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Organic SEO Takes Time and Effort


9. August 2009 18:48

Like an old tree that takes time to mature, so does an SEO campaignIf you require your website to attract new customers from search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing then read on.

Search Engine Optimisation is important and should play a key role in defining the content and structure of your website before you even consider hiring a web developer, but SEO doesn't stop when the website goes live, a search engine friendly website is only part of the optimisation process.

SEO is a continual process and can be broken up into two categories, off-page optimisation and on-page optimisation.  On-page optimisation ensures your website is search engine friendly and optimised for your target keywords and phrases, but a search engine friendly website alone is rarely enough to drive traffic to your site unless your business is a very niche market.  To improve your search engine ranking you will need to perform some off-page optimisation to establish your website's reputation and authority.

Off-page Optimisation

Off-page optimisation is the process of building reputation for your website content which in turn aims to increase your ranking in search engines for your target keywords and phrases.  Reputation on the web is measured in backlinks to your website.  Google calculates your website's reputation with its PageRank algorithm and the other main search engines use similar ranking methods.

Link Building

There are a number of methods and strategies involved in gaining reputation, but unfortunately most of them require time and effort to acquire.  These include:

  • Creating link bait with a blog (creating content other people want to link to)
  • Reciprocal linking (swapping links with other websites)
  • Purchasing links - buying links is a violation of Google's webmaster guidelines
  • Asking similar/complementary organisations for a link to your website
  • Promoting via social networking sites (e.g. social bookmarking sites like delicious.com, and social media sites like digg.com)
  • Forum posting
  • Press releases
  • Directory listings

Not all Backlinks are Equal

The best links you can get to your website are links from authority websites whose sector/business/topic closely relates to your website. If you are building links just to build PageRank you are going about the process in the wrong way, build links that ultimately help humans find your site from related websites.  If you do this you won't go too far wrong, just beware that Google does not like the link building process as it undermines the PageRank system.  So please read Google's Webmaster Guidelines and stick to them.

Aim for quality links over quantity, and remember SEO requires time and patience.  Don't expect miracles over night.  If you can't wait for the fruits of your SEO to take effect you should consider pay-per-click advertising as an interim solution.

Photo used under Creative Commons from Scudsone.

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Meta Tags and Search Ranking


29. July 2009 18:46

There are a number of meta tags that can be used on web pages, this post focuses on the two most misunderstood meta tags: meta keywords and meta description.

The Meta Keywords Tag

A lot of newcomers to search engine optimisation (SEO) believe that optimising a website involves writing a long list of keywords that describe your business, products and services which are then added to the website's meta keywords tags.  This was indeed the original idea behind the meta keywords tag, but over time this system was abused by webmasters "stuffing" the meta keywords tag with as many keywords as possible in order to improve their search engine ranking.  This led a lot of search engines reducing the influence of meta keywords or ignoring them completely. 
John Mueller of Google Webmaster Central stated:

"we generally ignore the contents of the "keywords" meta tag. As with other possible meta tags, feel free to place it on your pages if you can use it for other purposes - it won't count against you."

The Meta Description Tag

This meta tag is used to describe or summarise the page contents, it generally doesn't influence a web page's search engine ranking, but Google for instance may use its contents to create the description displayed in the Google search results.  Google state:
"While the use of a description meta tag is optional and will have no effect on your rankings, a good description can result in a better snippet, which in turn can help to improve the quality and quantity of visitors from our search results."

Conclusion

Meta keywords and meta description tags are optional tags and have limited benefit especially in terms of SEO.  We recommend you don't spend too much time writing them, instead spend that time writing more content for your website or improving existing content.  If you do want to include them focus on the meta tags for the most important pages of your website.

Understanding Search Engine Ranking


22. July 2009 21:48

Lots of website owners want to know how to increase their web site search engine ranking.  To help understand how you can improve your ranking in Google and the other major search engines, let me start off by asking a question.

What makes a good search engine? 

The answer is to do with relevancy. As a user, when you type a query into a search engine like Google or Bing.com you are hoping to see results that accurately match the type of website you are searching for.

So it is in the search engines best interests to make sure that the best web pages are ranked highest for any query a user may search for, otherwise you will start using a different search engine that gives you better results.  As such search engines spend a great deal of time improving how they rank websites, but unfortunately they never tell us exactly what we need to do to achieve better results.

Most search engine optimisation techniques therefore are based on experimentation and guess work, and the techniques frequently change.

What do I mean buy best web pages?

When I used the phrase "The best web pages" I meant the kind that you bookmark to refer to later, the kind that you read and send to your friends, the pages that you find some value in.

Understanding Page Rank

PageRankTM is a technique introduced by the Google search engine and was the key factor which catapulted Google to where it is today.  It can be best explained as a voting system designed to rank pages with the most votes highest. 

Each hyperlink on the internet (besides links from your own site) that point to a page on your website is classed as a vote.  Not every vote is equal though, links from highly ranked websites and sites relevant to your industry/profession or topic are worth more.  The theory behind this is simple.  If a website has taken the time and effort to link to one of your web pages then that particular page must have some value.  The more websites that link to a page on your website the greater the perceived value of your web page and the higher your page rank.

You can use this Google PageRank Checker to check your own PageRank.

Off-Site Search Engine Optimisation

Techniques aimed at increasing your page rank by gaining so-called "backlinks" to your website is called off-site SEO (Search Engine Optimisation).  Unfortunately it can be quite difficult to get people to link to business websites because more often than not a business website exists just to sell a product, service or provide corporate information rather than provide content that other people may find useful.

As I mentioned before it is important to get links from related sites, as links from websites that are "off-topic" are worth a lot less that a link from a high quality relevant website.

If you get the opportunity to specify how a website links to you, be sure to specify a short sentence or phrase describing your website to place in the anchor text rather than your business name or website address. For example:

A good backlink might look like this.

24 hour plumbers in the Kent area

And a not so optimised backlink containing your web address.

handyplumbers.co.uk

Avoid black hat SEO

Search engines are cracking down on dubious SEO techniques which attempt to increase their rank quickly by trying to manipulate page rank, so it is best to steer clear of these methods:

Search engines are constantly improving code which detects such behaviour and can negatively impact your website's ranking or even ban the site from its index if you are not careful!

There are lots of "SEO" companies that will use so called "black hat" techniques to help your website get quick results but these can backfire long after you have parted company with the SEO firm so beware!

10 Reasons to Start a Business Blog


26. June 2009 15:08

If you are unsure whether your company should be blogging on your corporate website here are ten reasons why you should consider it.  You might also want to read our overview of blogging to understand what all the fuss is about.

  1. A blog is an inexpensive marketing tool.
  2. They allow you to talk to your customers in an informal way.
  3. A blog is a good way to inform and educate visitors about your products and services.
  4. A blog can make your company seem more approachable.
  5. Having a blog on your business website can help its search engine ranking overall.
  6. A blog can help you generate sales leads.
  7. You can start a two-way conversation with your customers and show that you listen to what your customers have to say.
  8. Your customers comments can help you develop products and services that better match their needs.
  9. A blog lets you communicate your company's expertise within your sector/industry.
  10. Positive comments left on your blog from happy customers act as recommendations for your product or service.

Side-Effects of Changing the Domain Name of an Existing Website


23. June 2009 15:06

If you already have a website and for whatever reason want to change the domain name of your site doing so may cause some unwanted side-effects that you may not be aware of.  However if the correct techniques are followed these can be minimised.

Here are a few reasons for changing your domain name:

  1. Your domain name no longer reflects your business/products or services.
  2. Your domain name expired and you cannot reacquire it.
  3. Your company has changed names or has been rebranded.
  4. You have since purchased a “better” domain name.
  5. You want to have a “.com” rather than a “.co.uk” domain etc.

Here are some of the unwanted side-effects caused by changing your domain name:

  1. Search engines will not update their index of your website straight away, so you will loose visitors for up to 6 weeks (approximately) unless you redirect each page to its new location.
  2. You will loose Google Page Rank (Your ranking in Google) temporarily until Google re-indexes your new domain name.
  3. You may even loose your Google Page Rank altogether if you do not put redirects from your old domain name to your new domain.  These redirects need to be the “301 Permanently moved” variety.
  4. Your domain name will need updating in online directories, business stationary, other websites, which can be a time consuming and potentially expensive process.

If you are one of our clients, you’ll be happy to know we will always make sure that we follow the correct procedures to make the process of changing domain names as smooth and painless as possible.