DRA digital marketing

What is SEO and how does it help your online business

By Christina

Oct 21, 2015

This post is designed to help our clients understand the work we carry out to help their website rank well within the search engines.

We offer technical SEO services as well as other marketing that comes under the umbrella of SEO services.

1.  What is SEO?

SEO is the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of the traffic that you earn through the organic results in search engines like Google, Yahoo! and Bing.

Tactics are used to:-

  1. Increase rankings
  2. Improve click through rate (CTR)
  3. Target a larger number of keywords/phrases
  4. Drive more search volume to terms/phrases where you already rank

Is SEO important?

Within the search engine results 18% - 20% of traffic comes through pay per click (PPC), the rest comes from organic search.  This is why SEO is so important to your online business.

Why SEO?

SEO is only worth doing, if you want potential customers to be able to find your site when they're searching on Google, or any other search engine.

SEO gives you more control over how your site is represented in the search engine result pages.  Good SEO can also improve how users experience your site.

Ranking Influencers

  1. Keyword use
  2. Content analysis
  3. User and usage data
  4. Performance in the search engine result pages (SERPs)
  5. External links
  6. Internal links
  7. Domain authority
  8. Sentiment analysis
  9. Social media signals
  10. Brand signals and associations
  11. Freshness / Staleness
  12. Diversity
  13. Loading speed
  14. Geography
  15. Unfortunately there are too many influencers to list them all ...

Myths and Misconceptions about Search Engines

Search engine submissions - it worked back in the early 1990s.  If you hear a pitch from an SEO offering search engine submission services, run, don't walk, to a real SEO.

Meta tags - a bit of code were we used to list keywords which explained what a website was about.  Unfortunately too many companies decided to stuff this bit of code with as many keywords as possible, with little regard of whether the keyword was relevant.  Once something is being manipulated the search engines drop it.  Because of this meta tags are no longer used as a ranking factor.  However, title tags and meta description tags are crucial for quality SEO, it is harder to manipulate this part of code as this is what people see in the SERPs, and what is written is the deciding factor for a person to click through to your website, so it has to make sense and appeal to your potential customer.

Keyword stuffing/density - this is based around some mathematical formula where the number of keywords on the website page versus all other words will create success.  This has been disproved time and again but there are still people practicing this tactic.  If you want a person to buy from you, then your text has to be understandable and to the point, stuff it with keywords and your content will lose meaning.

Paid search helps bolster organic results - Google, Bing & Yahoo! have all erected walls in their organisations specifically to prevent this type of crossover.

Search engine spam - manipulative techniques generally won't help you, and they often result in search engines imposing penalties on your site.  Check out all the algorithm updates Google has implemented to stop spam tactics.

Penalties and Algorithm Updates

Once there is a system someone will try to benefit from it.  Hence the darker arts of SEO, often referred to as black hat tactics, which will work for a short period of time until the search engines notice your gaming their systems, then they'll introduce ways to penalise a website that is benefiting over others for doing something a little dodgy.

When a website has been penalised it will see a drop in traffic and rankings, or even worse the website will be banned from the search engines, never to be seen again.

2.  Building an SEO Friendly Site

Domains

Domain names are the human readable internet addresses of websites (dradept).  Root domains, which are identified by their domain names, have extensions such as .com, .org, .co.uk, etc (dradept.com).  Sub domains are a lower level component of a root domain and precede the domain name (the www part - or the name of the page instead of the www part). 

Top Tips for Domain Names

  • Word Separators - Avoid hyphens.  Hyphens detract from credibility and can act as a spam indicator.
  • Top-Level Domain (TLD) - Top-level domains (.com) are the extensions associated with domain names.  For best ranking results, avoid uncommon top-level domains (TLDs).  Like hypens, TLDs such as .info, .cc, .ws, and .name as these are spam indicators.
  • Length - Avoid domain names longer than 15 characters.  Short domain names are easier to remember, easier to share, and have a smaller chance of resulting in typos.

SEO Best Practice for Domain Names

  • Memorable domain name
  • Keyword rich domain
  • Avoid hyphens or stick to only 1 if necessary
  • Stick to .com top level domains
  • Use subfolders for link worthy content (.....)
  • Buy other domains because they are going to be a part of your business (business acquisition).  Domains that have expired and are back with the registrar for sale no longer have any link equity.
  • Length of domain registration does not matter
  • When moving domains put redirects on a page to page basis.  Such as, a subfolder on the old domain should redirect to a subfolder on the new domain.  Deep content on the old domain should be redirected to deep content on the new domain.  Never redirect all old pages to the new sites home page.

Site Structure

Make sure it is index-able and crawlers can find it.

Sitemaps

Sitemaps help search engines index your content, visit Google to see their advice about site maps:

Internal Links

Create internal links to important pages so users and search engines can find them.  Place more links to important pages, and less links to less important pages.

Page Speed

Page speed is now crucial because so much traffic is coming via mobile devices.  Here are some of the things you can do to help a website load faster:

  • Compress file sizes and picture sizes
  • Optimise code by removing spaces, commas, and other unnecessary characters.  Also remove code comments, formatting, and unused code.
  • Reduce redirects
  • Leverage browser caching
  • Improve server response time
  • Use a content distribution network
  • Optimise images

Website Design

The design and layout of your website is 50% of your battle.  It doesn't matter what your preferences are.  Your existing customers will love your website, that's why they are your customers.  You need to focus on all the other visitors to your website who don't buy from you.  Paying out upwards of £3,000 for a professional design can seem painful, but investing in your shop front and product placements will improve your sales.  Contact a professional website developer today. 

Mobile Web Development

Your website needs to be mobile and work well on all mobile devices.  It is often cheaper to have the mobile version of your website sorted out when you update your websites overall design.

3.  Content and Related Mark-up

Populating your website with useful and informative content, don't even think about starting to add content until you understand exactly who the customer is and the information they may find helpful.

Competitor Analysis

Find out what content is and isn't working for your competitors.  It will help you to see what their links, rankings and keywords look like.

Keyword Research

Think about keywords that fit your business then ask yourself:-

  • Is the keyword relevant to your websites content
  • Will searchers find what they are looking for on your site when they search using those keywords
  • Will they be happy with what they find
  • Will this traffic result in financial rewards or other organisational goals?

If the answer is clear then yes proceed with that keyword.

Search for the Keyword Term/Phrase

Now go into the search engines and type in your keywords to find out:-

  • Websites ranking = your competition
  • Lots of ads at the top and side = high value keyword
  • Multiple ads at top = highly lucrative and directly conversion prone keyword

Buy a Sample Campaign at Google and/or Bing

Now test your keyword choices in Google or Bing ads (PPC) to help you decide which keywords create the highest conversions.

  • Test exact match keyword for 200 to 300 clicks.
  • Track impressions and conversion rates.

Using the data Collected

Here's how you can work out how much each keyword is worth to you:

  • Search ad generates 5,000 impressions in one day
  • Of which 100 visitors click from your ad to your site
  • 3 of those visitors converted into a sale
  • Profit generated £300.00 (not revenue)
  • One sale is worth £3 to your business

  • 5,000 impressions could generate an 18%-36% click through rate (CTR) when in ranking position 1.
  • 5,000 / 100 x 18 = 900 visitors per day (impressions / visitors x ctr =)
  • 3 / 100 x 900 = 27 sales a day
  • 27 X £300.00 = £8,100.00 profit per day

This gives you an idea of the worth of search engine optimisation when you use the right keywords.

However, longer tail keywords are far more important than simply concentrating on that one keyword that describes your industry.

Only 30% of searches are made for main keywords such as 'design'.  70% of searches are carried out for longer term keywords such as 'best web design company in London'.  Per term there are less people, but put together longer tail keywords generate more visitors to your website and they seem to have a higher conversion rate.  This is why concentrating on themes and phrases and answering searchers questions is so important.

Keyword Resources

SEO Copywriting

Create content for your users not for the search engines.  You know your industry best and will probably be able to come up with lots of great content.  If you don't have the time or don't feel your writing is good enough invest in a copywriter.  An excellent copywriter is going to be expensive, but over the life time of your content you will make more money then if you have poorly written content.

Top Tips

  1. Write for power skimmers
  2. Headlines = What / Why / How, make a promise in your headline and delivery it in your content
  3. Numbers get 20% more traffic = 21 Tactics to ......
  4. Use power words = quick, easy, guarantee, free .......
  5. Pictures are essential to success: Photos, Artwork, Charts & Graphs, Slide Decks, Video, & Info-graphics
  6. Use sub headings
  7. Include lists
  8. Quotes about others work and links
  9. Use bold and italic to make important ideas stand out
  10. BE HONEST

On-page Factors and Meta Data

Remember to include title tags, meta descriptions and alt attributes to get the most from your pages.  These areas all help the searcher decide whether your website is worth visiting.

Go that extra mile with Schema Structured Data to help the search engines understand your website further. 

Duplicate Content

When duplicate content is present, site owners suffer rankings and traffic losses, and search engines provide less relevant results.

What to Check

  • URL parameters - click tracking and analytics code can cause problems
  • Printer Friendly - multiples of the same page can get indexed.  dradept/print/how-to & dradept/how-to
  • Session IDs - this is created when each visitor to the website is assigned a session number that is stored in the URL.

To sort these problems out you can use canonicalization to tell Google which page is the original, or set up 301 redirects from the duplicate to the original.

You can also 'noindex' pages you don't want to appear in Google.

There is also parameter handling in Google Webmaser Tools to show preferred domain.  But this only sorts out your problem in Google not the other search engines.  You can also set preferred domain to tell Google whether to use www or not.

SEO for Video

Videos need to be placed where your conversion is likely to happen.

  • Product videos should be on your product pages.
  • Use YouTube for brand awareness and other videos that don't lead to a direct sale.
  • Use title tags and meta descriptions detailing the videos content
  • Social buzz videos should be placed on your website
  • Context is essential - transcribe your video for the search engines and place the text under the video

Measuring Success

Metrics you need to measure to improve your website:

  • Direct Navigation
  • Referral Traffic
  • Search Engine Traffic
  • Conversion Rate by search query term/phrase
  • Number of pages receiving at least one visit from the search engines

4.  On-Site Related Topics

Technical SEO that you must get right!

/Robots.txt

User-agent: *
Disallow: /

The 'user-agent: *' means this section applies to all robots.  The 'Disallow: /' tells the robot that it should not visit any pages on the site.

Be aware Robots can ignore your /robots.txt and anyone who chooses to look can see which sections of your website you don't want robots to use.

Never use this command to hide information!

The robots.txt should be placed in the top-level directory of your web server.

Find out more about robot.txt:

Switching of your site from HTTP to HTTPS

Security is a big issue for companies, so Google has announced HTTPS is now a ranking factor, as securing your website prevents other entities from monitoring its communications.

Securing your website with a TLS certificate (formally known as SSL) can slow your website down when the data is encrypted and when a secure connection is established.

Optimising Data Encryption

When you use TLS, you are adding another 2 steps to the process of how a browser and web server communicate.  The sender has to work to encrypt the data before transmitting it, and the receiver has to decrypt the data before it can process it.  Since these operations are occurring on all of your website traffic all of the time, you want this exchange to be as efficient as possible.

There are a large number of ciphers that can be used to perform this encryption/decryption to make the process faster.  At the moment the favourite is, AES with 128 bit keys.

Optimising the TLS Connection

The TLS connection (handshake) is the process that the browser and server follow to decide how to communicate and create the secured connection. 

Some of the things that happen during the handshake:-

  • Confirming the identity of the server, and possibly the client
  • Telling each other what ciphers, signatures, and other options each party supports, and agreeing on which to use
  • Creating and exchanging keys to be used later during data encryption

The primary aspect that we can optimise is the 'confirming the identity of the server' step by adding an intermediate certificate the browser already trusts.

All you are doing is shortening the chain of trust to speed up the time it takes the browser to know you are a trusted website.

When shopping for a TLS certificate, ask the vendor:

  • What certificate will be used to sign your certificate, and how long will the certificate chain be?
  • Will they include their intermediate certificate bundled with your certificate, so the browser won't have to wait downloading other certificates while walking up the certificate chain?
  • Do they support OCSP stapling, to reduce the time needed to check for revoked certificates?

See more about TLS optimisation:

  • Enable TLS resumption on your web servers.
  • If possible, avoid using session identifiers to reduce your exposure to Denial of Service Attacks.

5.  Link Related Topics

External Links

There are two effective ways to get more links from external sources: you can either earn them or build them.  For best results a combination of the two is best.

Types of Links

  • Natural Editorial Links - links that are given naturally by sites and pages that want to link to your content or company.
  • Manual Outreach Link Building - created by emailing bloggers for links, submitting sites to directories, or paying for listings of any kind.
  • Self-Created, Non-Editorial Links - websites offer visitors the opportunity to create links through guest book signings, forum signatures, blog comments, or user profiles.  Today, these types of links are often considered spammy and should be pursued with caution.

Measuring Link Value

One quality link will do more for your websites reputation then 100's of low quality links.  Here is how you can measure the value of a link:-

  • Web page is ranking for relevant search terms
  • MozRank
  • Domain authority
  • Competitor's Back links
  • Number of links on a page
  • Potential referral traffic

Success comes when you see an increase in search engine traffic, higher rankings, more frequent search engine crawling and increases in referring link traffic.

Possible Link Building Strategies

  • Get customers to link to you
  • Build a company blog: make it a valuable, informative, and an entertaining resource
  • Create content that inspires viral sharing and natural linking
  • Be newsworthy - get the attention of the press, bloggers and news media.

You can find out more about link building tactics here:

Guest Blogging

Guest blogging is a great way to get a link as well as some valuable traffic to your website.

Link Quality

How to know if a link is worth chasing:-

  • Trust worthy websites
  • Popular
  • Relevant to your content

Anchor Text Best Practices

  • If many links point to a page with the right keywords in their anchor text, that page has a very good chance of ranking well.
  • People have a tendency to link to content using the anchor text of either the domain name or the title of the page.  This is an advantage to SEOs who include keywords they want to rank for in these two elements.
  • Too many inbound links to a page with the exact same keyword-rich anchor text may cause Google to scrutinise that site's link profile more closely.

Nofollow Links

Even nofollow links can help you build awareness and get more links.

HTTP Status Codes

  • Use 301 redirects rather than 302 redirects when redirecting URLs on a site to ensure that link equity is passed between the redirecting website pages
  • Website pages that return 404 (file not found) for extended periods of time and that have valuable links should be 301 redirected to other web pages.
  • It is important to have customised 404 pages with recommended navigational options when website visitors request pages that return a 404 response code.

Redirection

301 redirects are a great way to tell the search engines a page has permanently moved elsewhere and the 301 redirection also passes a good share of the original pages link equity.

Canonicalization

You have two pages that are the same or similar.  Canonicalization allows you to indicate to the search engines which version is to be treated as the correct version.

6.  Other Optimisation

Find and fix what's keeping potential customers from converting with conversion rate optimisation, get found on local SEO, as well as international SEO.

Conversion Rate Optimisation

Some great resources about conversion rate optimisation can be found here:

Local SEO

Even if you do most of your business in person at a local shop, customers are still trying to use the internet to find you (and your hours, phone number, menu, etc).

Find out more about local SEO from these resources:-

International SEO

Some great resources can be found here to help you:-

7.  Learn SEO

Learn SEO from:

Web Based SEO Lessons:

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