Search Engine Optimisation or SEO is of key importance to the success of any website. Get ranked by Google for a popular search term and the traffic will flow endlessly to your website. Linger on page 7 of the results and you will be lucky to get the occasional click through.
Search engine traffic is especially valuable to you as this represents visitors who are actively seeking some information. Secondly, it is also free traffic. No how to build a website guide would be complete without a detailed discussion of SEO basics!
A message that I need to get across very early on in this article is the notion that there is a right or wrong approach to getting ranked at the top of Google. There are some key basics that I will cover in this article and consistent with the 80/20 rule you will be able to prepare your site for good search engine indexing with some simple steps. You do not need to be an “expert”. None of this is difficult to do! The final 20% of optimisation will take you 80% of your time. As a beginner I would stick to getting the basics right and then as your site evolves you can experiment and tweak further.
If you read and digest the points here then it will be time well spent, further than that you will see diminishing returns on your invested time – you will be better off writing more quality content than endlessly tweaking your site.
Google’s purpose is to present relevant content to search queries
Remember that search engines invest vast quantities of time and money into producing the best possible results they can. Always bare this in mind. If your site has quality trusted content and the search engines do their job then you will see some good results. If you are planning on building a long term sustainable site then you must take this point seriously. Tricking the search engines today by gaming the system may give you a short term win, but as algorithms are improved and the relevancy of results refined you may well see your site plummet down the rankings. Blogercise is all about building a long term sustainable hit website, there are no “get rich quick” schemes here. No gimmicks, no tricks and all for free.
How can I get Google to Index my site?
This is easy once you have established yourself. My technique is to use my “personal” blog which I use to detail my current projects and discuss their successes and, occasionally, failures. Over the last year it has gained enough recognition to attain a respectable page rank 4 rating from Google, this means that when I link out to a new site, it gets picked up and indexed that day. This is easy for me to say. But what can you do when you are starting out?
There are a couple of things to try, posting an add on listing sites such as GumTree can have the desired effect. Alternatively a well placed link in a forum can also work. Don’t just spam your links around randomly – there is enough spam out there on the net. You only really need 1 link from a page that Goolge knows about for your site to be picked up.
Search Engine Optimisation – What you really need to know:
The rest of this article will be split into two areas:
- On page SEO: This relates to everything you can do yourself within the scope of your website design.
- Off Page SEO: This relates to everything that happens externally to the page. This is, largely, out of your control. But more on this later.
Make your site Search Engine Ready
To reiterate the point made in the introduction of this article, the best way to succeed is to create a fantastic and interesting site that people will love and want to use. If Google keeps its side of the bargain it will rank you in the place you deserve. But there are some things you need to do to ensure that Google knows just what your site is about. The harder the search engines have to work to classify your site, the more likely they will rank you in obscurity.
Domain Name: Yes, ideally you will buy flaredtrousers.co.uk for our 1970’s retro trouser shop, but in most cases the top choices are taken and there isn’t much you can do about that. Check out our full guide to naming your website.
Page Title: This is set with the HTML title tags and is the title that you can see right at the top of your browser and is also displayed in search engine results. If you are using a CMS then you should have the ability to specify the page title. Ensure that it contains your primary keywords, don’t be tempted to get greedy and fill it with a range of words. Keep it specific and relevant. This is a good indicator to Google as to what your page is about and you want to send a clear message.
Meta Tags: Meta tags can be found at the top of your HTML page document, you can view these by looking at the source of your website page. These tags are there to provide additional information about the page to anyone that wants to know. In the “old days” search engines would provide a lot of weight to these tags, specifically because no one had thought of a better way to derive relevancy. Of course it was very easy to put anything you like in the tags making the early search engines easy to fool. Back here in the 21st century there is plenty of debate over how much these matter. Given the time it takes to get these right, my advice is to keep your tags up to date.
There are two important meta tags to consider:
- Meta Description: Whether or not this influences search engine results is somewhat of a moot point as it does have another critical use. This description can be selected by Google to show on search results. If no description is used or if the description isn’t relevant to the query then something else will be shown. But this is a key opportunity to get a message across to potential visitors before they hit your site. Make it easy to read and sell your website.
- Meta Keywords: This is the more controversial tag. Due to overuse and keyword stuffing in the early days of the net, meta keywords have been given less and less weighting. Some argue that they are no longer used at all. I would however put 5 to 10 keywords in here. I have read many articles trying to prove this point one way or another and none are convincing. I don’t believe it is possible to come up with a perfect test so without official confirmation from the search companies I will stick to using them.
Header Tags: These are tags such as <h1>. These are traditional HTML tags that layout the heading structure of your page. They also help to tell Google what exactly your text is about. When using these tags make sure that they are well formed, there should only ever be one level 1 tag.
Images: There are two things to take away with you with regards to images.
- Search Engines can’t read the text in your images (yet!). So if your site uses images to brand itself and realy information then this is potentially a wasted opportunity. Search engines like text.
- Use Alt tags on the images you do have. This gives the search engines some idea of what the picture is about and helps to build the profile fo your page. Your photos may also appear in Google Image searches which can be a bonus source of extra traffic should your photo rank highly in this area of Google. How useful the traffic is will depend a lot on your website’s topic. If it is a high value style item then it is possible people will be trying to find a range of photos before spending. A search for bikini models is less likely to be valuable!
Text Highlighting: It is worth bolding text for a number of reasons, such as setting out an attention grabbing post. But it also helps to tell search engines what your keywords are. As with all these things, don’t over do it. Aim for around 2% of the page.
External Page Influences
Links, links and more links. There are many things that webmasters argue about but most will agree that the single most important thing in getting your site ranked is your world wide web popularity. It is actually very obvious as to why so much weight is given to this by the search engines – it is the one thing you are not entirely in control of! And this is why this section of the entire how to build a website guide is probably going to be your biggest obstacle to success.
This is where the real work will come in. A decent CMS should handle a lot of the other site building basics for you, but there are no short cuts to link building.
Anchor Text: This is the text that makes up the link, for example hot seventies clothing. Is the sort of link we might get for our mythical trouser store. Search Engines will also analyse all of the details on the external page mentioned in our “on page” SEO section above and will use all these things to see how relevant the link is. You will find that your site will rank for terms used in anchor text, I have even found that my sites rank for terms that don’t exist on any of my pages. Good linking will use a variety of different terms that are relevant to your site. Try to avoid repeated use of the same term as this can indicate artifical linking.
Internal Linking: Whilst we do not know how the current Google algorithm works, the original concept is widely published around the net. You’d hope that it might show up in their own search results! If you aren’t all that interested in the concepts behind the worlds most popular search engine then just take home a few of these points.
- Each link to a page counts as a “vote” for that page.
- The more votes the page has the more important it is.
- Every page gets a vote
- Some votes have more influence than others
- If a page casts lots of votes, that influence is diluted
So the point here is that internal links still count towards determing which pages on your site are the most important. If you want your front page to be the most important then ensure that every page on your site links to it, but don’t link your front page back to all the others. In this way you can control the flow of influence over your site. A page burried in the depths of an archive is unlikely to rank well, but you can help it by linking to it from your most influential pages. Don’t ignore internal page linking.
Beginners Guide to Link Building:
- Article Submission: This is a great tip for beginners and when you are getting started I thoroughly recommend giving this a go. This concept involves writing content for other sites and submitting them for download. There are many such sites out there and the effectiveness of each can vary from time to time depending on the quality of the articles and prevailing winds. The current favourite and one that I find seems to carry enough weight to get pages listed and ranked is HubPages. It sets slightly higher standards by insisting you write a few decent articles before your links become “followed” so although it can be harder work to use effectively your submissions will have a longer life span.
- Guest Posts: This is a nice little win/win for upcoming bloggers with somethings to say. The idea is you write up a good quality article and then ask a website owner to post it on their blog. You then get the chance to win some of the traffic that flows past this established blog each day. The blog owner gets some unique content which will win both of you future traffic. Some sites will charge for this service. It is up to you whether you feel it is worth the outlay, but I will say that if you take the time and effort to get to know other bloggers you can derive many other benefits.
- Networking: I saw my first big jump in the rankings the day I got added to the blog roll of one of the leading blogs in my niche. Google immediately went crazy indexing my site, the next day I had 1000s of pages indexed and many ranking very well. How did I get this link? I struck a friendship with the owner, and then – I just asked for it!
- Forums: Forums are a great way to participate in a community and gain the trust and respect of other members. Always go for the long term approach, start by giving to the community and adding your own knowledge to the site. Include a forum signature or a link in your profile back to your own site and as your reputation grows you will get good quality traffic flowing back to you.
- Link Bait: This is where you create some amusing, silly, radical, original article that bloggers around the net will just love to link to. The initial burst of traffic that results may not be valuable but the links that are created should help your ranking long into the future.
- Natural Building: This is by far the biggest source of links and the goal of any longterm site. Why spend time fighting for links when an army of community members could be out there making them for you through natural web use. These are the links that will tell Google that your site really means something. These links are the ultimate indicator of your site’s popularity.
Note: Avoid any wacky link building schemes that might come your way. Google is not interested in paid for links, exchange schemes or any kind of manipulation. It might work for a period but sooner or later the algortihms will be updated and your site may be penalised. If you are interested in a long term success then stick to quality links that your site has earnt.
If you follow the above tips you will be doing as much as can be reasonably expected for a home operation. You will also find that this gets you about as far as you can without resorting to manipulation. I would be very cautious about paying for any service that promises to get you a high rank in the seatch engines or claims to have some secret technique on offer. There are many reputable experts who will helpbuild up your website, both free and paid services. And I would definitely urge you to seek advise if you don’t have the resources to spend looking at this yourself. However they won’t necessarily know much more than is written in the article above!