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A comprehensive guide to basic Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

Search engine optimisation Guide

So through out this blog there will be posts talking about search engine optimisation. the object of this post is to go into detail about all the methods i have come across in regard to optimising your sites for better success with optimising your website or blog. This is a comprehensive guide and will take some reading but will positively help with increasing traffic to you site. Some example will have been discussed at length in other posts and instead of repeating myself i will hyperlink them as we come to them. I have purposely put the list in an order i would look to do things in, obviously when updating a site not all of these will be relevant but if you are starting from scratch this is the order I'd advise you do it in.

Keywords and meta's

  1. Firstly get to know your terms, what are keywords what are SERP's or SEO? So what key words do i need? Now start thinking of some keywords, one advisable trick is to look firstly at high value words these can be analysed from using Internet tools, forum advice or a variety of other sources. Some advise looking at keyword stems, essentially words that have a root word and several variations coming from it for example batter, batters, battered and battering. Search engines will count batter in other stems of that word. Unfortunately some keywords that are of high value wont have stems so in all cases this isn't appropriate how ever it is important to be aware of them and potential application. If you cant use them as primary why not look at them in a secondary capacity. Another type of way to optimise is to look at synonyms. These are different words or phrases with near identical meanings. as an example sick, ill, poorly. Again like stems synonyms are recognised in the English language for search engines. If possible these should be addressed. Some synonyms can have a completely different meaning pupil for one can be part of the eye or a student, unfortunately i am unsure on how these are sorted with regard to search engines. Has it a guess though the relevance of your text will filter you out of the wrong meaning anyway.

  2. Keywords In your URL. First port of call is make sure your URL says what your site is about. Good clear descriptive and accurately spelt words. I would recommend you doing some research on keywords before choosing them. As an example a SEO site with the web address isn't going to give good keywords. Remember though if your site doesn't have them don't worry too much but it is always better to have them. Also don't just rely on keywords in your URL.

  3. Keywords in your Title tags, meta's etc. I've put this as one point as they have been covered in the hyperlink 'keywords' above. Another place not previously mentioned is in the alt tags. These are image meta tags descriptions of pictures and since the search engine spiders don't actually see pictures they do take note of the alt tags. So it is worth while filling these in as well as the other meta tags. Remember meta's headings etc start <> and end with instructions eg title or alt in between. Also when considering your wording for headings tags, you might want to consider secondary keywords. These are words although not as important are handy to have. This will be explained further in other points. You should also consider your language meta tags, although search engines don't solely on this it does help to have it.

  4. Keywords in your content, frequency, proximity and phrases. Again frequency and phrases was discussed in the previous keyword post but another point that does need to be mentioned is the text in the beginning of the document can also be important so it is advisable to have keywords at the beginning. Be aware that if you have pictures for example the beginning of the text in the document might not be the beginning of the whole thing.

  5. Secondary keywords. Secondary keywords are effectively other less common words that come up. for example say you had a holiday site and your keyword phrase was cheap holidays. Now say one of your holidays is a resort in Brighton. the place Brighton will effectively get less competition than cheap holidays, but if some one is searching for cheap holidays in Brighton, if you have optimised for secondary words you have a more chance of getting better targeted traffic and more likely to get hits. Don't go mad on secondary keywords and try to over optimise them, because of there un common nature they wont generally need it.

  6. Keyword formatting. This is things like highlighting words in bold or italic and font size. This should be done in moderation and only where applicable. Although it does show an importance in the text it can also have a negative effect if wrongly used or over used

Some things to avoid.

  1. Misspelling and mistypes. Always check your spelling especially keywords. Don't be tempted to try to optimise for common misspellings of a word. It may get you extra traffic but doesn't do you any favors in the long run. Its unlikely that your SERP's or page rank will be affected to much but it wont help them either.

  2. Keyword Stuffing. This is when a document is saturated with keywords, if they exceed around 7% of your total text it may be considered as keyword stuffing and could get you removed from search engine indexes. Usually keep to around 4-5%. To be honest though if you are genuinely writing it is unlikely you will end up stuffing but it is important to check anyway.

  3. Keyword dilution. This is when you optimise too many keywords and therefore affect performance of all words. I would recommend no more than 5-6 primary and 3 secondary.

  4. Unrelated keywords. These are ones that do not have any relation to your site or its contents. These are more or less worthless so keep it relevant.

  5. A meta to avoid. At all costs avoid using the refresh meta tag, this is a form of redirect and if you must do a redirect a 301 is preferable. To be honest it is not advisable to do either in my view.

  6. Avoid poor coding meta's etc, Although this wont get you banned it may cause your search engine ranking to be lower or cause compatibility issues.

  7. Robot text Make sure your site is indexable and no robot txt is blocking the pages from being crawled. Usually Google Webmaster will let you know if it is having problems.

Optimising with content

  1. The golden rule. Keep it unique, all your own work. Granted in most cases idea's come from somewhere so does advice and facts. Take this post for one this has come from many other sources but what makes it unique is its my own writing my own point of view, my summaries, layout. I decide what is relevant, the way its worded. Its more brief in some places but more in depth in others. So if your ideas have come from other sources you need to make it your own by basically formulating it with your ideas. Besides if your having to copy from a page or website you obviously don't know much about the subject your writing about. Unique content gets ranked far better than copies and close approximations. Now truly unique subjects/topics are gold though.

  2. Get the scoop. Yes just like reporters being the first one get a story is gold, if you get a scoop and be one of the first to publish on the net its more likely to get higher priority in search results. Unlike reporters, make sure you get your facts right because you may not get any benefit if you get key details wrong. Keeping up with current events is a way of getting the scoop. Although each niche will have its own ways of getting the information first. Some niches you wont be able to get information on to the net first. A news blog will invariably get news slower than a news channels website will for example. But hearing breaking news on a new law and you publishing its legal ramifications might. It is not a necessity to get the scoop first but it can be a gold mine when you do.

  3. Content updating. Regularly updating the content of your sites is good for SEO, also to a far lesser degree so is updating old content. Remember search engines like newer content.

  4. Topic consistency. Keep your content on the same topic, if there are slight variations try to keep the URL's separated.

  5. Topic separation. Try to keep content on different pages with different URL's this can help search engines decide on what the subject matter is. Mostly sites will talk about a general topic and then break it into individual aspects, stories or specialised subject. A tip for those who are optimising blogs, try to get rid of your date categories and focus on your subject tags.

  6. Keep page size reasonable. The rule to remember the longer the page, the more things on it, means the slower it loads and the less spiders like it. Generally having too much content on a page can be undesirable to spiders so keep pages to healthy size without over loading them.
  7. Named anchors. It is important that internal links, links to other parts of your page, have anchor text which should have good keywords. Internal links can help stress the importance of certain parts of a page.

The things to avoid.

  1. Poor content. This includes copied, illegal and duplicate content. Copied content firstly infringes copyright so is illegal, you may get banned. Illegal content including but not limited to; copyright, drugs, violence, spamming, hacking or fraud, will get you banned and might get you a visit from the authorities. Duplicate content however is less likely to get you banned but bulking out a site with duplicate content will lose you some brownie points in terms of search engine optimisation.

  2. Text just for search engines This can be known as invisible text or ghost text, which sole purpose is for search engines to find but not users. This will severely harm ranking or worse.

  3. Cloaking and doorway pages. Cloaking is a technique where the spiders see one page (usually highly optimised) and the user see another. Again avoid doing this at all costs. Similar to this is doorway pages, pages essentially designed to trick spiders into thinking they are relevant when they are not.

  4. Images, javascript and flash. Generally images and javascript is OK as long as it is in moderation. Firstly it may slow things down if there is too much secondly it doesn't get noticed by spiders. Flash is similar although some say it has a negative effect on their sites. Flash homepages are a definite no no, just don't do it.

Your site, URL and accessibility.

  1. Niche. Your site should be relevant to your overall topic.

  2. Age of site. The older the site the better, sorry no other way to optimise on that one!

  3. Sitemaps. Having sitemaps although not essential it is thoroughly recommended that you do.

  4. URL's. Keep the size of URL's to at most 3- 4 words for the home page. Also hyphens in URL's can be of help.

  5. Site size. Generally the larger it is the more spiders will like it. Although try to ensure sites stay user friendly.

  6. Page load time. Pages that load fast get better rankings than ones that don't. If your pages start loading slowly try to cut down the amount of content on that page.

  7. Good uptime. If your site is always working around 98% of the time it will get a better rank. So try to keep site from being down to a minimum. If your hosting provider cannot keep your site's uptime to this level you may want to think of changing to one that does.

  8. File location. Make sue files are easily accessible and easily located in the root directory.

Things to avoid

  1. Session ID's and seo unfriendly Dynamic URL's. Unfriendly dynamic URL's are those that are too long but can be easily rewritten using Internet tools. Session ID's should not be used on pages you want crawled. This can have a very negative impact on SEO.

  2. Bans. If parts of your site have been banned its likely the rest will be suffering to an extent.

  3. Redirects. As explained poorly used redirects 301 and 302 can harm sites. My advice is avoid them and not bother taking the risk.

Finally links and link building

  1. Links to your site. Getting links to your site is an important factor to consider when optimising your site. In effect if some one links to your site it is almost like an approval of your site and its contents. However links to different sites will have different effects depending on their own search engine reputation. The name of the game is to get well ranked sites to link to you and not poor sites. The cream of the crop being .gov and .edu, but these are hard to come by. Another factor to consider is getting sites which are relevant to your content to link to you. This will help more not only for traffic driving but SEO as well. Also the age of backlinks can be important generally the older the better.
  2. Keyword's in anchor of the link. This is just as important as getting the back links in the first place, just a post of your web address will not suffice, neither will using click here as an anchor. It is important that you put a good keyword phrase in the anchor text. Equally important is to make the words surrounding it flow and not look artificial. If someone else is linking to your site, you may not get much of a say in what they do but generally if it is a well optimised site you wont have a problem as the likelihood is the owner will understand the importance of using keywords in anchors. With article submissions sites or forums you create your anchors text so in that respect make the most of being able to choose your keywords.
  3. How many back links? The more backlinks the better in general but two very important points to consider 20 high reputation links are better than 1000 poor, secondly If you have too many backlinks in too shorter space the more likely it will look like you are link spamming or buying links.
  4. What about from 1 site? Generally don't get too many links from 1 site it can look spammy. Also regarding links from 1 IP address, Google says it doesn't discriminate on how many links a person gets from 1 IP address. or C class of addresses however msn and yahoo might.
  5. Directory links. Using the same principle's as with back links from other sites, directory links to your site can be very handy. If you get links from reputable directories then yes, and as long as you do not over do it then again yes they are of great use.
  6. What about out going links? Follow the same principles you would for your inbound links in regards to wording and anchors etc. However when it comes to numbers don't over fill your pages with out going links. This can have a negative effect on your site. Some suggest keep it under 100, I'd suggest less than 50. Also remember when doing your anchor take as much acre over your keywords as you would expect others linking to you to take.

Things to avoid.

  1. Link farms, buying links and excessive linking. Using link farms, sites that spin content the post it over many sites and buying links should be avoided. Often you have no control over where these links go and could end up having a negative SEO effect. Also too many links too quickly can suggest link spamming and also have undesired results. Worse case senario is you will be removed from search engine indexes. To a slightly lesser degree excessive links from one site may have bad effects on SEO.
  2. Stay away from Bad links. Sometimes you cant help who links to you but try to avoid those with poor reputations or those with illegal or immoral content. It is important to read search engines guide lines to understand what bad or poor sites are.
  3. Out going mad! Don't have too many out going links this can be bad for SEO. Also similar to inbound links, don't have outbound link to bad sites, this can be just as bad.
  4. Single pixel links. Don't do it, making invisible or pixel links designed just for search engines is a very bad move and could lose you a lot of kudos.

The importance of Keywords and keyword analysis when refering to SEO and driving traffic to your site

What are keywords when used in terms of search engine optimisation?

Well they are the words people will type in to the search engines to find the subject matter they require.

How does the search engines find keywords for your site?

There are many factors involved in getting the right keywords. Some on the page (your site) and some off the page (external).

1- On the Page

  • Keyword frequency, the amount of times a certain word features on a particular page. for example for this page the keywords most used are likely to be keywords and search engine optimisation.
  • Meta keywords; using keywords and descriptions in meta tags.
  • Hyperlinked words, or links on your site.
  • Header text.

2- Off the page

  • Back links via hyper linked text; these are small key phrases or words wrapped around a link to your site. The text is known as anchor text.

So why are keywords so important?

To be honest the answer to this is very easy, the better your keywords the more likely someone is going to search for them. Also the better established your keywords, the better your page rank for those terms.

So how do i go about establishing my keywords?

Right lets go back to the list and I'll give a brief description of how to do each.

1- On page

  • Keyword frequency: ensure that in each article or page the text is keyword rich, that is to say make sure you use certain keywords you wish to have in results by making sure those words come up frequently. However do not just spam nonsensical words into the site. This will have very little or no value. Despite the need for frequency make sure your writing makes sense and is still a quality piece of work.
  • Meta keywords and description. These are pretty simple to do, firstly they need to go into the body of a post or page and need to be in html format the meta tag is as follows. < name ="keywords" content="">keyword1, keyword 2, keyword 3" / > Remember to omit the spaces and the keywords go in bold. You can also add a meta description which is very similar. just omit "Keywords" and replace with description, then add a very small description of the site or page.
  • Linking words using the href method or [url] method to other sites can be used to great effect for example < href="">web address/" > words you want hyperlinked< /a> these have some value in determining keywords. Later in this post you will see an example of a hyperlink. With linking much like headers a good small group of keywords is better than just one. For example "SEO" on its own is not as useful as "free SEO advice" Also site links at a side of a page can help determine the keywords in your site.
  • Header text; Quite simply the post or article title usually meta'd up using the <>, format. Again just put a good title containing the keywords in your text or keyword meta's.

Off page

  • Again this is exactly the same as when linking sites on your page. If you are doing articles or forum posts, instead of just pasting your URL wrap it around anchor text. Good keyword phrases are preferable to single words.

So which phrases are best to use?

  • Firstly i cant give you exact words or phrases unless i know what niche your looking for. Some general tips are to make sure they accurately describe your site, they are not misspelled or just the same word or phrase repeated over and over again. Word combination is good.
  • Do your research, the only way you are going to know what keywords work and how they are used is to look at the way successful sites do it. Look at your competitors analyse their sentence structure, what words most commonly appear (this can be done by pressing shift F then typing in the word or phrase). Also look on forums and help sites for advice.
  • Lastly, although this relates to research i wanted to keep it separate. Try looking for programs or sites that will analyse the successfulness of certain key phrases. A good free one that has been recently brought to my attention is It is a free Seo advice and Keyword analysis site. See that is my example of a hyperlink by the way. Anyway you type in a search term and it will tell you how many hits per year that search term gets. Now couple that with the other research advice i have given and you have one formidable keyword filter to hand.

So now you have some idea's a great free tool and now you should be turning to your site so i wish you the best of luck. However t is important to note that there are many more factors involved, keywords are only a small part with the advancement of search engine algorithms and having good keywords wont guarantee better page rank/page value. However if done right may help boost traffic significantly.

One final note to my readers my next post will contain a comprehensive guide to SEO which is probably going to be 10,000+ word, so dont be suprised if you do not see another post for a week or so.