Search Engine Optimization is Also Known As SEO
WE will discuss how search engines work and why search engine optimization is important.
In the second section, we’ll discuss basic techniques and important factors in SEO and search rankings.
And, in the final section of this guide we’ll discuss how to maintain and continually improve SEO long term.
What is SEO?
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is optimizing your content to drive search engine traffic to your work.
It involves gaining a thorough understanding of how search engines work and then reflecting that knowledge in your writing and webpage design to maximize traffic to and user experience on your page.
SEO is important because search engines like Google, YAHOO!, and Bing drive the majority of web traffic. Shares on social media can cause short term spikes in stats, but real, long term success comes from maximizing search engines ability to drive traffic to your page.
Not only will good SEO improve search rankings and increase traffic for the author, but it helps people interested in your topic find your page and improves the viewer’s experience as well.
SEO involves strategically using appropriate keywords, building links to your work and making your pages search engine friendly. Although it is important to understand what SEO is, it is also important to understand what SEO isn’t. While SEO can make a big difference in stats, it cannot fix bad writing or poor content. SEO can make good writing into a great, high performing webpage, but it cannot turn poor content into good writing.
How Search Engines Work
Search Engines use “spiders” or “crawlers” to build an index of the webpages available, the words on each page, and where on the page those words were located.These program robots begin on popular webpages and add important words found on the page to the search engine’s index. From there, they follow every link on the page and index the corresponding pages before using the links on those pages to go to the next set of pages, and so on and so forth. This process is known as crawling.
Once this information is gathered by the spiders, it is encoded and stored for indexing. In order to even out the difference between the time needed to search a term beginning with a popular letter like ‘t’ and a search term beginning with a less popular letter like ‘q,’ a numerical value is applied to each word. This process is known as hashing. Not only does hashing even out problems related to letter frequency, but it condenses the index. Only the numerical value and a link to the actual information is stored in the index. This increases index and search speed, especially with more complicated searches that involve multiple words.
When a user performs a search, he or she types a query into the search box. Boolean operators can be used to define specific relationships between the terms in a query. Some of the most common operators are:
- AND-requires that both terms are on the page
- OR-requires that one term or the other is on the page
- NOT-excludes pages that include the following term
- NEAR-requires that two terms be near each other on the page
- “quotation marks”-requires the query be treated as a phrase, instead of each significant word in the query being considered an individual keyword
- FOLLOWED BY-requires that one term be followed by another
These searches are defined as literal searches. Research is currently underway on concept based searching which uses statistics statistical analysis of webpages containing your query to recommend pages you might be interested in, as well as natural language searching which allows users to type a question into the search box using the simple language they would use to ask a friend their question instead of using Boolean operators.
There’s More than One Search Engine
Each search engine uses different rules for determining which words are indexed and which words aren’t. Some search engines index every word on the page. Others focus on the most common words, the words in titles and subtitles, meta tags and the first few lines of text.
If you’ve ever tried searching the same phrase on different search engines, you probably noticed that you got different results. This is because each engine uses different algorithms to weight and index keywords and determine search result rankings. Search engine ranking algorithms use website popularity, meta tags, number of back links (links to the page), keyword frequency and location and a wide variety of other factors to rank webpages and how well they correlate to viewer searches.
In addition to relevance, website popularity is taken into account in determining search rankings. As more interested users are directed to your page by your SEO techniques, not only will the techniques increase your relevancy scores, but the popularity component of the ranking algorithms will increase as well.
(For more concrete information on specific ranking factors and their relative weight please see this website.)
Your Audience is Important in SEO
Now that you know how search engines function, we need to consider how users interact with search engines. To conduct a search, the user types a few keywords into the search box and clicks enter, browses the results and selects a page to visit. If the user is unsatisfied, he or she will return to the search and select another result or modify their query for a new result list.
People perform searches because they a) want to go somewhere specific on the web b) want to do something specific or c) learn a piece of information. In order to create a high performing webpage, you need to think like your user.
Ask yourself how many of your audience’s needs can be met on your page. Add additional, relevant content that meets these needs to attract more viewers and happier views. Then ask yourself if your audience can find your page. What queries might your target audience put into the search engine? Are those keywords found in your titles, subtitles, alt text, summary and first few sentences?
Remember, building content for your users will lead to better results than trying to build pages for search engines.
SEO Is Dead. Audience Optimization Is Taking Its Place
Search engine optimization (SEO) may seem straightforward on the surface, but in practice, there are hundreds of interlocking pieces that must be monitored and adjusted in order to see positive results. The process is even more complicated for e-commerce sites, which operate under a unique set of circumstances and must adhere to a distinct set of best practices. All the fundamentals still apply: publishing great content, earning quality inbound links, and maintaining an ongoing social media campaign. But in addition to these, you'll need to pursue these specific e-commerce strategies.
1. Create unique product descriptions for every product. This is extremely important. It's tempting to use a manufacturer's description for your products, or to repeat sections of content for similar products, but the best strategy is to create a completely unique description for each of your products. It's a lot of work up front, but duplicate content can severely hinder your campaign, and all that extra unique content will pay off immediately.
2. Encourage user reviews. Encourage your users to post reviews on each individual product page. Amazon executes this perfectly, so look at any product page on Amazon.com for a great example of how to implement user reviews. Google loves seeing unique, value-adding content, and with an e-commerce site, you have a key opportunity to generate free content from your user base. Plus, you'll boost sales by giving people more insight into the quality of the products you sell.
3. Establish easy site navigation. This is crucial for both attaining higher search engine rankings and improving your site's user experience. Organize your product pages as intuitively as possible, separating them into easily searchable and easily understandable categories. Make your site map obvious and easy to follow, and design your site in a way that pleases the eye and immediately directs users where to go.
4. Optimize your site load times by reducing the size of your images. It's important to have high-quality images on your product pages, but don't go overboard. Having too many high-quality images on one page can slow down your site, which is bad for SEO. Instead, reduce the size of your images, or build a feature that allows users to "zoom in" to see a larger version. This will keep your load speeds in check while still giving your users the quality they need to see.
5. Link between pages wherever possible. Google prefers websites with value-adding internal linking. The fewer clicks a user has to make in order to get to any given page on your site, the better. Improve this by linking each page to several other similar, relevant pages in your domain.
6. Optimize your site for mobile. This is essential for any site, but especially an e-commerce platform, which would otherwise be nearly impossible to navigate. Give your users a smooth mobile experience, either through a responsive design, a specific mobile design, or an interactive app that allows for a better mobile experience. This will become increasingly important in the coming years.
7. Integrate your product pages with social sharing. In addition to basic social integration, your product pages should have social-share buttons so users can pass on information about your products with their friends and followers. This is a good business practice in general but it's particularly good for SEO because Google may use social signals as a measure of authority.
8. Keep your out-of-stock and discontinued item pages up and running. This might seem counterintuitive at first. After all, if you're no longer offering an item, why bother keeping the page up? It's worthwhile because it gives you more permanent pages, and a greater base of indexable content for Google bots to scour. All you need to do is add a headline or some other indication that the item is no longer available.
9. Create seasonal categories to maximize seasonal attention. Seasonal items tend to have lower keyword competition, with the trade-off being a shorter period of relevance. To get the most out of your seasonal items, create specific seasonal category pages such as "Halloween Decor" or "Best in Fashion 2014."
10. Add a community forum and encourage growth. Another major content option for e-commerce platforms is a community forum where users can exchange information about their favorite products and make recommendations to one another. It will increase brand loyalty amongst your participants. Encourage community growth by starting conversations and responding to questions and complaints whenever possible.
11. Include pictures and videos for every product. E-commerce platforms serve as a perfect medium for visual content, which is growing in importance for SEO. Include videos and several high-quality pictures for every product you offer, tagged with relevant metadata, so each image has a chance of showing up for a relevant image-based search. Just keep them stored in a way that doesn't interfere with site loading times.
12. Make your site secure. It's always been a best practice for e-commerce sites to have HTTPS encryption for user security. If you don't have it, get it now. In addition to providing an extra layer of user security, it also provides a significant ranking signal to Google.
13. Build deep inbound links. Link building for e-commerce sites presents a significant opportunity: ample material for deep linking. When engaging in a link-building campaign, focus on attaining links to the deepest pages on your site that you can (such as niche product pages).
14. Regularly check your pages for errors. E-commerce sites can grow unwieldy fast, since they usually have a huge (and growing) number of pages. Perform routine checks to make sure none of your permalinks are generating 404 errors, and that all of your links to external content are still functional. You can do this using Google Webmaster Tools and a site-crawling tool such as Screaming Frog.
15. Build relevantly titled URLs. Every URL on your e-commerce platform should be unique, relevant to the page, and keyword optimized. If you're using an automated means of page creation, you might be left with a URL ending in a long series of numbers and letters--change these immediately. For example, if you're offering a large red umbrella on a specific product page, end your URL with /large-red-umbrella-v1 rather than /10031490314180.
16. Use catchy meta descriptions for your products. When a page appears on a search engine ranking page (SERP), the meta description appears as text under the hyperlink. Use this to your advantage by writing compelling copy for each of your products' meta descriptions. Your goal should be to immediately catch your user's attention, and draw him or her in.
17. Optimize your site's internal search functionality. It's important to realize that Google isn't the only search engine you need to be thinking about. If you want your users to keep shopping on your site, you need to build and refine an internal search function that can efficiently scour your site and provide the most relevant results to your users. This means building an algorithm that can handle misspellings, offer predictive searches, and sort through every page on the site. It also means optimizing your product titles and categories to be searchable both internally and externally.
Put these strategies into effect immediately, and make regular updates as your business grows. E-commerce sites have unique challenges and differences from other websites, but with proper best practices, SEO doesn't have to be difficult for them. If you're looking for more help with online marketing for your e-commerce site, grab my eBook, The Definitive Guide to Marketing Your Business Online.
Search Optimization in the Mobile Age
Search engine optimization (SEO) is an ever-changing discipline, and the art and science of getting a website onto the first page of search results is something that every SEO expert wants to achieve.
Although the details of how Google and other search engines rank a website are closely guarded secrets, everyone involved in SEO agrees that backlinks are a very important factor in ranking.
Backlinks are one of the most powerful ways that search engines find out about quality content. Having good backlinks to your website will increase your rank in search results and ultimately attract more visitors.
This article explores what backlinks are and provides practical advice on how to create backlinks and increase your website's visibility. We'll explore:
- What is a backlink?
- What is it that makes backlinks important and valuable for SEO?
- Are backlinks good for human visitors too?
- What is the best way to get backlinks?
- What are some other methods that can be used to get backlinks?
- Posting links to your articles on link submissions sites
- Sharing on social networks like Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus and more
- Commenting on blogs and forum posts
- Guest blogging and posting
- Sharing your expertise
- Other areas
What is a backlink?
A backlink is simply a link to your website or other online content that comes from another website. An example of how a backlink is created would be:
- You write an article about, for example, simple website navigation and publish it on your website.
- Someone else puts together a guide to creating the perfect website and whilst researching they come across your article, read it and enjoy it and believe it would be a good resource for their readers.
- In their guide, they include a sentence like: 'If you want to find out more about simple website navigation, check out this article' <includes link to your website>.
That link, from their website to yours, is a backlink.
What is it that makes backlinks important and valuable for SEO?
Among other things, search engines use backlinks as a measure of a website's popularity and quality. Google and their competitors use the number and quality of backlinks to help them judge and rank the relevance and value of the content of a website and specific pages on that site.
More backlinks from reputable sources means that the search engines will regard your content as important and worthwhile, meaning that they are more likely to show it in their search results.
Are backlinks good for human visitors too?
Yes, backlinks are a great way for readers to find relevant, related information without having to look too far. Anything that improves a reader's experience on a website is worth considering.
When you write content, it's always a good idea to include backlinks to other content on your own site and around the web. This will enhance the information that you provide to your audience.
What is the best way to get backlinks?
The very best way to get backlinks is to write excellent content. Articles that are worthwhile to readers are more likely to be shared and referenced by them, both on social media and from other websites.
This means that great content will naturally gather backlinks over time, increasing its value in the search engine rankings. Although this is the best way to get backlinks, it isn't the easiest or the quickest and there are other methods.
What are some other methods that can be used to get backlinks?
Other methods of gaining backlinks vary in ease of use and how effective they are. You should use these methods sparingly and not become overly reliant on just one or two techniques.
Posting links to your articles on link submissions sites
Sites such as StumbleUpon, Reddit, SheToldMe, Red Gage, Delicious, BizSugar and more allow users to submit links to articles that other site users can discover.
Because anyone can post links to these services, the backlinks from them are not considered especially valuable. You should also review the terms of each of these sites to find out about their link submission guidelines.
Sharing on social networks like Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus and more
If you have a following on social media that's interested in your content, it's worth sharing your links and articles there.
If the information is relevant to your audience, they may share your posts onwards, further increasing the reach and visibility of your website.
Commenting on blogs and forum posts
If you find content related to your website on a blog or forum, and you believe that readers would be interested, you can leave a comment together with a link back to your site.
Be careful when using this technique and make sure that any links you post are relevant and valuable to other readers.
Guest blogging and posting
Although guest blogging is being devalued by Google, there can be some advantages to writing guest posts.
You should find a guest blog that covers a niche closely related to your own and write very relevant, focused posts that can include a link back to your content.
Fact about blogging
- Three quarters of us read a blog every day
- 70% of us say that blogs influence the things that we buy
- There are four times as many search pages for businesses that have a blog and a blogging strategy, as those without
Places to find guest blogging opportunities
There are many sites out there that can put good writers and reputable blog sites in contact with each other, to create a high-quality guest blogging experience, for writer, publisher and the reader of the blog; some of the most popular ones are:
- My Blog Guest
- Blogger Link Up
Guidelines for guest bloggers
- Search Google for high quality blogs (i.e. those that are well ranked, with authority and engaged readers)
- Read the guest posting and quality guidelines for the blog
- Contact the blog owner or other nominated contact
- Explain something about yourself, your skills, expertise and experience for writing content
- Suggest some topics for guest posts that they might want to see
- When writing your post, ensure that you create useful, worthwhile, valuable content that servers a purpose
- Don't stuff your content with keywords or over-optimize it; write for people, not Google
- Include a link to your author bio, Google Plus page or other website in your byline / footer
Things to avoid
If you want to avoid a Google slap for spammy posts, make sure you avoid the following:
- Getting only 'dofollow' links from the blog
- Accept money for guest posting (Google doesn't like paid sites)
- Use 'spun' guest articles
- Provide low quality content
Things to remember about guest blogging
You, the blog and the reader will get the most value out of your guest posts if:
- Your content aligns with the overall subject of the blog
- You provide high-quality, well written, unique content
- The content is of use to the readers of the blog and engages them
- The content is not spammy and doers not contain overly optimized keywords or links
Sharing your expertise
Question and answer and content sites such as Quora, WebAnswers, HubPages and more can be a good place to demonstrate your expertise and experience.
If you answer questions or write articles there, you can often link back to your own content, providing relevant backlinks.
Are there any areas or techniques that should be avoided when creating backlinks?
Google and other search engines are getting smarter about devaluing backlinks from certain areas. You should generally avoid getting backlinks by the following means:
- Article directories - These have been hit hard by Google updates and links from article directories are generally of very low value.
- Blanket posting / 'spamming' your links - Seeing lots of links to content appearing over a short period of time is a red flag to the search engines. Artificially posting and sharing your link extensively over a few days will devalue all of the links.
- Posting to irrelevant sites - You should only share links to your content where the links will be appreciated. This means only posting links into highly relevant communities, blogs, forums or other online destinations. If it's not relevant to the audience, don't post it.
You can use Google Webmaster Tools to understand who is linking to your website and content and if you find undesirable links, you can use the webmaster 'disavow' tool to get Google to ignore them.
Increasing trust in your backlinks
There is an increasing importance and authority that Google is giving to 'Trusted Sites' - These are sites that Google considers to have high-quality, relevant, easy to understand, valuable content. Points to consider include:
- Whether a website that links to you will provide additional, quality traffic to your site
- How would you feel if a person went to the site linking to you and found your business listed there?
- Is it easy to add your site? If it's too easy to add your site, the chances are that it won't help your SERPs ranking
- Does the site linking to you relate to the business you are doing? Context is very important
Naturally occurring backlinks that point to great content are the most effective way to increase your visibility in search results.
Using these techniques can increase your ranking on the search engines and ultimately get more visitors to your website.