- Long term SEO is not just about bringing more traffic to your website, it's about bringing the right traffic over the long term
- You can carry out your own SEO for free with this step by step guide or you can ask as for an SEO quote
- Search engines are trying to find genuinely useful information so ask yourself, "Is my website really useful?"
- Poorly constructed websites with few links can get to the top of search engine results, but they can also easily be toppled
- SEO is a cyclical process of Review > Act > Review > Act which can happen over days, months or even years
- Proper SEO requires considerable time and resource which is why many people contract it out
The aim of SEO
Most people believe SEO is simply about bringing more traffic into a website by getting to the top of Google, Yahoo or Bing's search results for a particular word or phrase. But this is only half the story.
Your time at the top won't last for long if users do not engage with your website. Here is your actual desired scenario for long term search engine dominance.
- Your page displays at or near the top of the search engine results.
- Users want to click on the link to visit your website (known as achieving "a good Click Through Rate - CTR").
- Users stay on your website for "a reasonable time" - they don't click the back button straight away (known as achieving "a low Bounce Rate").
- Users go deeper into your website and visit other pages.
- Users add your website to their favourites either on their browser or in Stumbleupon, reddit, etc.
- Users are so impressed they make a link to your website from their own website, facebook, twitter, etc.
Now you can see it is already clear that being at the top of the search engines is only 'Part One'. You need to stay there.
And what do these wishy-washy statements "a good Click Through Rate", "a low bounce rate" and "a reasonable time" actually mean? Very simply rates and times that are better than your competitors.
How do the search engines know what my visitors do?
Millions of users install toolbars such as those available from Google or Alexa. These gather and report user habits and actions back to the search engines so they are very much aware what users do after leaving the search results page.
How to make your website rank higher than another in search engine results?
Below is the basic checklist for SEO and tells you what most search engines take into account when choosing who to display first. How much weighting they give to each factor is a matter of dispute and varies from search engine to search engine. All of these are covered in more detail throughout this guide.
In no (well known) particular order your website will rank better for a particular keyword if:
The coding is not poor:
- your code has been (X)HTML validated by W3C
- your CSS has been validated by W3C
- you don't use the meta refresh tag to forward to another page
- at least 20% of the code on your page is text which the user can read
- the keyword being searched is in the readable text of your page to a density of between 3 and 6%
The coding is helpful
- the alt tags for images are sensibly used to explain the image
- the images are below 50kb so the page loads quickly
- the H1, H2, etc tags are used correctly
- the images have width and height attributes so the page contents won't distort if they fail to load
There is no scamming and limited copying
- there are no cases where the text and the background colour are the same
- the image alt tags don't have keywords stuffed inside them
- the keywords found on the page match keywords found in the title and meta tags
- the majority of the content is unique - not coming from RSS feeds or copied and pasted from websites the search engines have already indexed
The meta tags are used correctly
- the meta tags reflect the keywords found on each page
- The title is about 65 characters long and the description is about 150 characters long
- All the meta tags are used and used correctly
The URLs have certain charactaristics
- ideally your domain name is at least several months old
- You have defined your canonicalization (i.e. is it http://www.mysite.com or http://mysite.com?)
- your domain name contains one keyword or phrase you are targeting
- your url contains the keyword being searched
- your urls are not dynamic (i.e. not http://www.shop.com/...type=television)
- You have a larger number of urls (pages) on your website containing the keyword (think how many pages Amazon has with 'Books' as a keyword)
- Your domain name matches the geographical location of the person searching (e.g. .co.uk performs better for the United Kingdom)
- Your server is located closer to the geographical location of the person searching
Your website has files especially for search engines
- you have a sitemap.xml file containing all the pages of your website
- you have a robots.txt file which guides the search engines robots and spiders
- you have uploaded your sitemap files to Google, Bing and Yahoo
Your website has the right links
- there are links within your website that contain the keyword being searched, even if they link to other pages in your website
- There are links from other websites to your website that contain the keyword and those websites:
+ contain similar content or keywords
+ aren't link farms
+ aren't pay per link
+ aren't in a link wheel
+ don't contain an excessive number of links
+ don't get a link back from you (link swapping / reciprocal links)
+ perform well in Google (e.g. show up in the top results for popular searches)
- There are out bound links from your website containing the keyword that go to other sites of similar content
- Your text is cross linked with other pages on your website
- There are less than 100 links, internal or outbound, on your page
- You do not have so many links (compared to actual orginal content) that the search engines mistake you for a link farm
Your website has a good CTR and low bounce
- when the search engines display your website in the search results some users click through (the Click Through Rate - CTR)
- users don't immediately click the back button on your page realising it is not what they were looking for (the Bounce Rate)
- users click deeper into your website
- users stay on your website longer than they stay on your competitor's site
All things being equal
You will hear this phrase a great deal when we talk about SEO. We mean that if there are two websites that are exactly the same and one of them changes for the better, it will be ranked higher.
Do you need SEO?
The answer is invariably 'Yes' but how much you need to carry out and how often can vary dramatically. In general:
- If you are coming up top in search engine results you should carry out SEO on a regular basis to ensure you stay there and not toppled by one of your competitors
- If you aren't coming up top then you definitely need SEO!
The stages of SEO
These pages are a step by step walk through guide on how to do optimisation and fall into two main areas:
- Stop the search engines penalising your website or "how to make the search engines stop hating you"!
- Start getting promoted up the results in the search engines or "how to get the search engines to like you"!
Each of these stages is broken down into smaller and more managable steps but we recommend reading the whole guide first so you can keep some of the later steps in mind right from the beginning.
How long will SEO take?
Much depends on the size of your business and the state of your current website. Remember that many large corporations employ teams of SEO professionals full time which gives you some idea of the resources a large company needs.
A great deal will also depend on the size of your ambitions! If you want to get to the top of search engine results for "Jim's bicycle shop guildford" it's not going to take as long as dominating the keyword phrase "LCD TVs". This said there are clever, and legal, ways to get round even the most popular keywords - we will come to these later.
But for either the SEO steps are the same, it is simply the effort at each stage that varies. And always remember the process is cyclical - when you get to the end it's time to go back to the beginning and start again along these lines.
- Go through the entire process.
- Wait for the search engines to pick up the changes (time frames can vary greatly here depending on the keywords you are aiming for).
- Review your improvements ... and any dissapointments
- Review your ambitions
- Go through the entire process again
SEO for free
These pages contain everything you need to know in order to work through your own optimisation because the only true way to get your website optimised for free is to do it yourself. But even this isn't truly free, your time has value and optimising your website takes a great deal of it so weigh things up carefully.
As a word of caution don't become so obssessed with SEO that you forget to run your own business. You may laugh now but it has happened.
Remember to treat 'Free' SEO services offered to you with a great deal of caution. Unfortunately there is no such thing as a free lunch. Some sites are just after your email for their spamming lists, some companies place time bombs in your code that will freeze your website until you pay for them to be unlocked, and so the list goes on.
Why this SEO guide?
We have put this SEO guide together because it gives an overview of our process when working for clients and gives them a greater transparency of our services. If, once you've read it through, the thoughts "Wooah! This is going to be a lot of work" come to mind then get in touch and we can give you a SEO quote to do the job for you. We SEO all the time, just have a look at our Search Engine Rankings.