This course covers the basics of search engine optimization and will lay the foundation for you either to optimize your own site, or so that you will know the questions to ask of someone you hire to optimize your site.
Introduction to Seo Course
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of modifying your site so that it appears in search engine results for individual search phrases that will drive good quality, targeted traffic to your site. This is the traffic that is most likely to convert into customers for your business.
These results are referred to as “organic”, meaning they naturally appear in the search engine listings as opposed to paid advertising type listings.
- SEO is basically a four step process:
- Find the search phrases that will drive targeted traffic to your site.
- Modify your site to target those keywords
- Ensure that the search engine spiders can find, read, and correctly index your site.
- Monitor and tweak your site as necessary to obtain and remain placed in the search engine results page.
In future articles I will take each of these steps and expand on them, giving some insight into how a SEO company would approach optimizing your website.
Finding Keywords and Search Phrases
Arguably the most important part of the optimization process is finding the correct keywords to target. A keyword is usually a word or phrase that people use to search for your type of website. If you target the wrong keyword you may end up as number one in the search engine rankings for that term. However, if no one searches using this keyword then your site will not be discovered and you have wasted your efforts.
How to Decide Which Keywords To Target?
- Draw up an initial list by the following methods:
- Brain storm – draw up an initial list of keywords relating to your website and your business that you think customers may be using.
- Plagiarize – visit your competitor sites and see which keywords they are targeting.
- Server logs – use a log analysis program and find out the phrases your current visitors are using to find your site.
- Now list possible modifiers including:
- Location – your city, state, and zip code. Some potential customers prefer to deal with a local company even though it’s an online business.
- Adjectives – affordable, best, cheapest, quality, etc.
- Descriptors – do you just sell one type of widget? Do you focus on one aspect of a service?
The more specific your keywords are the less competition there will be and the more targeted your visitors you will receive. Why be #50 for ‘widgets’ when you can be top 10 for ‘blue widgets’!
Now you have a list of keywords and modifiers you need to see whether anyone searches using the terms. Overture and Google both have free tools that will tell you how often people search using a keyword. Overture’s service is available without an account. Google’s needs an account however account creation is free.
Introduction to Seo Course
Word Tracker, is one of the most popular keyword tools. It is not free but it is an excellent source of keywords and search counts. They also provide a thesaurus to provide keywords that you may have missed. Word Tracker does offer a free trial so you can try it out.
Integrating Keywords into your written Website Content
By now you have decided on your list of keywords. You know these keywords are used by people looking for a website like yours. You now need to modify your site to incorporate these words and phrases into your written page content.
Written page content incorporates all the written Introduction to Seo Course text on your site. It does not include text written within graphics as this cannot be read by search engine spiders.
Your written content should include the keywords you are trying to target. A few ‘rules of thumb’ for integrating keywords into your website’s content:
- Try to stick to one or two keywords per site page. You can have up to four if they are related.
- Repeat the keyword approximately once per paragraph.
- Put the keyword at the start of your title, description and keyword Meta tags.
- Put your keyword as close to the start of the text as possible.
- Name your page the same as your keyword; for example “blue widget.html”
- Name your site after your major keyword
- Write all original content.
Remember your website content should be written for your visitors first and foremost. By targeting one page per keyword you are ensuring the page is totally focused on the keyword.
- Now a few search engine don’ts:
- Don’t stuff your keyword tag with unrelated keywords. The search engines know your page is not about eBay, free music downloads, etc because the text on the page does not back it up.
- Don’t keyword stuff hidden parts of the page – image ‘alt’ tags, comments, etc.
- Don’t keyword stuff, period – don’t repeat the same keywords multiple times in a row anywhere on the page.
- Don’t use page generation tools – the search engines know them all and can tell which pages are created by a tool and which are created manually.
- Don’t duplicate content either within the same site or across multiple sites.
- Don’t hide text by using white text on a white background, small fonts. The search engines will see hidden text and blacklist your site!
Any of the above can get your site banned. Once banned it is extremely difficult to get your site back into the search engine results.
Ensuring The Search Engines Can Read And Index Your Site
You’ve put up a great looking site, researched your keywords, written great content, but its four months later and you still can’t find your site for any of the keywords you were hoping to target!!
Something is wrong, but what? A major cause of a site not showing up in the search results is that the site is not being indexed.
One of the best ways to check if your site is being indexed fully is by running the command ‘site: www.mysite.com’ in Google (it also works in Yahoo!). The search engine will return a listing of all the pages it has indexed of your site.
No pages indexed
If no pages are showing your site is either brand new, has no in-bound links, or your site is banned. The first two issues can be resolved easily. The latter is pretty permanent and you may want to consider acquiring another site name.
Only one page indexed.
If only one page is showing you need to check that you have more than one page in your site. This may sounds strange. However, if you have a site built in Macromedia Flash the whole site may appear to the visitor to be dozens of pages long, but to the search engines it appears to be only one page. In this instance you will need to create a second version of your site in HTML or rely on Introduction to Seo Course advertising.
Framed sites are known to cause problems too. Google and the other major spiders can generally handle frames OK, but some spiders have issues and so frames should be avoided.
Some pages showing are labeled ‘supplemental results’
If your pages are showing up as ‘supplemental results’ it means they are not in the main Google index. Instead they have found your pages through another means.
If your site is new this may be OK. After a few months you shouldn’t have any pages labeled supplemental. This is usually caused by a lack of quality links to the site.
Most of your site site is showing, but some key pages are missing
Dynamic sites may not always be indexed correctly. Dynamic sites have pages built instantly by server side programming and usually contain ‘?’ and ‘&’s in the URL. If this is the case static versions of the main pages may be necessary.
How To Get Your Complete Web Site Indexed
earch engines will only index sites that appear important on the web. In order to boost your site’s importance on the web and to ensure it is indexed fully and often you will need to do the following:
- Make sure you have plenty of inbound links. Directories are a great place to start building one way, non-reciprocated links.
- Make sure you have static HTML pages for the spiders to index. If your whole site is dynamic there are programs and/or techniques that can make it appear static.
- Ensure there is nothing in the robots.txt file blocking access – a common problem is that blocked directories need a trailing ‘/’ i.e. Disallow: /images/. Ensure there is no robots meta tag on the page that could be blocking access. There are programs available that emulate a spider indexing your site – use one of these to ensure your site can be read.
- Change your text often. Add pages as often as you can – aim for one new page a day, if you can’t manage that then at least one new page a week.
If you are having issues getting only one or two pages indexed by the search engine, you should add a site map page to your site. A site map is simply a listing of all of the pages within the site and includes direct (not java script) links to all pages. Adding a link from the home page to the site map will ensure your whole site gets indexed correctly.
Bear in mind that if a page was designed to be a popup, a visitor might hit this page directly from the search engine. Therefore a menu should be added so they can return to the main site.
Monitor and Tweak Your Way to Great Rankings
No one apart from the search engines knows which algorithms (the rules used to determine site rankings) are used. Each search engine algorithm is different. Therefore it is almost impossible to get all of the pages on your site ranked for your target keywords at the first try.
This is where monitoring and tweaking comes into play.
Monitoring Your Site’s Rankings
You need to know where your site ranks in the various major search engines for your keywords. Currently the major search engine spiders are GoogleBot (Google), Yahoo Slurp (Yahoo!), Teoma (Ask Jeeves).
Sites generally do not get ranked instantly. It takes time for your site to appear. Sometimes one page will be indexed and appear in the search results before other pages. This is perfectly normal. Spiders generally index the home page more often than other pages.
Do not monitor your position on an hourly or even daily basis – search engine rankings fluctuate on a day to day basis. This is normal. You should be concerned with long term trends. Therefore leave a minimum of one week between monitoring your position.
You can check your site’s positions manually, or use one of the various commercial or free monitoring tools.
Contrary to popular belief there is no way a search engine can ban your site if you running automatic queries. They can however ban the IP address of the machine making the query. Therefore, if you do decide to run an application to monitor your site’s position. ensure you run the checks from an IP address other than the one your site is running on. This is not an issue when your site is hosted at a remote location.
Once you have a rankings report, check it against your previous report. You should be concerned with the trends, not individual rankings. Are my keywords going up or down the rankings? Are one or more keywords under performing?
When monitoring your rankings, don’t forget to continue to check your log files for new keyword possibilities. Your site might be found for keywords you have never considered. Some of the keywords might be lower in the results than you’d like but can provide excellent secondary keywords to target.
Tweaking Your Site’s Content
What do if no page of your site shows is ranked for any keyword? Try picking an unusual phrase used in your site and undertake a search for that phrase with quotes around it. If you’re not showing up for this unique phrase then it could be that your site is not indexed correctly (see previous article for information on checking that)
If you’re starting to appear in the results for some search phrases on some search engines then don’t be concerned. It takes differing amounts of time for the individual search engines to index your site and update the result pages.
If only a few phrases are not showing in the search results then it may be time to revisit the written text on your site. For each search phrase that isn’t ranking:
- Find the page targeting the keyword.
- Check the meta tags – is the phrase in the title, description and keyword tags?
- Check the page – is the phrase in the H1 tag?
- Check the text – is the phrase used once per paragraph? Does the page read well? If not reduce the number of occurrences.
- Check the images – make sure the phrase appears in the ‘alt’ tag of the site.
- Check incoming internal links – do you use the phrase in the link text.
- If the page is sharing focus with other phrases you may want to move the phrase its own page. If you create a new page you will need to create around 400-600 words specifically targeting that phrase.
- You may want to alter the text that you use for reciprocal links for other sites to include the phrase.