Search Engine Optimisation

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is the art and science of getting a web page ranking well in the search engines so that it gets click-throughs to your website.

Your task is two fold:

  1. To get Google, Yahoo, Bing and the other search engines to rank your website
  2. To sell the click through to your website from the search engine listings – no click and the best ranking is pointless

Effectively you’re marketing your website content both to the search engines and to users.

What Do Search Engines Want?

  • Deliver the most relevant pages to the user from trusted authority websites – Wikipedia
  • Secret, complex & changing search algorithms
  • Many myths & rumours
  • White hat v black hat
  • Common sense – relevance & quality
  • “Official” Guidance – Matt Cutts (Head of Google Webspam)
  • Authorities based on extensive testing

The aim of a search engine is simple.

It wants to deliver the best, most relevant content to you the user as quickly as possible when you type in a search phrase.

It’s why Google has become the dominant force. It’s rocket fast and it delivers the best content.

Google works its magic by developing an incredibly complicated search algorithm to rank websites based on its own assessment of the behaviour of searchers and the contents of your website.

The Google algorithm is secret and subject to many myths and rumours although many of the important ingredients have been identified through testing and guidance from Google itself.

It likes trusted authority websites that are proven to give a great user experience.

You can prove that for yourself by searching popular phrases. You’ll find that Google loves Wikipedia, the collaborative encyclopaedia website, even if there’s not much content on the page.

What Google hates is spam and people trying to manipulate it through unethical means. For Google to deliver the best web pages, it needs to combat those who try to cheat and will punish people who go too far.

This is the world of white hat SEO and black hat SEO.

Just like the cowboy movies, the good guys have the white hats and play by the rules.

I don’t recommend playing dirty. Google effectively owns search and if your website gets blacklisted, there are ways and means to punish any other websites connected to you if they have the same web-hosting or the same ownership.

I guess it’s a bit like dealing with the taxman. You can do what you can to win by playing the rules but once you step outside, you get into trouble.

I’m sharing white hat strategies.

Beware of any schemes which sound dubious – they probably are.

If you get approached, the genuine experts follow Mat Cutts, the head of Google Webspam very closely. If you get very interested, it’s worth searching his blog although it is a technical read.

I don’t think you can go wrong by sticking to what Google wants – high quality pages relevant to the search keyword – and common sense. If it feels like spam and looks like spam, then as far as the search engines are concerned, it probably is spam.

Keywords

  • Stand in the way of traffic
  • Keywords are your basic building block
  • Not what you call your products and services but what potential customers search for
  • No 1 in Google for a word no one searches for means nothing except an ego stroke
  • https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal

With the search engines you have the chance to position your business… and more importantly your offer… in front of any potential customer who is searching. You do that by selecting the best keywords which fit what a customer is looking for and what you offer.

Keywords are the basic building block of your Internet search campaign for SEO and for Pay per Click.

All Google and the other search engines have to go on is the phrase typed into the search box – often one or two words but sometimes a long string.

You’ll have seen yourself, when you search with too general a term, you don’t find what you’re looking for but sometimes you can be too specific. Even with Google’s massive computer power, it may not find any web pages which fit your search.

As a marketer, you’ve got to be tuned in to what your customers are searching for and not what you call your products and services. To be honest this can mess up your attempts to differentiate your business by calling your service by a special name.

Live with it.

Google and the other search engines set the rules.

I call myself a profit coach to differentiate myself, I optimise my website for business coach.

If you go your own way, you can finish up with lots of front page listings on searches no one except you makes and your efforts are wasted. Now I like ranking number one on Google. It strokes my ego so if you want to indulge yourself, do so but don’t do it with many phrases that you have to work hard on.

You need to do your keyword research and Google gives you a free tool to do it.

https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal

It was created to help Pay per Click advertisers select the keywords to target but it’s also great for SEO.

I found this little video which shows you how to use it on YouTube but it’s pretty easy anyway.

A few things to add.

  • The Google tool defaults to Google.com but if you want to look at the searches in your country – the UK, Canada, Australia, India etc – then you can change the selection on the first page.
  • I hardly ever use it in the broad match setting. Much better to use the exact match because I want to see what people are actually typing in. In my experience, SEO is a detailed activity. You can try a search for yourself and vary it by adding extra words and see how the ranking results change.
  • You can click on the column headings and get it sorted into a descending order.
  • You can download the information into a csv file to load into a spreadsheet for further analysis if you want to collect data on a lot of different keyword tools.

This is incredible market intelligence as it gives you an insight into what your potential customers are looking for and the phrases they use which you can replay back to them on your website.

Another interesting and useful feature is Google Selects (link through to Google help).

This is when you search in Google, it starts predicting the options you may want based on what you’ve typed so far.

Since many people will take the route of least effort, you need to be looking at the phrases it is suggesting for searches in your niche.  It also shows the weird and varied stuff people search for based on a few predictive letters.

The best example of Google Suggests is the advertisement from Google in the 2010 Superbowl.

Trying to use it as a keyword tool for SEO is a bit hit and miss but it is an important director of traffic. The results will work through into the main keyword statistics.

Another tool which can help you structure a site from scratch is the Google Wonder Wheel which shows how keywords are connected in the Google database. When you look at a niche, the wheel may suggest your menu options to get a resounding “that’s very relevant to the main keyword” from Google.

It’s also interesting to do on your own name, your brand name and company name to see how Google is joining the dots.

This is my Wonder Wheel from June 22 2010

I’m pretty pleased with this as Google is linking my name to various marketing greats.

Choosing Your Keywords To Target

  • What is your market – local, national, international
  • Accountants Birmingham in google.co.uk
  • Accountants in google.co.uk
  • Accountants in google.com
  • How fierce is the competition – PR, Alexa
  • Where is the relevant traffic – Yes to tax advice, financial advice, business advice but No to airport, hotels, university, jobs

When you decide you are going to spend your time or money on SEO, you have a critical decision to make on the scope of your ambitions.

It’s easy to be lured by the large traffic volumes you can see in your keyword research to target the top terms… and fail to make measurable progress because the competition is tough and well established.

Going head to head with an authority website like Wikipedia or Amazon is a battle you’re unlikely to win unless you intend to create your own, hugely respected website.

It’s better to target less popular terms and win than to finish on page 5 for the top phrases and it’s much quicker to get website visitors from these easier phrases.

The second issue is that if you have a local business, you don’t have any need to be in the number one position of Google and the other search engines worldwide. In fact it would be a waste of time, money and effort.

But you do want to be at the top when people search for your type of business in the local area.

SEO for Local Businesses

Going back to my accountants example.

If you have a small business and you’re looking to find an accountant, you’ll type into Google “accountants + your town or city” into your own country’s version of the search engine (this usually defaults based on where you are in the world) – in my case I would type accountants Birmingham in Google.co.uk.

And the search engine will show me the accountants who have taken the time to optimise their websites for Birmingham. These searches will precisely match who and what I’m looking for.

I may have done a wider search for accountants in Google.co.uk to get a feel for what the best, most with it accountants are offering small businesses so I have a benchmark to judge the local competition but unless I strike lucky with a local firm, I’m going to need to get more specific to find an accountant I’m prepared to hire.

Local businesses need to be focusing their SEO efforts on matching the keywords with their locations.

My local accountant might be targeting

accountants birmingham, accountant birmingham, chartered accountant birmingham, tax accountant birmingham, tax adviser birmingham – and then could widen their SEO efforts out to the county (equivalent to State) which is West Midlands or the other big cities and towns in the area – Coventry, Wolverhampton, Walsall and Dudley.

Keyword research will show which combinations matter most and should be prioritised.

SEO for National Businesses

The focus is a bit different for businesses that compete nationally rather than locally.

If I had a chain of 30 stores scattered around the UK and I wanted to find a new accountant, then a national search for accountants makes sense. The less travelling the accountants have to do for tasks like stocktaking, the lower the fees for travel time and costs. Accountants with offices around the country will want to rank well for general non-location searches.

But because the accountancy firm will also want to draw clients from the local area for each of the offices, they are going to want to do some local SEO work too.

In contrast an ecommerce store which services the country – for example Amazon.co.uk – doesn’t need to consider the local issue at all. Someone searching for book stores locally probably wants to browse before buying.

SEO Worldwide

OK this is tough but it’s the market that many information providers work in.

While you can compete on specific phrases internationally – I do with my information and affiliate income streams – but I succeed with very narrow terms and the language issue limits success where English isn’t commonly used.

Assessing Competition

If you are considering using SEO to get on the first page of Google for a term, I look at six things when I try the search:

  1. How many web pages the search query identifies
  2. The number of pay per click advertisers (it’s a great indication of whether it’s a money or information phrase)
  3. How well the pages look to be optimised in the Google search for that keyword – you’ll learn more about this later but I’m talking about the page header in blue which you click on and the meta description underneath.
  4. The Google Page Rank of the top websites in the rankings – if you’ve got a PR2 site and you’re competing against a PR6 site, it’s going to be tough… the other way around, easy. the wider the gap in Page Rank, the more SEO work you’re going to have to do. You can get the Page Rank by installing the Google Toolbar in your browser.
  5. The Alexa website ranking. Alexa is an independent assessment of a website’s popularity and the more popular the website, the more the search engines are likely to like it. The Alexa ranking is another reason to install the Google Toolbar.
  6. The quality of content on the page – is this a page visitors are likely to read in detail and click through to other pages or will they click away quickly? This is a judgement call but it is usually pretty clear whether the web page is engaging. If you are checking a website with an Alexa ranking in the top 100,000, then there is a lot of extra information from Alexa.com – the information on my blog doesn’t match my Analytics but it’s close enough.

The more it looks like the search engines love the page on the website, the more difficult it will be to replace.

Again if you get serious about SEO, then there are tools like Market Samurai and Keyword Elite which can automate the data collection and help explain why the rankings are the way they are.

Words Matter in Search

  • I offered a business planning and strategy service – tended to use words interchangeably
  • Global searches per month
  • Business plan – 301,000
  • Business plans – 60,500
  • Business planning – 40,500
  • Business strategy – 40,500
  • Strategic planning – 74,000
  • Strategic plan – 14,800
  • Search local if targeting local customers

A quick example of why it’s important to do your keyword research and not to assume you know what’s popular or to extrapolate patterns from one keyword to another and which make a huge difference in whether you attract traffic from the search engines or you don’t.

In my ignorance, I used to regard strategic planning and business planning as virtually the same, and might even have combined them as Strategic Business Planning. These keyword statistics show a very different story.

Notice how business plan is much more popular than business planning but strategic planning is a lot more popular than strategic plan.

It’s free to use the Google keyword tool so use it if you’re serious about attracting customers with SEO.

SEO To Rank High On Page One For Local Searches

  • Do your keyword research
  • Get listed in Google Places – it is free
  • Target each webpage
  • Keyword in URL if possible
  • Unique title with keyword
  • Unique meta description with keyword
  • Use the targeted keyword on the page
  • Incoming links (from own site and others) with anchor text on the keyword
  • Big beats little, focused beats unfocused

First, when you know your best fit and most popular keywords, you must get listed in Google Places (until April 2010 it was known as Google Local) and it’s free.

This is the section which appears with a map when you do a local search and usually comes below the top paying pay per click listings but before the organic search listings.

Here are a couple of videos from Google to help you to get listed, the first is an introduction while the second is a “how to get listed on Google Places webinar.”

Here are a couple of links to the official Google Places  for you as well – Google Places Quality Guidelines and Getting Started with Google Places. You will see that Google know they are being very kind to local businesses and they are strict.

Getting listed on Google Places is a start but then you want to be one of the businesses listed on the first page.

Here are some guidelines:

  • The match between the keywords and the categories you choose
  • The number of citations you have in other online local listings (e.g. Yellow Pages)
  • The number of positive reviews you have from customers
  • Local phone numbers/addresses on your web page – your business needs to look local
  • The closeness of your location to the centre of the region.
  • General SEO factors for relevance and quality like keywords and locations in your tittles and urls and the overall authority of your website for the keywords

Google doesn’t like multiple local listings for the same business as it suggests you are trying to game the system.

If you really want to go deep into getting listed at the top of Google Places, check out Local Search Ranking Factors where local search experts were polled on what they believe to be the main factors.

Yahoo and Bing also have similar services but there is a return on time issue. Try Google first and if you get a nice placement and a good volume of traffic, extend your reach to the other search engines

Yahoo Local for USA and UK

Bing Local – this will give you a link to your country’s version of Bing.

You can also list your business in various local directories, especially if it is free.

The best way to find the important ones is to type your keyword into a search engine and see what comes up on pages 1 and 2. Here are a few to consider for their free listings.

Yell.com

TouchLocal.com

FreeIndex.co.uk

CityLocal.co.uk

There are also a series of directories which focus on particular areas or trade sectors. A lot of these require payment and performance is mixed.

They can work very well if they rank well and add value or they can waste your time and money.

Take what’s free and then concentrate on getting your website ranked. Local directories are a bit like Yellow Pages, it’s a bad sign if nobody is there (it’s not an opportunity – others have probably tried and found it doesn’t work). It’s also a bad sign if all your competitors are there because it is tough to attract significant traffic unless you really stand out.

OK now let’s get down to some orthodox SEO work.

One Keyword Phrase per Page

The first thing you should realise when you think back to what I said about relevance and quality, it’s best to target one main keyword phrase for each page on your website and closely linked secondary keywords.

First it’s much easier to get everything lined up so it ticks the boxes in the Google search algorithm.

Second, the user experience is so much better. Someone who searches for a particular phrase wants to land on a page about that topic and not on a home page of a website which somewhere has a section about the search query.

An accountant who wants to rank for

Accountant birmingham

Tax advisor birmingham

Business start-ups birmingham

is best advised to have a specialised web page for each, rather than trying to get the home page to promote all three services.

Keyword in the Page Address

Second, having the keyword phrase in the web-site url or address sends a strong signal to the search engines that the page is about that topic.

If keyword research shows that most searches are made for accountants birmingham, then the best url is www.accountantsbirmingham.co.uk.

Hyphenated website addresses can have the same benefit but they are much more difficult for anyone to remember. www.accountants-birmingham.co.uk will do well with the search engines but badly with users who forget about the hyphen.

If you’ve already got a website, then www.abcaccountants.co.uk/accountantsbirmingham.html is a better address than www.abcaccountants.co.uk/pg8

Notice I’m using the co.uk suffix as my preferred option for UK services. Again it’s that little bit of extra consistency for your target market

. If you’re in the US, use .com, if you’re in Canada and want to rank well for Canada use .ca, etc.

Keywords in Page Title

The page title is the words that appear in the search engine rankings as the blue link you click on to get to the website.

They also appear at the very top of the screen when you look at a web page with a browser like Microsoft Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox.

It’s back to this relevancy issue.

A search engine will expect a page about a certain subject to have the keywords in the title and the most important words would be at the start.

Back to the accountants example.

Accountants Birmingham – ABC & Co Chartered Accountants

will be much more effective doe SEO than

ABC & Co Chartered Accountants – Birmingham

and anyone searching for your name is going to find you anyway because there’s little or no competition.

Even better for your SEO activities might be

Accountants Birmingham West Midlands Chartered Accountants

This gives some coverage whether people search for accountants birmingham, chartered accountants birmingham, birmingham accountants, accountants west midlands etc when you wouldn’t want a separate page about each.

You should also make sure that each page has a unique title.

The same title on multiple pages send a message to the search engines that you don’t know what each page is about… and if you don’t, why should they care about trying to help you.

Sometimes you are better reducing your SEO coverage in your title and doing more to sell the click to a reader. If everyone is very well optimised and has the same phrases, then it can help to stand out by being different.

Our accountants looking for start up clients could therefore try:

Chartered Accountants Birmingham – Special Offer For Business Start-Ups

Keywords in Meta Descriptions

The meta description are the two lines of words that appear below the clickable Title in the search engine results.

A search engine will expect a well managed and focused page to mention the keyword again although this is the main area that you should use to sell the click through to your website.

There is contradictory evidence whether the meta description is used in the rankings algorithm – Google probably not but it looks like yes for Yahoo.

However don’t underestimate the indirect effects of having a well targeted meta description relevant to your keyword. Google will bold the keyword in the description and if the searched term isn’t contained, it will substitute an element of text from the page which is relevant.

Don’t lose control of what Google shows for your main targeted keywords by writing a meta description with the keyword included. When I’ve been lazy and not bothered, I’ve been horrified by some of the snippets chosen with statements taken out of context.

I believe click through is an important factor in Google – just like pay per click, if a website is ranked and doesn’t pull its expected share of clicks, it is a vote against. Your title and description are your chance to sell your click to a searcher looking for information about whatever they typed in.

Once again page descriptions should be different on every page to avoid a black mark.

Don’t confuse meta description with meta tags.

Google has admitted in 2009 they didn’t use meta tags – see Google blog.

These are words and phrases you can link to your web page to but are not visible to a searcher. Google believe the facility is abused. For a few months Yahoo continued but then announced it had stopped using them – or at least virtually ignores them. Tests show that they are picked up for very unusual phrases but they don’t help your general SEO.

Keywords In The Content

Consistency again based on the relevancy and quality objectives.

The search engines expect the keyword to appear on the page and to be one of the most common words that appear. After all, if it’s not, then the page is probably about something else.

Ideally your page should have a headline containing the keyword phrase or if headlines don’t fit your style, the earlier the keyword appears the better. When I’m blogging I aim to get my main keyword I’m targeting into the first ten to fifteen words.

Black hat SEO operators used to try to stuff keywords onto a page by repeating it too many times to be natural. They’d even use the same colour for the words as the background so the words were invisible to any reader but visible to the search engines when they scan the website.

Don’t do it. The search engines aren’t stupid and will punish you.

Write for the reader and the search engines. Think of 1 to 5% as reasonable. Much more and it gets tough to read.

You can check your own website and the competition using this free Keyword Density Tool (which focuses on a particular word) or this one Keyword Density Cloud if you want to see how often all the popular words appear . Don’t get too hung up on targeting a specific percentage.

Google has been looking at language semantics since 2003 when it bought Applied Semantics. The idea was to recognise that car, motor car, automobile and auto meant the same or very similar things. It’s a nice idea but I hear it’s very complicated and instead Google are focusing on delivering results quickly.

You will hear different things but can judge the success of work on semantics by searching for different phrases which mean the same thing and comparing your results. The more different they are, the less progress made.

That said, using similar, related words can make the copy on the web page more interesting and it can help with long tail searches.

It’s been said that about 20% of searches are totally unique and many more are rarely repeated. By changing your words in a natural way you can make your web page much more readable and make it attractive to these longer tail searches.

Checking Your On-Page Optimisation

If you do a lot of writing for SEO purposes, you should check out Scribe.

It analyses the content of web pages for you from an SEO perspective.

Incoming Links

What makes the Internet special is that web pages are linked together

  • within a website, pages link back to the home page and to sub menu pages
  • from one website to another

The search engines and especially Google value these website links and use them to help identify the best, most relevant pages.

The logic is simple – people will link to pages they like on other websites so effectively it’s like a vote on quality. The websites with the most votes win.

It’s the same with internal links within your website. If you keep linking to a page, you are telling the search engines that you consider this page to be very important.

Effectively a link passes a share of the Page Rank of the page with the link to the page that has been linked.

A link can be in three forms

www.yourprofitclub.co.uk – what you see is a website address

Click here – that explains why if you search for “click here” in Google, the Adobe Reader comes out at the topic because so many people type “To read this pdf you need Adobe Reader. You can download it for free if you click here.”

The last link type is the best.

Business Coaching Blog – (link takes you to my Business Coaching blog)

While any link is helpful as a vote to your web page, the best for SEO purposes are those which connect your web page to the keywords you are targeting.

This is what’s known as anchor text – it anchors your web page to the keyword and sends a big signal to the search engines that this is what the web page is about.

To create links, the content management system of your website, blog or social media site should have a facility to create them – the icon often looks like a chain link – and it gives you the chance to match keywords and a web page address.

One of the few bits of html coding I know is how to create a link – they are that important.

Business Coaching Blog is really <a href=”http://businesscoaching.typepad.com”>Business Coaching Blog</a>

which can be standardised to

<a href=”web page address”>Keyword phrase</a>

When you’re looking for external links you want to remember to tie back to a keyword phrase where possible e.g. in signatures on forums and social media networking sites.

But it also applies for internal links – common menu titles like Home, My Services, About Us are not helpful for SEO but often every page on your website links back to them. Again you can be more creative for SEO but you’ve also got to consider your users.

On my main coaching website I have chosen to use Home because it helps the users to get back to the start but my other top menu options are phrases like Business Coaching, Marketing Coaching and Business Development.

Linking is a simple idea but it does get more complicated because not all links are equal.

First, not all links count as a quality vote and pass Page Rank.

Google introduced the option for people to say – “I’ve linked to this website but I’m not entirely convinced and I don’t want to pass Page Rank” by introducing what’s called the nofollow tag.

This stops the search engine robots and spiders which has landed on your page then following following a no follow link. Readers of the web page can still click since the link is valid but it won’t help you in Google.

You do this by inserting “nofollow” into the link html

<a href=”http://businesscoaching.typepad.com” rel=”nofollow”>Business Coaching Blog</a>

Many blogs and social media websites which have been spammed by people wanting a share of the Page Rank now automatically create no follow links.

This means that before you spend your time trying to get links by taking part and commenting on blogs, forums and networking sites, you need to be clear whether you want people to click through because they’re interested (in which case no follow doesn’t matter) or if you want the SEO benefit as the primary reason for doing it.

You can go into the website code to take a look but much the easiest way, and what I do, is to use Mozilla Firefox as my browser  (which is much better than Internet Explorer) and use an add-on called Search Status which highlights no follow links in pink.

I have also used another SEO add-on but that highlighted no follow links in red which was too dark for me to read the writing.

It’s better to get a link from a Page Rank 6 website than a Page Rank 3 website, which in turn is better than  a page rank 1 website assuming everything else stays the same.

The amount of page rank passed to each website is basically the page rank for the web page divided by the number of outgoing links including No Follows and links to internal pages. There are a few extra little twists because it’s believed that links in the body of articles matter more than links in the frame of a website or blog but the basic message is about page rank on a page and the number of links.

PR 3 page with 10 outgoing links, each gets 0.3

PR6 page with 50 outgoing links, each gets 0.12

PR1 page with 100 outgoing links, each gets 0.01

I’ve been told that you shouldn’t have more than 100 links on a page because it makes it tougher for the search engine spiders to do their job. Look out if you are doing a link exchange.

The latest from Google is that any Page Rank which would have gone to No Follow links is lost, they don’t get it but you can no longer try to send most page rank to your key web pages.

The second issue is that for a link to do you any good, it has to be on a page indexed by the search engines.  They don’t recognise every page they come across because they don’t think it’s worthwhile. Either the page has little content or it has little unique content.

If you’ve tried submitting exactly the same article to multiple article directories to get links, you’ve probably found that initially some rank well in searches but gradually, many drop out leaving you with just one or two which give you an SEO benefit.

Again ask yourself if it makes sense from Google’s point of view to present to the searcher seven versions of the same article?

Of course it doesn’t, so they don’t.

But it’s not just duplicate content that won’t be indexed.

If someone is suggesting you swap links because it will be good for you both for SEO or you get into submissions to directories (see Free Directories) you should check that the page is indexed by Google before you waste any time. Remember if the page is not indexed, the link is worthless.

You can do that by typing into the Google search box

site:url without the http://www

e.g. site:businesscoaching.typepad.com if you want to see what pages are indexed by Google on my blog

You can also narrow down your search with extra qualifiers

e.g. site:businesscoaching.typepad.com joe sugarman

gives you the pages in the Google index on my blog where I’ve mentioned Joe Sugarman.

The best links to get are from sites in the same general area (e.g. from one website designer to another) because its vote has higher relevance or an official site like .gov (for government sites in the USA) or .gov.uk (for the UK). Education sites are also said to carry more weight.

In the main, I’m not too fussy. I just love to get more incoming links and especially links that i haven’t had to do any work for.

I mentioned directory submissions earlier and it’s a way I’ve used to get incoming links to my website and blog. I hardly ever get any click through traffic from the directories so stick to free entries. It is time consuming and it’s best to vary your directory entry but to use close to your full world limit.

I created a standard script with alternatives and cut and paste as an easy way to create some variety. Different directories also have different rules which you’ll have to work with.

Don’t add too many links in a frantic rush to be ranked or the search engines will think you’re trying to spam them. The BBC or CNN may get thousands of links in a day to a big story and it’s natural. It’s not for a little website hardly anyone visits and Google will be suspicious.

Other ways to get incoming links which do follow are to

  • write good Squidoo lens and Hubpages,
  • write articles and post them to EzineArticles.com and perhaps a few of the other article directories
  • contribute to forums which allow you to add a signature with a do follow link – some need a minimum number of posts before you earn the right to add links
  • write guest articles are blogs in exchange for a link
  • create content so good that people will link to you with no extra effort from you – imagine the thousands of links to Adobe Reader because it’s needed to read pdfs. Many website owners won’t know enough to add a no follow tag, even if they wanted to.

SEO Basic Rule

I’ve told you a lot about SEO and how to get your website ranked at the top of the search engines for your best keywords.

The basic rule is that a big website will beat a small website with exactly the same content on the page. And relevancy trumps most size issues. The more you signal this web page is about that search query, the higher you will rank and get free traffic.

The downside of SEO is that it takes time to do and time to come into effect.

You can avoid all the hassle by deciding to use Pay per Click and pay to be placed on page one for your keywords.

Double Listings

Having your website on page one for an important keyword is very nice.

It’s event better if you can get a double indented listing

This draws the eye to your pages and confirms that your site specialises in what the searcher is looking for – in this case “business coaching Birmingham”.

It also keeps one of your competitors away from page one.

You get a double listing by having two pages which qualify for a page one listing and Google will link them together automatically.

Aim to get your first page listed in the top 3 and at number one if possible and then move on to getting another page listed.

This can happen accidentally – in my example my home page written for national searchers is ranking above my local page because of a testimonial from a happy client in Birmingham.

Good Internet Habits

  • Use Google Webmaster Tools
  • Submit your sitemap
  • Install Google Analytics – more data than you can cope with
  • Check out your rating on http://www.websitegrader.com/

If you’re going to get serious about SEO – and for local searches with a narrow range of keywords you may not have to do much – then you need to be using the Google Webmaster Tools.

One of the things this lets you do is to submit a website sitemap to Google to make sure the website is crawled properly and new web pages are picked up quickly.

It also tells you about which links it recognises to your website and also shows you any problems the Google robots have when they try to go through your website and any dead links they find where you’ve linked to pages that don’t exist.

You can also select which country you want to prioritise your rankings for in Google Webmaster.  If you focus on one country, then making sure this selection is right will give you a boost.

You should also install Google Analytics (it’s free).

This tracks all the traffic coming to your website based on a little bit of computer code which goes on each page. The amount of data captured is both astonishing and a little frightening if you have a Big Brother complex.

You’ll see what pages are attracting traffic from searches and incoming links. You’ll also see what people do – stay and read, click through to another page or click away quickly because they don’t like what they see.

If you use Pay per Click, you can also use it to monitor your return on investment.

Finally  recommend that you check your website on http://www.websitegrader.com/

It gives you feedback on your website and pointers on how to make it better.

If you get a low score, it’s sample is skewed to people who are interested in Internet marketing. Those who know nothing and have poor websites won’t know about it.

Webpage SEO Audit

I offer people interested in being one-to-one coaching clients, a 30 minute coaching test drive based on my Business Assessment form.

Mt preparatory work for the call involves reading what is sent back, thinking about key issues and analysing the website to find quick things to do to help them to attract more customers through their website.

Getting traffic from search engine optimisation is one of the things I look at.

In particular:

  • I look at the home page and the title (very top of browser). Does this look optimised around a keyword or does it commit the commit mistake of “Home plus website name”?
  • Check other pages if they repeat the same title.
  • Check Google for the keyword which appears to have been targeted – look at first 3 pages and check that keyword is in meta description (the bit that shows under the clickable title tags)
  • Take a look at the keyword density on the home page and other pages if they appear targeted.
  • Look at website grader if things are looking good up to now since it offers a comprehensive summary of the website although it can be a bit overwhelming which is why my first emphasis is on suitable keywords, title tags, meta description and on-page content.

Show Me The Money

Getting on to the first page of Google is a worthwhile exercise in its own right because of the extra credibility it gives to your business for anyone searching for it.

Rankings in search engines are easy to measure and track. You may want to check weekly for your main keywords while you are actively building your SEO campaign and then switch to monthly checks when you’re happy with your results.

Rankings change slowly if the search engines aren’t trained to visit your website regularly although the work you do with external links will help attract them more often.

The extra traffic will only put cash in the bank if you are able to:

a) Make a sale directly from the visit to the website

b) Start a relationship with the visitor by encouraging repeat visits through quality of the content (think Wikipedia) or by capturing email details and that relationship eventually leads to a sale.

These topics are covered in Pillar 5 Module 4 Websites and Email Marketing

Your Feedback On Search Engine Optimisation

I realise that some of this SEO stuff is quite technical and it’s not clear how much you need to do to get to the top of Google and the other search engines.

If there is something I’ve written you don’t understand, let me know in the comments and I’ll clarify it for you.

Or if you’ve got a great tip to share, please do so.

I’d love to hear about your success stories. Where you’ve taken these ideas and seen your rankings in Google and the other search engines shoot up.

I went deep into SEO at one stage – probably too deep as I was creeping into SEO consultant territory. I love the clear competitive element of SEO and how you can tell when you are winning.

It’s an area that keeps changing as Google looks to improve it’s results and gets even tougher on anyone it thinks is trying to spam it and get unworthy websites to the top of the list.

Where Search Engine Optimisation Fits Into The Eight Pillars Of Business Prosperity

This guide to best practice search engine optimisation is part of Search Marketing in Pillar 4 Your Lead Generation System.

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One Response to “Search Engine Optimisation”

  1. I’ve been asked why I keep using accountants as an example and whether I really want to focus on marketing advice for accountants.

    First, I don’t always use accountants as an example although I realise I have in the referrals guide and the search engine optimisation guide.

    What I try to do is to give you the two sides of the marketing equation to give you greater insights.

    If you are a potential buyer or you do buy, then the contrast between the good and bad examples should be much clearer.

    Marketing needs to move from the “so what” to “I want that”.

    Because the vast majority of business owners hire an accountant, it makes a good example to work with. As you see more of the contents you’ll see plenty of other examples for businesses like restaurants, cars and airline travel as well as professional services.

    In places I even go into generic commodities like petrol and steel to emphasise a point.

    The Mastermind Forums at http://yourprofitclub.co.uk/forum/
    are the place where we can discuss applying general business improvement techniques to your particular market or to markets that share many of the same characteristics.

    I hope that makes sense.

    You haven’t wondered into an area intended for just accountants.

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