This is an extension of my previous Article written way back in 1998. SEO is still the same, which is promoting your search visibility, but the way SEO works does changes in years.
What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?
In the field of marketing, businesses use SEO to improve their website’s rankings in search engine queries. The essential premise behind improving the ranking is this – Almost 95% of users who type in a query on Google (or any other search engine) refer to just first or second page of the results page for answers to their search query. If your business website is on the 10th or 15th page of the search engine results page (or SERPs), then you are losing online business to your competitors.
Hence businesses target to come on the first or second page of the SERPs so that more and more customers can discover them BEFORE they discover their competitors. And this is what drives the profitability of a company online. SEO is a marketing field that helps you to achieve this challenging target. At Macronimous, we strongly believe that SEO should not only be search engine friendly but also people friendly. Hence our SEO strategies focuses that your goals should be on same lines with your customers’ goals. This is what takes us to our next part – knowing how online users interact with Google.
Know what your customers are looking for
Visitors type in their query on a search engine for one of the 3 reasons:
- ‘Do’ – I want to take an action – buy a pair of shoes or subscribe to a magazine
- ‘Know’ – I want information about something – top 5 cars of 2015 or best restaurant to have continental food
- ‘Go’ – I want to visit another site – visit FaceBook or Audi’s official website In return, the search engine make sure that the visitors get relevant information when they type in their query.
In return, the search engine make sure that the visitors get relevant information when they type in their query. SEO is what ensures that your business stays relevant, draws traffic to your site, and convert visitors to sales. It’s all about what your business deals in and then optimizing your website to ensure that it brings in visitors who want the same product or service that you deal in. This is done by using the right kind of keywords in your content and various HTML elements that helps in the optimization process.
How SEO works
In order to understand how the optimization process works, we need to understand how the search engine works to return relevant results. Search Engines employ search robots that crawl the web upon the user hitting the ‘Search’ button after typing in the search query. They follow links and index the content in their own databases based on pre-programed algorithms. This is done after they “read” what is provided in the text part of the content.
They rely on relevance and importance of content to give a higher rank. This relevance and importance is in turn determined by tracking what users do on your site, what they discover and how they share it. Thus a solid foundation for a good SEO rests on relevant and meaningful content and this in turn is crafted using relevant and meaningful keywords.
Keyword Research – The backbone of rock solid SEO
The key objective of SEO is not to increase the free (organic) traffic. It is rather to connect the right buyer with the right seller, with the seller being the client seeking the SEO services. This way SEO helps people who are looking for you to actually discover you by using the right set of keywords. However, how do you determine what the right kind of keyword is?
This is precisely where keyword research comes in. By researching the right kind of keyword you not only get to know which phrases or set of words can be targeted for best results. In turn you also get to know your own targeted customers well. So it’s not only about getting increased traffic, but it’s about getting the apt kind of traffic. Getting to know the keywords also provides you valuable intel on what type or variant of a product is selling better than others. For instance if you are selling apparel, would “polo neck t-shirt” or “round neck t-shirt” fetch you more traffic? That is the decision you have to make, and this is not an easy one to make. You need to constantly hypothesize, test it and refine it in case it doesn’t work – keep doing this till you hit the bull’s eye.
How to find the right keyword?
As said earlier, a bit of research is essential to uncover which keywords will work best for your business. The below three types of keywords work best:
- Those that have a high search volume (people are searching using these words)
- Those that have lower competition (lower number of results means your chances of appearing on top of SERPs improve)
- Those that have its weight in gold because of relevant and meaningful content
In today’s times, it is still important to exact match keywords. However, with latest Google algorithm updates, it is now equally essential to –
- Fulfill search intent
- Track bounce rates
- Monitor time spent on a site by user
Together these highlight the degree of user satisfaction from the website thanks to relevant and meaningful content.
Some tools that help you with keyword research include Google’s Keyword Planner tool, Google Trends tool or Microsoft Bing Ads tool. If you have an account in Google Keyword Planner, you can easily get customized keywords that get high traffic based on your website. These suggestions are based on actual Google searches data. Now that we are going into the realm of the degree of broadness or narrowness of your keywords, let look at one related yet interesting concept – the long tail keyword.
Long tail keyword revisited
me keyword Long tail is basically the shape of a graph that represents the precise portion – a lot of low volus work collectively to send you high number of traffic. Ideally what happens in search world is this – popular search terms consist of just 30% of total searches. On the other hand, niche/individual/distinct searches are what comprise of the long tail of the search i.e. thousands of millions of unique searches that may not be popular but together have a higher weightage than the popular keywords.
To take our previous example, “t-shirt” will be a popular search query (high on popularity (may be millions of searches worldwide), but very low on conversion).
However “blue crew neck t-shirt” or “orange polo t-shirt” are more unique search strings that together form the long tail keywords (low on popularity (maybe 100’s of searches worldwide), but high on conversion).
Now imagine if you are a startup and ant to target on ‘Clothes’. Well, it does seem lucrative, but it also means that you are pitted against staggeringly high number of competitors (some of which may include giants in the business) and will require years of efforts to achieve high rankings. So your website will hardly stand any realistic chance of breaking through to the top of SERPs. One must hence make a judicious decision between the demand for the keywords, versus the efforts needed to achieve high rankings with them.
When you have achieved the right set of keywords through keyword research, the next step would be to get going with content creation using these appropriately. As we mentioned earlier, search engines have bots that crawl web pages and decide rankings based on keywords used and relevance of content. Thus your keyword research and use of correct keywords can impact their decision whether to rank your website higher or no. This will be especially needed if your website doesn’t have much of text but more of images, videos or Flash animation (which cannot be deciphered directly by the search bots).
Again, as we said before, the content needs to be search bot friendly, but it should be meaningful, engrossing and applicable for people too. This will help to ensure that
- People discover you online (thank you search bots!)
- People actually purchase/subscribe/respond to you (thank you people!)
Point#2 can be accomplished by a few subtle alterations to text as below:
- Titles – Keep Content title catchy; these are your elevator pitch to ensure that visitors actually go on to read the body of the content
- Keywords – Use keywords that will help readers in their problems. Of course they have to be relevant to your business too
- External Links – If the content links to third party links that have similar or complementary information, it helps – both the readers as well as the link providers who will in turn link to you.
- Quality content – With the recent Hummingbird and Pigeon update, the emphasis is back on meaningful content that gives value to readers. Imagine users in UK searching for local pizza and getting results of pizza in US or nachos in UK! Such irrelevant information adds zero value to customers and hence is penalized by Google algorithms that prefer local search and relevant content.
- Non-plagiarized Content– This is the first commandment of content producers and not without solid reason. Any plagiarized content is penalized heavily by Google and it takes months of committed efforts to recover afterwards from it.
Website code optimization
Search bots also decide on rankings by the way certain elements within website coding is crafted. Here are eight ways in which tags can be optimized to drive higher SERP rankings.
- Title Tags – Use those words that readers expect you to query in search box. For e.g.<title> Web development and mobile app development India </title>is a good way to showcase what a web development company does. If a client wants low cost web development, he/ she will also type ‘India’ (the outsourcing advantage), so having that too works.
- Meta Tags – While this doesn’t affect the ranking signal much, it affects visitor perception of site as it describes your business to them.<meta name=”description” content=”Creative and visually appealing web design at nominal pricing. We have proficiencies in new age responsive and mobile ready website design that helps you bring in web traffic and conversion” />This content describes what the business does, its USP and the benefits it brings to clients – key signals that arouses user interest and bring closer to sales conversion.
- Headings – These come in a distinct order with H1 being the main heading, H2 being sub-heading and H3 being the sub-sub-heading, and so on till H6. Similar to a table of content, it outlines what theme or point is being covered after the heading tag. Keep your main essential keywords within H1 tag (only one H1 should be present in webpage, others can be multiple occurrences) and make it relevant to your line of business.
- Sitemap – Having a sitemap eases the crawling process of search engine bots and helps them view your site in a positive light. It gives direction and tells them what all they can find in the entire website. You can create XML sitemaps using this tool, and then submit them to Google or Bing to facilitate the crawling and indexing process.
- Domain name – If your business is in selling mineral water, having a domain name ‘www.mineralwater.com’ helps in higher ranking. However with billions of websites and domain names around, it can be a challenge to get this easily, hence come up with variations like ‘coolwater.biz’, ‘bottledwater.newjersey.com’
- URL structure – This is an oft ignored part of SEO. Having a complex URL will mean that the crawling and indexing of the webpage will not happen properly, which in turn will impact the ranking. Make use of these quick tips and you will not go wrong with your URLs –
- Do not include special characters in your URL name (@, #, $, *, =, etc.)
- Try to keep URL as short as possible
- Use hyphens instead of underscores
- Try to keep only numbers and letters in URL
- Site structure – Internally linking carries good weight with Search Engines provided you do it in a proper way – a. Carry link to other webpages within your content rather than on frames or footer b. Do a ‘no-follow’ to outgoing links that are generic or not relevant to your line of business
- Alt tags – Images need to be optimized using an appropriate description to allow search bots to crawl and index. Use the img src and alt tags to describe image as shown in example below for ‘orange shirt’ (obviously, make sure that image ‘alt’ text and what it depicts both are relevant)<img src=”http://xyz.com/images/orshrt.jpg” alt=“orange shirt”/>
Website links optimization
Links is perhaps the biggest ranking influencer for SEO. Imagine links as the roads that help search bots in their crawling and indexing process. With the aid of links analysis, search bots determine the quality and relevance of webpages being connected through the links. Additionally they also help the bots to assess the trust, authority and spam factor of the webpage and as a result move the ranking appropriately.
Because of the weightage attached to link analysis, a strategic method of linking to the right external sites helps to only improve SEO but also drives substantial web traffic. Thus link building becomes one of the most critical success metric for any SEO manager.
Here are some ways in which link building can get you the desired results
- Social media – With the huge proliferation of social media platforms such as StumbleUpon or Digg, getting linked to these sites help improve your website’s visibility as well as linked better
- Directories – Submitting your site to directories too help gain better reach for your website. Access this list to know some of the best directories to submit your site to.
- Forums – Create a signature with your website URL, and use it to link the forum to your website (provided they are not’t using ‘no-follow’)
Some quick pointers improve the efficacy of link are
- Links put on footer or frame are less effective than links on content
- Links from related sites (same line of business or complementary business) are better
- Pay special attention to anchor links – a key SEO strategy
To sign off
We at Macronimous believe that implementing these points will help your website optimization process to a great extent. While this is not “the” only list, but this is ‘a’ list that can fast track your SEO process and drive the results you and your client envisaged together. Write in with your comments to let us know if this list was useful and if any other vital pointer can be added in to this list.
How can we help you?
“For large and small companies optimizing their web pages to provide top listing in search engines such as, Google, represents a task to be outsourced to professionals. ” – says Darrell Zahorsky of About.com. We have over 4 years of experience in search engine optimization and look at our services which you might be interested in.