Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a very rewarding when successful but one must keep in mind it is a long term effort. Success requires time and effort while following a consistent and well tested program. For this article, we will be referencing Google a lot for the simple reason they account for over 70% of all web searches. The concepts going forward work with any search engine.
To begin lets quickly go over why Google and other search engine do what they do. First off they are all businesses; that is, they exist to make money. Advertising is the life blood of all search engines and to be successful they must accomplish two things. First, Google must provide the end user a rich and rewarding experience by delivering relevance for their searches. What relevance means is Google wants a user to find what they are looking for. Secondly, to get companies to advertise with them Google must provide quality customers to they advertises via ads. Content providers and websites that help Google achieve these two goals are rewarded handsomely.
So what makes a web site relevant?
Search Engines want to know which site is relevant for a particular concept. These concepts are represented by phrases or key words. Example: single family homes, luxury resorts, organic food store.
Possessing massive computing power, the search engines read all these pages and ranks the sites based on a set of rules. When you go on a search engine and type a key phrase, the search engine picks the best matches by looking at the following hierarchy:
1. Authority…How many links from their sites about the subject. The more links to your site, the more authority
2. When the key word is the main focus of each site. They determine this by your sites structure
3. Which pages on the sites are most dedicated to the key works
4. Where those pages are more relevant an all the other pages in the search engines index.
No search engine releases it’s exact criteria, much less search algorithm, but we have found the following factors are what matter’s in obtaining a high search ranking.
Title Tags – Tags on the top of the hierarchy page. They are the first thing search engines look at.
Description Meta Tag- Affects your rankings and some search engine show this a snippet in your search
Headings (h1, h2, h3, etc) – Headings provide a content outline to the search engines when they crawl. If your heading contains the key word, that shows relevance.
Paragraph Copy – The more one writes, the easier it is to obtain a ranking. Don’t stuff keywords though. Including your key words in the copy multiple times will actually hurt your rankings.
Links and Link Text- The more links increases your authority.
File Names – Keyword Rich file names
URL – Keyword Rich URL’s help
Image Captions – Text captions near image results
What does not matter:
Keyword Meta Tag – Since all the SEO people abuse them, most search engine’s ignore this.
Hidden Text – Text that is hidden from view to “stuff keywords”. This will hurt you as once its discovered, your site will be de-indexed.
Bolding Key Words and Bullet Texts
A note about Flash:
Another tip is to avoid using too much flash in your website. Flash compiles files, link, fonts, and structures differently than a typical html page. The search engine can crawl (i.e. read your website) but can’t organize the data in a meaningful form. Google and Adobe Systems (creator of flash) have announced they are working to make flash more friendly, but as of this writing a flash heavy website is a detriment to a good SEO ranking.
5 Steps you can do for a better Google ranking
Now that you have a basic understanding of SEO, here are 5 easy steps you can implement to obtain a better Google ranking.
Step 1: Avoid Blackhat Techniques. Black Hat SEO uses tactics specifically designed to improve search rankings and fool search engines into providing a higher ranking than a website would receive according the that search engine’s algorithms. These techniques will give you a quick boost but the downside is far to great. If caught, penalties range from your website disappearing entirely from the rankings or your website moving down to four or five pages without warning. There are only 10 results per page in Google and the first page receive 80% of all clicks. Simply moving back a few pages will result in you effectively losing all your search engine traffic.
Step 2: Choose the Right Keyword
Choosing the right keywords to base your site optimization around is the most important step. Avoid general or generic keywords as they are usually not the best approach. Most times it is better to be specific and focus on niche keywords related to your service or product.
For example, let’s assume you have a hair salon.
The problem is there are a lot of Hair Salons. So how do we get it in the top 10 page?
We need to find our niche and get more specific.
1. We can optimize for a specific market
2. We can optimize for a specific location
3. We can optimize for a specific technique or service of the hair salon
Depending on the product or service you offer, your target market will change. Just keep in mind when you are looking for keyword, be specific. Also, the average search phrase is 3-5 words so remember you just don’t need a keyword, you can search for keyword phrases.
An example is, you can optimize your “hair salon” for “Los Angeles Hair Salon.” If you live in a specific neighbord in Los Angeles you can go with “Westwood Hair Salon” or “Beverly Hills Hair Salon” or “Hollywood Hair Salon.”
You can find out how many websites are competing with your keyword by simply doing a search on Google and write down how many search results are returned. For the above example, “hair salon” returns 25,300,000 websites. “Westwood Hair Salon” returns 21,300 results. Obviously, the more sites there are competing with you, the harder to get into the top 10 results.
A good place to start looking for keywords if you cannot afford some of the software is Google Adword’s Traffic Estimator.
There are many software programs for keyword research. Of course, all the good ones due require either a monthly fee or purchasing of software.
A simple technique to get you started is optimize every page on your site for a different search phrase (2-3 words each).
Step 3. Your URL and Title Tag
Two of the most determining factors in Google’s ranking are your domain name and title tag. For example, a domain name such as:
hair-salon-losangeles(dot)com will usually get ranked higher than yourcompany(dot)com assuming that they had identical keywords and content.
Because most of us have already purchased the domain name, and keywords in the domain name would look to funny or unprofessional; the following tactic is useful. Try adding keywords into the name of your pages.
The title tag is equally as important as your domain name. Improve your Google ranking by using keywords in your title tag.
Going back to our example of the hair salon, a good title tag would be:
“Your Company is the top hair salon in Los Angeles.”
Also, the closer to the front of your title tag the keywords are placed, the better.
Step 4. H1 Tags and Keyword Density
tags are not used as much as they use to be with the advent of stylesheets. However, Google’s ranking algorithm still uses them.
The Google ranking algorithm dictates that if you’re using a tag, then the text in between this tag must be more important than the content on the rest of the page.
Keyword density is the ratio of keywords to the rest of the page content. Putting keywords in your page content can improve your keyword density. The ideal keyword density is 7-10% for each page on your site. There are penalties for overdoing keywords, so don’t over do it.
Step 5. Links, Links and More Links
Back links are websites that link directly to your website. However, please remember building back links takes time and does not happen overnight. The more back links you have, the better. Your website will be ranked higher under the principal your website must be good if so many websites are linking back to it. Submitting your site to many directories like Yahoo! And Bing are important steps to increase the number of sites linking back to yours. Another great place for back links is Yelp! (if you’re a restaurant) and other vertical searches and directories. Exchanging back links with other businesses you know is another great way to build back links. I would recommend emailing 10-15 websites each and every day to request back-links or partnership links. Within 8 weeks you should have 50-100 sites linking back to yours.