A simple language, easy to follow,
basic starter guide to Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).
This free SEO guide is designed to give you best practice advice on how to optimise your site for search engines.
Rumour and speculation dominate so many aspects of SEO. These myths and mystery have managed to taint the reputation of the search marketing industry, giving the impression that it’s worthless. This is a great shame.
I used to think SEO was worthless; something bolted on to a site when it went live, but I’ve since learned that there’s far more to it.
Those who know me will pay testament to my cynicism, but I can’t stress enough how misunderstood SEO is.
Used well, SEO can seriously improve your site’s performance in search rankings, and subsequently boost your site traffic (and sales) to great effect.
I am going to cover the basics of SEO. It should be all of what you need to know, and is all based on fact and research (gathered since starting work at QueryClick). Unlike many other SEO guides, none of this advice is based on speculation or hearsay.
Part 1 is split in to 4 sections:
Site access, page speed, visibility and content duplication.
Keyphrase balance, code tags, page elements and retention.
Inbound links, link relevance and social media.
A few other things to bear in mind while optimising for search.
There are a couple of things worth mentioning at this stage.
SEO is the process of improving your website’s visits from the (non-paid) search result pages (SERPs).
Google currently has the majority market share (~90% of searches in the UK as of June 2012).
Bear in mind, that there are a few countries where Google doesn’t have such a big market share. China (Baidu.com), Russia (Yandex.ru), and South Korea (Naver.com) are notable instances.
Google’s mission is to provide search results with a focus on convenience and relevance. This is the key to their success. Any rumours that would make things less convenient or less relevant (and subsequently affect their market share) can probably be safely ignored.
Make sure you use a robots.txt file to specify any sitemaps and to make sure things like admin URLs can't be accessed.
You can see the robots.txt file for this site here - http://plainsimpleseo.com/robots.txt
You should also use the robots meta tag to specify your index and follow settings, as well as prevent search engines from being tempted to use Dmoz or Yahoo! Directory information. Here is an example of the correct default for the robots meta tag...
<meta name="robots" content="index,follow,noodp,noydir"/>
Again, to make sure Google has all of your pages in their index, you should use a sitemap XML file.
Check out sitemaps.org for more information on sitemaps.
You can even use XML-Sitemaps.com to generate one.
Don’t put content or text within images or within flash movies.
@font-face techniques are ideal. Image replacement is also fine, provided the image replacing the text contains the same words, and you’re not hiding extra content.
If you want pages to be indexed, don't hide them behind a log-in form or other form submission (unless you don't want them indexed). Search crawlers can't submit forms.
It's important to make sure your pages are loading nice and fast.
Webmaster Tools will help you see how fast the search crawlers/spiders think your site is. Try and adhere to the 3 second rule.
Google has a “supplemental index” where your pages are demoted if they are deemed irrelevant or duplicates. You should avoid having your pages be demoted to this index by avoiding duplicating content on the pages.
See Wikipedia's entry on Supplemental Result for more information.
Note that this is often disputed because lots of people think the supplemental index has gone away since Google stopped labelling results as 'supplemental' in their listings. This ain't so: you still have to add "&filter=0" to your search query string to display the supplemental results, also done by clicking the 'Show more results' link in Google.
This includes page content, page titles and descriptions. If there are duplicates, Google will assume it doesn't need to display any more than one instance of this content, and duplicates will be demoted to the supplemental index.
If you remove a duplicate page, you can use 301 redirection to make sure anyone visiting the old URL will be directed to the new one. This also passes page value. 301 redirection can be done through an .htaccess file.
If you need to retain a page, you can use the canonical tag to specify the URL that should be the master version of this page.
Your title, the URL and h1 heading on the page plus your copy should focus on a single lead keyphrase per page.
Remember to strike a balance between a single keyphrase per page and having too many individual pages to target lots of keyphrases.
One of the top 3 most important factors for ranking. Your title should contain the lead keyphrase and reflect the content of the page.
One of the top 3 most important factors for ranking. This should also feature your lead keyphrase and work in conjunction with your page title.
Use h2 tags to target synonyms and supporting keyphrases (Google recognises synonyms and they can help re-enforce the target keyphrase). Remember to keep your structure relevant.
If you search google for "~keyphrase" you'll get synonyms. If you search for "~keyphrase -keyphrase" you can exclude your keyphrase and see just the synonyms. Search operators are your friend!
One of the top 3 most important factors for ranking. Your URL should ideally feature your keyphrase. Make sure to avoid URLs with variables (&page=pagename) or anything that might mean the resulting pages could be considered duplicate. Also make sure URLs are keyphrase rich. AKA Don't stuff as many keywords as you can in to the file name or folder name. Remember relevance.
Contrary to popular belief the meta descriptions do not have a direct affect on the SERP ranking, but should be used in conjunction with title and the landing page to make sure the message and keyphrase are consistent. Make sure your meta description has a call to action to entice users to click through. Consider Consistency.
Medium importance: first p tags in the page code.
Medium importance: image file names and attributes
Medium importance: rich media file names and transcripts
Low importance: strong and em, or bold and italic tags
Google has now stated it uses “Page Templating” to figure out your unique content on the page through general page architecture.
Think about links – think about user experience. If you mention a keyphrase that is the focus of another page of your site and it makes sense, make that keyword a link.
Remember that Google is aware of which areas of your site are likely to be navigation and which are likely to be hand-written content, so any links earlier in the page copy will have more weight in Google's eyes.
Page copy should really be a minimum of 250 words and feature your target keyphrase as well as supporting keyphrases and relevant synonyms.
You should ideally feature the lead keyphrase within the first 25 words.
Google prefers “successful clicks” as opposed to visits where a user returns to the SERPS. Google will promote listings that are deemed more relevant. so...
This means you don't want visitors to go back to the search results after visiting your page. A great reason to make sure your title and description are relevant to the page to avoid any surprises for visitors who can't find what they're looking for. Craft yourself a solid description. That's where your pulling/convincing power lies.
There are a number of other elements worth mentioning which perhaps don't quite fit in to the above three sections.
The depth of a sub-page from the homepage determines how much domain authority it receives. Depth isn't measured with directory structure or URLS, but by number of clicks from the homepage.
The total backlink value held by a domain is spread across all the pages on that domain that Google can see.
Although this contests the “one page per keyphrase” point. This is about getting the right balance between targeting keyphrases and merging content on pages.
The more internal links you have from a page, the less value is passed from that page to the subsequent pages you are linking to. So link internally only when it's relevant and valuable to do so.
This means using synonyms for anchor texts, so these links appear more natural.
Linking to an authoritative site promotes your association with authority, and conversely linking to low value sites may associate you with bad neighbourhoods. You should always try to link out to the most authoritative sites or original news sources.
Covering enhanced Google results including Google Places (now G+ Local), Google Shopping, Google Videos, Google Images and Google News. I’ll also look at using microdata, attributing authors and social media, plus possibly some advanced link building techniques.
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