What is Search Engine Optimisation?
Search engine optimisation (SEO) is the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine’s natural or un-paid organic search results. The most important factors for improving your visibility are;
- Improving your Site Structure.
- Optimising Content
- Dealing with Crawlers
- Promotions and Analysis
So lets break this down for you.
Improving your Site Structure
Simple to understand URLs will convey content information easily, creating descriptive categories and file names for the documents on your website. This not only helps to optimise your site but helps you keep your site better organised, it also leads to better crawling by search engines making it easier for them to index your site.
Avoid deep nesting sub-directories
Creating simple directory structure and avoiding deep nesting sub-directories will again help those search engines better navigate your site and make it easier for them to index. What we mean by deep nesting sub-directories.
Provide one version of a URL
Providing one version of your URL for each page is important, this is controlled through your canonicalization. The domain canonicalization is embedded in your code behind the scenes, within each page and it quite simply tells the search engine that if it found this page via one link it needs to record it as it’s main address.
Main Address – http://yourdomain.com
One Link – http://www.yourdomain.com/index.htm
Make your site easier to navigate
Navigation is very important for search engines and if used correctly it can also highlight what content you want the search engine to recognise as important.
Think out your navigation based on your homepage, all sites have a home (root) page which is usually the most frequently visited page on the site and the starting point of navigation for the majority of visitors to your site. Unless your site has only a handful of pages, you should think about how visitors will go from a general page to a page containing more specific content related to their search.
Prepare a sitemap
A sitemap offers a naturally flowing hierarchy and avoids creating complex webs of navigation and links. Having a sitemap will allow and improve a search engines progress of crawling your site and win major points in improving your rank. Be sure to have both a HTML sitemap for visitors to your site and an XML sitemap file for search engines, a 404 error page with links back to main and general info pages also improves on search engine standings.
Offer quality content and services
Writing and creating useful content will likely influence your websites rankings more than any other factor. Visitors to your site know good content when they see it and will likely want to direct other users to it. Further to this think about the words that users might use to find the information or services you are providing, use these words throughout your content but be sure not to spam them throughout the page, 3 – 4% word density is usually the desired result. These words used to search are referred to keywords.
Write better anchor text
Anchor text is the clickable text that links to another web page. The clickable text or phrase is referred to as the keyword or keyword phrase. Having clickable keyword phrases throughout your site not only points the user towards the desired information they are looking for but also helps the search engine recognise and understand the importance and topic of the page.
Optimise your use of images
What many web design and developers overlook is the additional information you can give to images. Naming the image to suit what the image about is the first most important step, however there is additional information you can designate to an image, these are; alt text and description. Alt text is used by software for such as screen readers or if the image can not be displayed and search engines put high value on the alt text, description though not as important gives you another opportunity to squeeze in more of those keywords you are focusing on.
Use heading tags appropriately
Heading tags are used to present structure on the page to users. There are six sizes of heading tags, beginning with <h1>, the most important and ending with <h6> the least important. Since heading tags generally make text contained in them larger than the normal text on the page, it is a visual cue to users that the text is more important and could help them understand the content that is listed underneath the heading text. Multiple heading sizes used in order to create a hierarchical structure for your content, makes it easier for users to navigate through your content and website.
Dealing with Crawlers
A robots.txt file tells search engines whether they are aloud to access and therefore crawl parts of your website. This file which must be named robots.txt, is placed in the root directory of your website and is a key file in ensuring search engines work through and index your site. There is also some level of control over the robots.txt file giving you the ability to prevent search engines from indexing particular pages. A reason you may not want it to index a page is the information may not be useful to a user therefore you would not want the page to show in a search engines results.
As mentioned above a sitemap.html and sitemap.xml are both an important factor to improving your sites ranking when dealing with search crawlers.
Promotions and Analysis
Often referred to as SEO, promotion and analysis falls rather under the title of Search Engine Marketing (SEM). SEM is all about promoting your website through your blog or news feed, social media, newsletters, articles and reviews, the list goes on. Three key factors to a strong Search Engine Marketing strategy include; keyword research and analysis, website saturation and popularity & backlinks to your website embedded within your keywords.
Keyword research and analysis gives you insight into which keywords or keyword phrases are less competitive and therefore easier to gain first page listing on your desired search engines. Once you have established which keywords you are going to focus on, search engine optimisation is then done on the content to focus and promote those keywords within the text body of your website and pages.
Website saturation and popularity is best driven through social media, blog or news feeds, article submission and promotions. This is where you focus on delivering value to the user or reader to promote your product and services for you, a proven method for this is through incentive for the user when they promote or link to your site or content.
Backlinks to your website embedded within your keywords, this is by far the hardest part of the equation that is online marketing. Backlinks are links back to your website from other websites. Over time, through simply working on the above mentioned methods, you will slowly build a network of backlinks and thus imrpove your position within the search engine pages. There are however other proven methods of quickly ascertaining backlinks, though with the recent and upcoming improvements in Google’s algorithms (Google Hummingbird, Panda & Penguin), some methods will now do more harm than good in improving your listing and page rank with the almighty Google.