Search Engine Optimization
Search engine optimization is a marketing discipline focused on growing organic visibility (non-paid) search engine results. Additionally, it is the process of improving the position that your website appears in the “organic” search results returned by sites such as Google, Yandex, Bing, Yahoo etc. As a matter of fact, SEO isn’t just about building yourself a search engine-friendly websites. It’s about making your site better for people too. Moreover, the jmexclusives Team believes that these principles go hand-in-hand.
Equally important, sites that appear higher up in the results will get more traffic to their pages. Coupled with potentially more landing page visits, lead conversion and product sales in your business. Your goal is to get to page one and ideally to position one, but whether that is feasible largely depends on the market that you are operating in. Search Engine Optimization encompasses both the technical and creative elements required to improve rankings. Including, drive on site traffic, increased awareness through search engines and your content listing on web pages.
Why is SEO important?
In today’s competitive market, SEO is more important than ever. Search engines serve millions of users per day looking for answers to their questions or for solutions to their problems. If you have a website, blog or online store, SEO can help your business grow and meet the business objectives.
Search engine optimization is essential because:
- The majority of search engines users are more likely to click on one of the top 5 suggestions in the results pages (SERPS). So to say, take advantage of this and gain visitors to your website or customers to the online store you need to in the top positions.
- SEO is not only about search engines but good SEO practices improve the user experience and usability of a website.
- Users trust search engines and having a presence in the top positions for the keywords the user is searching, increases the web site’s trust.
- SEO is good for the social promotion of your website. People who find your website by searching Google or Yahoo are more likely to promote it on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or other social media channels.
- SEO is important for the smooth running of a big website. Websites with more than one author can benefit from SEO in a direct and indirect way. Their direct benefit is an increase in search engine traffic and their indirect benefit is having a common framework (checklists) to use before publishing content on the site.
- SEO can put you ahead of the competition. If two websites are selling the same thing, the search engine optimized website is more likely to have more customers and make more sales.
SEO for beginners
For beginners to SEO the above definition may sound complicated, in simpler terms Search Engine Optimization is a way to improve your website so that it will appear closer to the top positions in the search results of Google, Yahoo, Bing, Yandex, ask.com, AOL.Com, Baidu, or other search engines.
When you perform a search on Google (or any other search engine) the order by which the returning results are displayed, is based on complex algorithms. These algorithms take a number of factors into account to decide which web page should be shown in the first place, second place etc. Optimizing your website for search engines will give you an advantage over non-optimized sites and you increase your chances to rank higher.
The main stages of the Search Engine Optimization process
As mentioned above, SEO is not a static process but rather a framework with rules and processes. For simplicity though SEO can be broken down into 2 main stages:
On-site SEO: What rules to apply to your site to make it search engine friendly
Off-site SEO: How to promote your website or blog so that it can rank better in search results.
These are simple tweaks you can apply to your website and increase your search engine visibility. If followed correctly, these 15 SEO tips will also improve the usability and credibility of your website or blog. In addition to the above guidelines, the structure of a website is also very important for SEO purposes.
If you seriously take into account these 2 factors i.e. website structure and the SEO tips, then that’s all you need to do to help search engines trust your website. There is no need to spend more time than needed with on-site SEO neither you should over optimize your website or blog because it can sometimes (under certain conditions) generate the opposite results.
Besides the changes, you can do to your website (on-site SEO) so that it ranks higher in the SERPs, there are other ways to improve your website’s ranking position. Namely, by using off-site SEO techniques. Off-site SEO is generally known as link building but you may prefer to use the term website promotion. In fact, it is a proper way to promote a website which involves much more methods and techniques than building links.
In general, search engines are trying to find the most important pages of the web and show those first when a user enters a search query. One of the factors to determine the position a web page will appear in the results is the number of incoming links. Incoming links are a signal of trust and depending from where the links are coming, they can greatly affect your ranking position (either positively if the links are coming from well-known and trusted sites or negatively if they are paid links, article directories, link farms etc.).
Keyword rich content
One of the key tools that search providers such as Google and Microsoft (Bing) employ to determine your rankings are “spiders”. A spider is a piece of software that crawls the web in a methodical, automated manner. They browse your website (and everyone else’s) to identify the actual copy written on the page along with things like use of keywords and phrases.
The extracted data is then used to determine the relevance of your site when someone enters a keyword or phrase into a search engine. With this in mind, you need to consider the search habits of your target audience and ensure that the terms they might use to find your business are reflected on your pages. For example, if you offer physiotherapy services, your website content should include words or phrases that people may search for, such as “massage“, or specific problems such as “lower back pain“.
Google AdWords Keyword Tool
Remember that text included in images cannot be crawled by spiders, although alternative text associated with the images is, so you may wish to revisit the design of some of your pages. A useful free tool for identifying your keywords is the Google AdWords keyword tool. This is designed to help prospective advertisers identify the most relevant keywords for their chosen market, but it is also very helpful when writing copy for your website.
Once you have identified your keywords, ensure that they appear in the body of your pages, as well as in the metadata of your page, which is the unseen data that gives the spiders key information about your page. This can either be done by yourself, with a little knowledge of HTML and access to your server, or it can be done by your web designer.
Author’s Authority through SEO
As an illustration, Search Engine Optimization art and marketing specialty is here to stay. Whether to the old-school writers, professional content bloggers or even the newcomers to the hungry writing crawlers and robots which make content friendly to the online readers. A friend of mine feels that SEO is like a virus which is killing on various aspects known to the organic writers. To enumerate, you’ll agree that Search Engine Optimization was there long before the breakthrough of major website and blog design platforms. However, marginal changes to the Search Engine Optimization is seeing longterm writers either hire SEO Experts or even dig dipper to match along.
However, for those with the bulkiness of content ranging in years, it is quite a diehard effort in making sure that their content is SEO friendly. The concept of author authority (or “author rank”) in Google Search has a long and somewhat muddy history. However, to the accredited content writers, it makes sense that Google would value the “EAT” (Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness) of content creators in its quest to judge the quality of content. After all, wouldn’t you rather get website design guide from a properly placed and experienced site developer than from some witty blogger(s) who keep Wikipedia open in a browser tab?
SEO Agent Rank & Author Rank
The origins of the concept of using a content creator’s authority and reputation go back to the agent rank patent granted to Google on July 21, 2009. The patent proposed a means of evaluating the contributors to various elements on a web page by determining the identity of each of the contributing “agents” with a “digital signature” and assigning a score to each one based on other content associated with it. (For an in-depth explanation of agent rank, see this post by Bill Slawski.)
The agent rank patent probably would have faded into the obscurity of Google history had it not been for a new Google project unveiled in 2011: Google Authorship.
Quality Search Engine Optimization
There are many aspects to Search Engine Optimization. In particular, from the words on your page to the way other sites link to you on the web. Sometimes SEO is simply a matter of making sure your site is structured in a way that search engines understand. On the other hand, Search Engine Optimization has dramatically evolved in the past two years mostly driven by Google’s updates to its indexing algorithm.
Google’s algorithm updates (code names: Penguin, Panda, Panda 2) now mostly focused on rewarding websites that develop relevance through content rather than through using technical tricks to game the search results ranking system. Another key element that Google’s algorithm rewards are how many times content has been shared and interacted with on social media. As a consequence, the power of SEO has shifted from the hands of technicians to the hands of marketers and of content producers.
Essential aspects of a quality website SEO:
- Technical crawlability
- Website content publishing
- Keyword relevance
- Link backs (referral links)
- Social Media interactions
- Content update frequency
- Website user experience
- Integration with Google services
Getting Started on Search Engine Optimization Page One
Search engine optimization is nowadays more important than ever and it is necessary for every webmaster to understand the true meaning of SEO as well as the potential it creates for every business. Search engine optimization or SEO, in short, is a set of rules that can be followed by website (or blog) owners to optimize their websites for search engines and thus improve their search engine rankings.
If you’re in the mobile phone space or travel, you’ll be fighting a losing battle unless you’ve got a sizeable budget to spend. However, if you’re offering a niche product or a service in a defined geographical area, you stand a pretty good chance of at least getting to page one if you are patient enough. In addition, it is a great way to increase the quality of your websites by making them user- friendly, faster and easier to navigate. Search Engine Optimization can also be considered as a framework since the whole process has a number of rules (or guidelines), a number of stages and a set of controls.
Website content coding
Websites are published to communicate information through web pages. These web pages must follow certain rules and guidelines in their coding but also with the content that is placed on them to maximize reach and keyword ranking on Search Engines. These guidelines are mostly related to how the page code is structured to explain the hierarchy of content to Search Engines. The page title, its excerpt, its section headings (H1, H2, H3) all need to be coded to be highlighted when Search Engines analyze the page’s content.
Other guidelines are more related to the content itself and enable the author to make sure he/she uses the right set of keywords. For instance, in the right density on the page and for its assets (such as images and videos) to be parsed and indexed.
Link backs (referral links)
The number of websites that link back to your website is an important metric that tells Search Engines that the website is a resource to others. Google has an algorithm and a metric to calculate this number, which it calls PageRank.
All websites indexed by Google have a PageRank score, and this ranking is influenced by how many links point back to your website, but even more important, what the PageRank of these websites is. In other words, a website with a very high PageRank such as the New York Times website (PageRank 9/10) linking back to your website has much more weight than a hundred (or more) websites with PageRanks lower than your website.
So while linking back is important, quality link backs are critical. The most popular Social Media platforms, for instance, have some of the highest PageRanks (Facebook: 9, Twitter: 10), which makes it is essential for your website’s content to be shared and linked back there.
Also, the more a website has shareable content (with blog articles for instance), the more opportunities it creates to have this content distributed, shared and linked back to on the Web. Assessing the PageRank quality of the referral sites linking back to your website content, and trying to be linked back by high PageRank websites is an important part of modern SEO. You can view the PageRank of your website by using a free service such as prchecker.info or even the searchenginereports.net.
Social Media interactions
Social Networks are traditionally very effective content sharing platforms. Sharing content on Social Media creates link backs to your website. Social Networks such as the Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn has a very high PageRank, so sharing your content there is excellent for Search Engine ranking. Content can be actively shared by the website’s owner, or it can be shared by the readers through “social media sharing” icons on the article page, enabling them to share the articles on their favorite social networks.
Because anybody can share anything on Social Media, Search Engines had to become smart in terms of understanding what content had real value on Social Media. The way they do that is to measure how much interaction is occurring with the content on Social Media. These interactions are defined by the positive feedback (the “likes”) on a shared link, the number of times that link was then re-shared (or re-tweeted), and if there were any comments on the link (for Facebook and LinkedIn for instance).
Social Media Search Engine Optimization
These “social signals” when available (Facebook still guards its access against Google for example, and so not all engagement metrics are accessible), tells Search Engines that the content has value and creates engagement, and so it should naturally rank higher as readers have expressed their appreciation of it through actions.
Because Google owns its own social network called Google Plus, it can very effectively measure engagement, and because it’s a Google product which, contrary to Facebook, is not hidden behind a guarded wall, it makes its ranking very accessible. Google rewards its user by introducing the concept of authorship and ranking higher contributors that have a strong following, and who of course regularly publish relevant content on Google Plus.
Social Media requires being active, and while there are mechanisms to automatically publish content from your website to social networks, building and engaging a community requires constant effort. These efforts are in return tangibly rewarded by Search Engines ranking of your content, and website.
Content update frequency
The content of a website is essential for Search Engine indexing and ranking. The more content pages than there are an on a website, the more web links a Search Engine has to reference. This logic explains why news media sites and blogs have become so popular and successful on the Web; over time they publish more and more content which in return is indexed and drives traffic.
For specialized blogs, the numerous articles often have the same themes and keywords which tell Search Engines that the website is a resource in content on those topics. The more the articles are shared on Social Media, the more opportunities they get to be interacted with, telling Search Engines that they’re engaging.
As a consequence, publishing content regularly has become essential to creating a competitive repository of content and keywords. And as mentioned in #1, if the website is set up correctly, Search Engines will be notified each time a new piece of content is published, telling them that the website is active.
On June 7, 2011, Google announced authorship markup for web search. Markedly, authorship was a development that allowed publishers and authors to create a digital signature for authors using Schema.org’s rel=” author” and rel=” me” structured data markup attributes. Simply described, publishers could link an author byline to an author’s identifiable profile on another site, and authors could link back to the publications.
That two-way linkage created a digital signature that would give Google more confidence about the identity of authors, and it created a connection with their content across the web. While there were no initial benefits announced for using Authorship markup, there was a blockbuster tease in the last paragraph of the Google blog post: “We know that great content comes from great authors, and we’re looking closely at ways this markup could help us highlight authors and rank search results.”
Search Engine Optimization and Integration with Google services
Google is undeniably the dominant Search Engine with over 70% usage worldwide (as per the Desktop Search Engine Market Share report for Sept 2013). Google has been instrumental in shaping the Search Engine Marketing (SEM) industry with advertising platforms such as AdWords, professional SEO tools such as Google Webmasters, content platforms such as YouTube (the second largest Search Engine in the world), and Social Media with Google Plus (second largest worldwide according to GlobalWebIndex in April 2013 as reported by eMarketer) and YouTube which is a social network too.
Needless to say that Google can create all the incentives in the world to lure marketers to using their platforms over competitors to gain SEO advantage. While Google is not open about the direct benefits of using all its tools, Google has clearly promoted the SEO value of using Google Plus. There are also obvious advantages of using Google Webmaster tools, and it is said that Google will rank a website higher if its owner uses the AdWords service for advertising (from which Google makes most of its money).
As a consequence, it has become a best practice in SEO, for Google specifically, to use or promote a website on as many Google services as possible in order to benefit from the Google customer preference over a competitor website.
Website user experience impacts on SEO
Google has recently included in its ranking algorithm the analysis of the “call to action items” and links on a page. It is now able to analyze and understand if your web page is loaded with ads, or has a “buy” or “subscribe” button. The Google Platform also roughly know where those items are on the website. It can tell if these elements are “above the fold” (i.e. what the user can see on her screen without scrolling), or not.
As a consequence, Google takes into account design elements in its analysis and includes a ranking factor related to the website’s usability. In other words, the way a website is designed and its content are laid out is now known and appreciated by Google.
With that knowledge, Google will, for instance, penalize a website that is heavy on banner ads above the fold as it will believe that it doesn’t provide an optimal user experience by cluttering the page with ads. It will also reward a website where the “buy now” or “subscribe” buttons are above the fold, rather than under. The rationale here is that the user won’t understand what is expected from her if she can’t see the call to action button right away (i.e. above the fold).
Keyword relevance for the SEO Content
Beyond the technicality of making sure Search Engines can read a web page and extract its semantic value, another fundamental aspect of SEO are the keywords that are selected to be highlighted or focused on when writing content. Using tools such as Google AdWords or Google Trend, website owners and content publishers can identify which keywords related to their product and services are the most searched for in Search Engines. There is little traffic value in focusing on using keywords that very few people, if any, use to look for content.
Understanding what keywords drive the most traffic, and how to combine them to the right relevant content, will drive a website’s content SEO relevance, and traffic to it as a consequence. Keywords, however, shouldn’t be overused or abused. Search Engines punish websites that overload their content with keywords or use keywords that are not relevant to the overall topic of a content page. Search Engines have become extremely smart at dis-ciphering the meaning of the content of a page.
Technical crawlability for Search Engine indexing
Recently a new technical requirement has come up related to sharing content from your website on Social Media. There are clear guidelines to make sure that you control what information is displayed from an article on social network sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn or Google Plus. You’d want for instance that the photo in the article to be displayed in the shared link preview, rather than the logo of the website.
The infrastructure of websites is technical and needs to provide the information Search Engines are looking for when analyzing (or crawling) a website. The technicalities are passive or active depending on the actions taken by the website’s owner.
Passive Search Engine Optimization technicalities
Passive technicalities are about how a website provides information to Search Engines when these indexes the pages of the site. Some passive tactics are: providing a content site map (usually an XML file) for Search Engines to efficiently understand what content they need to index and making sure there are no missing pages (or broken links).
Active Search Engine Optimization technicalities
Active technicalities are about the initiatives the owner takes to notify Search Engines of changes to the website. Some active tactics are: alerting Search Engines when new content has been added or updated, and connecting the website to the Search Engine’s Webmaster tools to monitor its SEO health.
If a website is not optimized to be analyzed by Search Engines, all the efforts in producing and creating compelling content for the website will be hindered. Particularly, because Search Engines won’t be able to index the website properly. A badly indexed website will dramatically impact its ranking on Search Engine Results pages.
Summing it Up
SEO Page Rank
In conclusion, Page Rank is the number score out of 10 given to your website based on inbound and outbound links. Important to realize, it helps search engines to verify how trustworthy your site is. Additionally, linking between sites allows “link juice” to be carried through. Indeed, if your site is linked to by a site with a good Page Rank, link juice will be carried forward to your site, improving your ranking.
By all means, while you cannot generally control the inbound links to your site, there are some steps that can be taken to improve your PageRank score. Moreover, some of the steps are already explained alongside this article. To be sure, ensure that your site is linked to from your social media content, most notably Google+, and attempt to get listed on free open directories such as DMOZ ( The Directory of the Web).
Linking to and with other lead sites
Both outbound and internal links are crucial. Wherever you mention a site or a source, make sure these include a reference and a hyperlink. As for internal links, meticulously linking will increase the time spent on your site by the spiders. You may wish to revisit your menu structure or to insert a quick links footer, which will ensure that each page on your site has a link to all the other pages on it.
Other Content Reference and Research Materials;
- Webtarget: 8 essential aspects to analyze your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Performance.
- Stone Temple: Does Author Authority Matter for your Content and SEO?
- MOZ: The Beginners Guide to SEO: What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?
In order to determine the PageRank of your site, you can download a browser plugin such as Open SEO stats (Formerly: Page Rank Status) for the Google Chrome browser. To get more Digital Online Services & Solutions Support Articles, visit the jmexclusives blog page. You can send your questions, contributions and more research articles through the jmexclusives Contacts Page.