If you have problems viewing this video please click here to view on YouTube
What you will learn about Search Engine Optimisation
This is a short SEO course during which you will learn what is possible with search engine optimisation.
You will become aware of the issues that can adversely affect the position of your website in the search engine results. You will also learn about some the positive steps you can take to improve both your website and the linking to your website that over time will improve your website promotion within Google.
By the end of the course you won’t necessarily know how to fix any outstanding issues but at least you will be aware that you do have outstanding issues on your website. A more detailed series of courses is available which will cover the actual techniques you need to implement in detail to really get the best out of your search engine optimisation efforts.
As the old saying goes knowledge is power. So once you know what is wrong you can take steps to start fixing the problems on your website.
After this course you can take the next step. Pay somebody else to fix the problems, or learn in detail how to improve the visibility of your website.
SEO is an active process, it is up to you!
What is Search Engine Optimization?
SEO is short for search engine optimisation. As the term implies, SEO is all about optimising a website to gain maximum visibility within the search engine results. As we will see, SEO takes time and effort. Do not be fooled by e-mails turning up unannounced in your inbox, promising instant SEO results.
Take SEO seriously, don’t dabble
Once you have realised the need for decent SEO on your website you should approach the issue seriously. We see many clients who have dabbled with SEO, maybe using information they have gleamed from YouTube and other sources but the trouble is a lot of information on YouTube is either completely wrong or out of date and some of the advice can actually harm the position of your website within the search engines. Increasingly people use Google to search for products or services rather than traditional sources such as Yellow Pages. I cannot even remember the last time I looked at Yellow Pages. So if you want to get more customers the obvious way to do it is by getting your website found easily in Google.
Anyone can do SEO!
A lot of companies offering search engine optimisation services will try and blind you with science and tell you that it is highly technical and should only be attempted by people with years of experience and what’s more they know the secrets that nobody else know. If a company tells you they have a secret recipe for getting you onto the first page of Google they are peddling complete nonsense.
The really good news is that you do not need heaps of technical experience in order to promote your website. What you do need is common sense, attention to detail and the time to actually do your SEO properly. Most people can learn everything they need to know about search engine optimisation after a one or two-day course, after which they will be fully equipped to promote and manage the website themselves.
Always remember it is your website. It is your business. You understand your business and the best person to promote the website is you. All you need is a relatively small amount of knowledge and the will to take charge of your own website promotion.
SEO and ROI (Return on Investment)
In terms of the return on investment, search engine optimisation offers fantastic returns. If you simply place a large advert in say Yellow Pages it will sit there for a year but once printed you cannot change it to meet changing circumstances and you cannot improve it. The great thing about search engine optimisation is that you should always be thinking about tweaking the focus of the optimisation so you get exactly the results you require. Compared to the cost of traditional advertising in newspapers, on radio or TV the cost of search engine optimisation is minimal. The results however can be a complete game changer for your business. Obviously no one can guarantee an increase in business as result of successful search engine optimisation, however it stands to reason that if you’re easy to find on Google and people are looking for your product or service on Google then people are going to try you rather than your competitors so you have a much better chance of increasing your levels of business.
What is possible, and what is not possible with SEO
It is important to realise the limitations of search engine optimisation techniques. There are a lot of companies sending out spam emails which you will probably have received offering to get you onto the first page of Google by this time next week. This is patiently rubbish. Good SEO takes effort and good SEO takes time. The timescale for seeing benefits from careful search engine optimisation of your website is weeks and months rather than days.
There are many companies out there who will offer to sell you the secrets of SEO. The real secret is that there is no secret. Good SEO is a combination of common sense, solid technical knowledge and careful attention to detail.
As a company, we offer training courses in SEO and we also offer SEO consultancy to small businesses. In the main, we see the same mistakes over and over again in our client’s websites.
If you produce a new website or modify your existing website and you avoid the simple mistakes everybody seems to make then all things being equal that will put your website ahead of the game when it comes to being listed in the search engine results.
At the end of the day, when you type a query into Google, one website will be listed at the top of the page while the rest will be listed over the rest of the page and one company will be listed at the bottom of the first page. SEO is all about making sure that your particular website is listed as high as possible within the search engine results.
There is no magic to SEO and there are no guaranteed results. It is important to realise that Google makes changes to the way that websites are displayed within the search engine results and that it makes these changes on a daily basis.
However all things being equal if you take the long view and implement proper, restrained SEO techniques over time you will see a benefit.
Onsite and offsite SEO
When you are optimising your website for search engine visibility there are two distinct aspects to the optimisation.
On-site optimisation refers to any changes that you make to the actual content of the website. This on-site optimisation may relate to the text that your visitors can see when they visit your website or it may relate to the code behind the website that the search engine will see, but that your visitors will not necessarily view.
For instance, as we will see elsewhere, within the ‘head’ section of the HTML code for each page of the website, you may optimise the title, description and keywords. There are also many other on-site optimisation opportunities, such as using header tags and alt tags.
In many ways the most important part of on-site optimisation is to make sure that all your keyword phrases are displayed within the body text of the page.
Offsite search engine optimisation consists of numerous activities, such as requesting links from other websites to your website. In addition this now includes activities ranging from posting videos on YouTube through to setting up Facebook and Twitter accounts.
The single most important offsite activity is the acquiring of links from other websites, to your website. Within reason the more of these the better. However it is also important that these links are high quality links, which means that you should be linking from related sites and also sites that host quality information and that are highly rated by Google. Links from sites with a high Google PageRank are much more valuable than links from website pages that have a low PageRank value.
Different search engines
There are many different search engines available today the most famous of which is Google. Other examples include Bing from Microsoft and Yahoo. It is important that if you are promoting a website you make sure that each individual search engine is aware of your particular website. The easiest way to do this is to search each search engine using your company name and see if you can find the website.
Alternatively many search engines will allow you to examine the search engine to see if a particular website is listed by that search engine. You may well have received spam emails offering to submit your website to thousands of search engines but in reality there are only a handful of search engines that actually matter.
Do not be seduced by the idea that for a one-off cost will get your website listed with thousands of search engines and all of a sudden you will start getting lots more visitors to your website.
How search engines work
The first thing to realise about search engines is that they only know about websites that are submitted to them directly or that they have found when searching the web.
This means that when you search the web using a particular search engine that, the results that are displayed, only relate to websites that the search engine knows about. It stands to reason if the search engine does not know about your website you will not be listed within the search results by that search engine.
Search engines use automated software called spiders or crawlers to search through websites on the web and then indexes the results in giant databases.
When you search for information about a particular product or service within a search engine, the search engine will display the results of your query on a page normally containing approximately 10 results. The search engine will determine the order in which the results are displayed. If, for the sake of argument, there are 20 companies offering a particular product or service, then one of those companies will be listed in first place, and one will be listed in last place. The whole point of SEO is to try and make sure that your company is listed as close to the top of the results as possible.
Robots, spiders and crawlers
A search engine such as Google has automated software referred to as robots, spiders or crawlers, which will search the Web looking for new websites, or new pages within websites.
The search engines will also search for pages that have been updated and modified since the last time they were crawled by the search engines.
For this reason it is a good idea to update your website with new content every so often, because this is exactly what the search engines are looking for.
Organic vs. paid search results
When Google displays the search results, you will normally see what are called ‘paid for’ results displayed at the top of the page and sometimes down the side of the page. The ‘paid for’ results section is normally lightly shaded and is frequently labelled as ‘sponsored’ links or advertisements.
If you want your company to be displayed within the ‘paid for’ results section, then you need to register with Google, and take part in a global auction. This global auction will determine which company is displayed at the top of the paid for results, and which companies are displayed further down the list. The more you bid, the more likely that you will be displayed at the top of the paid for results section.
Using the paid for results service from Google can be attractive to new companies that have not yet fully developed their website, but nevertheless need to attract business via the search engine results.
You should read all the available information from Google, prior to entering into their paid for service and you should know how to cap expenditure within a certain time period. Also be aware that this form of advertising can be very expensive, but on the other hand, if you are getting results it may well be worth the expense.
The organic results, also referred to as natural results, are displayed beneath the paid for results. There is no charge for having your web pages displayed within the organic results section. The order in which web pages are displayed within the organic section is determined by a series of complex algorithms used by Google to rank websites.
Search engine optimisation is all about getting your website to be displayed as high as possible within the organic results section of the search engine results.
Many YouTube videos about SEO are wrong or out of date
A lot of people make the mistake of trying to research SEO techniques on the cheap. For instance, you can fire up YouTube and start searching YouTube for videos about how to optimise your website. The trouble with a lot of YouTube videos is that they are out of date. What may have been a good idea in terms of optimising your website say five years ago now can actually harm your website positioning within the search engines.
There is also a lot of inaccurate and just plain misinformation about search engine optimisation within the videos you may find on YouTube.
For instance I have seen numerous videos on YouTube telling me how important the Meta keywords are to my Google ranking. In actual fact Google stopped taking any notice of what are called Meta keywords quite some time ago, so you can optimise these as much as you like and it will have absolutely zero effect on how Google rates your website within the search engine results.
Google keeps changing – Penguin and Panda
One of the problems with optimising a website to maximise your website visibility within the search engine results is that Google keeps changing how it ranks websites.
Every so often Google introduces a big change. In fact if you search Google using the terms Google Penguin and Google Panda you will find that these are codenames that were used for major upgrades to the way that Google works and these were implement some time ago.
Again if you do some research, you will find there are a lot of unhappy website owners out there, who suffered badly when Google Penguin and Google Panda were released. The reason for this is that these particular modifications to the way Google works were aimed at low quality websites many of which did not adhere to the basic standards for website promotion specified by Google.
The basic point here is there are no shortcuts when it comes to search engine optimisation. If you want to be well-positioned in the Google search engine results then you have to play by Google’s rules. It’s no use trying to shortcut the rules and then moaning when Google penalises your website. There are a lot of SEO companies out there who will use what is termed black hat SEO which basically either breaks the rules or skirts very close to the edge.
If on the other hand you take a sensible approach to search engine optimisation then Google will reward you, it’s as simple as that.
Over optimisation hurts
These days most people have heard about search engine optimisation. Many people are trying to do the SEO themselves and sometimes this does work however SEO is a specialist topic. Either get a specialist to do the work for you, or take the time to learn how to do it yourself, so you know what you’re doing not just hoping for the best.
Whichever route you take there is always the danger of over optimising your website. Google is getting smarter by the day and will look at how your website is put together and it will look at the code behind the scenes. Google expects you and in fact encourages you to perform a sensible amount of search engine optimisation, however if you overdo it Google will actually penalises the website. Where that line is, is something of a moving target but basically you can use common sense and this will normally keep you in good stead with Google.
An example of overdoing it might be to have exactly the same keyword used as your title and description on every single page, and then repeating this word over and over again within the text displayed within your website.
As a test you should always get someone to read over your website and just ask them if your paragraphs sound natural.
If you have a silly sort of sentence like the one below then you can hardly complain that Google is going to start penalising your site.
Hi, our new widgets site is all about widgets because we specialise in selling widgets including blue widget screen widgets and yellow widgets and we believe we are the best widget company this side of New York. You will not find a widget company offering a cheaper widget anywhere on the Internet.
Okay so maybe the paragraph above was a slight exaggeration but you get the idea. Be subtle when trying to promote your website.
What is a web server?
A Web server is simply a computer connected directly to the Internet which is always on and which houses your website.
When you write a website you will normally create this on the hard disk of your computer and once you’re ready to publish the website or to update new pages within your website, you will upload the new pages to your particular Web Server.
How this all works technically is not important. If you are writing and maintaining a website all you need to know is how to upload to your particular Web Server.
In some cases the programs used to write websites have a built-in capacity to upload to your particular Web Server. In other cases you may use specialist software called FTP software to copy the web content on your hard disk up to your Web server.
As I said, you do not need to worry unnecessarily about how to configure a Web server because in most cases this will be done for you, all you have to worry about is uploading to the server.
Another similar expression is a ‘hosting service’. A hosting service, as the name implies, will host your particular website on their Web servers.
Index.htm – The Home Page
Every website has a homepage, which is the starting page for the website. This is the page that you wish visitors to see when they first load up your website. This is the page that will be displayed when you type in the base URL of a website. For instance, if you were to view www.ibm.com, you would see the homepage of the IBM website.
In most cases the homepage has a special name, such as index.htm or index.html. There are many other similar naming conventions that can be used and this will vary depending on exactly how your Web server is configured.
In many ways the homepage is the single most important page within your entire website. This is also the first page that most search engines will examine when exploring your website and determining how to list your website within the search engine results.
It is vital that you get everything right on your homepage as far as SEO is concerned. This includes factors such as page loading speed, technical correctness of the underlying code, spelling and grammar, SEO keyword density, as well as fully optimising your header code such as the title, description and keyword tags.
The Google search engine gives each website page a PageRank number. This PageRank number is essentially an indication that Google assigns to the value of a particular web page. The PageRank numbering system ranges from 0 at the bottom to 10 at the top, and it is important to realise that this is a non-linear scale.
You will find that many website pages have a PageRank of zero which could indicate either that Google has yet to discovery and rank this page or it could indicate that the particular page has been penalised by Google for attempting to spam the search engines, and has been de-listed by the search engine.
It is important to realise that PageRank is just one of the many factors that will affect the position of the page within the search engine listings. All things being equal, the higher the PageRank the higher a particular page will be listed in the search engine results, compared to other pages of lower PageRank.
In order to view the PageRank of a particular page you should install the Google toolbar, and then if necessary activate the PageRank tool. The PageRank tool will display a short horizontal bar and moving the mouse over the bar will display the actual PageRank for that particular page.
You should endeavour to achieve the highest possible PageRank for your homepage and other important pages within your website.
The PageRank that is publicly displayed within the Google toolbar is only updated periodically, typically every few months. This means that if you are engaged in intensive SEO work on a website you cannot expect to see the PageRank move up overnight.
Sometimes you may find a web page with a low PageRank displayed towards the top of the search engine results. This may mean that competing pages simply have an even lower PageRank. It can also mean that other factors are affecting the listing of the page within the search engine results, apart from simply the PageRank itself.
The idea behind the term link juice is that link juice flows from web pages with a high PageRank to other pages on the Web.
If you have a web page with a very high PageRank and you place a link from this page to another page, maybe on a different website, then link juice flows to the page on the other website.
The more link juice that flows to a page, all other things being equal the higher the PageRank of the target page will become.
If you have not one, but many links to external websites on a page, then the value of the link juice to the pages that you are linking to, will become diluted.
In most cases the home page of a website will have the highest PageRank value of all the pages within a particular website, and you should think carefully about how you link to other pages within your website, so that you distribute link juice to the pages that you consider the most important.
You can add a ‘no follow’ tag to some of your links to stop the link juice flowing from your website to other websites.
Often you will see companies advertising ‘links for sale’ from pages with a high PageRank value. If a company is selling hundreds of links from a single high PageRank page, then the value of the link in terms of link juice is greatly diluted.
Are you paying for past mistakes?
If you have tried optimising a website for the search engines and are not getting results, it is possible that you may be paying for past mistakes. For instance, in the past if you responded to a spam type email offering you 1000 links for $20, and tried purchasing these links, you might find that the links that this company provided are now actually harming your website. In the past Google took little notice of low quality incoming links to your website but now Google takes the view that if your website has hundreds of low quality incoming links then you properly paid for these. Paying for any type of link to your website for the purpose of increasing your ranking within the search engine is in contravention of Google’s terms of service.
There are numerous instances recently where Google has penalised a website owners for apparently purchasing low quality links in bulk.