what is seo?
We provide complete SEO services for clients across the UK and Internationally. Before getting started applying SEO to your website, it's important to get have a good understanding of the basics.
There are two fundamental elements to consider; your page content and the links that point to it.
(There are other elements, that each carry a little ranking weight, but to start with, it is these two that will make the biggest impact on your rankings.)
- What are the major search engines looking for in your site content?
- What does an ideal backlink look like?
this SEO guide covers the following;
- introduction & seo overview
- the why & how of SEO implementation
- Your website goals and targets
- The Basics;
- on-page SEO
- - page attributes
- off-page SEO
- - link quality
- - link building blueprint
- - social media - what social factors really affect your search engine rankings
- SEO ranking penalties & violations
- keywords - are they still relevant?
- researching suitable keywords
- how to produce high quality content
- visitor engagement
- new content & updating existing content
- navigation, structure and canonicalisation
- website trust & authority
- how google personalises your search results
SEO is a term that is used online, as an abreviation for search engine optimization (US spelling or search engine optimisation in the UK). SEO is the process of website traffic generation via search engine keyword searches. Search engines simply organise online information.
The 'internet' or 'web' is made up of billions of pages, published on hundreds of millions of different websites, covering every conceivable subject and topic.
Trying to find information about a specific product, service, item, place, hotel, vehicle, or fact is almost impossible without the aid of one of the major search engines (Google, Bing or Yahoo).
There are hundreds of smaller less popular search engines online, but the bulk of users (in the west at least), mostly use one of these three.
Search engines organise information (web pages) depending on their content, so all the relevant pages they can find about 'internet marketing' will appear when you search for 'internet marketing', all the appropriate pages they can find for 'SEO' will appear when you search for 'SEO' etcetera.
When the internet was a much smaller place, choosing the most relevant pages to rank the highest was quite easy, but today, most search terms have hundreds of thousands, if not millions of results that could be suitable, so the search engines have to make a decision about the best order to display those results.
Every search engine uses different criteria to assess each page in it's 'index' and then rank them in the order that it believes will be most useful to the person carrying out the search.
Historically, Google has delivered the most useable lists of results resulting in their increased popularity and the word Google becoming a verb.
SEO is the process of aligning your website content with the search engines so that your pages appear high up in the results. Each search engine has a market share of all online searches. In 2014, Google commanded the bulk of western traffic with about 75% of all searches.
Bing & Yahoo (who currently share Bings algorithmic process to deliver results) share around 22% and many more smaller search engines share around 3% between them.
SEO requires some time, effort and patience, so it makes sense as a website owner to concentrate your SEO efforts & budget on ranking well in the search engine that has the most users.
This means ranking well in Google as a priority, with Bing and Yahoo traffic an additional bonus.
It is no coincidence then that ranking well in Google is harder and more complex that any of the other search engines.....
A website without traffic (visitors) is like having a huge billboard advertising your goods or services, but positioning it on a desert island thousands of miles from civilisation. Nobody will see it, nobody will visit your store and you won't make any money.
Search engines have solved this problem for you, by aggrigating website content by relevance and showing searchers what they are looking for.
As a consequence, the keywords that most people search for online have become competitive to rank for, because the sites listed in the top few results receive huge volumes of 'free' SEO traffic.
If your website sells 'seo services' and you rank first for the term 'seo services' then all of the visitors driven via a search for that term will be tightly focused, and actively looking for 'seo services'.
The chances of you achieving a sale to those visitors is far greater than for traditional advertising because with traditional media, the everyone sees your advertising without any form of niche targeting.
At any point in time, the majority of people probably don't want or need the specific goods or services that you are offering.
Search engines provide you with the opportunity to position your business in front of large volumes of targeted traffic.
Targeted marketing allows you to build a website that will convert visitors into customers.
Wherever large groups of targeted traffic congregates online, you should aim to have a visible web presence. Sites like eBay and Amazon have harnessed the power of aggrigation by becoming highly popular retailing websites, with massive audiences.
To sell anything online, you need to be in front of the largest targeted audience possible. SEO delivers that traffic for you.
how does seo work?
In order to understand how website optimization works, you need to understand the basics of how search engines decide which website to position in first place.
All search engines use automated algorithms (which are essentially mathematical equations) to filter all of the websites that they could rank for a specific query.
Google uses by far the most complex algorithmic formula, but offers the largest volumes of traffic to the top ranking websites.
how a search engine algorithm works:
To choose the best website to rank in top position in it's 'organic' listings, Google analyses all the websites that it can find to index using a 'spider' or 'Googlebot'. These are electronic spiders that crawl the web, finding pages and recording all the important ranking data about them.
The spider then takes all of this data back to HQ where they stick the numbers into their ranking program and determine, from the results, where, if anywhere you are going to rank.
To begin with, the spider reads your on-page content and from this can determine what your site is all about and what search terms you might be elligible to rank for.
The next part of the algorithm is a checklist of over 200 yes/no questions about your website to establish how suitable your web page is as a relevant result for those search terms. If you get lots of yes's then you move up the results list, the more no's you get, the lower down the list you will be.
The precise list of questions that each search engine asks is a very closely guarded secret, much like the Coca-Cola recipe, so don't expect to find a definitive list anywhere online anytime soon!
Instead, SEO consultants such as ourselves, use test sites and extensive experimentation and research to establish which factors help & improve rankings and which harm your rankings. Over time we have established our own SEO 'ranking recipe' for top ranking results which we then use to deliver traffic for our clients.
what do Google measure to determine your search engine ranking?
Google analyse over 200 different SEO criteria in order to rank a website. Some of the basic metrics are elements such as load speed, bounce rate, time on site, keyword density, backlink quality & page structure.
Page structure is then broken down further, as they attempt to establish the meaning and value of your content. They measure the density of various keywords on your pages, as well as different variations of those keywords, and compare your page with what it considers to be an 'ideal' Google page.
If your keywords appear too focused (on one or more specific terms), then you will be penalised for 'over-optimization', and if your page lacks any keyword focus at all then you will rank badly because your page won't be relevant enough for that, or those terms.
Each search engine has a template of what they consider to be 'natural' keyword densities with upper and lower figures.
As long as the density of your primary keywords and phrases falls within these limits, your site will rank somewhere for the terms.
Following on from the major Google algorithm updates carried out in 2013/14, effective SEO is all about looking natural in terms of website content creation, while still including the relevant terms necessary for your pages to be chosen as a relevant result.
Each of these 200+ metrics measured has a value counting for or against your site, and affecting your rankings accordingly.
Some metrics such as load speed and bounce rate can remove your site from the results completely. For example, if your site is a big and heavy old hector that takes an age to load then Google particularly won't like it very much, if at all.
Slow sites go to the bottom of the pile, because the search engine wants to present it's users with fast loading, quality content in it's main listings.
This also applies to your bounce rate.
If a majority of your website visitors dislike your content so much that a large proportion hit the back button and search again for another result, search engines will rapidly conclude that your website is not a very good result to provide for the search query you were ranking you for and you will drop like a stone out of the rankings.
Once the quality and relevance of your page content and site structure has been established, search engines then look at your 'popularity'. This is a complex area, but basically covers 3 things;
1. how many other websites like you enough to link to you
2. how many people like your site so much that they are prepared to share your content with their friends across their social media platforms
as well as...
3. how many people like you enough to give you a written testimonial (positioned where it counts; Google+, Facebook, TrustPilot, etc)
Linking used to be a straight forward process of encouraging other sites (by fair means or foul) to link to your site content. All links gave you a ranking boost to one degree or another, so more links gave better rankings.
Google have however, been working very hard on more sophisticated measuring algorithms that evaluate the quality of the sites linking to you, their relevance to your topic and the degree to which they are trusted. (Trust is becoming an increasingly important metric online).
As a result, links can harm your rankings as much as they help them. A toxic link from a source that isn't trusted can push you down the rankings overnight. Search engines really dislike automated link building, and are actively working to hunt out any link networks that are attempting to manipulate their results.
These networks are being penalised and removed from the search engines index, but, additionally, Google especially are penalising any sites found to be using the link networks.
For this reason, it is strongly recommended that you avoid all automated linking networks and programs because sooner or later, you will be penalised for using them.
While we are on the subject, the definition of 'manipulation' and 'spam' are tightening every day, so as a website owner, it is important to keep all elements of your website SEO looking 100% natural and organic.
For 2015 and beyond, the perfect backlink for your website requires the following attributes:
- Link uses your URL, Brand, Junk Text or an Image as anchor text.
- Link is contextual
- Link is on a relevant 'category' page
- Link is on a unique IP address
- Link is on an authority page
- Link page has authority, themed backlinks pointing at it too
- Link page is established
- Link page is google indexed
this translates into the following;
You should ideally get a link to your site from one of the leading authorities in your niche, that is already indexed in the search engines. Let's say one of the most authoritative sites in your industry has an established article all about an element of your industry.
They find a page on your sites that explains a particular process, issue, product or service. Your page is really useful and offers value to their readers.
They link from within their established content, referring to your awesome article as a useful page for their readers. Assuming that their page has been categorised in a beneficial category for your ranking purposes, that link will be very valuable for you........ analyse your link categories now
- Age - it is already established
- Authority - has existing category links in place
- Themed, category back-links of its own
- Different IP to your other links
- Link is contextual within very relevant content
- Link is 'natural'
- Link isn't 'optimised'
Search engines have developed this as their preferred link structure to make 'faking' links harder. If you just publish your own good quality content, even on a themed website, it will be published on a new page, which will have no authority. It takes at least three months before it will develop any credibility at all, but it will still need back-links of its own from 'category' specific authority websites if it is ever to give you any ranking benefit at all.
This has really signalled the end of page creation for page creations sake, and means that a few good links are worth infinitely more to you than lots of lower quality links.
Search engines are increasingly using popularity signals from social media channels as trusted indicators of your contents value and merit.
If real people share your content with their real friends then it can be seen as a strong indicator that your content is of high quality.
The challenge you need to meet is to create content that will be shared, liked, tweeted and virally spread across social networks.
If you are going to rank well then your page content needs to tick as many 'boxes' as possible.
Your content needs to be all of the following;
- well written
- well structured
- natural keyword density
- natural keyword variations
- naturally tagged in appropriate places
- generous with citations and references to authority information sources
- contextually linked with related content on your site
- contain images/videos
If it does all of those, it still needs to:
- load as fast or faster than your competitors
- have a bounce rate comparable or lower than your competitors
- retain visitors as long or longer than your competitors
In recent years Google has introduced a series of trapdoors ready to catch the unwary webmaster.
Unlike just a few years ago, the situation now exists whereby you can quite easily fall foul of one or more of the over optimization penalties including;
- slow load speed
- over optimized exact match link text
- high bounce rate
- excessive html/css coding errors
- using link networks
- associating with bad link neighbourhoods
The most common ways to see your site excluded from being indexed are to be over optimized with exact match anchor text, to have a high bounce rate, slow loading pages or to be associated with undesirable link networks.
Any one of these will see you drop significantly in SERP's or to disappear completely.
get started with seo
There are three key areas of SEO that all need to be addressed if you are going to be rewarded with the traffic your business needs and deserves:
- high quality web content
- high quality back-links supporting your sites popularity
- Active social media interaction
To Position your Site at the Top of SERPs, you need;
- A complete 175 point SEO Website Audit - Shows you the current health of your website
- Comprehensive keyword research for your niche and industry - Highlights where your prime traffic is and the most profitable areas to target
- Your 'on-page' content optimising for the keywords and phrases that will convert for you - Aligns your page content with the traffic streams you want
- Backlinks creating which will complement your content (off-page) - Increases your sites online popularity, trust and authority
- Content shares, likes and follows across social media platforms - Google trust content that is shared in volume by quality, verified, authority social media accounts
"SEO For Top Ten Rankings In 2015"
**UPDATED February 2015**
Let's start at the beginning......... You are not looking for an SEO agency, you're looking for more website visitors (traffic). Ideally, targeted traffic, consisting of people who are already pre-qualified because they are actively looking online for the products or services that you offer.
Google has significantly changed their method of ranking websites during the last few years, in an effort to deliver better results that rate business's, companies and services rather than rating just the websites of those organisations.
Exact match Anchor Text ✖
Spam Keyword Content Density ✖
Low Quality Manipulative Back-linking ✖
Low Quality & Duplicated Content ✖
Organic, Natural Back-Link Profiles ✔
Naturally Written Web Content ✔
Social Engagement ✔
You have two options, we can position your site at the top of search, or you can learn how to SEO your website yourself:
When you found us, you most likely searched for "How to SEO a website?" or "How to get to the top of Search?" or even just "search engine optimization", and that is the essence of ranking; being found for what you do, not for who you are.
The process of SEO has undergone massive change recently, from being a process of keyword manipulation, it has become a process of reputation and authority manipulation. This has been driven by Googles move from traditional search algorithm indexing towards latent semantic indexing (word association) of website content and information... read more here
Google is, (in most western countries) the most significant driver of organic search traffic, with a dominant share of daily search volumes, so if you are going to achieve traffic in large enough quantities to make money online, you need to understand how a search engine ranks websites and which are the most significant factors that control your rankings.
There are massive volumes of targeted traffic available for millions of search terms, which is why so many website owners want to appear in the top ten search results for their highest traffic search terms.
Ranking Algorithms Measure Three Core Areas;
- The quality & relevance of your site content
- The quality & relevance of the back-links pointing at your site
- The quality of your social engagement activity
These are measured using four algorithms (graphs);
- The Knowledge Graph - What is the Knowledge Graph?
- The Engagement Graph - What is the Engagement Graph?
- The Link Graph - What is the Link Graph?
- The Social graph - What is the social graph?
If you want to rank at the top of SERP's then you need to have a clear picture of what the search engines want to see.... and then provide it for them.
In an effort to prevent low quality spam content sites from ranking well, during 2012/13 Google refined their Panda algorithm which filters low quality page content as well as their Penguin algorithm which is focused on filtering low quality 'off-page' back-link spam.
They also introduced the Hummingbird algorithm in October 2013 which deals with complex search queries using semantic search. The move towards semantic search has forced business owners to totally rethink their web strategy. Semantic search is governed by what is called their 'knowledge graph' which works in a fundamentally different way to their traditional keyword ranking algorithms.
Before the introduction of these quality measuring algorithms, all you had to do was to cram your keywords onto your pages, fill plenty of back-links with keywords and up the SERP's (search engine rank positions) you would go. It is no longer that straight forward, because now you need to fulfil several quality and social metrics in the ranking process which filter out the less desirable sites from the top results.
Search today in 2015 is about meeting the requirements of four different search algorithms. These are the four metrics that you need to influence in order to succeed in search.
If your web content cannot easily and willingly be created, shared, commented on and reshared by other people then it contains little real value and as such will lose its place in the search results pages.
3 Step Website Strategy For Top Rankings:
Search engines are measuring your site for authority, reputation and trust using quality, relevance and popularity as their prime measurables.
- Original, high quality, unique written content
- Error free html and CSS
- Fast Loading Pages
- Low bounce rate, interactive content
- Does this content offer value as a resource?
- Is the content relevant to the query?
- Do other trusted, authority sites link to this content?
- Social media sharing, likes, retweets, shares, etc.
In essence, if you are going to achieve top rankings, then your website needs to have good quality, original content, that is written naturally using different terms and phrases related to your subject without repetitive keyword spamming. Your pages need to be free of coding errors, grammatical mistakes, dead links and bugs. Your pages need to load fast and the people that land on your site need to ideally visit at least one other page, and stick around for a little while.
In addition, your page needs to offer value to the reader, refering to specific documents on other valued sites as and when required. Your content must cover your subject matter in detail and offer a relevant solution for each search engine to provide for its users. Google uses a semantic graph to associate words within your content and better understand the meaning of your text, as well as learning from your site visitors experience of your site and adapting their results based on the outcome. Semantic search is a complex topic and we recommend that you read this book Google Semantic Search - David Amerland which covers the subject in great detail.
Latent Sematic Indexing (LSI) is a different issue to Semantic Search, however the two are connected. The shorthand definition of LSI is that your content needs to avoid over repetition of your main keywords and instead you should use a variety of different terms and phrases. The more you push a keyword through repetition, the less likely you are to rank well for it.
As we move closer towards voice operated devices that actually work (trust me, it's closer than you think!), the more search engines and computers will need to comprehend verbal speech. While you may well type 'Search Engine Optimization' into your browser, you are more likely to say 'Find me some SEO Companies near here', or 'Find me SEO Consultants near London', or 'Find SEO Consultants in Bedfordshire'.
The use of voice to control computers, phones and devices, is going to alter the way that people search, and this will directly alter the results returned for those queries.
The Hummingbird algorithm can interpret spoken questions and is be able to return accurate, relevant results. Your job as a website owner is to provide the content that is considered valuable and relevant, backed up and supported by social proof, reputation and authority.
If you are going to rank well then you still need links. However, there are several differences between then links that used to propel a site up SERP's and the ones that you now require.
Good links need the following attributes;
- On indexed pages
- On non orphan pages
- Link text density needs to conform to 'natural' expectations
- Links need Relevance
- Originate from different IP addresses
Many link sources have been devalued in recent years as the SEO industry learned how to manipulate search engine results. Forums, Blog comments, link networks (link farms), many directories and some article sites have all been devalued and offer little benefit to you as a website owner.
There are a few simple rules that will ensure that your links comply with its expectations;
If the page you want a link from isn't indexed in the search engine then you will gain no benefit from the link.
If the link is on an orphan page then you will also derive little advantage from the link. This means that if you are creating a new page on an indexed site, you need to get other sites to link to that page too before you will be rewarded with a benefit from the link. (The page is an 'orphan' until it has links pointing to it)
Link text should be shared in these approximate ratios;
- 70% Brand and URL links
- 15% Junk links
- 15% varied longtail search terms
This will give your site the natural linking profile that it wil need to rank well.
Your links need to come from related content. Links on totally unrelated pages are worth far less and can often actually be harmful to your rankings.. Imagine that a Wikipedia page is discussing brain surgery and it references a specific tool that you make, linking to your product page. That is a relevant, topical link. A link in the comments section of dog training blog on the other hand would be classed as a non related link. If you were a search engine, which would you value higher?
There was a time when link networks used to work well for promoting sites in the search engines' listings. They were cheap and fast, so Google had to find a way to negate their impact. One of the methods it uses is to track the IP address of all your links. Many link farms used to put many URL's on a single server (to reduce hosting costs) but the downside was that they all then shared the same Class C IP address. Today, search engines instantly distrust websites on shared servers, so it devalues the links from them (especially if they links to the same websites).
There was a time, not so long ago when all you needed was 100 site wide links on 1000 page websites to rank well. With the introduction of Penguin, those 100,000 links you once had, supporting your rankings suddenly turned into just 100 IP derived links. Many sites dropped in SERP's as a result of this change.
From a linking perspective, this was one of the biggest factors that has affected rankings.
Social Media Ranking Influence
Social media is used in all its forms by search engines to ascertain the quality of your content. If no one engages with your content at all, then they conclude that it is low quality, offering little value to potential search traffic. If on the other hand your visitors comment on your blog posts, share your content, like it, re tweet it, and assimilate it through their content network then it is much easier for the search engines to conclude that people like and value what you have written.
Engagement in all its forms is the key to creating authority within your niche of expertise.
As we have already discussed, gone are the days of simply choosing some keywords, applying them to your pages and linking using 'exact match anchor text'. Today you need to forget that as your web strategy and instead think of Branding and content marketing as your core activities online. The old view of SEO as a keyword implementation process, followed by a linking campaign needs to be replaced by think of the internet as moving from being a web of pages, to being a web of people.
The ways in which real people interact with your content allows search engines to evaluate what you have written and to give it a perceived value and authority.
SEO is made up of two main areas, on-page which is all about the quality of your website and the content it contains, and off-page which is concerned with 'popularity' metrics.
Whichever area of your SEO you think you need to address first, all SEO campaigns begin by analysing keywords and the potential traffic you can attract by targeting keywords that will convert into new business for you.
Google have done their utmost to convince webmasters that they shouldn't chase specific keywords any more. By removing much of the reporting data associated with organic search, they are attempting to persuade you that specifically targeting keywords is a bad idea.
It's worth bearing in mind that the way that people search is changing.
We used to site at PC's and laptops, and use search with buzz words, to find what we wanted.
Today in 2015 more than 50% of us use mobiles and tablets to surf the web, and and increasing number are using voice comands to search, so instead of searching for consise terms or phrases, we are starting to see more conversational questions being asked. This does potentially alter the way you should target keywords, as you now need to attract traffic for many more variations of questions and queries.
In the next few years, we may very well see the internet evolve as a consequence of smart watches, smart gloves etc. Our phones will one day never leave our pockets and we will control everything via voice commands. That time may not be very far away.
Are keywords still relevant?
In a word, yes. Adwords is still a keyword driven advertising tool, inspite of Google not wanting us to use the same strategy for organic rankings.
As long as a keyword attracts traffic, it is worth ranking for, so should be a target for you to optimize for.
The difference today is that you need to include a wide variety of your preferred keywords on your pages so that you rank for a wide variety of different combinations of the term or terms.
Off-page SEO can be sub divided into back-linking (whereby other websites like your site enough to link to you) and social media popularity (how many people like your content enough to share it with their friends across their Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Youtube, LinkedIn and Pinterest accounts).
Search engines look at all these factors, to see if you are publishing good quality content that is well presented, and then they assess if other people like it. This includes analysing how your website visitors interact with your content. Do they arrive on your site and immediately hit the back button? Or do they stay on your site, watch your videos, read your content, follow your links to read other pages within your site?
As a rule of thumb, if your visitors like your content then search engines will too. Your 'Bounce Rate', 'Average Page Views' and 'Time On Site' are very important to your overall rankings. The days of publishing low quality content and expecting to receive large volumes of traffic are over.
Because they now measure the behaviour of all the people who view each of your pages, and what they think of your content, it is important to make sure that your content offers value as a resource as opposed to being a traditional sales page that just pushes a product or service.
"I first recommended Deeho to a client of mine for whom I had recently finished building an Actinic e-commerce website. Deeho's expertise came into it's own in the off-page aspects of search engine optimisation which has provided a strong foundation for my client's site to perform very strongly in Google's results Pages for my client's chosen key phrases (and other long-tail terms that weren't planned for - an added bonus!)
As a web developer, Deeho is a strong part of my armoury when I pitch for new work."
What Do Search Engines Like To See?
Google likes websites that offer value, that add useful content to the particular subject or topic. It likes websites that are liked by other websites (links) and that are shared through social media.
Your site needs to keep your visitors interested with quality content, images and videos as well as unselfishly linking out to other quality websites that are useful resources for your visitors.
"If you are looking for an search engine optimization company that get things done when you want it, how you want it, with great communication then Dave Holland and Deeho get it done."
Take the first step to top ten rankings today and request a completely free non-obligation 175 point search engine optimization audit for your site and let us show you:
- Where you are now and what is good and bad about your site
- Where you could be, possible traffic available and what we need to do to get you there
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