your website for them?
List all of the words which you would like people to find your website on, when typed into a search engine. These may be your services, products, place, and/or industry. Be sensible with your keywords; do not use any that have nothing to do with your company and business in an attempt to trick search engines to point to your site. As previously mentioned, search engines are clever, you will be found out.
Years ago when someone had chosen their keywords, it was a simple matter of placing them in your metadata and off you go. Not anymore. Your keywords need to be generously placed around your content for a search engine to recognise it as a keyword. It is important to realise that content must be relevant and associated with your keywords. Ensure that your keywords are placed within the first 20 words of your web page this is especially important to show search engines that your pages are about the subject of your keywords.
Make sure that your web copy is unique. That does not mean that you cannot write about subjects other people have written about, but make sure that the actual wording of your website is not found anywhere else.
Use keywords regularly and especially at the top of the page. If you are writing a page on your site about ‘trees’ make sure that the word appears in the title, first sentence and a few other times on the page.
It seems like common sense, but you would be amazed how poor a lot of content is online. It also makes good usability sense as it will help users who are looking for information know that they have found the right page.
Finally, update your content regularly. Not only will you encourage repeat visitors, but search engine spiders will return more often.
- Form a plan – always know where you are going, and what you are aiming for. It is very easy to get lost in SEO without moving forward at all;
- List only relevant content – do not trick the search engines;
- Ensure your keywords appear in the title and first 20 words of your web page;
- Be patient – as mentioned above, SEO can be a long task. Never be tempted to take short cuts. Even if they do work, it generally won’t be for a long time;
- Continue to work with and update your content to make it relevant to users and search engines;
- Always keep one eye on SEO – whatever you are doing with your website, always think about how it can effect your ranking;
- Report regularly – know where you currently ranked in search engines. You will be able to compare with previous weeks/months to see if you are heading in the right direction, or need to re-think your plan.