Search Engine Optimisation FAQ
You pay for what you get – firms offering cheap SEO are usually link-buying farms. These types of SEO firms don’t really do SEO at all – they pay a small fee for spamers to place links to your website which temporarily increases the rankings of your site. Not only does this type of SEO violate search engine guidelines, but it will actually cost you more in the long-run when your competitors find out what you are doing, report your site and you get banned from the search engines altogether.
Think about the professional rate other people charge. If the average rate for a freelance web developer was $110/hr, how much time do you think they would spend on a project that was only bringing in less than an hours worth of income? 15 minutes? 20 minutes? Remember that freelancers and businesses often have considerable expenses to pay.
Clearly, firms offering cheap SEO aren’t using qualified experts. If they are, you will only be buying a few minutes of their time per month.
We run all our SEO packages on performance. You pay 1 month in advance and then we work for the month ranking your website. On reporting day, we will review everything that happened that month in the rankings. If everyone is happy and wants to continue the programme, you continue.
Yes. We adhere to all the search engine guidelines. While doing a competitor analysis for clients, we often find some of their competition have been violating the Google Webmaster Guidelines. We report these websites to Google on our client’s behalf and these websites are usually removed from the Google index (they won’t show up in a Google search).
No. Because we don’t control the search engines, we cannot responsibly guarantee first page rankings – no one can. We do, however, have a history of ranking our customers on the first page of the search results. We don’t make our customers sign any contracts for search engine optimisation campaigns – customers stay with us because they are experiencing increased rankings and associated increases in traffic, not because of empty promises.
In Google’s own words: “No one can guarantee a #1 ranking on Google.“
Yes, we can offer Pay-Per-Click (PPC) online marketing services as well as Social Media Marketing (SMM).
You will receive a detailed report every month from us via email. We have the best reports in the online marketing industry and our reporting structure tracks rankings daily, and serves them to you in a clear and concise executive summary.
This depends on a number of factors, such as how frequently your site is being crawled by the search engine robots, the age and size of your website and whether or not you have received a search engine penalty. External factors such as how frequently the search engines are updating their index also come into play. A typical website can usually expect to see a small boost in rankings after a couple of months, a noticeable rankings boost after 6 months and a big boost in rankings after 12 months.
Start with Keyword Research
Search engines, in essence, use words to match websites. When users enter a search query, the job of the search engine is to find pages on the internet that are likely to be the most relevant. Because people use words to search with, it is vital that your website contains the words that people will use to search for your products. Consider how your customers behave and all the possible synonyms they may use, slang words, geographical tags and brand sub classifications. A search engine optimisation expert will focus on a company’s niche and find words with a high number of search queries and a low level of competition.
Use the following tools to help discover the best keywords:
Provide Focus, Value and Depth.
Both humans and web users are essentially looking for the same three things when rating how good a web page is: focus, value and depth. Good web pages provide focus by concentrating on one topic at a time, they provide value by having a range of resources on the page (e.g. text, photos, audio, video, PDF files etc), and they provide depth by having a large amount of compelling, original content.
Optimise Page Titles and HTML Headings
Page titles need to be unique, accurately describe the content of the page and include your best keywords (but don’t overdo it i.e. keyword stuffing). The
<title> tag should be placed within the
<head> tag of the HTML document and should be between 10-70 characters in length, including spaces. Use this snippet-optimizer tool to see how your titles, meta description and URL will look on the search engine results page (SERP).
Try to use HTML headings where appropriate. The initial
<H1> heading should include your best keywords. Using only one
<H1> heading per page will strengthen your SEO effort.
Make Use of Meta Descriptions
The meta description tag allows web page authors to give meaningful summary descriptions/snippets for search engine results pages (SERPs). Search engine crawlers take notice of keywords in meta descriptions, so make sure you use them here. Just like titles, remember to keep your description concise, but with the meta descriptions there should be a minimum of 70 characters used. The maximum length of a meta description should be160 characters. Make sure that every page on your website has its own unique meta description, with its own unique keywords (you want different keywords used on different pages to avoid ‘keyword cannibalism’ – a process whereby the search engine crawlers get confused as to which page is the best to show for a keyword, resulting in lower rankings for each page).
Improve the Structure of your URLs
Ideally you should have your best keyword in your URL. For instance, if you sell car widgets, a URL like http://buycarwidgets.com would be ideal. However, if you have taken a more ‘branded’ approach to your URL, you can still sneak your keywords into your URLs by improving URL structure. Creating descriptive categories and filenames leads to better crawling by search engines and better human usability. A URL with a structure like http://buycarwidgets.com/red-widgets.com is good because humans and search engines both know that the page is about red car widgets. However, a URL like http://buycarwidgets.com/index.php?id_sezione=360&sid=3a5ebc944f41daa6f849f730f1 is much less appealing.
Providing one version of a URL to reach a document is vital. If you find users are accessing the same content through multiple URLs, setting up a 301 redirect from non-preferred URLs to the dominant URL is a good solution. You can also use canonical URL or use the
rel="canonical" link element if you cannot redirect.
Add ALT Text to Images
Search engines can’t physically ‘see’ an image the way people do, instead they rely on a description to be provided. Use the ALT text attribute to let the search engines know that you have an image for them to index. Include a keyword in the ALT text if it accurately describes the picture. Also, change the file name of the image to include the keyword. Providing an ALT text will mean that your pictures will show up in an image search, adding another way for people to find your page. Keep in mind, however, that your page load time is affected by the number of images on your page – having too many photos to load will lower the quality of the user experience for some of your visitors.
Keep the Text/HTML Ratio High
Many websites provide far too little text content for the search engine crawlers to pay any attention too. While they may sometimes look great, they fail to provide any depth to visitors. Ideally the text/HTML ratio on your page should be over 50%. The more text you add to each page, the more chance you have of ranking for more keywords. If you make regular posts on a blog, they should be at least 300 words long too get the attention of the search engine robots.
Avoid Frames and iFrames
You should avoid using frames when optimising your website because search engines hate them – they don’t bother to index them since they conflict with the standard layout for a website. If you use them on your site you could inadvertently exclude not only search engines but visitors who have disabled frames in their web browser.
Avoid Flash and AJAX
While Flash may be good at enhancing the look of your page, it is awful for SEO. Flash cannot be indexed by search engines, meaning that everything contained behind the Flash content is affectively treated like spam. AJAX is in the same category as Flash.
Use robots.txt File
A robots.txt file restricts the activity of search engine robots and stops them from accessing certain pages and directories. A robots.txt file is needed to locate the XML sitemap.
- Tip: check your robots.txt file for syntax errors here
Include an XML Sitemap
A Sitemap allows search engines to index your site more accurately. It is an XML file that lists the URLs of a site and tells the search engines which URLs they should crawl, how often you update your site and the importance of each URL. Submitting your XML Sitemap to Google Webmaster Tools and Bing Webmaster Tools is recommended by most SEO experts.
Include ‘Lang’ Attribute
Specifying your website language is good for usability. For multilingual sites, you should declare the contents language in the HTML code of each page and also declare the language code in the URL (e.g. company.com/es/contact.html).
Specify the Doctype
Specifying the doctype (e.g. HTML 5) allows your web browser to correctly render your content. It is bread-and-butter SEO to specify the doctype and it should be second nature to every web developer.
Declare Character Encoding
Declaring the character/language encoding will prevent complications when rendering special characters. Like specifying the doctype, this is standard SEO practise that should be part of your web design routine.
Include Analytic Code
If you’re not using Piwik, Google Analytics, or another type of software to track your website visitors, you aren’t really doing search engine optimisation. These powerful software solutions allow you to monitor and modify your SEO campaigns by seeing which words/phrases you are ranking for and how visitors are finding your site.
Search engines are becoming increasingly fond of microformat markup, as it gives convenient summary information to search engine users at a glance. For instance, when searching for a product, microformat markup allows the product to be displayed with a rating and review. When combined with a picture of the product, this greatly increases search engine relevance and usability. When combined with social signals from social networks, microformats is a must-have for e-commerce websites.
Consider Dublin Core
The Dublin Core is a set of metadata standards that describe resources for the purpose of discovery in search engines. Dublin Core can be used to describe a full range of resources such as video, images, web pages, and even physical resources such as books or artwork.
Get Geo-Meta Tags
Geo-Meta tags can be used to tell a search engine where the website is located. Some search engines ignore the geo-meta tags, but the search engine Bing seems to love them at the moment.
Always Include a Feed
If you want to continually be at the top of search engine rankings, you will constantly need to be updating your site with great new original content. Include a feed so that your great new content can instantly propagate the web when subscribers of your feed are alerted of content updates.
- Tip: use a custom RSS feed and management tool like FeedBurner
Make a Favicon
It’s a good idea to have a favicon image, especially one that reflects your brand. A favicon improves the ‘friendliness’ of your site and it also gives another signal to the search engines that there is value in your site.
- Tip: if you’re stuck for favicon ideas, check out this great idea here.
Use a file compression program such as gzip to boost the speed of your website, thereby improving user experience. User experience is becoming an increasingly important factor in search engine rankings.
Of course there are many more ways you can optimise your website for search engines. There are hundreds of factors that search engines take into account when ranking websites. The algorithms of major search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo are updated hundreds of times a year, so it pays to stay informed about the latest SEO techniques.
For more information, a beginners guide on SEO from Google is provided below. If you would prefer a search engine optimization expert to take charge of your web presence, please consider IT Itch SEO Consultancy.