SEO Basics 101: SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is a catch all term for a great number of things that you or your web designer can do to improve the ranking of your website for a particular key word or phrase in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) on a Search Engine like Google or Bing.
Which Search Engines?
Google will probably be where most of your website visitors come from if they find you via a search engine. In our experience, Google traffic accounts for around 80-90% of all search engine visitors for an average website, so this is where most of your SEO basics effort should be focussed. However, don’t discount Bing because they are gradually increasing their market share and also have a strategic alliance with Facebook. Things are always changing and your SEO person should keep abreast of latest developments.
Keywords, keywords, keywords…
Back in the 1990’s when we started in the industry, all you had to do to rank highly was have more keywords on your page than the other guy! If they had their keyword, “blue widgets” 5 times in their page text, we’d put “blue widgets” on our website 10 times and surge ahead of them in no time. Of course, this got ridiculous and eventually, there were websites with literally thousands of “blue widgets” on a page, usually hidden in the background by making the text the same colour as the page. This does not work now and is a fast track to a Google penalty landing your website on page fifty for months! Dodgy search engine optimisation can be far more costly to your business than any potential profit from a brief appearance on page one! Stick to good SEO basics and you’re on the right track to a higher ranking.
Keywords are still one of the main indicators to Google what a web page is all about but they come in many forms and some are more important than others. Here’s a list of a few ways that keywords are used and an indication of their importance.
- Title Tags – Usually seen at the top of your browser, this is an indication to search engines of the page topic. Still relevant.
- Keyword Meta Tag – A list of keywords hidden in the code of the page. Google no longer takes any notice of this.
- Description Meta Tag – Not as useful as it used to be but visible in searches under the link to the website.
- Page Content – Important but prone to causing problems if over-used.
- Header Tags – These are the titles of sections within a page. Useful when used correctly.
- Anchor Text – This is the text used in links to pages or sections of a page. It has been very important but recent press releases from Google indicate that this may not continue. Alt Tags – Originally an aid to accessibility, these are attached to images to explain what the picture is. If used poorly, will cause problems.
- Outbound Links – Keywords linking to spam websites, offline websites or a “bad neighbourhood” loses you credibility.
- Inbound Links – All have different values. Google says that no link to you will hurt your ranking but there are other factors that could cause a penalty from inbound links.
Warning: Do not build links to your website unless you are very well informed about how to do this – use a professional.
What about social media SEO basics?
Google have confirmed that they do consider links from facebook and other social media sites as a factor but the extent to which they will enhance your ranking is up for debate. It is unlikely that your facebook page with 23 followers will add much value for you as far as search engines are concerned. Don’t give up though, social media can be a great way of staying in touch with your customers. Make it relevant and don’t post pictures of funny cats every day – unless you are in the pet business!
What other SEO basics can I do?
One of the best SEO basics you can do is to keep your website updated and useful to your customers. “Freshness” of the website content is something that search engines consider. A website that hasn’t been updated since 2003, is not a great candidate for a #1 ranking as far as Google is concerned. Likewise, a website designed 10 years ago will probably be in need of a redesign but the way it is redesigned is very important. Don’t go rushing ahead and rebuild an established website unless the web designer has a good understanding of the risks to your search engine ranking. I’m not going to give much away about this but will say that a fancy new website can do more harm than good if not built with the old one in mind.
A few SEO basics pointers
SEO had gone from something that we used to spend an hour on to something I now do for clients on an ongoing basis. It can be very effective for improving your ranking and therefore the number of enquiries that you get from your website. SEO basics are not something that you can do once and then forget about, expecting to get good rankings forever. In a competitive industry, it is something that needs to be done regularly. Cost of SEO basics work varies a lot and what seems like a good deal can turn out to be an expensive mistake. SEO also take time to be effective. Plan on at least six months of SEO work to get the very best results. An initial boost to rankings if possible in a short time but to rank for multiple keywords against worthy competitors, it can take longer.
There are a few things you should expect from a professional SEO.
- Ranking Reports of where you started and how your ranking has improved (or not).
- Keyword Reports showing what keywords are worth targetting and which aren’t – you may be surprised.
- Competitor Ranking Reports to show how your SEO work is comparing with your main competition.
Also, a discussion about SEO basics techniques is worth having. Some SEO’s employ what are referred to as “Black Hat” techniques that could come back and bite you in the rear if Google identify you as using them. The SEO may be paid and gone but your Google penalty lingers on! You shouldn’t expect them to tell you all their trade secrets but you should avoid; link farms, blog spamming and most paid links as a minimum.