Thursday, 12 September 2013

SEO - Search Engine Optimization

My two cents worth about Search Engine Optimisation - SEO

Originally Posted - 2009
UPDATED - 12th Sep 2013

SEO is big bucks at the moment and it seems to be one of those areas of the web where there seem to be lots of snake oil salesmen and "SEO experts" who will promise no 1 positioning on Google, Bing and Yahoo for $$$ per month.

It is one of those areas that I didn't really pay much attention to when I started web developing mainly because I was not the person paying for the site and relying on leads coming from the web. However as I have worked on more and more sites over the years its become blatantly apparent to me that SEO comes in two forms from a development or sales point of view.

There are the forms of SEO which are basically good web development practise and will come about naturally from having a good site structure, making the site usable and readable as well as helping in terms of accessibility.

Then there are the forms which people will try and bolt onto a site afterwards. Either as an after thought or because an SEO expert has charged the site lots of money, promised the impossible, and wants to use some dubious link-sharing schemes that are believed to work.


Cover the SEO Basics when developing the site


Its a lot harder to just "add some Search Engine Optimization" in once a site has been developed especially if you are developing generic systems that have to work for numerous clients.

I am not an SEO expert and I don't claim to be otherwise I would be charging you lots of money for this advice and making promises that are impossible to be kept. However following these basic tips will only help your sites SEO.

Make sure all links have title tags on them and contain worthy content rather than words like "click here". The content within the anchor tags matter when those bots come a crawling in the dead of night.

You should also make sure all images have ALT attributes on them as well as titles and make sure the content of both differ. As far as I know Googlebot will rate ALT content higher than title content but it cannot hurt to have both.

Make sure you make use of header tags to differentiate out important sections of your site and try to use descriptive wording rather than "Section 1" etc.

Also as I'm sure you have noticed if you have read my blogs before I wrap keywords and keyword rich sentences in strong tags.

I know that Google will also rank emphasised content or content marked as strong over normal content. So as well as helping those readers who skim read to view just the important parts, it also tells Google which words are important on my article.

Write decent content and don't just fill up your pages with visible or non-visible spammy keywords.

In the old days keyword density mattered when ranking content. This was calculated by removing all the noise words and other guff (CSS, JavaScript etc) and then calculating what percentage of the overall page content were relevant keywords? 

Nowadays the bots are a lot cleverer and will penalise content that does this as it looks like spam.

Also its good for your users to have good readable content and you shouldn't remove words between keywords as it makes it more unreadable and you will lose out on the longer 3, 4, 5 word indexable search terms (called long-tail in the SEO world).

Saying this though its always good to remove filler from your pages. For example by putting your CSS and Javascript code into external files when possible and removing large commented out sections of HTML.

You should also aim to put your most important content at the top of the page so its the first thing crawled.

Try moving main menus and other content that can be positioned by CSS to the bottom of the file. This is so that social media sites and other BOTS that take the "first image" on an article and use it in their own social snippets don't accidentally use an advertisers banner instead of your logo or main article picture.

The same thing goes for links. If you have important links but they are in the footer such as links to site-indexes then try getting them higher up the HTML source.

I have seen Google recommend that 100 links a per page is the maximum to have per page. Therefore having a homepage that has your most important links at the bottom of the HTML source but 200+ links above them e.g links to searches even if not all of them are visible then this can be harmful.

If you are using a tabbed interface to switch between tabs of links then the links will still be in the source code and if they are loaded in by JavaScript on demand then that's no good at all as a lot of crawlers don't run JavaScript.

Items such as ISAPI URL rewriting are very good for SEO plus they are nicer URLs for sites to display.

For example using a site I have just worked on as an example http://jobs.professionalpassport.com/companies/perfect-placement-uk-ltd is a much nicer URL to view a particular company profile than the underlying real URL which could also be accessed as http://jobs.professionalpassport.com/jobboard/cands/compview.asp?c=6101

If you can access that page by both links and you don't want to be penalised for duplicate content then you should specify which link you would want to be indexed by specifying your canonical link.You should also use your Robots.txt file to specify that the non re-written URL's are not to be indexed e.g.

Disallow: /jobboard/cands/compview.asp

META tags such as the keywords tag are not considered as important as they once were and having good keyword rich content in the main section of the page is the way to go rather than filling up that META with hundreds of keywords.

The META Description will still be used to help describe your page on search results pages and the META Title tag is very important to describe your page's content to the user and BOT.

However some people are still living in the 90's and seem to think that stuffing their META Keywords with spam is the ultimate SEO trick when in reality that tag is probably ignored by most crawlers nowadays.

Set up a Sitemap straight away containing your sites pages ranked by their importance, how often they change, last modified date etc. The sooner you do this the quicker you site will be getting indexed and gaining site authority. It doesn't matter if it's not 100% ready yet but the sooner it's in the indexes the better.

Whilst you can do this through Googles webmaster tools or Microsofts Bing you don't actually need to use their tools and as long as you use a sitemap directive in your robots.txt file BOTS will find it e.g

Sitemap: http://www.strictly-software.com/sitemap_110908.xml

You can also use tools such as the wonderful SEOBook Toolbar which is an add-on for Firefox which has combined numerous other free online SEO tools into one helpful toolbar. It lets you see your Page Ranking and compare your site to competitors on various keywords across the major search engines.

Also using a text browser such as Lynx to see how your site would look to a crawler such as yahoo or google.is a good trick to see how BOTS would view your site as it will skip all the styling and JavaScript.

There are many other good practises which are basic "musts" in this day and age and the major SERP'S are moving more and more towards social media when it comes to indexing sites and seeing how popular they are.

You should set up a Twitter account and make sure each article is published to it as well as engaging with your followers.

A Facebook Fan page is also a good method of getting people to view snippets of your content and then find your site through the world most popular social media website.

Making your website friendly for people viewing it on tablets or smart phones is also good advice as more and more people are using these devices to view Internet content.

The Other form of SEO, Black Magic Optimization

The other form of Search engine optimization is what I would call "black magic SEO" and it comes in the form of SEO specialists that will charge you lots of money and make impossible claims about getting you to the number one spot in Google for your major keywords and so on.

The problem with SEO is that no-one knows exactly how Google and the others calculate their rankings so no-one can promise anything regarding search engine positioning.

There is Googles Page Ranking which is used in relation to other forms of analysis and it basically means that if you have a site with a high PR that links to your site that does not link back to the original site then it tells Google that your site has higher site authority than the linking site.

If your site only links out to other sites but doesn't have any links coming in from high page ranked relevant sites then you are unlikely to get a high page rank yourself. This is just one of the ways which Google will use to determine how high to place you in the rankings when a search is carried out.

Having lots of links coming in from sites that have nothing whatsoever to do with your site may help drive traffic but will probably not help your PR. Therefore engaging in all these link exchange systems are probably worth jack nipple as unless the content that links to your site is relevant or related in some way its just seen as a link for a links sake i.e spam.

Some "SEO specialists" promote special schemes which have automated 3 way linking between sites enrolled on the scheme.

They know that just having two unrelated sites link to each other basically negates the Page Rank so they try and hide this by having your site A linking to site B which in turn links to site C that then links back to you.

The problem is obviously getting relevant sites linking to you rather than every tom dick and harry.

Also advertising on other sites purely to get indexed links from that site to yours to increase PR may not work due to the fact that most of the large advert management systems output banner adverts using Javascript therefore although the advert will appear on the site and drive traffic when people click it you will not get the benefit of an indexed link. The reason being that when the crawlers come to index the page containing the advert the banner image and any link to your site won't be there.

Anyone who claims that they can get you to the top spot in Google is someone to avoid!

The fact is that Google and the others are constantly changing the way they rank and what they penalise for so something that may seem dubious that works currently could actually harm you down the line.

For example in the old days people would put hidden links on white backgrounds or position them out of site so that the crawlers would hit them but the users wouldn't see which worked for a while until Google and the others cracked down and penalised for it.

Putting any form of content up specifically for a crawler is seen as dubious and you will be penalised for doing it.

Google and BING want to crawl the content that a normal user would see and they have actually been known to mask their own identity ( IP and User-Agent ) when crawling your site so that they can check whether this is the case or not.

My advice would be to stick to the basics, don't pay anybody who makes any kind of promise about result ranking and avoid like the plague any scheme that is "unbeatable" and promises unrivalled PR within only a month or two.

3 comments:

pay per click management said...

If we all use these tips simultaneously with eminence content and incoming links, our website will show a marvelous ranking growth. Glad to read this good information, I’ll be certain to practice good quality SEO behaviors.

Scott Million said...

Thanks for the heads up.Search engine optimization is not a simple process. It involves a lot of time and effort on your end to get it done. But if you get it done perfectly on the first try, then it is quite possible that you will be wallowing in success in any venture that you turn your site into.

Robert Linde said...

SEO article writing is a job that requires professionalism and dedication towards the job.  Many people are writing articles these days just because many companies are now working on the internet offering different product and services. seo content writing