Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the process of improving the ranking of your website in the unpaid search results (also called organic or natural results) with engines such as Google, Yahoo! and Bing. This is not to be confused with paying search engines for links, sponsored listings, banners or buttons to direct users to your website (sometimes referred to as Seach Engine Marketing or SEM). Paid programs, such as Google AdWords, generally operate on a pay-per-click (PPC) or per impression (page views) basis whereas SEO can cost nothing or a small fortune depending on how it is undertaken. Users tend to put more trust in unpaid links which is why SEO has become such an integral part of website design.
Please note: HostAway do not offer SEO services (this is the duty of your web developer or a third-party SEO expert) however we wanted to provide our customers with some basic information on the subject.
So how are search engine results determined? To begin with, search engines send out “robots” – crawlers, spiders or Googlebots to crawl over the Internet and index web page content. This data is processed by each search engine to calculate relevancy so when a user enters a search phrase it will deliver (what it has determined are) the most appropriate results. Each search engine has their own algorithms that they use to determine the relevance or importance of a site and most importantly these algorithms do change, which is why SEO is a continual process.
Although the algorithms differ slightly between search engines, the most important components are currently believed to be:
On your site:
- Content – Is King. Must be indexable to robots; i.e. not all images or flash content.
- Keywords – Keep them relevant, label images and links clearly.
- Architecture – Use clear sitemaps to make it easy for search engines to crawl, fast servers (that’s where we come in) and search engine friendly URLs.
External to your site:
- Links – Inbound to your site (called backlinks) from relevant, quality sites.
- Social Media – Links, Likes, Shares, Mentions etc.
What NOT to do:
- Keyword stuffing – In text, URLs, image descriptions, meta-tags, links…anywhere!
- Cloaking – Hiding words from humans to try fool search engines.
- Link spam – Posting links on random forums or other websites that are completely unrelated to your website.
- Duplicate content – Whether it is duplicated within your website or on a separate domain it is frowned upon.
These components are believed to be the most important however the search engines seldom reveal how they rank sites, to avoid people abusing that knowledge. Search engines do release some information and experts run tests to fill in the blanks, however it is generally advised to build the website for the user, not the search engine. In the past meta-tag keyword stuffing and link-farming were used to boost rankings until the search engines cottoned on and punished sites that engaged in these practices. Some SEO providers may still use these undesirable methods, which are referred to as black hat SEO. On the other side of the coin is white hat SEO, which follows the guidelines of the search engines. Although black hat methods may produce a short term gain in page rankings it is better to have 10 quality back-links to your website than 1000 spammy low-value links. Black hat SEO can also result in your website being de-listed from search engines completely!
With an approximate 80% share of the search market Google is the primary target for most optimisation. Google provide a number of tools for webmasters to help make your website as search friendly as possible which can be found here – http://www.google.com.au/webmasters/.
In summary, provide great content with quality links, choose words and phrases used by people who search for your product and build legitimate links to your website (such as from a business Facebook or Twitter account). Don’t forget to keep links and content up-to-date. SEO is an ongoing process, you can’t work your way to the top of the rankings and expect to stay there if you don’t keep adding fresh and relevant content.
Want more info? A simple Google search with the right key words should help you find what you’re looking for!