‘Search Engine Optimization’ defined
Search Engine Optimization (also known as SEO, search engine optimisation, organic search marketing, website optimization, search optimization etc.) is quite simply the endeavor by which you entice Search Engines to list the pages of a website in their results pages.
Many people discover new content from search results and thus SEO is the most important factor in attracting new visitors to a website. This tutorial details my own five-step process that’s absolute dynamite for getting quick results with SEO, but you might also like to read about it on Wikipedia here
Step #1 – The ‘Keyword Proposition’
The first step in performing SEO for your website is knowing what search terms you want to optimize for. This is a deceptively simple question however the answer is infinitely more complex because in choosing what to optimize for you must also consider the competition for a particular keyword.
SEO uses the term keyword for the entire phrase that is submitted to the Search Engine, as such the keyword may be multiple words, or not.
Develop a list of keywords based on the content of your page using a thesaurus to make this list as long as possible. Enter these in to a spreadsheet so that you can keep track as you progress through the development of your keyword proposition.
Beside the root keywords that you developed based on your content you should next list the words that indicate the intent that you seek to optimize for, and also a list of negative keywords that indicate intents to avoid. For example if you are selling a product you should include words like buy, price and coupon while avoiding terms such as free or job.
Finally use the spreadsheet to compute all of the permutations of the search terms and analyze these using a keyword analysis tool such as the one provided by Google AdWords. In order to determine what keywords are attractive you need to consider: the number of searches, the competition for that keyword and the intent of a searcher when entering that term.
The output of this analysis is your keyword proposition, which is simply a list of attractive keywords for which you will optimize your page for using the steps below.
Step #2 – ‘Information Architecture’
Put simply the Information Architecture of a website defines the location of a website’s pages relative to the domain and therefore the address (URL) of each page. To illustrate consider that the URL for this post is made up of two parts: first is the domain (http://michaelsmalelovesyou.com), the second is the permanent link (permalink) for this page (/search-engine-optimization-101/).
Since the full address of your website’s pages are evaluated when determining your page’s rank in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERP) it is worthwhile to incorporate keywords from your proposition in the address of your pages. While it is always important to consider a website’s usability this especially true of the information architecture.
Information architectures are visualized using storyboards with arrows indicating links between pages and for large sites it is useful to group pages in categories and storyboard each separately. A common form of architecture is a hierarchical structure similar to a organizational chart with the homepage at the top, and child pages below.
Larger sites will add a category between the homepage and the child-pages to group large numbers of child pages together. The careful selection of the category names provides an opportunity to incorporate root keywords in the address for each of the child pages of the category. For example at http://internetmarketingseminarz.com/ the categories correspond to the parent items in the navigation menu, and also appear in the address of child pages between the domain and the permalink.
Step #3 – ‘Relevant Content’
A crucial concept in optimizing your website for search engines is relevance. Relevance scoring is performed by the search engines on a page-by-page basis, accordingly you must evaluate the relevance of each page of your website separately.
Relevance scoring is the process that search engines use to evaluate a web-page for relevance to a search query. The search query is the exact phrase submitted to the search engine and includes: the order of the words, their exact spelling including any mistakes, and the use of quotation marks & other search modifiers like ‘-free’ (which excludes results relevant for the term ‘free’ on most major search engines).
Here’s my checklist of the major considerations when evaluating relevance:
- Keyword usage (frequency of use, prominence, in headings)
- Keyword density (percent of word count – ideally 2% – but less than 5%)
- Meta Tags (title – 65 characters, description – 165 characters)
- Hyperlinks (cite other content about every 120 words, add attribute rel=’nofollow’ to external links)
- Body length (at least 300 words)
- Semantically related words (use natural language, synonyms, avoid excessive repetition)
- Readability (proofread content to ensure it reads well)
Search engines want to provide quality results to their users so provide quality content and you will be rewarded.
Step #4 – ‘Backlinks’
Building links from other websites to your website’s homepage and deeplinking to the inner content of your website is crucial. Google’s search algorithm that redefined search was based on the patent filed by it’s principal Laurence Page and is known as PageRank.
The simple explanation of PageRank is that each website that includes a link to your website or deeplinks to one of your web-pages is voting for your website or your web-page. The greater the quality of the website that links to your website the greater the inferred quality of your website.
You can download the Google toolbar and install the PageRank function to evaluate the relative importance of your website and others. PageRank is supplemented by another concept known as TrustRank which is not visible on the toolbar however it is understood that domains on educational or governmental domain extensions such as .edu or .gov are considered trustworthy and confer TrustRank to your site when they link to you.
The first step in obtaining backlinks for most webmasters will be submitting your website for inclusion in web directories. These can be paid or free and because of the large number of reasons to avoid paid links you should stick to reputable free directories such as the Open Directory Project
Step #5 – ‘Tuning’
The final step in achieving optimal SEO performance for your pages is to include analytic capacity on your site and use actual usage data to tune your content. Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools provide the basic information in an easy to understand formula and can be installed for free.
Once you have your site up on the web you should regularly track the results pages for your keyword propositions. Most of the work will be in building backlinks and producing new content, however you may refine your proposition in light of new competition or with the understanding gleaned from analyzing traffic behavior.
Ultimately tuning is the ultimate form of SEO because, unless you are very lucky, you aren’t going to get things exactly right first time however by tracking and tuning your content you will be able to make the incremental improvements that can often make the difference between a loss and a profit.