Firstly a really brief intro... This will bring you up to speed on the current search landscape and why we are here.
Years ago keywords were key to bringing people to your site, so much so that people hid keywords in the thousands by using white text on a white background for example. Search engines quickly remedied this by using backlinks (sites linking from other sites back to you) and penalising people that simply SPAM keywords. It had the ability to determine if content was not in a legible and useful form.
So backlinks were pretty key. They were used as a type of vote. The more sites you had linking to you, the more votes you had. And essentially the site with the most votes wins.
But like any solution, there is always another problem. Backlinks were a lot harder to fudge than simply hiding keywords, but not impossible. So came the flood of backlinks. And saturating key words in sentences was not producing useful content. Yes it was readable, but not useful.
So with Google’s latest update, Google Panda, it put the focus on content. The algorithm update implemented a very sophisticated method of evaluating content. It determines what is good quality, well written, useful content. Which brings me to tip number 1 on how to make your site rank better.
1. Good quality, well written & useful content
Similar to the real estates catch cry of “Location, Location, Location”, the new catch cry of SEO is “Content, Content, Content”. You can’t fudge content. You either have good useful content, or you don’t.
So with the latest generation of Search Engines focusing on it, it is absolutely essential to provide your potential customers with the best and most useful information you can.
This doesn’t just stop at a great “Products and Services” section to your website, and it doesn’t mean having a 47 paragraph About Us and Our History page. It means thinking like your customers and asking yourself this following question. This question will put you on the right path of producing good content for your site.
“Being an expert in my industry, what can I provide my customer that will be useful to them, validate my credibility and potentially position them better for closing a sale later on”
That is quite literally, the million dollar question.
2. Use key words and phrases
Search engines are no doubt putting a greater focus on well written content, but that content MUST contain your keywords and phrases. Because the aim here is to ensure your site contains the EXACT phrase that your ideal customer would be searching for.
What are keywords and phrases?
For my business for example, I provide website design and development services to businesses primarily in and around Adelaide so a list of my key words and phrases would contain what my ideal customer would be searching for. For example it would be things like:
- adelaide web design
- adelaide website design
- adelaide web development
- adelaide website deveopment
- web design adelaide
- website design adelaide
- And so on...
And my challenge is, to ensure those permutations existing all through out my site in amongst my well written content. Search engines can pick up when you are seeding your content with too many keywords and can penalise you for it. So by not only ignoring that text, your site can also be labelled as containing SPAM thus having a negative impact.
3. Link build in all directions!
We’ve established the importance of content, and we’ve established the importance of keywords, now it’s time to talk about linking.
If you do those first two steps really well, every bit of effort you put in to this 3rd step of generating links will have a greater effect.
There are three types of links and these are in order of value:
- 1.Inbound links – Also called external links or backlinks. They are links to your site from external websites
- 2.Internal links – they link your own content to other pages on your website
- 3.Outbound links – These are links from your site to other external sites.
We’ve touched on this briefly in the introduction, but essentially links to your site helps search engines gain an idea as to your influence in your industry. The more links you have to your site, the more influential your site seems, and the more likely you are to rank higher. But you want good quality links.
There is a funny term referred to as “link juice”. It is essentially a theoretical measure of how effective a link is. It is based on how relevant the link is and how reputable a site that link is coming from.
- High link juice – A link from an influential site that is relevant to the content on your site.
- Low link juice – A link from an obscure site completely irrelevant to the content on your site.
To assist your readers navigate your site easily, it’s a great idea to link mid sentence to other areas of your site. You only have a small window of opportunity to retain someone’s attention. So offering someone a link to something that may also be of interest is a great way of retaining their attention.
This also assists a search engine to navigate your site and create a map of the content that you have and how it all relates together.
My personal opinion on this is ‘be careful’! You have spent a lot of time, energy and effort getting someone to your site, you don’t want to give them an easy exit! You especially don’t want to give them an exit to somewhere where they can choose to spend their money elsewhere instead of you.
This sounds simplistic and obvious but I see it all the time. For example, I had a client that produced a specific item, and they linked to a competitors website that also produced this same item. It was not the competitors core business but they still provided it... I did some user based testing on my clients website and said “find this specific product” and 3 out of the 5 people ended up on the competitors site! So be careful...
Outbound links are a sign of relevance and can position you within an industry. It shows people and search engines that you are connected, that you are current, you’re relevant and that you do research to provide your customers with useful information. So links to industry bodies, other related blogs, related articles on news websites, government websites to do with legislation that effect your industry, things of that nature. Just not competitors!
It won't happen over night...
But it will happen! My final closing thoughts on this is stay consistent, and hang in there!
SEO is a long term strategy that will bring long term benefits. So start now, do it as well as you can and you will see benefits.