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HOW TO?… Optimise your website for Search Engines

12th April 2010

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Why SEO?

Search engines provide the majority of traffic to websites across the internet, regardless of website focus. Therefore, if your site cannot be properly located and indexed by the leading search engines, you are missing out on the best opportunity to drive targeted visitors and potential revenue.

What is SEO?

Search Engine Optimisation or SEO, is the process by which web pages are optimised to increase their organic search engine rankings. This is done by assessing what the individual search engines are looking for and providing that. The outcome of an SEO campaign is to create high organic rankings for the keywords/phrases for which the client is an authority. This will ultimately create an increase in targeted traffic.

A good SEO campaign includes the following three aspects;

  1. Keyword Analysis
  2. Onsite Optimisation
  3. Offsite Optimisation

Keyword Analysis is the process by which you analyse and select keywords based on traffic, competition and relevance. If you are not selecting the most effective keywords, the rest of the optimisation process is really a lost cause. The text and theme of the site needs to revolve around these keywords and very much define how the site appears to both users and search engines.

Onsite Optimisation deals with changes made to the site itself. This involves making changes to the text content, architecture of the site, HTML code, and page layout. This is the most commonly understood aspect of SEO, but only accounts for about 40% of a site’s rankings. This is where your keywords are placed throughout the code to show the search engines what your site is about.

Offsite Optimisation deals with changes made outside the scope of the website. This mainly involves increasing the quantity and quality of inbound links to the site. Approximately 60% of Google’s current ranking algorithm is based on inbound linking. Your goal is to maximise the site’s exposure on the web and get as many high quality sites as possible to link back to your site.

What is a good keyword and what is not?

This is the ultimate question we have to ask ourselves when judging keywords. There are many variables you have to take into account when selecting exactly what keywords your site will be optimised for.

Use the following criteria to determine the viability of a keyword:

  • the estimated amount of searches for the keyword in a 24 hour period
  • the number of sites competing for the keyword
  • the quality of the sites competing for the keyword
  • the ability of the site to support the keyword
  • relevance between keywords
  • the target audience of the site

Keep in mind that your number one goal is to accurately depict what the site is about through the keywords (and the eventual text content). If your site is not properly described by the keywords then either the site is targeted wrong or you’ve selected the wrong keywords.

Search engines like sites that are targeted to a specific topic. If a site is spread too thin as far as topic goes, then it will be harder to appear as an authority for any one topic. Search engines do favour large sites, but generally it is better to have a smaller targeted site than a larger broad site that is about many topics.

It is not uncommon to discover site theme issues when doing keyword selection. Often, it leads to a reassessment of the site as a whole (which is a positive thing). In this way, general marketing, user experience, and SEO overlap. If you do not feel your site is targeted towards the correct keywords and themes, it is important that you retarget the site and its content prior to optimisation. You should understand your audience, the purpose of your site and its themes before even starting an SEO initiative.

It is also common for sites to get caught up in industry jargon. You have to look at your keywords as your target audience would. If you’re targeting the general consumer and you use lots of industry jargon, then you cannot expect much of a return on investment.

Another thing to watch out for is overly generic keywords. If you are attempting to optimise your site for keywords that can mean many other things, you are bringing in a whole lot of new competition.

So, we now have a small list of what to avoid:

  • * keywords that are not relevant to each other
  • * keywords that do not fit the theme of the site
  • * industry jargon if it is not applicable to the audience
  • * keywords that are too generic/overly competitive

Links

Google interprets a link from page A to page B as a ‘vote’, by page A, for page B.

Link popularity is one of the most important factors search engines use in determining where you will rank in the search engine results pages (SERPs) for your keywords and phrases, as it helps them to determine how important or popular your site is and what its reputation is. Link building, as part of the offsite optimisation process, is the process of finding related/relevant websites and receiving a link from them to you. Natural linking occurs when a site has good content that others will link to without being asked. But to get these links, people have to know about you. It is a catch 22. Building links has become pretty sophisticated over the past couple of years. Today, you need a mixture of links from various sources including articles, press releases, social media, blogs, directories and others.