These days, everyone uses search engines to find what they’re looking for online, which means that employing the right search engine marketing techniques is more important than ever before. Google leads the way with about 67% of the market, followed by Bing with approximately 19% and Yahoo with around 10%. Searching has become a core part of internet use, meaning that positions in search engines can make or break online businesses. Getting to the top is one thing, though – staying there is quite another, which is why you should be working on a long term search engine optimisation strategy that will provide consistently high results over a significant period of time.
One of the ways in which Google and other popular search engines measure the relative importance of a page is by how many other websites across the internet link to it. The search spiders need to find relevant links before they will index a page, as their main objective is (and probably always will be) to deliver accurate, useful and relevant search results to their users. However, obtaining backlinks can be a time consuming and sometimes complicated process, and because of that there are literally thousands of search engine marketing companies offering link building services that have sprung up over the last few years, especially as the importance of high search engine ranking positions has continued to rise.
In the past, it was usually a case of whoever had the most backlinks, at least as far as the search engines were concerned, had the most important page. Although not as important as it once was, backlinking can still play an important part in the overall search engine marketing strategy of a website. To see an example of this, search Google for the words “click here”. Over 153,000,000 results are relevant to those words, and yet the top result (a link to Adobe) contains neither word. This is because millions of websites over the years have linked to this page using the words “click here” in the anchor text.
However, the search engine marketing landscape is changing, and search engines are becoming increasingly sophisticated with each algorithm update. In the past, the only sure-fire way to get to the top of the search engines was to build as many links back to your website as possible, but now there are many other, far more efficient methods of improving your website’s search engine optimisation and boosting its search engine rankings. In this five-part series, the SEO experts at Michael Bell One will provide some of their top search engine optimisation tips and techniques to help get your website to the top.
1. Use Search Engine Friendly URLs
Keep your URL structure as simple as possible and avoid using characters such as question marks and ampersands. Search engines generally use spiders to locate and crawl searchable pages on websites, but they sometimes have difficulty in indexing URLs that contain an excessive amount of symbols and special characters. Most public search engines and intranet search engines will index dynamic URLs but some will not. Because it’s difficult to link to these pages, they’ll often be penalised by engines that use link analysis to improve relevance ranking, such as Google’s PageRank algorithm.
2. Include Your Keywords in Your Content
Keywords still play a big part in indicating to the search engines the relevance of your website when particular keywords are searched for. If the relevant search term does not appear within the text on your website, it’s less likely that your website will be matched to the corresponding search term. However, you should always write content for humans rather than search engines and ensure that it reads correctly instead of attempting to stuff it with as many different keywords as possible, otherwise you’ll end up with content that doesn’t make a lot of sense to anybody.
3. Don’t Hide Your Keywords
Have you ever seen a site that has hundreds of keywords repeated at the bottom of the page? Sometimes these keywords are the same colour as the background so you only notice them if you highlight a section of the page and they show up as reversed white on black text. This is an attempt to rank well in the search engines for the keywords listed there. Search engines used to be fooled by this search engine marketing technique, but now they will penalise a website heavily if its footer is stuffed with keywords. Avoid hiding your keywords in your website content and don’t include white text on a white background.
4. Avoid Cloaking
Cloaking is a technique designed to deliver different web pages under different circumstances. For instance, search engine spiders may rank a heavily optimised page for a certain keyword. However, when a visitor goes to the page using the same keyword search term, an altogether different page is delivered in an attempt to send the visitor somewhere else. If you are caught cloaking web pages, your website may be permanently banned from search engines and removed from their indexes. Forget doorway pages too, which are typically large sets of poor-quality pages where each page is optimised for a specific keyword or phrase. Although doorway pages can potentially be a useful search engine marketing strategy for sites with content that is overlooked by search engines, they are generally frowned upon and you would be better off investing the time in improving the content of your existing pages.
5. Provide Lots of Quality Content
Make sure that you have enough quality content on your website to cover the keywords that you want your website to be found for. If you add two to three pages of high-quality, original content to your website each week, the cumulative impact on your search engine rankings can be dramatic. If this is too time consuming, you can always hire a specialist search engine marketing company like Michael Bell One to create and optimise content for you. Alternatively, you should make sure that your business is represented in a high quality business directory that has a high ranking and a lot of organic search traffic, and remember to add as much quality content to your business listing as possible.
6. Optimise Your Title and Meta Tags
To improve your search engine visibility you should include a unique, descriptive title tag and meta description on every page of your website. Create compelling page titles and meta descriptions to encourage users to click through to your website from a search results page. Using promotional text such as “free delivery” or unique selling points in your meta description can significantly increase the click-through rate to your website, which can enforce a sense of relevancy in the eyes of Google and other leading search engines. Creating title tags and meta descriptions is easy; creating good ones is extremely hard.
7. Use an Enticing Page Design
Every page needs to be designed to draw visitors to other pages and sections of your site. Being ranked on a search listing will mean users will be entering the website at different pages and not necessarily visiting the Home page at all.You should give each page equal consideration during the design process to enable the search engines to properly index them.
8. Utilise Social Media
The importance of integrating social media marketing into your overall search engine marketing strategy cannot be overstated. Almost every one of your customers will have one or more social media accounts, meaning that social media marketing is a powerful channel through which to reach out to and engage with your customer base. Social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter provide a wealth of information about the needs and wants of your target demographic, but they are also useful to search engines too. Search engines increasingly view social network activity relating to a website (otherwise known as social signals) as an “endorsement” of that website and an indication of its quality and relevancy. If you are not already developing social media profiles for your business, stop what you’re doing and do it now.
9. Keyword Placement
Although not as important to a search engine marketing strategy as it once was, it is still a good idea to write your content to include the primary keyword as early as possible, as some search engines still place more importance on keywords that appear near the top of the page than those closer to the bottom. Although keyword density losing its importance as a ranking factor with each search algorithm update, from our tests it does still play a factor in determining the ranking position of your website. However, you should always make sure that the content you write makes sense; don’t simply think you can list your keywords many times over and it will boost your ranking. If you adopt that approach to content creation your website is likely to be classified as a spam site, and your rankings are likely to disappear altogether.
10. Talk to Customers and Visitors
What’s the easiest and quickest way to ruin an SEO campaign? Use the wrong keywords. When deciding which keywords to target, use techniques that include your target audience. This means talking directly to your customers, consulting focus groups, checking online reviews of your own and other businesses in your niche, browsing forums, engaging with your followers on your social networks and even reading the blogs and news sections of your competitors. It is also often a good idea to tap into the fountain of knowledge within your own organisation – the sales and customer support personnel who regularly talk directly with customers and visitors.
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To talk to us about your web design, SEO or Branding project, contact Jake Judd or David Park on 01273 478822 or simply send us an email instead.