What is SEO?
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the way you structure your website and your content so that it can be found and indexed by search engines like Google. When you optimise your website for search engines, it makes your site visible to search engines and therefore to the users.
Why is SEO important?
Studies show that 95% of NZ adult Internet users research goods and services online before making a purchase. This means that even though people might see your offline advertising offline or a sign they are highly likely to jump online to search for the products or services.
It's also well known that most users only browse through the first page and if they don't find answers to their query, they will click through to the second page but very few go past the second page. So if your website is not listed in the first couple of pages, chances are no one can find you. Instead, the users will probably find your competitors. Therefore, being seen on the first page of the search results should be one of your priorities when promoting your website.
To get your website ranking highly on Google, it pays to understand how Google actually works.
We are often asked this question not long after a new website has gone live. To answer this question we first of all need to explain how Google works…
Google employs some of the world’s greatest minds to continually develop the complex ranking process which ensures that the top results of a user's search are of the highest relevance and quality.
This is of course what makes Google the world’s most popular search engine.
Understanding how Google works
Google is constantly looking for new websites and updated content on the Internet using automated programs known as 'spiders' or 'robots'.
These robots use links between websites to travel around the internet and find new websites. If your website is not linked to the rest of the web, the robots will not be able to access it. And Google will not be able to find it.
When Google finds a new web page, it will analyse the content, known as 'crawling' the content. It will then transport the information back to the Google data centre, where Google stores it, known as 'caching'.
Once Google has a copy of your website in its index, it will send out the robots to check for new content on a continual basis. If the robots find new or updated content Google will add it to its index. The period between visits will vary from site to site, but the robots are intelligent and they will not waste their time visiting websites regularly if the content does not change regularly.
Once Google knows about your website, it then needs to calculate the 'relevancy' of each page to a user's search term. So when a user performs a search with Google, Google calculates the relevancy of search term to the web page. If the search term is not relevant, or the search term does not match the content of the web page, Google will not list the page in the results.
Google also uses geographic location to help match a website to a user's search query. Google will try to serve web pages that match the users geographic location.
Relevancy is just part of the equation. Remember there are likely to be hundreds, thousands or millions of other websites that are 'relevant' to a user's search query. And only a few spots on the front page of the search results. Therefore, the next thing Google does is calculate the 'quality'. This allows Google to position the web pages that are most relevant and of the highest quality at the top of the results page. This is of course what makes Google the world’s most popular search engine.
Calculating the relevancy and quality
Google uses a very complex 'formula' or 'algorithm' to calculate the relevancy and the quality of a web page to a user's search query.
This formula uses many factors to help calculate the relevancy and quality of a web page, including and not limited to:
- Keywords found in the content of the page
- The headings
- Links on the page
- Hidden Meta data found in the code of the page
- External links that link to the page
Google awards ranking for a page based on how often the keywords appear, how prominent they are on the page and the location of the keywords on the page.
Therefore, the more focused you are on a certain topic, the better you will rank, as Google will believe that you are an expert on the topic.
Let’s use an example
Let’s say you have a website focused on photography services in Wellington. Let's say a user performs a search using “photography wellington”. Google, at the time this article was written, lists 411,000 web pages that match this search term. That is 411,000 different websites that are relevant to this search term.
Google has a tough job to order this list to ensure the websites at the top are the most relevant and of the highest quality.
The top listings are websites of photographers based in Wellington. If we look further down the list we will see websites with less relevant content, for example photography equipment suppliers, etc..
Now we know how Google works...lets apply this knowledge to our website...
Does Google know about my website?
Now that we have a greater understanding for how the search engines work, we can turn our attention to finding our website on Google.
The quickest way to find out is to perform a 'site' search. You can do this by entering Site: [your website address] into Google as shown below:
If your website has been listed you will see a list of all the pages of your website that Google has stored in its cache.
Next you can find out which search terms your website is ranking for. The easiest way to do this is to check your Search keywords, traffic report. If you are a Zeald client, you will be able to find this report in the admin of your website under the "Reports" tab.
If other people have found their way to your website via these search terms, chances are your website is ranking well for them. Try a Google search using the search terms to see where your website is currently positioned.
What if my website is not listed?If your website is not listed with Google, your search for the site will result in something like this:
This means that Google has not discovered your website yet, or has not completed the content crawling and storage process.
Tell Google about my new websiteYou need to ensure that Google knows about your website or connect your website to the rest of the internet so Google robots can find your website. You can do this by submitting your site to Google and/or generating inbound links to your website.
But I have already submitted a sitemap?Once you have submitted your sitemap, there is usually a delay before which you can find your website on Google. This is because the robots still have to find their way to your website and complete the process, which can sometimes take up to 3 months. Unfortunately you can't rush Google but there are things you can do to speed up the process.
How do I speed up the process?There are a few things that you can do to ensure that your website is found and the content crawled as soon as possible:
- You need to ensure that you have submitted your website
- Or that you have some inbound links to create a pathway for the robots to be able to access your website
- To get your website instantly to the top of Google for targeted search terms, use Google’s advertising program, called Adwords.
How do I get my website to the top of the Google results for a keyword of my choice?
There are various techniques you can do to improve a web site's ranking in Google's organic search results for chosen or targeted keyword phrases. This process is known as Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and is a large topic that requires another article.
>Stay tuned for our next article on how to optimise your website
Or... you can get your website to the top of Google for targeted search terms using Google’s advertising program, called Adwords. By setting up Google Adwords you can create a listing and choose search terms that will trigger your listing or advertisement. The good thing about Google Adwords is that you don’t pay unless someone actually clicks on your ad and visits your website.
You might pay as little as 5c per click, especially if it is your own business name, which will be less competitive.>Learn more about Search engine advertising
More recently Google has built in the Local search results into the general search results, which displays a map and a corresponding list of business links.
Please note. you do not have to submit your sitemap. The search spiders are programmed to crawl the internet in search of new content, new websites. Sometimes it can be faster to get your website in the search results by simply getting a good link to it.
Search engine submission can be a complicated process; fortunately there is just a few search engines to submit to these days. Many of the other search engines are "Powered" by the primary ones.
So how do you submit your website to the search engines?
Avoid using automated submission servicesThere are many automated search engine submission services. The best advice we can offer you regarding them is – “Don’t use them!”. Search engines hate automated submission services as they can be used to ‘spam’ the search engines. Most search engine submission processes differ slightly, so after coming this far with your optimisation why risk receiving a ‘black mark’ next to your website’s domain name in the search engines.
Free organic manual submissionIf search engines are a key part of your website promotion strategy then we believe it is absolutely vital that you spend time submitting your website to the search engines manually.
This method has no guarantees and it usually takes a number of weeks (up to eight) before your website is indexed. The key search engines that offer free submission are below:
- Google (www.google.com/addurl.html) or even better Submit your sitemap to Google
- Yahoo (http://siteexplorer.search.yahoo.com/submit)
- Bing (search.live.com/docs/submit.aspx)
Pay per click advertising (PPC) means that you pay to have your website included in a search engine. By paying for inclusion you ensure that you are included in a search engine as a matter of priority. Pay per inclusion programs give you no guarantee about where your website will rank on search pages. So for certain keywords or phrases, you still need to properly optimize your pages. All that pay-per-inclusion programs guarantee is that your website will be included in their search engine’s index.
If you need your website to be included within a search engine quickly then you need to consider pay-per-inclusion. We recommend that you use both methods.
Now that you have submitted your website to the search engines you will need to wait for the search engines to index your website. This usually takes between two weeks and two months (unless you have paid for inclusion). Once you have been listed it’s time to monitor your listings. There are a number of ways you can do this:
- Simple Monitoring - The simplest method of monitoring is to go to each of the search engines that you are targeting and type in your keywords or phrases. Take note of where your website appears in the list. Look at who appears above you and then research what they are doing to make their website rank higher than yours.
- Web-based Tools - When you Submit your sitemap to Google, you create a Google Webmaster account. The Google Webmaster account provides a set of tools which help you monitor the Search engine listing and ranking process. Market Leap (www.marketleap.com/verify/default.htm) provides a number of free web-based keyword analysis tools. These tools will allow you to check the rankings of each of your keywords and phrases.
- Software Packages - Web Position Gold (www.webposition.com) is the #1 solution for SEO. It provides a whole range of tools for all aspects of SEO. Included as part of the Web Position Gold package is the ability to monitor your rankings on target keywords and phrases. If you are serious about your SEO, and the DIY route is for you, then you should consider purchasing Web Position Gold. The standard edition costs US$149.
Metadata is the information about a data source. For example, a document contains information, but there is also information about that document such as the title, author and publisher - this is the metadata, in other words, data about data. If we compare this to the web, every webpage has a number of metadata elements that can be set for the page. Standard metadata that should be displayed for every webpage is: the page title, the description and the keywords or phrases that summarize the content of that page and which appear within it.
Metadata is not visible on the site itself but is used by some search engines and directories to gain information about the website in order to index (catalogue) it correctly. Different search engines use metadata differently and some don’t use it at all.
The following is an example of effective metadata, that could be used by the site www.currypantry.com
Welcome to Curry Pantry, suppliers of premium Malaysian Curry Pastes.
Visit Curry Pantry for authentic, premium Malaysian Curry Pastes and sauces. For gourmet food without fuss, see our recipes for vegetable, lamb, seafood, beef or chicken curry.
Curry, curries, pantry, curry pantry, sauces, pastes, recipes, Malaysia, Malaysian, cuisine, food, history, lamb, chicken, seafood, vegetable, meat, vegetable curry, seafood curry, chicken curry, lamb curry
Writing Your MetadataKeywords / Phrases
When preparing your metadata, prepare your keywords / phrases first. This is because they should also appear in your page description and title. They should reflect the specific content of the page that you are writing for and you should consider the following:
- What are the key words / phrases that your potential customers might enter into search engines or directories to find your company, site and products?
- What keywords / phrases do your competitors use?
- How competitive is your industry (you may want to select a niche and focus upon that)
- Keywords should be limited in number (Search engines generally only permit a maximum of 25 or so, all other keywords appearing after that are ignored)
- Keywords / phrases should not be repeated too many times (Search engines ‘see’ both of these strategies as ‘spam’, false attempts to increase search engine rankings and will ignore the page / site.)
Compared to our example of effective keywords above, an example of a keyword /phrase list that would not be accepted by search engines because it is too repetitive / long would be;
Curry, curry, curry, curry, curry, curry pantry, curry pantry, curry pantry, curry pantry, curries, curries, curries, curries, curries, curries, Malaysia, Malaysia, Malaysia, Malaysia, Malaysian food, Malaysian food, Malaysian food, Malaysian Food, beef, lamb, chicken, seafood, vegetable, meat, beef, lamb, chicken, seafood, vegetable, meat, beef, lamb, chicken, seafood, vegetable, meat, food, food, food, food, recipes, recipes, recipes, recipes, recipes, Malaysian recipes, Malaysian recipes, Malaysian recipes, Malaysian recipes.
When entering your keywords / phrases they should all be separated by a comma. For example:
keyword1, keyword2, phrase one, phrase two
Having selected your keywords, it is now time to prepare your page description. This is displayed by most search engines when returning a listing of relevant sites based on a specific search. Users search for sites by entering keywords or phrases into search engines or directories and the page description is displayed beneath the title in the list of results.
For the description, write one or at most two sentences describing the page content. Incorporate your page content / metadata keywords while writing it so as to increase the chance of the web page being found by search engines and directories.
The page title is also used by search engines to gain information about the website and is the most important piece of metadata on any webpage. The page title is displayed in search result listings and also in the browser title bar whenever the page is viewed.
It is advisable to make the title no more than approximately 10 words long as anything longer than this will be truncated. Try to include keywords, rather than just the company name - preferably keywords & phrases that are also used in the page content, as well as in the metadata.
Below is an example of how our metadata example would appear when returned by Google as a hit.
Welcome to Curry Pantry, suppliers of premium Malaysian Curry Pastes
Visit Curry Pantry for authentic, premium Malaysian Curry Pastes and sauces. For gourmet food without fuss, see our recipes for vegetable, lamb, seafood, beef or chicken curry… http://www.currypantry.com - 15k - Cached - Similar pages
SummaryMetadata is an often overlooked component of many websites and many webpages. Every webpage that you have should have at least a ‘Page Title’ and ‘Page Description’. The ‘Keywords / Phrases’ meta-data is nowhere near as important as the other two as it is only used by one or two search engines – but it never hurts. All the best!!
“Is Your Website Producing Amazing RESULTS?”
If your answer is anything less than a resounding yes, then you need to learn about Zeald and the ‘Websites that Work!” program. Because results that are anything less than ‘amazing’ means you are selling yourself short!
© Zeald 2005 – All Rights Reserved
Good anchor text will give visitors and search engines an “idea” for what the page being linked to is about.
Writing good anchor text makes it easy for website users to navigate and will also help with the ranking of a web page in the search engine results.
For example if someone liked this article they could link to it with the following anchor text:
Read this great article from Zeald
Unfortunately this does not let the search engines or the users know what the article is about. A better way to construct the same link might be:
Read this great article from Zeald about how to write good anchor text
Good for the usersQuick navigation - When users navigate a website, they will often “scan” a page looking for information of interest to them. By describing the page we link to in the anchor text, we make it easy for users to navigate to the areas they are interested in.
It is not helpful when all the links on a page say “click here” The user is forced to read the context of the link, or the text around the link to learn where it might take them.....often the user may not have the time or patience to do this.
Confident navigation - Descriptive anchor text in a link helps the user feel confident in their navigation. If all the link says is great article, the user will be unsure whether it is of interest to them, or if it will answer their question. It is very frustrating for the user when you force them to “guess” where the page will take them and even more frustrating when they guess wrong.
Of course when we don’t tell users to “click here” we need to make it obvious that they can “click here” We need to ensure that the link is obvious. Nothing says “link” like electric blue text with an underline. But sometimes more subtle variations will also suffice.
Good for the search enginesInbound links build the trust and credibility of a web page when they are “judged” by a search engine during the ranking process. The text used around and within a link is very important for the search engine to determine the subject matter of the page that the link is connected to.
A good example of this is Google bombing. Google bombing is internet slang for an attempt to raise the ranking of a page in Google search results, using the Anchor text of external links (for humorous or malicious reasons). The most famous case targeted the phrase “miserable failure” and linked to the biography page of George Bush on the White House website.
When a user searched for “miserable failure” on Google they could find the official biography of George Bush at the top of the results page. Due to a targeted Google bomb
So how do we optimise our anchor text for the search engines?Use good keywords. It is a waste of time optimising a page using a search terms that no one searches for, just as it is a waste of time optimising a page for an extremely competitive search term that would be impossible to gain a first page rank.
As is the case for most search engine optimisation efforts, you need to carefully research the keywords you want to target. You need to determine the search terms that will generate the greatest amount of conversions for your website business, and of course that you will be able to achieve a high ranking for.
Learn more about how to find the best keywords. Did you see what I did there?
Don’t use the same anchor text for all inbound links. Try to use variations of your anchor text. Mix it up. Google are continually looking for “spam” websites, and nothing says “automated links” than keyword stuffed repetitive link text.
It can be a subtle difference and should fit the context of the page that the link appears on. Try replacing some less important keywords or using plural. For example:
A great article explaining how to write good anchor text
Or like this
A great article about optimising your anchor text
The links should appear natural. That is what Google is looking for.
External links and internal linksWe need to incorporate our search terms in the anchor text of the links that point to the page. By links we mean both the internal links within your own website and also the external links from other people’s websites.
Internal links are easy, but getting backlinks has got to be the greatest challenge of Search engine optimisation, especially backlinks that have meaningful anchor text.
You will have more control posting links to directories, forums and paid advertising, but outside these more obvious methods, we lose that control and it becomes much more difficult to dictate your anchor text.
But that is a separate article.....