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Technical Papers by Kevin Morrison

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SEO Explained



The bubble effect is mostly to blame for why a website appears to be losing search position. Search is not obvious anymore and the search engines have placed a profile on you (not your site) where they are only showing you things they think you want to see and you do not have a choice in the matter. There are ways to combat this but it takes proactive action on your part to help get your site noticed. I am going to layout some basic SEO guides here and I will try and be as logical as I can so you can follow along with this. I am going to assume you know nothing about optimizing for search results and how SEO works even though you might. I would rather you have all the data as it exists today.

First I have to prepare you with some background so you know what is going on. A while back Google released a new algorithm called Penguin and they are getting ready to roll out an update that they call Penguin 2.0 (Google these and read more about them, both the good and the bad are easy to find) that has the potential to make matters worse unless some things change on your site. That is not to say it will happen but we need to assume the worse and the tips I give you here are going to go a long way in helping you get back to the top )actually I can give you a 88% guarantee of better results). Before I get into that I want to assure you that the tools I use to build websites are fully compliant with SEO and do some great things to help. With that said they are only tools and will only assist you but will not make anything magical happen without our intervention.

Google has been trying to tell everyone for a few years now that more emphasis is going to be placed on content relevance. What this means is the old way of setting up and working with SEO is dead and will not work anymore. Google is not the only ones doing this but because it is the strictest if we optimize for it the others will fall into place. Now let’s get down to the nitty gritty of all of this so you can understand where we are and what we need to do.

Keywords are the words that you put into the search engine to find the information you are looking for, we will also talk about keyword phrases which are more common but essentially are the same as keywords only you are using them in sentences. Keywords have to be optimized on your site in order for the search results to count them and with keywords we also can use what is called keyword phrases where the keywords are placed in a sentence so and all of which would be a search term a user would use to find your site. Meta data is the data that the search engines look at first when they crawl your site and within the meta data you need to have keywords that you want to be found for (don’t worry if you don’t understand this now it will become clear down the road). Your content needs to have a percentage of these keywords in order for the search engines to give it a good rating and find it relevant. Here is where it gets confusing because knowing this you would think you would be found for the keywords you are using. However search engines are now profiling people and based on all the things you search for and all the pages you view, they give you search results based on what their new algorithm thinks you want to see (Penguin & Penguin 2.0).

We still need to optimize the pages for keywords and create Meta-Data that is relevant for the page but now we have to go one step further. Google now looks at a page for the richness of its content and wants to deliver content to the searcher that are using their system to find the riches, most relevant information possible. This means that having a static site is no longer going to work and if you want to get on top and stay there you have to be proactive with your site. You have to update the pages with fresh content and make sure you have created a resource that is rich and engaging. Otherwise the search engines are not going to give you the time of day.

Getting on page one of Google is not a onetime affair and if you want to stay there you have to be proactive on your site. This is why I was trying to get you to blog on your site a while back. If you have a blog that is going to go a long way in showing the search engines that you are passionate about the content on your site and they will reward you for that. Besides creating a steady flow of content there are a few other things that you need to do in order to see the best results. Internal linking and getting quality inbound links are both good ways to get some attention. An example of how to create internal links are when you are writing on your blog you can link keywords and keyword phrases to other content and blog posts on your site. Getting good inbound links is a harder task to do and while there are several ways to get them, the most straight forward way is to setup a Facebook page and have it work for you by creating links back to your sites content. All search engines are beginning to show signs that they favor social media and links on these sites play an important role. However if you can obtain links to your pages from a referring site that has good page rank is all the better.

Terms to Learn:

Keywords are the words that you optimize your site for. A great deal of effort is put into finding the right keywords. The secret is to find keywords that are not highly competitive yet words that your potential visitors will use to find you. This can be especially difficult for businesses that have lots of competition.
Keyword Phrases:
These are like keywords only they are formed sentences that have many keywords in them and like keywords they are things a potential site visitor are going to type into a search engine to find you. Both keywords and keyword phrases require some research to find words and phrases that are not highly competitive but also a solid understanding of your demographic will assist you in understanding how to find good words to use. The thing to remember about keyword phrases is that more people these days tend to ask the search engine a question rather than think “Keyword” so don’t rule out the use of keyword phrases and in fact I put emphasis on them more than just a single word.
Internal Links:
These are the easiest to do on a website because you have full control over how many links you have on a page, the keywords that you use for the links and where the links go to. It is essential to perform on-site linking to other areas of your site and it is necessary to use keyword and keyword phrases to generate your links.
Outbound Links:
You only have partial control over these types of links even though you do create them on your site. These links should link to relevant content for the keywords and keyword phrases you use to create them but you also need to make sure that they link to websites that are credible. Linking to sites and pages that are not liked by search engines can lead to trouble.
Inbound Links:
The most difficult links to get are inbound links and these have a double edged sword. One is getting someone else to link back to you can be time consuming because you not only have to convince the site you want a link from to give it to you. You also need to make sure the site that you get the link from has good rapport with the search engines.
Link Spam:
A few terms here need to be known, Spam Links, Link Farms, Link Exchange and Link Manipulation. Some of these here have special meaning but overall they are the same thing “TROUBLE”. I am sure you have got an email where someone is trying to tell you for X amount of dollars they will get you tons of inbound links. These are link farms and if there was one single thing that has destroyed the efforts of good SEO it is these little pricks. I only have three words on this, DON’T DO IT! Focus on getting quality links from reputable sources and from sites that have like content and a good reputation.
Meta-Data is the data that is looked at first by search engine spiders when they scan your site. It is this data that it will use to populate the search results (the topic you read for a link that is displayed). This used to be critical data that was a must for any page. With the release of Penguin less emphasis is placed on this metric but it is still important and every little bit helps. I will expand on this later in this article as it requires some special attention and has specific requirements when setting them up.
Like Meta-Data, Meta-Tags are used by spiders when they crawl your sites pages. However unlike Meta-Data they are still actively used and we must pay special attention to them. I will also expand on these tags later on but know that these are the actual keywords and keyword phrases that you are trying to optimize each page for.
Simply put this is the text that is placed on an image to describe what the image is. This is critical to those that are visually impaired or those that have disabled images in their browser. Without alt-text they are just going to see that ugly red x or for those that have a screen reader they are going to hear the name of the image file which is seldom useful in describing the image.
While tags are not directly ranked as keywords they can play an important role and are especially useful in blogs. They are generally just one word that you can use to assign a page to that help group and organize content by topic. Search engines do look for these tags and the bonus is you don’t get points taken away for using them in addition to your other keyword usage. You can also apply multiple tags to each article or blog post and if you use the keywords you are trying to optimize for it will help bring everything together.
Keyword Emphasis:
Basically what this means is to place emphasis on the keywords that you use on a page. This includes creating a bold, italic, underline or an html tag such as <H1> on a word or title.
Page Rank:
There are mixed reviews on what this is and how heavy we should weigh our sites based on it. In fact Matt Cutts (Google spokesman for webmasters) has said many times that Page Rank should not be used to measure a web pages position. While it is still a valuable metric to measure by, do not think it is the one off tool to measure your pages success.
Search Spiders:
These are little bots (chunks of software) that scour the web in search of content to put on the search results. The one thing to note about them is there is an average of two weeks to a month before they will visit your site. Once visited it can be another few weeks before the results are added to the search results for any given query.
Keyword Position:
O.K. so this is really not a term but I have coined it as such because it is so important. What it means to say is that the position and count of your chosen keywords and keyword phrases in the article are critical. I will talk more on this later but know that the number of times a keyword is used on a page, its placement on the page and the type of emphasis placed on it are all very relevant. Too many or too few are both a bad thing.
Keyword Stuffing:
The act of cramming as many keywords on a page as you can to attempt to gain more page relevance. The fact is this is not only a bad idea search engines view this as a Black Hat SEO tactic and can actually hurt your rank.
Black Hat SEO:
As you might expect this is not a good thing and the term simply means any effort to cheat the system to gain unjustified page rank for any give page or website.

So Where Do We Go From Here?

NOTE: I will only make reference to keywords from here on but it can also mean keyword phrase.

While there is no magic bullet or trick that will help get you seen, there are some rules that if followed will put you in a position to get the ROI you are after. FRESH, QUALITY CONTENT is now king and the websites that deliver on providing up to date, fresh, relevant content while following good SEO practice (note the bullets above) are the ones that will be favored in the search engines.

First thing with any good SEO strategy starts with the keywords that you chose to work with. Ideally we want to choose keywords that your site visitors will use to find you, but where ever possible these keywords should be words that have a low competition value. This means that we need to choose words and phrases that are not being targeted by other sites but still have enough relevance to have value. This is a trade off and the sites that win out here are the ones that have a solid understanding about their potential site visitors and how they search.

Once the keywords have been chosen it is time to optimize the sites keywords on the page, as well as the placement and count of those keywords to take full advantage of them. There are some magic numbers that need to be memorized here and while they are not written in stone, the closer you keep to the rules the better off you will be.

Keyword placement is important as is the number of keywords that you use. All too often I see authors that try and stuff as many keywords on a page as they can thinking that this is going to
help and the fact is it does just the opposite. As a general rule, optimize a page for no more than 5 but use at least 3 keywords on each page.

Where in the article you place these keywords is as important as the count and you should have at least one keyword in the page title, at least two keywords in the first and last paragraph and a few scattered within the article. Also where possible link the keywords (Never the title though) to other articles on your site or to sites that can help your readers get more information. Even if the page you link to is a distant competitor your ultimate goal needs to be in educating your readers as much as anything. Trust me when I say they will thank you for that and will remember you!

A word of caution here: It is really easy to lose yourself in the count to the point that you focus more on the keywords then you do the actual article. Make sure that your page is easy to read and makes sense because ultimately this is more important than your use of keywords. You are going to find that sometimes you just cannot get the numbers to add up and still have content that makes sense. Bottom line is, it does not matter how well you rank for a search result if you get the visitor to the page and all you end up doing is confusing them so please pay attention to your content and focus on the keywords second.

Hidden Text Data

There are a few things that you need to look at on the site that do not actually display on the page. These are meta-data, meta-keywords and alt-text. The first two of these elements are used exclusively by the search engine spiders and is how they identify your site and how to list it in the results. As you can probably guess these are very important and cannot be overlooked. The Alt-text is just what I described in the bulleted list above and something that you should never overlook.

Meta-Data is the text that you see when you do a search and is the short sentence that you see below the title and the page link to describe the keyword search. This should be kept short because Google starts cutting this off at around 155 to 160 characters and MSN around 175 to 180. Note I said characters and not words. This also includes spaces and special characters so make sure you create a data file that gets right to the point and make sure to use a keyword here to make it as relevant as possible.

Meta-Keywords are the same as the keywords that you are using on the actual articles. They are placed in a special container that is only visible by the search engines. When the spiders visit your page they first look for this tag and then they will compare what you have written on the page that will give relevance to a page. Make sure to only populate this tag with actual keywords you are optimizing the page for. The same rule of course applies with these tags as it does the keywords on the page. Keep it to no more than 5 but at least 3 meta-keywords. I may have missed something with all this but I am sure I have given you quite a bit of food for thought. Don’t get overwhelmed by all this, while it is quite a bit to take in the application is straight forward and will become easier the more you do. If you have any questions please feel free to let me know and I will do my best to fill you in on the details.

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