SEO – Your Reputation Under Review!
Probably you already browsed the net to gather useful tips for proper Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Like any other articles, this one will enlighten you with few good tips to implement a proper optimization.
Before going ahead, I do recommend carrying a ‘web content optimization’ which is preliminary since the way the website is presented to the public plays a significant role.
With the launch of Google Panda (2011) and the latter Penguin (2012), it is evidentially crucial to implement SEO strategies. From a holistic perspective, the aim is to penalize over-optimized websites (i.e. using black-hat tricks, keyword stuffing, content duplication, and cloaking) and to lower the ranks of websites with poor user experience.
Poor user experience is a broad terminology. There are two things you need to consider. Firstly is to have a decent web hosting service provider with a 99% up running time. If your site tends to go offline quite often as a result of server issues (which is not your fault) then expect to lose ranking and search engine positioning. Secondly is to ensure that you implement a proper web optimization.
Moreover, something I want to emphasize is that when we mention the word ‘SEO’, people instantly think of Google. That is wrong! My rule is – do not optimize your site solely for Google. There are other search engines on demand such as Bing, Ask, and Yahoo!
Furthermore mobile-optimized / supported websites are increasing in their demand. It is recommended to have your site compatible with any mobile device. If you can’t afford an iPhone, HTC or a Blackberry, no need to worry. Use the freeware called Mobilizer (note that Adobe Air is required), and you will be able to preview your sites on a mobile display straight from your desktop.
Surely you already have encountered with various SEO tips and yes, they are all good but by time they tend to become obsolete. Chances are that by time also part of my tips will face the same dilemma so like you I have to keep myself updated.
On-Page Optimization (Related on the elements within the web page)
1) Image File Name – Always provide meaningful titles to your image files. If your image portrays an ‘Ibanez Guitar’, label it as ‘ibanez-guitar.jpg’ instead of having something like ‘DSC29870.jpg’. Like this you have a ‘keyword-rich’ friendly title besides a meaning to your image file.
2) Use the ‘alt’ tag – The alt=” “ tag should never be left blank. Provide an image with a title because search engine spiders cannot decipher the image content but they will decipher the title you defined in the alt tag.
3) Use the ‘title’ tag – Using the title tag provides a better user experience since the titles shows up as a tool tip when the user moves the mouse over the image.
4) Image Linking – This may be not convenient but if you can just go for it. Whenever you link an image, try using the image keywords in your link text. Suggestion: use ‘View the Ibanez Guitar’ instead of ‘Click here to view’ as the anchor text.
5) Navigation Menus – If the menu is based entirely on hyperlinked images with your favorite font, you have to label them such as ‘Home, Services, Contact, Links, etc.’ Use the ‘alt’ and optionally the ‘title’ tags.
Example: <a href=http:// www. mysite.com/contact/ title=”Contact” /><img src=”/images/contact.gif” alt=”Contact” title=”Contact” /></a>
1) Broken (internal) links – If you have a hierarchy of 5 sub-pages within your website, ensure that everything is linked. Having ‘broken’ links will disrupt the spider of the certain search engine from crawling, indexing and following the website from the initial page to its hierarchy of pages.
2) SEO Friendly links – It is ideal to have keyword-rich SEO friendly links which can be easily understood by both search engines as well as viewers. For example better to have such a link like:
3) Anchor Text – This part had been explained in the previous tips. Suggestion: use ‘View the Ibanez Guitar’ instead of ‘Click here to view’ as the anchor text.
1) Main Page – Having a stunning title for your home page is important since it holistically reflects your website. Moreover the title will display in the search engine results page (SERP) and that should create first impact on the viewer.
2) Sub Pages – Obviously they do appear in search results, and if you have a product to promote, mind as well to include say the product name as the title followed by your business name. These titles also act as keywords which help in pushing your site in the search engine results page (SERP). It is important to think marketwise.
1) Description – The Meta Description allows you to insert 140 characters worth of your page content. You can copy an excerpt from your page content yet my suggestion is to place the content best fitting with the information available within the page as it plays a significant role in the search results depending on the queries people type.
2) Keywords – Choose keywords related with your web content. People tend to abuse with this method (i.e. keyword stuffing) and search engines like Google are penalizing such sites. Moreover avoid repeating keywords since it is not feasible at all! Below are few factors you need to consider:
a) Research – Carry out a proper research before choosing your keywords. You can use free tools like Google AdWords Keyword Tool, Wordtracker, and others to help you get the job done.
b) Keyword Density – Do not abuse with keywords, else you can get easily penalized by Google. Use relevant keywords, be moderate and don’t overdo it. Also consider the fact that your web content (incl. the Meta Description) is a keyword carrier in itself; and search engines tend to provide results basing on the page content.
c) Long Tail Keywords – It is good to include lengthy keywords as they tend to be less typical given their diversity from any other competitor’s keywords. For example if you are selling Ibanez guitars, basic keywords would be: ‘ibanez’, ‘guitars’, and‘ibanez guitars’. Such keywords are not outstanding, but if to utilize additional keywords for instance: ‘best ibanez guitars’, ‘ibanez guitars discount’, ‘special offers ibanez guitars’, and so on, you get better chances to get best results.
d) Relevancy – This is fundamentally important! Make sure that the keywords are also included within the web content and preferably in the Meta Description; else don’t expect any outstanding results. Have your keywords repeated in your page content, but don’t overdo it!
Personally I used to be one of those who hardly gave any importance on these funny tags like h1, h2, h3, <strong> (bold text), <em> (italic text), etc. However by time I realize how wrong I was. So I will divide this section into two parts:
Headers (h1, h2, h3… )
These little tags define the headers which are typically used for page titles. There are from h1 to h6, where h1 is the most important (useful to define the most important part of the page) followed by the rest. The other tags are also important and they should be used to define your page/post/content title/s.
For example say I have a page entitled ‘The Beauty of the Ibanez Sound’ where I want to describe the guitars, the features, specifications, etc. So in this case I would divide the content as follows:
The Beauty of the Ibanez Sound – h2
Information – h3
Features – h4
Specifications – h4, h5
Moreover, when you organize content in such a manner, you are not only abiding with best SEO practices, but you are also providing viewers with better user experience.
Text styling is not just useful for your readers but also for search engines. When you stylize text say bold, italic, bold italic, etc. you are placing importance on certain texts and search engines will know that, however don’t overdo it otherwise you can easily get penalized.
Content – The quality and relevancy behind the website’s content are the most significant factors. Search engines especially Google reward high value content with top SERPs rankings. However some webmasters are still placing exclusive importance on ‘keywords’. It is essential to value the importance of keywords, but eventually these keywords should be relevant with the web content itself. In other words they work hand in hand.
Duplicate Content – Avoid repeating and over repeating your web content, in other words copying and pasting here and there or worse duplicating pages. Of course there are occasions where you have to partially repeat your content but know the limits.
- Robot.txt – It determines which parts of the site the search engine robots / spiders are allowed to access. Make sure you aren’t preventing these robots / spiders from accessing relevant content. Alternatively you can prevent robots / spiders from accessing useless or sensitive items like folders related with the website’s functions.
- Sitemap – The sitemap file contains a list of web pages accessible to crawlers (spiders, bots) usually organized hierarchically. The list consists in web links including the change frequency (how often the page is being updated) and the priority (rank). Both change frequency and priority help the search engine bots in determining the level of importance for each page.
If you own a large website, chances are that your sitemap will be endless. Personally I list those pages with high quality content within the sitemap file so to let the crawlers focusing on the right pages.
The purpose of a sitemap is to let these bots to index the website’s pages in the search engine. If you submit a huge sitemap you may face the possibility of having the least good pages listed instead.
Before submitting a sitemap figure out on which pages you are aiming to get most of the traffic. In a nutshell – submit the juice / the essential!
Google and Bing are providing tools to help improving a website’s performance by optimizing visibility, spiders’ crawling rate, keyword queries, robot.txt validation, incoming / outgoing links and sitemap submission among others. These tools are the Google Webmaster Tools (for Google search engine) and Bing Webmaster Center (for Bing and Yahoo! search engines).
These tools serve in having a better indexation within the aforementioned search engines but most importantly you can generate data for troubleshooting purposes.
Off-Page Optimization (Relates on external factors like incoming links, PPC and social media)
Incoming / Inbound Links – It is good to have website linked with other good third party websites, ideally those dealing with the same topics as yours for relevancy purposes. Although nowadays this approach doesn’t have much importance as compared to the past, it still helps. The reason for this lack of importance is due to the abuses that used to take place in the past (termed as ‘link farms’). Moreover it is still viable to get links say from a.edu domain since such domains carry much credibility.
On the other hand it is essential to provide social media sharing facilities so viewers will have the option to share your content across the world wide web. Like that you will generate extra incoming links.
Social Media Optimization (SMO) – Social Media Optimization significantly gained importance during time especially after the ‘big bang’ that started through platforms like Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter among others.
One should consider the few basic principles about mankind. Humans are social creatures. They love talking, interacting, gossiping, referring, praising and complaining. How often did we say that the ‘word of mouth’ is the best marketing approach? That say is still valid, and in a nutshell social sharing is the ‘word of mouth’ throughout the web.
Social Media Optimization, although being a hectic process can bring valuable rewards. It is recommended to take certain factors into consideration as indicated below:
1) Use your business or domain name as an extension (e.g. twitter.com/ myname).
2) Provide your business information. If you have a word limit, provide a juicy summary about your business and / or its services.
3) Quality beats quantity. The more quality you put within your content the stronger your network gets! Readers will enjoy your content and eventually they will share it around the web or among their peers.
4) Timing is a key factor. You need to allocate some time for social media because you have to interact with the visitors especially when they comment or submit queries.
5) Keep your website as the central hub. In the long run, social media platforms are third party utilities and nobody have maximum control. However you have control on your official website and that should be the main point of reference for every visitor.
6) Make your content sharable so visitors and readers can easily share your information. This is easily done by adding sharing options. A service I do recommend is the one by Addthis.com because apart from the sharing tools, you also get an analytics platform where you can monitor all the sharing activity.
7) Make your website ‘social’ by including widgets and streams such as from Twitter and Facebook. Like this you will encourage visitors to socialize. As well you will make your website more ‘lively’ in terms of continuous updates.
8) Avoid cluttering by means of including as many widgets as possible. These widgets take plenty of resources since they need to connect with their respective providers. For example extra loading time is allocated for Twitter to load the latest streams.
Pay Per Click (PPC) Advertisement – Surely when running a PPC campaign, you obviously intend to link the advert with your website, correct? The content within the advert along the chosen keywords should be relevant with your website content. If the campaign doesn’t bring any joy, carry revisions or create a new campaign.
Points to consider:
PageRank – The PageRank algorithim was introduced by Google and serves the purpose of ranking a website by measuring its level of importance. Once a website fulfills certain criteria, a ranking will be issued which then increases gradually over time. Although PR has its meaning, it is NOT 100% reliable since there are occasions where low ranked sites tend to get better positioning within the search results compared to highly ranked ones.
Advertisement – It is nice to generate (additional) revenue off your website through means of paid advertisement (e.g. Google Adsense, Microsoft PubCenter, Clicksor… ) however one should not abuse by adding as many adverts as possible because the website may look ‘spammy’. Search engines like Google will not tolerate that!
Frequent Updates – It is obviously important to carry updates from time to time. Updates could be like adding new posts / pages and applying changes. So how often should you implement updates? As often as possible! When you carry updates, you are triggering the search engine spiders / bots to crawl over your web content, and the more they crawl the better chances you get to be on top of the search results.
Pings – If you run a blog with frequent updates, I suggest Ping-o-Matic! Once you update your blog, you can visit pingomatic.com to submit your updates so to be distributed to various search engines.
Visitor engagement – Quality of visitors also determine the level of importance behind a website. It is common sense that the aim of a website is to be distributed among the (targeted) audience. The amount of visitors, the time they spend on the site and the level of loyalty (i.e. returning visitors) are additional key factors in getting the best SERP rankings.
Quantity vs. Quality – The rule of thumb is to distribute and retain quality content rather than adding plenty of content with poor relevancy. Search engines, particularly Google prefer smart content and approaches, so if you are up to the game you must ensure to deliver the best content. That also calls for creative writing skills and that’s where SEO copywriting comes in.
Reputation – No matter what you do, you will be building your online reputation. In a nutshell reputation is based on your web content, your services and your interaction through social media. Additionally people can always leave negative reviews and comments on other websites dealing with reviews. Unfortunately negative reviews aren’t excluded by search engine spiders and eventually when somebody queries about your website / business, the user will see the negative reviews in the SERPbesides the desired information.
As previously stated, some of these techniques aren’t new or extravagant since they were highlighted by various SEO experts knowingly that some techniques are meant to stay. However given the ever-growing trends and usage, SEO practices tend to change overtime. Therefore it is required to stay up to date with these changes as some practices tend to either loose value or become obsolete.
On top of everything, the end result is to deliver decent content to the public and to build your reputation. Decent content is not just about the quality of information but also about better user experience.