Everyone wants to know how to rank high on Google and how to be found. So, here’s a list of plenty of free search engine optimisation tips for you to create a successful website. This post deliberately steers clear of things that might be a bit of a grey area, as what is grey today is often black hat tomorrow, as far as Google is concerned.
You’ll find various definitions of Search Engine Optimisation (optimization if you’re in the United States) but whichever way you decide to spell it, SEO today is all about doing well on Google, the world’s favourite search engine.
SEO is about KEYWORDS and LINKS. But it’s definitely also about RELEVANCE and REPUTATION. It is about VISITOR SATISFACTION. Search engine optimisation is about a web page being relevant enough for a search term, but also being trusted enough to rank for it. It’s about ranking for popular keywords for the long term, on merit. You can play by ‘white hat’ rules laid down by Google, or you can choose to ignore those and go ‘black hat’ – a ‘spammer’. But MOST SEO TACTICS still work, for some time, on some level, depending on who’s doing them, and depending on how they’re deployed.
Whichever route you decide to take, be aware that if Google finds out that you’re employing dodgy tactics and trying to chat then your website will be certainly be penalised and you’ll be classed as a spammer. Google does not want you to try and modify your rank. They would prefer you paid them to do that. The problem is – traffic from SEO is valuable, REALLY valuable. And best of all it’s FREE, as long as you’ve kept Google sweet enough.
In 2013, you need to be aware that what works to improve your rank can also get you penalised (faster, and a lot more noticeably). In particular, Google is currently waging war on unnatural links and manipulative tactics if it detects them.
Welcome to the tightrope that is SEO.
Lets touch on a few simple things to begin with:
To begin with….
• If you are just starting out in seo, don’t think you can fool Google about everything all the time. Google has probably seen your tactics before. So, it’s best to keep it simple. GET RELEVANT. GET REPUTABLE. Aim for a good visitor experience. If you are just starting out – you may as well learn how to do it within Google’s Webmaster Guidelines first. Make a decision, early, if you are going to follow Google’s guidelines, or not, and stick to it. Don’t be caught in the middle.
• If your aim is to deceive visitors from Google, in any way, Google is not your friend.
• A lot of seo techniques that work to boost a sites rankings in Google are against Google’s guidelines. Indeed, many links that may have once promoted you to the top of Google, may in fact be hurting your site and it’s ability to rank high in Google. You must be smart, and cautious, when it comes to building links to your site in a manner that Google *hopefully* won’t have too much trouble with in the FUTURE.
• Don’t expect stellar results without a lot of work, and don’t expect them too fast. Expecting too much too fast might get you in trouble.
• You don’t pay anything to get into Google, Yahoo or Bing natural, or free listings (SERPS). It’s common for the major search engines to find your website pretty easily by themselves within a few days. This is made so much easier if your website actually ‘pings’ search engines when you update content (via XML sitemaps for instance).
• To stay in Google and other search engines, you you really should consider and largely abide by search engine rules and guidelines for inclusion. With experience, and a lot of observation, you can learn which rules can be bent, and which tactics are short term and perhaps, should be avoided.
• Google ranks websites by the number and quality of incoming links to a site from other websites (amongst hundreds of other metrics). Generally speaking, a link from a page to another page is viewed in Google “eyes” as a vote for that page the link points to. The more votes a page gets, the more trusted a page can become, and the higher Google will rank it – in theory. Rankings are HUGELY affected by how much Google ultimately trusts the DOMAIN the page is on.
• I’ve always thought if you are serious about ranking – do so with ORIGINAL COPY. It’s clear – search engines reward good content it hasn’t found before. It indexes it blisteringly fast, for a start. So – make sure each of your pages has content you have written specifically for that page – and you won’t need to jump through hoops to get it ranking.
• If you have original quality content on a site, you also have a chance of generating inbound quality links (IBL). If your content is found on other websites, you will find it hard to get links, and it probably will not rank very well as Google favours diversity in it’s results. If you have decent original content on your site, you can let authority websites, those with online business authority, know about it, and they might link to you – this is called a quality backlink.
• Search engines need to understand a link is a link. Links can be designed to be ignored by search engines (the attribute nofollow effectively cancels out a link, for instance)
• Search engines can also find your site by other web sites linking to it. You can also submit your site to search engines direct, but I haven’t submitted my site to a search engine in the last 10 years – you probably don’t need to do that.
• Google spiders a link to your home page, finds your site, and crawls and indexes the home page of your site, and will come back to spider the rest of your website if all your pages are linked together (in almost any way).
• Many think Google will not allow new websites to rank well for competitive terms until the web address “ages” and acquires “trust” in Google – I think this depends on the quality of the incoming links. Sometimes your site will rank high for a while then disappear for months. This is called the “honeymoon period”.
• Google WILL classify your site when it crawls and indexes your site – and this classification can have a DRASTIC affect on your rankings – it’s important for Google to work out WHAT YOUR ULTIMATE INTENT IS – do you want to classified as an affiliate site made ‘just for Google’, a domain holding page, or a small business website with a real purpose? Ensure you don’t confuse Google by being explicit with all the signals you can – to show on your website you are a real business, and your INTENT is genuine. NOTE – If a page exists only to make money from Google’s free traffic – Google calls this spam.
• To rank for specific keyword searches, you generally need to have the words on your page (not necessarily altogether, but it helps) – ultimately it is all dependent on the competition for the term you are targeting) or in links pointing to your page/site.
• As a result of other quality sites linking to your site, the site now has a certain amount of Pagerank that is shared with all the internal pages that make up your website that will in future help determine where this page ranks.
• Yes, you need to build links to your site to acquire more Google Juice. Google is a links based search engine – it does not quite understand ‘good’ content – but it does understand ‘popular’ content.
• When you have Google Juice or Heat, try and spread it throughout your site by ensuring all your pages are linked together
• I think your external links to to other sites should probably be on your single pages, the pages receiving all your Google Juice once it’s been “soaked up” by the higher pages in your site (the home page, your category pages).It’s not JUST a numbers game, though. One link from a “trusted authority” site in Google could be all you need. Of course, the more “trusted” links you build, the more trust Google will have in your site. it’s pretty clear that you need MULTIPLE trusted links from MULTIPLE trusted websites to get the most from Google.
• Try and get links within page text pointing to your site with keywords in it – not, for instance, in blogrolls or sitewide links. Try to ensure the links are not obviously “machine generated” ie site-wide links on forums or directories. Get links from pages, that in turn, have a lot of links to them.
• Internally, consider linking to your other pages by linking to them within text – I usually only do this when it is relevant – and recently, I’ll link to relevant pages when the keyword is in the title elements of both pages. I don’t really go in for auto-generating links at all. Google has penalised sites for using particular auto link plugins, for instance.
• Linking to a page with actual key-phrases in the link help a great deal in all search engines when you want to feature for specific key-terms. ie “seo scotland” as opposed to http://www.huxo.co.uk or “click here for this or that“.
• I think the anchor text links in internal navigation is still valuable – but keep it natural. Google needs links to find your pages. Don’t underestimate the value of a clever internal link keyword-rich architecture and be sure to understand for instance how many words Google counts in a link, but don’t overdo it.
• Search engines like Google ‘spider’ or ‘crawl’ your entire site by following all the links on your site to new pages, much as a human would click on the links of your pages. Google will crawl and index your pages, and within a few days normally, begin to return your pages in search results (SERPS)
• After a while, Google will know about your pages, and keep the ones it deems ‘useful’ – pages with original content, or pages with a lot of links to them . Ideally you will have unique pages, with unique page titles and unique page descriptions if you deem to use the latter – most search engines don’t use the meta description when actually ranking your page for specific keyword searches if not relevant – I don’t worry about meta keywords these days.
• Google chews over your site, analysing text content and links
• If you have a lot of duplicate crap found on other websites Google knows about, Google will ignore your page. If your site has spammy signals. Google will penalise it.
• You don’t need to keyword stuff your text and look dyslexic to beat the competition. Generally it’s good to have keywords in links, page titles and text content. There is no ideal amount of text – no magic keyword density. Keyword stuffing is a tricky business.
• I prefer to make sure I have as many UNIQUE relevant words on the page.
• If you link out to irrelevant sites, Google may ignore the page, too – but again, it depends on the site in question. Who you link to, or HOW you link to, REALLY DOES MATTER – I expect Google to use your linking practices as a potential means by which to classify your site. Affiliate sites for example don’t do well in Google these days without some good quality backlinks.
• Many SEOs think who you actually link out to (and who links to you) helps determine a topical community of sites in any field, or a hub of authority. Quite simply, you want to be in that hub, at the centre if possible (however unlikely), but at least in it. I like to think of this one as a good thing to remember in the future as search engines get even better at determining topical relevancy of pages, but I have never really seen any granular ranking benefit (for the page in question) from linking out.
• Original content is king and will attract a “natural link growth” – in Google’s opinion. Too many incoming links too fast might devalue your site, but again. I usually err on the safe side – I go for massive diversity in my links – to make them look more natural. Actually, I go for natural links in 2013 full stop. Google can devalue whole sites, individual pages, template generated links and individual links if Google deems them “unnecessary”.
• Google knows who links to you, the “quality” of those links, and who you link to.
• Google decides which pages on your site are important or most relevant. You can help Google by linking to your important pages.
• It is of paramount importance you spread all that Google juice to your sales keyword / phrase rich sales pages, and as much remains to the rest of the site pages, so Google does not ”demote” starved pages into it’s reserves, or “supplementals”.
• Consider linking to important pages on your site from your home page, and via the template navigation on the site.
• Focus on RELEVANCE first. Then get REPUTABLE. The key to ranking in Google is actually pretty simple.
• Every few months Google changes it’s algorithm to punish sloppy optimisation or industrial manipulation. Google Panda and Google Penguin are two such updates, but the important thing is to understand Google changes it’s algorithms to control it’s listings pages. The art of SEO is to rank without tripping these algorithms – and that is tricky!