In brief, SEO means doing magic stuff both on and off your web site to get it found on Google.
A couple of examples of great SEO
The best way to explain something is to show some examples, so let’s get straight into it.
When I do a search on Google for “What is SEO?“, I find the following that the first entry takes me to http://searchengineland.com/guide/what-is-seo . This might have changed by the time you do the search, because the way Google ranks sites changes, the sites themselves change, and other sites get better or worse rankings – it is a fluctuating thing.
I recommend you visit that page, and, in addition to reading what it says about Search Engine Optimization (yes, they are American, so they spell it with a Z not an S), observe what they are doing on that page that might be helping them get to the top of Google for that search.
You will see that the term “SEO” is used often throughout the page, including in headings. There is a video about SEO. This will help keep visitors on the page for longer, which Google sees as an indicator that the page is highly relevant to the topic of “SEO”. There are links within the page to other pages on their site, as well as links to external sites, particularly what are called high-authority sites (sites that Google already knows and trusts).
There are images that are related to SEO, like the infographics. And these use the “alt text” (alternative text”) property of the images to further describe them as being related to SEO. This is the text you see appearing when you move your mouse over the image. Google can’t understand images as such, so it uses the alt text property to know what the image is about.
There are a lot more things you can easily do to a web page to help get it ranking well on Google. But there are also things you can do on OTHER sites to get found too. What you do on your own site is called “on-site SEO”, and what you do on other sites is called “off-site SEO”.
Things you can do on other sites are mainly related to establishing the idea that your site is relevant and related to the topic you are writing about. So, for example, if you were writing about knitting, having a link from another knitting site to yours is a good thing. It indicates that the owner of that site likes your site and thinks it is worthwhile putting a link to it because it is related to knitting.
You can get links to your site in a number of ways. But it is also important to vary the actual text that people click on to get to your site. This is called “anchor text”. For example, if I put “anchor text” (that is a link to Wikipedia), the anchor text is the words “anchor text”. But if I put “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anchor_text“, the whole address is the anchor text.
If you go to Majestic.com and put the URL for the SearchEngineLand.com page ( http://searchengineland.com/guide/what-is-seo ) into the search box, you will get a report on the links that point to this site from other sites. I can see there are currently around 30,000 links from 1,500 sites, and the anchor text varies a lot. Some anchor text is the domain name, some is the keyword “What is SEO?”, and so on.
Another site that nearly always comes up near the top of a Google search is Wikipedia. Here is the link to the Wikipedia entry about SEO. You will see that it says
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine‘s “natural” or un-paid (“organic“) search results. In general, the earlier (or higher ranked on the search results page), and more frequently a site appears in the search results list, the more visitors it will receive from the search engine’s users. SEO may target different kinds of search, including image search, local search, video search, academic search, news search and industry-specific vertical search engines.
As an Internet marketing strategy, SEO considers how search engines work, what people search for, the actual search terms or keywords typed into search engines and which search engines are preferred by their targeted audience. Optimizing a website may involve editing its content, HTML and associated coding to both increase its relevance to specific keywords and to remove barriers to the indexing activities of search engines. Promoting a site to increase the number of backlinks, or inbound links, is another SEO tactic.
Can you see what Wikipedia is doing there? They are linking within their own site to other articles that are related to SEO. They are using selected phrases that are associated with SEO, like “image search”, “local search” and so on, and linking to other articles within their site.
This shows that the site has a lot of relevant content for the topic. You can do this too on your own site, by linking to other pages that are related to the topic you are trying to get visitors for. If you don’t feel like writing all that content yourself, you can “curate” content. This means to copy articles you have found on other people’s sites, onto yours. You must ALWAYS put a link back to the original article. This gives a valuable boost to the other site, and they will like that. Here is an example of doing this, right in this post: 5 Tips for Better Off-Site SEO.
The most important question in SEO
The very most important, most fundamental thing you need to ask yourself when starting SEO for a web site is “What search term do I want to rank for?”. Another way to express this is “What keyword do I want to be found under?”. A keyword is what someone types into Google when they are looking for what your site is about. The term “keyword” does not always refer to one word – it can be a phrase.
I was amazed recently when a (now former) client hired an “SEO Expert” and when I asked her “What keyword are you trying to rank the site for?” she had no idea what I was talking about.
You need to decide early on what you want people to find you under, in Google. Unless your business is VERY well known, there is no point in trying to rank for your business name. Because there won’t be many people typing that into Google. It is better to try to rank for what it is you do or sell. For example, if you found this post on search engine like Google, you probably didn’t type in “Gecko Gully WebSites”, you probably typed in something like “What is SEO”.
Taking SEO to the next level
Apart from the on-site and basic off-site optimisation steps that can be taken, there are some more in-depth SEO strategies that can be employed.
One of the simplest techniques is with social media. Without being annoying, occasionally put links to your web site into Facebook or Twitter. If you are part of any online groups or forums, add your link (if it is within the rules) to your posts there. These will not only add to the Google ranking, they will (more importantly) add to the engagement with your site.
Another is with video marketing. As you might be aware, Google owns YouTube. This is why you often see YouTube videos right at the top of Google searches. So it makes sense to put a video on YouTube about your topic, and to link back to your web site from within the description of that video. It is not difficult to get a video to rank right at the top of Google for most search terms.
You can take that a step further by grouping videos that are on a similar topic into YouTube Playlists. These Playlists can then be shared on other YouTube Channels (either owned by you or by other people) to create a network of links both within YouTube (which Google loves) or to your site.
Another type of network is a PBN, or Private Blog Network. This is a tiered structure consisting of many web sites, some owned by you and some not. They all have links both from one site to another, as well as links out to authority sites that Google respects. A PBN can be complex to set up, and is not for a beginner to SEO.
Yet another technique for getting a great link coming into your site is to write an article that gets linked to by Wikiepdia. Again, this is not for a beginner to SEO.
How do you get help?
Here at Gecko Gully, we do SEO. We take an holistic approach to SEO, believing that everything that goes on your web site should contribute to it being found on Google. Since there are a number of methods that can be used, some will be suitable for your site, and some won’t. But generally speaking, doing ANYTHING is better than doing nothing.
Don’t be like my client who was upset that, after having had their site online for 6 months, they couldn’t find it in Google for a search on “quilting”. When I asked them whether the word “quilting” appeared on their web site, the answer was (upon inspection) “No”. When I asked whether they had created any links from other sites to theirs for any keyword, including “quilting”, the answer was “No”. When I asked whether they had done anything to help rank their site for the word “quilting” (or any other word), the answer was – you guessed it – “No”.
I recommend that you follow some of the guidelines in this article. I have also written a book on Amazon called Selling Craft Online. This is about 2 years old now, and so there are some additional chapters I should add, but it is a good starting point. If you are not into Craft, don’t worry – the suggestions it contains apply to any area, but it simply uses Craft businesses in the examples.
If you prefer to hire someone else to do this for you, please get in touch. We offer a very wide range of online marketing services that will work for you to get your site onto page one of Google. We’re not cheap, but damn we’re good.
Transcript of video at the top of this post
Imagine for a minute that you’re a librarian, but not a normal one. You’re a librarian for every book in the world. People depend on you every day to find the exact book they need. How do you do it?
You need a system. You need to know what’s inside every book and how books relate to each other. Your system needs to take in a lot information and spit out the best answers for a patron’s questions. It’s not an easy job.
Search engines like Google and Bing are the librarians of the Internet. Their systems collect information about every page on the web so they can help people find exactly what they are looking for. And every search engine has a secret recipe, called an algorithm – for turning all that information into useful search results.
Now, if you own a website, search results matter. When your pages have higher rankings, they help more people find you. The key to higher rankings is making sure your website has the ingredients search engines need for their recipes. This is called search engine optimization or SEO.
As it turns out, most of the big ingredients are known. Let’s take a look…
First, words matter. Search engines account for every word on the web. This way, when someone searches for “shoe repair” the search engines can narrow the results to only the pages that are about those words.
Second, titles matter. Each page on the web has an official title, but you may not ever see it because it’s in the code. Search engines pay a lot of attention to page titles because they often summarize the page, like a book’s title.
Third, links between websites matter. When one web page links to another, it’s usually a recommendation, telling readers “this site has good information”. A web page with a lot of links coming to it can look good to search engines.
But some people try to fool the search engines by creating or buying bogus links all over the web that point to their own website. Usually search engines can detect when a site has a lot of them. And they account for it by giving links from trustworthy sites more weight in the recipe.
Fourth, the words that are used in links matter too. If your webpage says “Amazon has lots of books” and the word “books” is linked, search engines can establish that amazon.com is related to the word “books”. This way when someone searches for books, that site will rank well.
Lastly, search engines care about reputation. Sites with a consistent record of fresh engaging content and growing numbers of quality links may be considered rising stars and do well in search rankings.
These are just the basics and the recipes are refined and changed all the time. Good SEO is about making sure your website has great content that supported by the ingredients that search engines need for their recipes.