This much I know

17. March 2010 00:00 | Comments: 0 | Categories:

Search Engine Optimisation

How to improve your pages / site so they will be found by Google users.

This much I know (and there is much I don't ~ but beware the snake oil salesmen who will promise you everything).

You can learn much from Google itself, and their 22 page starter guide.

Keywords

Every page on your website should be treated differently, but start with the front page. You should be able to complete this sentence:

My business/website is/does .... .

And have a list of keywords which you would expect that when people use them for searching your site/page will be found.

Ideally, your business sentence should include most of your keywords; if not, keep trying.

For example

"Digital Fundi provides website design, web site hosting and technology support to safari operators in Tanzania and Zambia"

Keywords: website web site design hosting safari operators Tanzania Zambia

Backlinks

The secret of Google's success was to find a way of measuring a sites popularity, so that when it has to choose which page to rank above another, it will put the more popular page higher. Its measure of "popularity" is the number of other pages that point to the page in question. These are the backlinks. And a backlink from a site which, in turn, is more popular will count for more than one from a less popular site. Broadly speaking Google publishes a page rank for each page (on a scale of 1 to 10) to indicate this popularity.

So the most important thing to be done is persuade other people to link back to you. Some ways of doing this:

  • Produce useful and relevant content that people will want to link to because they recognise that your page is the authority on a topic. The growth of blogs, social networking sites and travel sites such as TripAdvisor encourages this, but you can't really influence it. You need a good product - and time.
  • Identify key sites in your area, such as tourist marketing boards, and make sure you have an entry in their pages.
  • Arm twist friends, especially those with higher page ranking sites, to include a link to back to you.

Format of backlinks

It's not enough for someone to just to have a page with a list of links which includes your address: Google looks for context to see why someone is linking to you, and if their link context reinforces your page description, then that counts more.

For example a standalone link like this is unhelpful

www.digitalfundi.com

But this would be really good

Digital Fundi provides website design, web site hosting and technology support to safari operators in Tanzania and Zambia

Here's an example of a page of helpful links which I found after visiting New Zealand.

(That sentence of course is not a very helpful backlink; this would be better for them. "The Seifried family make stylish wines in Nelson, New Zealand").

Finding backlinks

You can use e.g. links:http://www.digitalfundi.com in Google to see some, but not all of the backlinks. If you have a Google Analytics or Adwords account you can see a lot more.

Link sharing

Link sharing is a waste of time from an SEO viewpoint because a link one way is neutralised by the backlink. If you have a strong site (high page rank) and link to a lower ranking site, then your rank is marginally reduced while the target site gains. Note that there are tricks to avoid this (rel=nofollow). Note also that your site menu is the ultimate in link sharing, cross linking every page on a site. You need the menu (and site map) to enable Google to find the pages, but not to rank them. It is thought you can have come influence by using additional links on a page to highlight to Google which are your key pages for specific keywords.

However a degree of link sharing is socially necessary to maintain good relations with you supporters.

Building pages

Google has webmaster guidelines. What follows is a simplified summary.

Structure

If it's not too late, it helps if your domain name includes one or more of your keywords. It also helps to have been around a bit. A long established domain name/site will outrank a newer one if all other factors are equal. If your domain name is your brand, then make sure the full URL has path and page names which match the page content: e.g. www.digitalfundi.com/website_design/seo.html

Meta data

Inside a page, there is hidden stuff called meta data. You should have

  • A page title: this appears at the top of the browser window when the page is open.
  • A page description: a short summary of the page contents which may (nut not always) be used when google lists your page.
  • Keywords: once these were important, but they were so overused that it is thought that Google now avoids them, preferring to deduce its own keywords from the page content.

These three elements should be different on every page.

Content

This is what the reader sees. Write the page for the user, and not for Google. However, structure it logically, using header tags (<h1><h2> etc in HTML, and also used e.g. in MS Word) in a proper hierarchy. i.e.

Header 1
Header 2
Text
Header 2
Header 3
Text
Header 3
Text
Header 2
Text

Make sure your copy includes your keywords and description for the page. Keywords used nearer the top of the page or in higher ranking header tags will count for more than those in later paragraphs.

Writing content

Writing good web content is a skill. Here's a link to Mark Hodson, who makes the case for getting help to get this right. (He's done good work for one of my clients). He also has a well structured page of backlinks

Images

Google has guidelines for images. In short, make sure your webmaster uses meaningful ALT and TITLE attributes, and that images are placed near to relevant text.



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