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SEO Techniques & Tips

I’m not an SEO expert, and I’m sure alot of the points listed below have been around on the ‘tinernet for sometime but its good to put them into context…. so here it goes:

Semantics
Generally when it comes to trying to influencing Google’s ranking, SEO experts try to focus on a few keywords and try to make them prominent in the website’s design. This relies on you being familar with HTML as it involves getting the semantics right, and making sure you’ve got headers on pages, and text is wrapped inside of a paragraph tag. The Google robot (computer scripts which scan your website) are fairly stupid they don’t know the context of text or headers or images so we have to tell it. This is even more important with images as robots can’t see images, to get around this we have to ensure that we include alternative text captions for images which describe what the image is. You might think images are useless things for Google to index, but if someone happens to be using Google Image search they might find your pictures and thus your website! When building a website yourself these things are easy to include, but it you’ve used an off the shelf solution (such as WordPress) it’ll be more difficult to configure as the software will take all the information you give it and it will generate the pages for you.

URLs
Search engines tend to like descriptive files and web page URLs. Try and make things descriptive, this is a good example of a website URL: http://www.myfirstwebsite.co.uk/cake-boxes-and-cake-boards and this one which isn’t soo good; http://www.myfirstwebsite.co.uk/cms.php?id_cms=4  Again if your building the website yourself you can dig straight in and use Apache’s mod_rewrite module to do regular expression pattern matching and redirect the nice request to a more workable URL. However if you’ve not build your own and again you’ve used a piece of software it’ll depend on what control the software gives you, but you should always try to aim to create a customized URL for pages. It’s also important to ensure you have a canonical web address, search engines treat all subdomains and variations as completely separate sites. This basically means your website should be http://www.myfirstwebsite.co.uk and not just http://myfirstwebsite.co.uk, this also applies if you decide to buy more domains later on. To get around this and make sure all visitors use the same URL to eventually access your website you can setup a “301 redirect” to redirect www.coolkidscookware.com to www.coolkidscookware.co.uk, again this can be done using Apache’s mod_rewrite rules. Extra domains are useful because it makes your website more visible, the search engine’s robots will eventually visit your site via each domain you buy and index it again which is good.

Robots
The other way we can influence the search engine robots is including instructions on the website telling them to index the page or not, this is done by including a robots.txt on the website which contains pretty much a yes or no style flag to indicate if the robot should index the page. Sometime you don’t have to include a robots file and instead you can embed the rule straight into your HTML markup like so:

<meta name="robots" content="index,follow" />


Search Engines
Generally there are 3 big search engines being used, Google, Yahoo and Bing. Pretty much all other search engines use one of these three or a combination for it’s results. Getting yourself on to Google generally happens automatically, you shouldn’t need to submit your website however you can at https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/submit-url?hl=en_uk&pli=1 However for Bing or Yahoo you will probably want to submit your website there, for Bing use https://ssl.bing.com/webmaster/SubmitSitePage.aspx for Yahoo use http://search.yahoo.com/info/submit.html

Backlinking
This term has been lurking around on the net for a while now, but it basically means try and get other people to link to your site. Search Engines determine which sites are popular by how many times people have linked to it on other websites. Essentially you want to get any friends, family to link to it from their websites, and you’ll also want to maybe get out and about on the internet and get your web address out there. Perhaps posting in relevant forums or commenting on blog posts?

Social Media
Social media tools like Facebook and Twitter can be good, in particular Twitter. However search engines don’t have a Facebook login and so can’t really begin to make much use of it. Don’t get me wrong though, Facebook is good to get people to engage and create a community aspect around the website which is valuable in its own right, but if your goal is to boost page rankings I’d encourage Twitter too. The beauty of Twitter is that unlike Facebook, search engines can see it and index it and make use of it. Whats more lots of other websites interface and mine data from Twitter so your name and comments and web address will be available all over place. To get the best out of Twitter you have to take a different mindset from Facebook, its okay to post to it, but you need to have followers. To get followers you need to post relevant content about your website and your target market and audience, and you’ll also want to go on a hunt and follow as many people who you think will be interested in your products as possible, more often than not they will follow you back! Theres quite a few possiblities but to engage your target audience perhaps think about running competitions, getting people to send in pictures via Twitter with your products could be a good start.

Merchant Services
Theres lots of price comparision websites, and product search databases out there. To use them your going to have to create a feed of all your products; this is usually in the form of an XML document. When someone puts say a product number in or a description Google will returns a list of people who sell that product. Google used to call this service Froogle however its been rebranded as Google Base now, check it out at http://base.google.com/base/ , Google will hold your hand through this process so don’t be scared!

Sitemap
Like I said the search engine robots are stupid and they sometimes don’t find every page on your website. The best way to tell the robot where all your pages are is to create a sitemap. Sitemaps are usually an XML document (same as above), the XML file sits on your website and the robot will find it. You can use something like to create the sitemap http://www.xml-sitemaps.com/ you’ll need to upload it to whereever your index file is, so you can get to it via http://www.myfirstwebsite.co.uk/sitemap.xml Google again has a nice bit of documentation on this http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=156184&topic=8476&ctx=topic follow what they say here and you’ll be fine.

Google Analytics
Using Google Analytics? If not you should be, its like the ultimate place to keep an eye on how your website is doing, and who and what is visiting your website. It also contains some useful “Webmaster Tools” to help you get the most out of Google.

Google Adwords
I’m not sure how vauable it really is as most people tend to ignore the sponsored Google results (I do anyways), but you can sign up and pay Google to have you as a sponsored link. This doesn’t garentee visitors, but it does garentee you’ll be somewhere in the top search results on the right hand side. The position again though is completely dependant on what the user searched for, Google always tries to provide relevant results to users not just the highest bidder. You can have a look and sign up here https://adwords.google.co.uk, it tends to work on a threshold basis, you tell Google which keywords you want your website to be associated with (Google charges per word) and then you set how much your willing to spend on a daily rate for clicks. Google will the charge everytime someone clicks on your link in the results, until enough people have clicked it that its reached the limit you set – this way the cost doesn’t go spiralling out of control if your website over night becomes the most searched for thing!

Google Map Links
If your website is representing a physical shop or buisness locally, you can tell Google the place where your at, and it’ll put a marker up on Google Maps to let people know where your business is. This is also good because Google make their map data available to everyone, so people who write apps for iPhones might also be privvy to your business’s location.

Search Terms
Finally just some search terms and terminology thats worth looking up and reading about:

  • SEO – Search Engine Optimization
  • Backlinking
  • Conversion Rate
  • Product Feeds
  • Sitemaps
  • Analytics
  • Robots
  • Social Media
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