iQ media - IQ Blog - Search Engine Optimisation (02 March 10)

Search Engine Optimisation

02 March 2010

Search Engine Optimisation Image

Optimo Googlus Positio!

For us regular muggles, the web site and how to get it up the search engine rankings is a mystery. You have a great site and you want it at the top, surely the site should speak for itself? But Search Engine Optimisation is a dark art. Harry Potter's wand is something we all need. And yet, as soon as we think we've grasped it, we get told the rules have changed. Even so, the basics never alter. Hopefully this article sets the scene and provides a few pointers.

A word from Google

Marissa Mayer, Vice President of Search and User Experience at Google: Q - What tips can you offer someone starting a Web site or a blog to get it high up in the search results? A - You should build the best Web page you can; you shouldn't build the best Web page you can for search engines. A good page for a user is also a good page for us.

3 things you need to do to maximise sales from your website

  1. Get over yourself
  2. Learn to listen to your customers
  3. Act on what you hear

Contentiamus!

Without content there is nothing for a search engine robot to get its teeth into. And purely static content is no use. Your site needs to grow healthily and in a reasonable manner. As with all good marketing your content needs to be targeted and relevant to your audience.We know the engines' algorithms "like" change. We suspect they don't like disproportionate change. And since at least 80% of visitors from search engines come from the organic searches your content needs to be good, relevant and indexable.

Wee Three Ceepio!

Content is not just the words on the page. The HTML your page is rendered in is important. Search engine robots see the entire mess behind the content. The key is to be standards compliant.

And standards compliance is vital, to make sure your page renders well in all normal browsers to ensure this is the case use  W3C mark up validation service to check your site. http://validator.w3.org But just look at the number of errors! You may be doing okay on page ranking but need Harry Potter's wand to sort out all the coding errors to ensure your site is compliant.

Linkus!

Search engines love links. Unsolicited inbound links deep into the content of your site are the very best. Links to your home page are fine. Reciprocal links (link exchange services) are ignored, or all but ignored. They cancel each other out. Link farms are the very worst and you will soon be penalised!

Links that do best are the ones with text. Now there are places where the words "Click Here" are unavoidable. But how much better is a link to your site that adds value to your own site in search engines because of what is on the other site. A well quoted example is of the Google search: http://www.google.com/search?q=miserable+failure. For over two years the top listing was http://www.whitehouse.gov/president/gwbbio.html , a page where the words "miserable" and "Failure" are totally absent. Google explains this, which is pretty unusual. Probably someone powerful accused them of bias!

But the bottom line here is that links to relevant content usually contain relevant words. Which means we are back to "Contentio!" again. Make it interesting enough and someone will link to you- Google terms these contextual links.

Ranka Elevatia!!

it's quite possible that many people reading this article have never heard of Page Rank - a Google term. And even those who know what it is may well have no idea how it's made up! The basic essentials are very simple. First the scale is 1-10, with 10 being the coveted top ranking and almost impossible to achieve.

But the scale is actually logarithmic. Put simply this means it is 10 times harder to achieve a 2 than a 1, then times harder to achieve a 3 than a 2 and so forth, all the way up to 10. It also means that a 5 is not the mid point of the scale. Mathematicians will doubtless be able to say where it is. If you want to check your own "site's" page rank then this rank checking tool is free and is as good as any. Or you can get the Google Toolbar.

Strictly the rank is page specific, but not page independent, with the pages on your site each inheriting a part of their rank from each other, and a part from the inbound links to the site.

There is also a school of thought that suggests that your site should not be an isolated island of pages, but should link outwards to other sites in order to share its own page rank out. It is said that search engine algorithms disapprove of sites that are selfish and penalise them.

Tagus Maximo!

Getting HTML Tags right is important:

  • Title Tag: This is the most important of all the tags, and often the most neglected. It says what each page is about. This is highly relevant to search engines.
  • Meta Tags: The thing is, this area is debatable. Meta Tags for keywords either are, or are not used by search engines. We know they were used. We know that search engines used to rely on them for part of the position in their results tables. And we know that there is huge discussion on places like Webmaster World about whether they are relevant. Our advice – play it safe -make sure you have metatags for the key words on your site.
  • Image alt Text: Again debatable, but search engines are reputed to use the 'alt="some text or other"' part of the img tag in their index. It is actually sensible to use the alt element anyway to tell people what the picture they are not seeing is about. It should be treated as a sort of Braille equivalent of the picture. The alt part puts text up until the picture downloads on some browser, but most of all it is a part of W3C standards.
  • Heading Tags: If you were a search engine, wouldn't you look at what people say is important? And that is what a heading tag does. But beware making the entire page a heading because the search engines will not be fooled that easily.

In Closing

There is a huge amount of information, debate and controversy surrounding Search Engine Optimisation. But most of the job of Organic Search Engine Optimisation is the ability to use good, simple logic and to have a process that you follow when publishing websites and new web pages.

But whilst page positioning is very important to ensure your site is visible, this is only part of the process of designing a good website. Good design is about both function and form appearance. Our view is that SEO is just part of the functionality and it is no good having lots of hits if the design (appearance of your site) doesn't appeal to and capture your target audience. We are back to content!

We might explain it to a client who is getting lots of hits but no enquiries like this: A poor website design is like having a tatty van that does lots of miles; yes it's out there getting seen, but no one will want to buy from you because you aren’t instilling any confidence in your brand.

If you would like a a free healthcheck consultation about your website please contact iQ Media on 0845 612 7147.

This article is adapted from a seminar we ran earlier in the year. You can download the original Powerpoint presentation below. Keep an eye out for future seminars and workshops in our events section.

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