Organic SEO consists of two main activities; 'Onsite' and 'offsite' optimisation.
Onsite optimisation is essentially the process of physically making changes to a website, it’s code and content.
Offsite optimisation is essentially the Internet Marketing and promotional activities designed to meet and exceed the specifications and criteria of the Search Engine algorithms. These activities are vital in order to rank favourably for high traffic, relevant keywords and phrases which are essential for driving high levels of converting traffic to your website.
Arguably one of the most important aspects of your website from an SEO point of view and the very first step of your SEO campaign. This is simply the title of the page which is identifiable by the Google ‘crawlers’ . The Title tag should contain the key phrases you need to be found for. Think about a title tag like the title of a book. If you went to the library to find a book on car mechanics, you would be more likely to pick up a book titled ‘Car Mechanics explained’ than another titled ‘wheels and roads’. Using relevant keywords makes it easy for Google to feel confident about what you do and rank you highly for that search term.
This is the overall description for your page which appears under your title tag in the Google search results page. This should also contain your key phrases throughout although is no longer as important as the title tag.
These are the keywords that are included on your website. These should be programmed into the back end code of your site and again, help the search engines to identify what you do.
As with the title tag it is also important to have the correct heading tags on the page. Sub headings should be attributed to each additional page throughout your site. This is why you see results from Amazon so frequently. A search for a baby’s pram might throw up a URL like this: www.mothersandbabies.com/babypram. This website (although fictional) would have been indexed by Google. It is not just the home page of a website which can return search results.
The content of your website is incredibly important for your organic SEO rankings as the search engines are mainly text orientated. It is important to have a lot of relevant text on web pages which include the key phrases throughout your website. Having a lot of content does not necessarily mean you need to have a hugely cluttered website. For example, a small articles tab on the footer of your page can contain a huge amount of information which will be crawled by the search engines but not necessarily read by visitors to your website (Please note that this content still needs to read well and add value to your customers as well as use your keywords in the correct density. A website will be penalised for any attempt at ‘keyword stuffing’ or any other unethical practices). It is obviously important to ensure your content is compelling but to stand a chance of ranking well should contain the keywords you wish to be found for in the correct density (a very fine line with Google).
It is important to link throughout your website using the correct ‘anchor text’ for links. Internal linking is useful to both the person visiting your site and Google. A link from a page about cooking recipes might contain a link to another part of your website which sells the utensils needed to make that meal. This ensures your site is easy to navigate and is user friendly which Google likes. The Search engine is also easily able to move around your website and index your content much more efficiently.
Image ALT and title tags
All images should have ALT tags (alternative text) and title tags to enable visitors and search engines to know what the image is. Google cannot read an image so a background description helps them understand your site more easily. Another reason may be that the visually impaired may have trouble seeing your site and may use special software to read a website. This software needs Alt text to understand your website offering.
Mix of Content
The use of images and Video is incredibly important to Google. Google own You Tube (the second biggest search engine only to Google itself) and Google now includes video and images in results pages. This is also why it is important to use ALT Tags so that Google knows what your content is about and attributes it to specific searches.
WC3 (World Wide Web Consortium) is an international community which has come together and become an authority on website standards. Google will check the backend code of your website to ensure it is W3C compliant. One of the main reasons for W3C compliance is to ensure fast page loading times, consistently well organised code and ultimately a better overall experience for your users. A good SEO company should offer W3C code validation services. Remember what Matt Cutts mentioned about site speed in the video at the beginning of this document.
Split A/B Testing (Conversion Optimisation)
Split testing is the process of creating a number of landing pages and making small changes to each of these to determine which appeals to the visitor and results in a higher conversion. The ideal time to carry out split testing is once a website has been optimised and inbound traffic is high. Small changes such as changing the location, size or design of a button or even simply adding a telephone number to the home page can result in a huge increase in your websites conversion. Our last A/B Split Test resulted in an overall increase of 194% conversion for that website. Remember most web developers are good at building the framework of a website, but are not necessarily designers or digital marketers.
Offsite Optimisation is essentially the method of digital marketing that is used to promote your website in ways which Google recognise and reward. Good offsite optimisation has to meet a multitude of criteria and as a result the search engines reward your website with high rankings. A good SEO company should be proficient in all of these areas, as well as have experience in the Marketing and Public Relations field.
Inbound Linking is a link placed on a website which when clicked on by a visitor, will take that person to your website. An inbound link is seen as a vote of confidence or recommendation of your work by Google.
It used to be acceptable to simply exchange links with another website and representatives from one company would literally call or email another and say, “Hey, I’ll give you a link from my website if you give me one in return”. Google quickly cottoned on that this was unbeneficial and did not prove the worth of a website so quickly cancelled the authority held by these links.
Now a link has to be one way, meaning that if a website links to yours they get nothing in return and must be genuinely recommending your business as an authority. Not only is it important that the link is one way (inbound) but credence is given to links which come from highly ranking websites and those which are preferably in a similar field to yours. For example, a link coming to your website from the BBC News website due to a blog you wrote about breaking news in your industry will hold much more weight than a link coming from leaving a spammy comment on someone’s blog post.
It is absolutely imperative that you know where your links are coming from and many SEO companies still employ dangerous techniques such as link farming (mass link exchanges between your website and a website which has been created just to pump out links). Never buy links. If you come across an advert offering 10,000 links for £100 run for your life. You will be penalised by Google if not banned from their search results completely.
A good SEO company should help to promote your content and build relations on your behalf.
The social web has changed not only the way the internet is used but the way in which the world now communicates on a daily basis. Social Media is an incredibly powerful marketing tool and is an important factor which the Search Engines look for. The search engines want to see that your content is engaging and good enough to be shared by your website visitors. A website which is active across channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and Linked In, as well as being seen to have content worthy of being added to ‘Social Book Marking’ sites such as Digg, Stumble Upon and Reddit will fare better in the ranking than those who still refuse to take part.
Social Media is not only important to the search engines but is invaluable in terms of actually marketing a company for a number of reasons; Brand awareness, customer service, viral campaigning, product testing and focus groups to name but a few. Infact Starbucks will often trial a new product locally and ask for feedback via Facebook and Twitter before launching globally.
Fresh content is incredibly important to Google. Infact their latest algorithm makes it almost unacceptable to have a static website anymore. If you are not constantly providing your customers with fresh up-to-date content, then you will almost always lose out to your competition. This is one of the reasons a Wordpress website is very search friendly.
Google have also recently updated their algorithm to take into account how fresh your content is. They reason that if someone searches using the keyword “Olympics” then that person will surely be looking for the most up-to-date news on the latest Olympics that coming year. In the past a search may have returned a result which has met all of Google’s criteria and that may have just been a page about the 1912 Olympics. This is no longer the case. In order to stay ahead of your competitors you must be blogging about the latest industry news and events and providing your customers with the latest and ‘freshest’ content.
Press Release and Article Submission
Just as writing and issuing a press release would gain publicity for your business in offline, or ‘traditional media’ the same applies for promoting your website in the digital world. There are hundreds of article submission sites which will accept well written and relevant digital press releases. Every site which sees value in publishing your release means another link back to your website which Google will take into account. Links must be earned and a release should be of a high newsworthy standard which a good SEO company will be able to help you with.
Web Directory Submission
Directory submission works to increase the visibility of a website by submitting an optimised website to a number of search engines. By submitting to a search engine you are essentially asking for your website to be crawled and ranked accordingly. Essentially this step is not always necessary as the major search engines will eventually find and crawl your website anyway. There are two reasons to submit a site to the search engines. The first is submitting a new site because you don’t want to wait to be found and the second is to submit an updated or changed site and ask to be freshly crawled.
Local Search involves the inclusion of a website which offers local products and services into the correct directories such as the online Yellow pages and Search Engine local listings such as Google Maps and Places. These submissions should be optimised using Keywords to help with search engine rankings.
White Hat vs Black Hat SEO
We’re not talking about wizard and witches and we certainly don’t claim to know JK Rowling however, the terms ‘White Hat’ and ‘Black Hat’ were two terms coined to describe the differences between ‘ethical’ and ‘un-ethical’ SEO.
The trick to SEO is really quite simple…. there is no trick. In order to rank highly for the relevant, high traffic keywords that you want your company to be found for, your website and online marketing activities MUST follow the guidelines set out by the search engines.
The search engines have grown extremely sophisticated over the years, and nowadays working with an SEO company is very much like employing a traditional media agency to help build your brand. The main goal of all of the search engines is to provide their users the best results A). In providing the most appropriate response to their specific search queries and B). In terms of the experience which is provided while the user navigates through your site.
Matt Cutts is head of Google’s web spam team. In this video he discusses whether Google considers modern SEO to be ‘Spam’:
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