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The basics of SEO
Date: 2010-09-20 14:17:02

By increasing the position of your website in organic search results and thus the visibility of the website for search engine users you are ultimately increasing the volume of traffic.

WHAT IS SEO:

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation and refers to the process by which a webmaster will attempt to make his or her website as prominent as possible on internet search engine results pages. SEO is involved in increasing the site’s ranking in organic searches (i.e. unpaid advertising on a search engine) as opposed to engaging in a PPC (pay per click) or other similar sponsored advertising.


INCREASING TRAFFIC:

By increasing the position of your website in organic search results and thus the visibility of the website for search engine users you are ultimately increasing the volume of traffic (i.e. the number of visitors) to your website. So not all traffic in this world is bad!

As you may have noticed, there are many methods and techniques employed in SEO, however you should never resort to underhanded techniques which can result in being penalized by search engines (see: MANIPULATING SEARCH RESULTS below)

The more traffic coming to your site the higher the chances are your products will be purchased or in the case of affiliates, that your merchant’s banners will be clicked on and a sale affected, thus earning you commission. Selling a product or service is surely the obvious end goal of search engine marketing for commercial sites and in fact for most other forms of online advertising as well. Although ranking well in search engine results does not guarantee sales or even clicks, it is probably the best and certainly the cheapest place to start when trying to drive traffic to your site.


BASIC BEST PRACTICE:

Following abuse by webmasters to rank their sites higher using artificial means (see: MANIPULATING SEARCH RESULTS below) search engines now take into account as many as 200 different factors when indexing a site.

So how do you optimise your site for search engines without resorting to dirty tricks or becoming overly pedantic and losing your mind? Here are some basic tips to keep in mind:

SUBMIT YOUR URL AND SITEMAP TO SEARCH ENGINES: Submitting a sitemap allows you to best inform the search engine of the full website structure. Remember that the number and quality of links on your site plays an important part in your placement on a search results page. There are many resources online for helping you create a sitemap. For further info see: www.sitemaps.org

LINK EXCHANGE (EXTERNAL AND INTERNAL): Make sure that you are linking to other sites and that other sites are linking to you. It is important that these links are “natural” i.e. relevant to the content of your site. You should also regularly check these links to ensure that they are working to prevent link rot. It is handy to note that the higher the linking site ranks in search engines itself the more favourable your own rank will be affected. Provide links to every page within your own site. Ideally you’d want all the pages in your site to link to all the others. Keep links to a reasonable number though. Google suggests no more than 100 per page.

PROVIDE LOADS OF COOL CONTENT IN YOUR SITE: Remember that in an ideal world your indexed position on a search engine should be relevant to the people who have typed in those specific search criteria. The more content rich your site is then the better your site should perform in searches for that type of content. Include relevant keywords in the content of each page on your site. As with the linking do not overdo it though. To further emphasise keywords on a page you can place them higher on a page and either bold or italicise them.

MAKE USE OF YOUR TITLE AND META TAGS: Meta tags tell the search engine software what your website contains. You should insert relevant, important keywords in your meta keywords tag and title tag. You should also insert a concise, accurate description of your site in your meta description tag.

INCLUDE ALT ATTRIBUTE FOR IMAGES: In the IMG SRC tags include the ALT attribute which will be a description of the image. You can use keywords in this description as well.

THE FLASH FACTOR: Remember that Flash sites will generally perform poorly in search engine rankings owing to readability problems with the search engine software. You may wish to have a static / non-Flash version of your site to combat this.

SITE NAVIGATION: Your site should be easy to access and navigate. As mentioned previously you should be able to access all the pages of your site from anywhere on your site.

Follow up any SEO initiatives by seeing how your site does on the various search engine indexes and fine tune your approach based on its performance. Remember though that SEO is a long term strategy and it can take months to see results so don’t be too quick to jump to conclusions.


MANIPULATING SEARCH RESULTS:

Certain unscrupulous individuals out there will seek to gain a more prominent position for their sites on search engines by means other than following the best practice guidelines. While not being wrong in a technical sense per se it is certainly wrong in a moral sense and serves to muddy the waters of an online search.

The function of a search engine is to match the keywords and phrases entered by searchers with a list of the most relevant websites based on their actual content. By manipulating the search results via engaging in so-called black hat techniques a webmaster is misrepresenting the content of their site and pushing possibly more relevant sites down the list.

Search engines will penalise websites that are found to be engaging in black hat techniques (by removing the site from its results pages or lowering its rankings) so ultimately it will not be in the best interest of the webmaster or search engine optimizer to engage in such practices in the long run. Some of the most common black hat techniques include the following:

Keyword stuffing: filling a page on your site with keywords to make it appear to be more relevant to search engine software.

Hidden text: once again this involves filling a page on your site with keywords to make it appear to be more relevant to search engine software. In this instance though the text is hidden either by being coloured the same as the background colour of the page or by being positioned off screen.

Incorrect link etiquette: An example of this would be engaging in link farming (whereby there is a series of sites with a multitude of links all linking to each other) or having hidden links on the page.

Duplicating content/ Mirror sites: having sites with duplicate content with different URLS.


THANKS FOR READING:

Thank you for reading our Basics of SEO. We hope you have enjoyed it!

Written by Paul Robinson. First published 01 September 2008

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