There are many people who have just enough knowledge of the way the Internet and search engines work to know that search engine optimization is important, but not enough knowledge to know that it will not just solve all your problems. SEO is not something you can apply and then sit back and wait for people to visit your website. Yes, it is important and it is an extremely clever concept, but the incorrect application of SEO will no more increase your website traffic than handing out free balloons will make an ice cream shop’s profits go through the roof. Yes, it can help; no, it is not the whole deal.
It is no good setting up a website and paying lip service to the basics of SEO – throwing together some back links in other places, using keywords and submitting a sitemap – and then, when the doors are not battered down by enthralled readers, complaining “but it had SEO! Clearly SEO isn’t as good as I was told it was!”. Correctly applied, SEO will certainly boost your Google ranking. Whether it will get you to the first page of results, only time will tell – but it is useful.
The major mistake people make is in treating SEO as the silver bullet that will make all the difference – if that were the case, then Google ranking would be entirely meaningless because everyone would have SEO on their site. It needs to be remembered that good SEO and good content is the most potent combination for Google rankings.
When writing content for a website, making it SEO compliant does not simply rely on having the right keywords in large enough volumes on the page. Although a good keyword volume will certainly help you – it certainly will not hurt – there is more that you can do to send your page ranking higher. In many cases, it can be something as simple as where you put your keywords that propels you from page two of the results up to page one. Bear in mind that no-one knows search logarithms like the search engine creators, so following some advice that comes from them will always help.
For one thing, the placement of keywords in what you consider your “title” section will be relevant. If you are running a blog like this one, using your keyword in your title is not essential, and for the ease of natural reading it should probably not be something you do every time – too much repetition is jarring for the reader, because after a while all they can think of is you keyword. However, regular use of keywords in titles will pay off – Google weights what is in the title more heavily than what is in the text.
Additionally, and in a way connected to this, the placement of keywords in links will also help you. Most blogging platforms immediately turn the titles into links. In addition, rather than leaving a link in its “naked” form – for example www.thisisalink.com/link – you should seek to make it a titled hyperlink with the text including your keyword. This, too, is weighted more heavily than an isolated keyword reference.
It is obviously not easy to write good, SEO-compliant content for a website and still have a standard of content which will impress your readers, and this often shows in the more amateurish attempts at writing a website. One mistake a lot of people make is in thinking that the more they use a keyword, the better it will be for their website. This often results in the writer frequently using the keyword once every other sentence or a similar density. Their reasoning is understandable. If some SEO is good, then a lot of SEO will surely be excellent?
However, SEO is not just about use of keywords. It is more accurate to say that SEO is about the relevant, appropriate and substantial use of keywords within good content. It is true that Google sets rankings based on keyword density, but the search engines don’t just look for “a lot of keywords”. If they find a suspiciously high keyword volume they are actually likely to downrank you, and if your website is barely readable on account of the excess of keywords then you are unlikely to get the back links that will also be used for higher rankings.
It is this balance that you need to achieve, and it is not a matter of too much or too little SEO. SEO encompasses a number of different elements which should all be present if you want to make the right impact on the search engines – or at least, you should include as many elements as you can without negatively affecting the readability of your website.
It becomes immediately obvious to someone who has a fair understanding of the principles of SEO that the use of it can present a problem. The more you use the right keywords, the likelier it is that Google will pick your site up and give it a good ranking. However, the more you use the right keywords, the less room there is for all the other things you want to say, and the less freedom to say things exactly how you would like to. It is a difficult balance to maintain, then, if you want to be SEO compliant and still write something that will be worth reading.
This is where you have to decide how you are going to maintain that balance. It is certainly not impossible to write well and be SEO compliant, you just need to find where you will place the keywords and make sure that the text around them is appropriately well-written. If you have a target of 500 words and want a keyword density of about 20-25 – an acceptable level and one which will get Google’s attention – then you need to make sure the other 475 are persuasive and coherent.
It also helps if you know how to use the keywords to make their use appear natural. If your keyword phrase for an article is “affordable TV repair”, then a sentence like “Affordable TV repair is not always easy to find” flows much better than if you just try to crowbar it in mid-sentence.
Since the development of Search Engine Optimisation as a concept, there has been a fairly obvious temptation for some people to try to rig the system in their favor by using the principles of SEO in a less-than-honest way. Because the idea of SEO is they keywords create cash, the idea that has occurred to a lot of people can best be summed up in the following sentence: “If they want keyword volume, we’ll give them keyword volume”. This tends to occur in the shape of website text that contains nothing but keywords.
Of course, this means that the website will be scarcely readable, if it is readable at all, but the trick is usually applied by webmasters who don’t really care if you actually read what is on the site. Usually they will use it as a landing page that immediately redirects you to the site they want you to read. It will happen instantly and you will not see the landing page, but it will have done its job. For the reader it may be little more than an inconvenience, but for other people operating in the same niche, it is cheating.
The main reason that tricks like this are a bad idea has only a small amount to do with the fact that it is cheating. In actual fact, it is incredibly limited as an SEO tool because Google and other search engines check for such tricks and will relegate any such site in their rankings – so not only is it dishonest, it is also ineffective, which is what will really stick in the craw of the people doing it.
As we move into the second decade of the third millennium, it is made all the more obvious to us all that moving with the times is essential, no matter how difficult we may find it from time to time. At the start of this millennium, marketing your business via the Internet was a very simple thing. Get a website up and find as many different places to put a link as you imaginably could. This has changed in the last couple of years, and now the big deal is SEO – Search Engine Optimization. What is SEO? Well, it’s a little bit complicated, but the important elements you need to know are as follows.
Google and other search engines read every site that they can find and rank them on the basis of how appropriate they are for people’s search terms. Therefore, to make your site turn up in people’s search results you have to think about what they’ll be searching for, and what kind of terms will be used by people who might want to use your business. If you have a business that sells knitting supplies, then you will want to make sure that people who search for “best knitting supplies”, “cheap knitting supplies” and “knitting supplies [your city here]” are shown a link to your site.
Therefore you need to make sure these terms are in your website text, and you need to do it while keeping the text readable. It is not as easy as it looks, but – when you get the hang of it – it really works.
Reduced down to its simplest form, a sitemap is just a list of URLs. For something so completely basic, it’s incredible to believe how very important sitemaps can be when it comes to successful SEO.
To add pages to search engine results, engines send out what is known as a ‘bot’ or a ‘spider’. This non-human bot will search the internet for pages, and whatever it finds will eventually be indexed (that is, included in a search engine results page). Yet there are literally millions of websites on the internet, and sometimes waiting for a search engine bot to crawl your page and index it – well, it can literally take weeks.
This is where the sitemap comes in. The sitemap is a “heads up”, basically calling the search engine’s attention to your website.
When your website is complete, you will need to build your sitemap (or ideally, build it as you go along). This can be done using a simple Notepad .txt file, with a list of URLs of each page of your site, written on a separate line and then uploaded to your server. Alternatively, if you are using WordPress self-hosted, you can install a plugin called “XML Google Sitemaps” – which automatically generates and updates your sitemap as you go along.
The plugin will generate a URL (usually www.yoursite.com/sitemap.xml), or alternatively with the .txt file, upload it and obtain the URL yourself. You should then take the URL of your sitemap, and submit it to all of the major search engines, using a tool such as Google Webmaster Tools. When submitted, the engine will know to send a bot to crawl the pages you’ve submitted – and will usually do so in a matter of days. Sitemaps really can make indexing that easy, and are therefore an absolute must.