When you use a search engine like Google or Bing, you are not searching the entire internet but rather their database of the internet, created by finding web sites and indexing them. Search engines find sites using software programs called 'crawlers' or 'spiders', which crawl around the web, following links between sites.
When you enter a word or phrase into a search engine, the search is run through the entire database and the results can number in the millions. Nobody has time to look through millions of search results, so the pages that are ranked the highest gain more traffic. But how do search engines rank web pages? This is where SEO comes in.
Here are the 5 basics to consider when trying to work on your SEO:
If you want your web site to show up when people search 'leather suitcases' then this keyword needs to be in your content. Where you place this keyword will have an impact on your search engine ranking. It's important to have the keyword:
- In the title of the web page
- The page's first heading.
- Body of the text
This might sound like overkill, but the reason search engines look keywords in these places is because this is where they should naturally occur. It makes sense that a page selling leather suitcases would have the keyword 'leather suitcases' in the URL, in the title and in the body of the text. Don't use keywords if they sound unnatural - you have to make your page search engine friendly without compromising content.
Quality of content also plays a role in SEO, which stops the internet becoming a sprawling mess of badly-written blog posts littered with glaringly obvious keywords. Search engines judge the quality of a web site based on a variety of factors, most of them fairly obvious:
- The spelling and grammar are good.
- The site is regularly updated.
- The text is clear and easy to read.
- The site loads well on multiple browsers and platforms
- Pages take less than three seconds to load
- The average visitor spends more than one minute on the site
External links to your site also suggest that your content is of a high quality, which links us to the number 3...
In HTML, a link is called an 'anchor tag', which is hidden behind text. The visible text is called 'anchor text'. For example:
Click here to go to our home page.
The words 'click here' are anchor text but if you looked at the link in HTML, you would see the anchor tag:
<a href="http://www.kualo.com/">link here</a>
You can boost your search engine ranking by using keywords in the anchor text. 'Click here' isn't a very good anchor tag, it should be something like 'web hosting' or 'Kualo home page'. For SEO purposes, you should use lots of internal links, linking keywords to relevant pages elsewhere on your site.
External links are more difficult to procure, which is why they are a true test of a page's popularity and are more effective than internal links. If other sites link to yours, search engines will find it quicker and your site will be ranked more quickly. Imagine the internet is an office block and you're the new employee- if other websites are linking to your site it's like the whole office is talking about you and telling each other where to find you. With no external links, it's like you're completely unknown, eating lunch in the stationary cupboard, alone.
A good way of getting external links is to link to other sites first- you don't have to provide links to your competitors, but you could link to other local business or relevant sites. (For example an e-commerce site selling clothes could link to fashion blogs and magazine web sites.) Providing links to quality web sites improves the quality of your web site and visitors will be grateful for useful links. Receiving links from quality web sites goes along way in boosting your search engine ranking.
Search engines look at the uniqueness of your content- is it duplicated elsewhere on the web? Duplicating doesn't always mean someone has been stealing and copying content, often it occurs innocently like these common examples:
- A blogger submits the same article to a number of web sites
- A site decides to add 'free content' from an article database to give their SEO a boost
- An e-commerce site uses the standard product description provided by the manufacturer
Internal duplication, where you use the same content within your own site, can also affect your SEO, although search engines will ignore small amounts of internal duplication as it is sometimes unavoidable. If you have a large web site, be careful that you aren't repeating yourself on numerous pages.
It's ok to paraphrase information or include videos, photos and quotes from other sites, as long as you add unique value to the content, for example using it in a different context or adding a new insight.
5. Social Media
When people share your web page through Facebook or Twitter, not only does it help your page reach a larger audience directly when their friends and followers to click on the link, but it boosts your search engine ranking. A link from a social media account is as good as any link and as outlined above, the more external links you have, the higher your content quality will be valued.
Google claim that content shared or endorsed* on their new social media platform Google+ will have a higher ranking on their search engine. If you don't have the time to manage yet another social media account, you can at least create a Google+ business page, listing your address, practical information, link to your web site etc. As Google is the most popular search engine in the world, it can't hurt to make your position in their database a bit more... official.
*Users can +1 posts in the same way they can Like things on Facebook