5. Website optimization (Search engine optimisation, SEO)
|> website marketing overview >|
|1. overview||2. domain name||3. website hosting||4. website design||5. website optimization||6. submission|
|7. ranking||8. directories||9. link building||10. pay per click||11. development||12. ecommerce|
What is Website Optimization (aka SEO, Search Engine Optimization)?
Website Optimization is the process whereby your website is optimized to appeal to the search engines and therefore improve your position in organic searches
Website optimization (or search engine optimization) is one of those terms that is open to interpretation. It can cover a host of activities, and more recently has been used to encompass all aspects of what we would call “website marketing”.
We think it is important to spell out what we see as the distinction between “Search Engine Optimization” and “Website Marketing”. This will make it easier to compare information we give with that found on other websites.
Over recent years Google and other search engines have placed increasing importance on links to your website from other websites, press releases, blogs etc. These “off-page” processes are the elements of SEO that involve carrying out marketing strategies NOT on your website.
Thus, our view is that:
When should your Search Engine Optimization / Website Optimization Process start?
Ideally, your search engine optimization should start before you even have a website - and every step in the process right from choosing a domain name should be done with SEO in mind.
What does Search Engine Optimization / Website Optimization involve?
If you are starting a new website from scratch then this is not really relevant to you, but it certainly does not mean you should go rushing off straight into designing a website. You have the perfect opportunity to create a website that is going to work and work well, so please don’t rush it!
If you already have website, then you are reading this because your website is not working as well as it should be. The most important thing to do now is find out what is not working, and also what IS working. Careful assessment is so very important before making any changes. Do not be tempted to make any changes until you have done a thorough analysis of how your site is performing. This is so important I need to say it again – do not be tempted to make ANY changes until you have thoroughly analysed and assessed the current performance of your website.
The most important element in the marketing of any website is the availability of reliable website statistics. You must be able to answer such questions as “How many visitors came to my website today/this week/this month/this year?". "What pages did they visit, for how long and in what sequence?" "Which search term did they use, on which search engine, and how does my website rank for that search term on that search engine?"
This information forms the basis for all marketing decisions, and is crucial to ensuring the best strategies are used when upgrading or making changes to your website. It is also useful on an ongoing basis to monitor the effects of your changes and improvements.
We cannot overemphasise the importance of this monitoring process as a tool to understand and assess your requirements. This is why we strongly recommend an initial period of monitoring your website before making any changes. We have heard of some disastrous situations where a web designer has attempted to “improve” a website with a new design, but because of inadequate analysis, has unfortunately ended up “throwing out the baby with the bath water”.
Time and effort spent on this phase of your project will certainly make the rest of your optimisation programme far simpler to implement.
It is vital that your marketing plans and requirements are discussed and analysed as early as possible. Addressing these requirements early on will have a dramatic effect on the both search engine rankings and sales. The topics to be addressed could include
- Major issues affecting the growth of the business
- Major audiences/client base
- Products and Services
- SWOT analysis
- Main marketing activities
Your website is just about the most important marketing tool available to your business. It should provide a constant source of business enquiries - and it works for you 24 hours per day and seven days per week. Once it is live it should be inexpensive to run. This is why it is so important that your website is well structured and correctly optimized.
Once this assessment is in place, then we can move on to the more “fun” aspects of the optimization process.
Your monitoring/assessment and marketing plan should have answered all your questions, and provided you with a clear picture of who you are and what you do. It is now time to move on to the “fun” aspects of your optimization process.
Your internet marketing plan should already have provided you with a basic layout for your website. The layout and physical structure of your website will be planned and prepared in detail at this point. Obviously, changes and improvements will occur as the site evolves but please, please, please, as with every other aspect of this process, thorough planning is vital!
The structure of your website is critical to making the website loved by the search engines.
For example, 2 visually identical websites may produce dramatically different results from the same search engine depending on the way they have been structured. This is particularly relevant if you have a shopping cart.
It is surprising how many websites are designed to cater to the needs of the people within an organization rather than those outside it. These websites can appear dry and boring, because they are prone to assume that visitors share their knowledge. This can prompt visitors to leave and look elsewhere. A website that is nothing more than an on-line sales brochure leaves little for search engines to absorb into their databases and work with. As a consequence websites like this are unlikely to rank highly on any important key phrases or key words.
Always be aware that having a website that is “over-designed” can be detrimental to your search engine rankings. Some of the more sophisticated design features may take a while to load, and not all your visitors will have the technology to handle these features. . Search engines are not art critics – they crawl your site for information not art! Their purpose is to return results to their visitors – they don’t care about the success (or artistic merit) of your business.
This is a vital part of your marketing campaign, and one that should be done as early as possible. Proper attention to your marketing plan and the products/services you offer will already provide you with a solid foundation, and a logical route to finding your keywords. It is not just about finding a zillion and one variations to your main keyphrase!
Keyword selection is often a process of trial and error, and once again, will need to be constantly monitored, updated and changed. They must be words and phrases that will be regularly searched on. There is no point in being first in Google for a phrase that no-one uses! At the same time it can be very frustrating to try and compete with thousands of other sites for a few broader phrases.
You should by now have a very clear idea of what your website sells, and what you have that will attract visitors. Do a bit of research into the terminology your visitors may use; spellings etc. Do you sell “tires” or “tyres”? Do you need a “cookbook”, a “cook book” or even a “cookery book”? Are your products aimed at “kids”, “children”, “toddlers” or “youngsters” There may well be different terms used in different parts of the country. Be aware of all these permutations.
A keyword finder will help you find keywords that are currently being searched on. There is a massive range of key word finder tools and software available – some free and some not. We recommend sticking with Google Adwords keyword finder.
The copy on your page is often the most easily overlooked aspect of Search Engine Optimization. It is futile to spend time and effort on building a website that visitors don’t find interesting.
After all the effort you have put into getting someone to click on your link, make sure you have something to offer them when they get they. Good on-page copy should be well –written, easy to read and informative.
Your marketing plan and website design should see you with a strong idea of what you want to say on each page. There should be no duplication of ideas, with each page providing clear and complete information on it’s own topic.
Don’t give in to the temptation to write something that you think will attract search engines. Yes, your copy should include keywords and phrases. Yes, your copy should contain all the criteria that makes it attractive to search egines, and the one way to ensure this is to make sure it is readable and informative to humans. Read your copy – does it sound like something you might say to a prospective client over the phone? If not, you’ve missed the mark!
As search engines and their users become more sophisticated, your website needs to contain all the elements necessary to gather together sufficient “Brownie Points” to enable it to feature strongly within a search engine, and effectively exploit a variety of relevant searches. It is suggested that there could be 100 factors taken into account by the search engine before it arrives at a ranking for your web page. On-page optimization includes a number of things that can be done to improve your ranking.
The <TITLE> tag of your website page is arguably the most important HTML tag. Search Engines attach a lot of importance to these keywords. A page with a certain keyword in the title tag will usually rank higher than a page with the same keyword in the body tag. The <TITLE> tag is also often displayed as the title of your page in search results, so make sure that it is compelling to a human reader too.
Use "Clicking Triggers" in your Titles and Descriptions. A “clicking trigger” is simply a reason to click! Apart from the product or service you are selling you need to offer a “clicking trigger” – another reason to entice visitors to click on your site, This could be “saving money”, “saving time”, “extended warranty” etc , so consider using your keyword phrase mixed with a "reason to click" .
META Keyword is not read by all search engines. It’s purpose is to define what keywords apply to your page, so it is still a good idea to include it.
The META Description tag will be displayed to the user in some search engine results. Therefore, it pays to craft a good description that will rank well and be easily readable. Once again consider including a clicking trigger.
Headings are generally the larger print on a page used to emphasize or introduce new topics. A heading often appears at the very top of the page. Headings come in various sizes represented by tags like <H1>, <H2>, <H3>, etc. Some of the search engines give extra relevance to keywords that appear within a heading tag. So, be sure to try to use your important keyword phrase in one or two heading tags on each page.
Link Text can help improve a page's relevance to a given search. The text within a LINK is sometimes weighed more heavily than words found in the regular body text.
Always use your primary keywords in the visible link tag area of at least one link, and try to place them at the start of the link where possible. In fact, it’s a good idea to try to use your keyword phrase as the only text that is hyperlinked.
Hyperlink URL Keywords – keywords within the name of the page, are given extra relevancy by some search engines. Therefore, it pays to name your pages after your important keyword phrase.
The BODY area is where the bulk of the text on a page generally resides. This is the informative copy on your page. Stick to the rules of copywriting, and avoid overusing keywords and keyphrases.
The ALT text of an image tag is used to describe a graphic for those users who surf with the graphics turned off. It is also useful for the sight impaired who use software that reads the contents of web pages to them. To see ALT text on a page, put your cursor over an image. If there's ALT text, it will show up in a box beside the image. Some search engines will index the contents of ALT text and use it when determining relevancy and ranking. However, be sure to describe the image first while also including your keyword phrase
Is Search Engine Optimization/ Website Optimization important?
Search Engine Optimization is a very important part of your website marketing strategy but it should not be your goal. Ensuring that your website is found is important, but it needs to be found by the right people, for the right reason! It can be very easy to become obsessive about being No. 1 on Google – that is not why you are in business.
Search Engines try to emulate real people, so you need to be sure your website is attractive to real live human visitors. This will go a long way to improving your Search Engine Rankings.
How long should your SEO project last?
SEO should not be seen as a one-off task. It is an ongoing process that involves a lot of planning, a lot of research……and a degree of trial and error. It is a process that needs to be constantly monitored and modified.
Search engines look at over 100 factors when analysing each page on your website before allocating a ranking to your website within the Search Engine Ranking Pages (SERPs). These factors can change and new ones can be added as the search engines constantly improve and modify their processes.
Your business may also be driven in different directions based on the analysis of your website performance, and there may well be opportunities available that you will pick up from constant monitoring.
Bear in mind that there are a number of businesses who have successful websites without particularly high page rankings. A good page ranking is always useful, but becomes much more important in highly competitive industries i.e: mortgages etc.
There are no short-cuts and no tricks to effective, ongoing Search Engine Optimization.
It can be a slow process, and this sometimes causes frustration and the temptation to cut corners and try quick and dirty techniques. They will not produce lasting results, and the long-term result could lead to your website being blacklisted, and never featuring in a search. Businesses have been forced to close down through adopting this approach, so beware. No-one can guarantee you any page ranking or position. In fact, the more reputable the SEO company, the less likely they will be to offer guarantees of any sort.
SEO is another spoke in your marketing wheel – not to be overlooked but not to be over-emphasized either!