An understanding of SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is important to anyone that creates content for the web. SEO is the process of making a website show up as high as possible in search engine results, which increases the chances of it being visited by the searcher.
The world of SEO is enormous, and there are many different methods available. Getting the right combination of SEO factors, or signals, is the key to SEO success. The exact recipe for how a company like Google performs search is a company secret, but is said to involve 10,000 different ranking signals!
So, whilst you could never hope to learn them all, here is an overview of some of the main methods that you can understand and start considering for your site.
The number of inbound links (or backlinks) to your website is a key method that search engines use to assess the authority of your website. It is a major feature of Google’s PageRank search algorithm as well as other major search engines like Technorati.
When a website links to yours it acts as a ‘vote’ of authority and improves the SEO of your site. The more inbound links you have to your website, the more authority your site is given.
Some inbound links are worth more than others – so a link from from the Guardian or the BBC is worth much more than a link from a small WordPress blog.
Also, if the site that links to yours has similar content then the link is considered more relevant than from a site that features irrelevant content.
A further consideration is the anchor text of the link. Anchor text refers to the words that are visible on a page and constitute the length of the link. If the inbound link includes lots of relevant anchor text then it improves the SEO rating.
When you leave a comment on a news site or blog, you are normally given the opportunity to include a link to your site. Whilst this link is largely ignored by the major search engines, it can still draw traffic to a website if the comment is interesting enough to warrant a readers further interest.
In order to show up in search engines, you need to know what words and phrases people are searching for. If you are running a beauty website, do people use the word ‘face cosmetics’ or ‘make-up’ more often? Ensuring that you have a high quantity of these highly searched for terms is key to driving traffic to your site.
Keyword Density is the percentage of your page that is made up of that keyword. So, if you have 100 words and 10 of them are the keyword then you have a 10% keyword density for that keyword. Whilst it may be tempting to continually repeat the key words throughout the site, it is important to strike a balance between repetition and good sounding writing.
Also – too high a keyword density will make Google think you are spam. A good rule of thumb is 3-6% keyword density. If you are struggling to find places to include the keywords, use them in place of pronouns.
Where these words are placed is also important. The main areas to place keywords are:
- Domain Name – Google ranks pages with a keyword in the URL highly. Ensure that any blog posts have the dominant keywords included in the URL.
- Headers – Don’t go for puns or clever titles when naming a page, but make them as explanatory and keyword filled as possible. There are several different types of headers and sub headers, and a search engine will look at all of them for clues to the sites content.
- File names – If you are uploading media, make sure you name the file type an appropriate keyword.
- Meta description – This bit appears underneath your site in search results, so make sure it includes the keywords. If you are blogging using WordPress, you can add a plugin that lets you write a meta description for each post.
Having good quality content is the most important element of SEO. Search engines have access to the amount of time users spend on your page and know if people are clicking links on your page or bouncing straight away again.
You need to ensure that you are offering something that other people are not. Content should be fresh, topical and relevant – this is the kind of content that is enjoyed and shared by people.
Keeping content fresh is also important for another reason. If a particular search term becomes unusually popular for a short amount of time, Google will work out why – and if you have content associated with the reason for this spike you will improve your SEO. This is called Query Deserved Freshness – read more here.
To find out more about SEO – check out the authoritative Search Engine Land