What is SEO and do I need it?
SEO stands for 'Search engine optimisation'. And it is the process of gaining free (organic) traffic to a Website.
Paid search ads will only work for as long as you can afford to pay for them but without good, quality organic SEO in place as soon as you stop this your Website will simply disappear in to the abyss of other Websites already out there.
Organic SEO can work well with paid ads, but why pay extortionate amounts of money for ads when you don't really have to?
Google displays sites higher up that it believes are authoritative and relevant. Google measures relevance by analysing page content (the text and visual items on a Website) and they measure authority (mostly) based on the number and quality of other pages linking to the Website.
All the major search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo have results that are ranked based on what the particular search engine considers most relevant to users. Note: each search engine uses slightly different scoring systems.
What we want from SEO?
Obviously, every business wants to have maximum visibility and popularity, in fact this is the reason why they go for SEO services. We all want our Website to be number one in the SERPs (Search engine results pages) but without adequate SEO this is never going to happen, and you may never be able to achieve top spot in Google's search results. It's all dependent on the competition that's already out there.
As the Internet grows at a rapid rate and the competition gets stiffer, optimising your Website is the only way you are going to stand out from your competitors.
SEO is divided in to two main areas,
On-page: Meaning your Websites pages, layout, content and relevance.
Off-page: Meaning how you make your Website seem authoritative, usually by creating those good quality in-links. This is mainly done with Social media (Facebook, Twitter, Youtube etc) and advertising. Some people use their Websites link as an e-mail signature or drop links on relative blogs or forums. These are just a few examples of good ways to create an off-page campaign.
Truth is, most novices will make a Website and assume that it will just get found. This simply isn't true. Without SEO your Website will be practically invisible.
So In layman's terms, higher the traffic, the more likely is your business to make new customers and generate profit.
Types of SEO
Firstly we need to distinguish between Black hat and White hat SEO techniques...
Black hat is simply where your Websites SEO is done by spamming techniques, Google frowns upon this and it should never be implemented. It will do nothing but damage to your sites credibility. It's hard enough getting ranked high as it is, so you may as well do it properly.
Here are some Black hat techniques:
- Keyword stuffing:
Packing long lists of keywords and nothing else onto your site will eventually get you penalised by search engines.
- Invisible text:
This is putting lists of keywords in white text on a white background in hopes of attracting more search engine spiders. Again, not a good way to attract searchers or search engine crawlers. Google sees this as deceptive towards not only the spiders but unsuspecting visitors to your Website who might inadvertently click on these links.
- Doorway Pages:
A doorway page is basically a "fake" page that the user will never see. It is purely for search engine spiders, and attempts to trick them into indexing the site higher.
- Malicious redirects:
This is basically the process of making a landing page look like something a user may be looking for and once clicked on leads to user to something completely different. Often these are spam pages, full of advertising links.
Now let's concentrate on some (On-page) White hat techniques:
A major part of SEO is making sure keywords and phrases are relevant to what the site is offering. With some research you can easily define what keywords should be used for your Website.
- Title optimisation:
A Websites title tag is one of the most important parts of optimisation, and it should be the first thing you do when tackling the on-page optimisation that we talked about earlier. Aim for a title tag of less than 70 characters, it should be as descriptive as possible. When you type a query and look through the SERP listings, the first thing that gets your attention is the title tag, this is why it's the most important thing to consider.
- Link and Image optimisation:
The file names of your images should not be labeled as PIC3838383.jpg for example, make the names meaningful, use the keyword like you should use for the ALT text, name the image something like free-seo.jpg. The same goes for image title and when you are linking an image, use your keywords.
Link optimisation is done to ensure the overall optimisation of your link structure which will lead to better navigation and better understanding of the content. Targeted anchor text is the most important part of linking, the anchor text provides value for the link. For example, if you are linking to a blog about SEO a good anchor text would be “SEO explained”. If you simply put “click here” or “read more” as your anchor text it does not provide relevance and is a waste of time.
Although it is still important to optimise on-page factors, it’s extremely unlikely to work on its own unless your market is particularly niche. It needs to be complimented with off-page optimisation to work properly.
- Site maps, both XML and user facing
These are important for every Website as it's Google's way of finding and indexing your pages.
Avoid common on-page SEO mistakes such as:
- Duplicate content
- URL variants of the same pages
- Off-site images and content on-site
- Duplicate title tags
Now lets concentrate on some (off-page) white hat techniques:
- Creation of Social Networking Sites
Social media is the most important aspect of off-page SEO. Also known as online reputation management, It's the first step you have to take to initiate the off-page process. Creating profiles on pages such as Facebook, Twitter, Myspace and Youtube etc is just the first step. These pages have to be maintained daily, here you can created new customers, receive reviews, engage with customers, earn reputation and much more. This coupled with social bookmarking is your first steps in to the world of Social Media. Use sites like Digg, Delicious, StumbleUpon, etc for this.
- Link Exchange
Exchange links with other related Websites will help increase your popularity, which is a major factor of Google's PageRank algorithm. Beware of Black-Hats while doing exchanges.
Write a blog of your own for your company or Website and include lots of unique content. Promote your blog in blog directories and blog search engines. You can also promote your blog by posting comments in other related blogs which will allow you to leave a link in the comments section. If you're not very good at writing content for blog posts, you can hire a guest blogger for your blog.
- Forum Postings
Post or reply to a thread in other service-related pre-existing forums that allow links in your signature which can be crawled by the search engines. Alternatively create your own forum or online discussion board and start a relative discussion or share topics with your friends.
- Directory Submission
Submit your Website to quality directories like DMOZ, Yahoo Directory, Pegasus, ZoomInfo, One Mission, etc. Nowadays many web directories may offer paid listings again I only use free listings.
- Search Engine Submission
Submit your Website to the most popular search engines like Google, Yahoo, Altavista, MSN, Alexa, Alltheweb, Lycos, etc. Personally I will only use the free submission options available and these are a good few.
Ask your friends/family and clients to write a review of your business in major business review sites like RateitAll and on your directory listings such as Freeindex and also on things like your Google map place listing. Not forgetting on all your Social Media pages, Facebook now sports a nice 5 star recommendations box.
- Local Listings & Yellow Pages
Make your Website visible locally, this will help you to reach a targeted audience. Submit your website to Google Local, Maps, Yahoo Local, Yellow Pages etc.
- Article Submission
Write articles of your own and submit them to popular article sites like Ezine, Go Articles, Now Public and of course Hubpages etc. This will help you to attain some deep links for your website (although it can be a slow process).
- Press Release Promotion
Try some PR submission in popular PR websites like Open PR, PR Leap,1888pressrelease, etc. This will help you to publish your site in Google News.
- Free Advertising
Do some classified ads submissions to advertise your products,. again I only use free listing sites such as Gumtree, Freeads etc. I have complied a comprehensive list of all the best free marketing and advertising websites here.
Do you need SEO?
The answer to this question is 100% yes!!!
You don't necessarily have to pay for it, as you can easily do the research and do it yourself. But it is very time consuming and often confusing. Also with big G (Google) changing the fields as and when it likes, it can be difficult.
Why does SEO take so long? As explained in more depth in the linked article SEO can't be rushed and you can't just get a Website ranked high and then do nothing and expect it to stay there (if only) SEO is an ongoing thing which you will need to implement for the entirety of your businesses online presence.
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