Beating the competition, a quick technical guide to SEO

SEO is an acronym for “Search Engine Optimization” techniques applied to websites in order to achieve a higher position in the SERPs or “Search Engine Ranking Positions” (where you rank in Google for any given search term).

SEO overall is a big game of trial and error. Constant algorithms updates across an ever growing list of internet search engines such as Google or Bing, mean that what worked without fail today may well cause your website to tumble down the rankings, sometimes a fatal blow for many businesses these days.

While for most people SEO means keyword stuffed titles and meta data, this couldn’t be further from the truth! With hundred of factors in place to decide how relevant your web page is to the requested search term it usually take a lot more work.

So where do we start?

The Basics, of course!

While not the only factors, a relevant Title and a well-written Description meta tag can have a dramatic impact. Some other things to consider are:

  • A relevant domain name, for example, if your wish to rank well for “Logo Design” in the UK you won’t get a better domain name than logodesign.co.uk or logodesign.org.uk. Its important to note that purchasing a top-level domain is a must! logodesign.uk.com is a subdomain of uk.com and will have very little impact.
  • Well thought out URI’s or Uniform resource identifiers, with well placed keywords, not stop words (such as “a” or “the”) or spaces.
  • Consistent hostnames, for example either always use “www” or don’t. Another way around the problem is using the rel canonical link tag. This waywww.yourdomain.com, yourdomain.com and yourdomain.com/index.php while all be read as www.yourdomain.comwww.yourdomain.com” />.

Once your web pages all have unique titles, descriptions and SEO friendly URLs, now it’s time for content.

The first thing to remember is natural, unique content.

When writing your content, W3C valid html is always a good start! Make sure you close your tags correctly and you layout your copy with the relevant tags. 1 H1 tag and no more, followed by H2, H3, H4 and so on, use P for standard texts. Use the TABLE tag for tabular content only and not for laying out.

When adding images make sure ALT tags are always filled in and where you can get away with it TITLE tags.

Remember when Google or any other search engine crawls your site, they read the text. The more text the better (assuming it’s relevant). ABBR tags are another way of getting an extra few words.

When it comes to content, overuse of keywords is a big problem when writing copy. Using the same words over and over are likely to be read by a spider as spam, and you run the risk of being penalized and falling in the SERPs. Even if this penalty was given in error, it can still be weeks before you see your original position return if at all.

Another big factor in SEO are backlinks, A Tags (or links) on external sites which point to you, to have a successful SEO campaign, link building is more often than not required.

Link building is a minefield, there are companies that offer thousands of links for pennies, there are link farms, keyword “rich” directories, the list goes on, all of which I should add are likely to have a negative effect on your campaign. Link build is a lengthy process. Finding relevant content, coming up with link worthy material, it requires both hard work and patience.

SEO is a tough job but sometimes for the less competitive terms all it takes is a well built website, with fresh content. The first place to start is to find designers and developers who understand how crawlers work. Copywriters can assist you in making the writing on your site both professional and keyword rich, yet natural at the same time.

Then finally, if you think you still need a monthly plan to improve your ranking, hire a SEO firm you can talk to, and see face to face. If they outsource their work to external companies this is usually a bad sign. Check that they have a proven history. Ask what they’re targeted keywords are and find out where they rank. If they can’t do it for themselves, can they do it for you?

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