SEO: Where to start?

SEO is vast – so where should you start? Should you re-write all your tags? Where should keywords in an h2 tag go – the beginning or the end? What social channels do you need? Do I need complicated analytics?

Relax

Take a deep breath. Trust me when I say the complication scales as you learn SEO. This is great because it means you can start small and build up from there. You can also get a marketing firm on board – such as EBS Marketing! – who can hold your hand as much or as little as you require.

Content

Let’s start with content. From now on ‘content is king’ is your mantra. The web is built on content and the better you make that content – be it funny, informative, entertaining – the better chance you have of rating highly for relevance in your chosen field.

Use your keywords, but don’t overdo it. Need help with keyword ideas? Sign up and use Google’s keyword tool. This will give you local and global monthly search volumes for the phrases you’ve entered and importantly variations upon these. This can help you see if you’re using the correct keywords and if you’re missing any potential opportunities for high volume keywords. It may also help you identify long tail keywords – these are keyword combinations that have a low search volume. Why is that good? It’s easier to convert these as competition is lower and the targeting is much more specific.

Length is important on things like blog posts – aim for 400-600 words. Not only is this about SEO, but it’s about good writing: creating substantial content. A potential issue is that frequency is also important, so posting once or twice a week is a good minimum amount. I understand that as a business owner you’re unlikely to have the time to write all week – so try to strike a happy medium or outsource the work.

Navigation

Certain navigation systems can obscure your content as search engines can’t always follow it. Google is the only known entity to support Flash navigation – but that is not 100% guaranteed. The best thing to do is offer an alternative menu in HTML, verify your website in Google Webmaster tools & submit a sitemap. After a delay webmaster tools will tell you if your site has any crawl errors – hopefully none – and the sitemap gives Google an idea of the structure of the website’s content. It does also seem to give it a little bump towards indexing it – almost like a little thank-you from Google for giving them more data!

Where can I go from here?

Feeling confident and want to build up your SEO prowess? Why not take a look at these areas:

  • Page Title tags
  • Image alt tags, captions & filenames
  • Demographic data from Google Analytics
  • Link building
  • Guest blogging
  • Social media
  • PPC advertising

See – that wasn’t so hard was it? Start with your content and your navigation, build up from there and don’t be afraid to ask for help from some self-confessed SEO obsessives.

Are you ignoring Bing & does it matter?

Google, google, google, etc

So most SEO seems to be all about Google. By ‘most’ I mean almost entirely all of it. Google does have over 90% of the search market (as of May 2013 figures), so no wonder people prioritise it. Do you have anything to gain by looking at what works on the remaining 10% of the search market? Two competing theories are discussed below.

Of course 10% is worth pursuing

After the recent Prism/NSA scandal, searches on Duckduckgo went up significantly and Bing and other players seem to consistently hold 10% of the search market.

Take a few example phrases and apply them to Google and Bing, then compare the results. They tend to be rather different. If you can balance a mixed approach that can benefit both engines then go for it.

There’s also advertising to consider – your Google PPC campaign obviously doesn’t cover Bing! So if you can take your Google PPC strategy, which is hopefully about careful targeting, testing, refinement and more testing – and apply it to Bing with an aim to tailor it to the niche of a Bing searcher you could get a reasonable R.O.R. Bear in mind too – if your competitors are ignoring Bing you have access to an audience they do not. This might see a better conversion rate at a lower click cost (with admittedly less volume).

No, good SEO is universal

Everything you do in SEO should be holistic – great content, well-structured navigation & relevance in all you do. As long as all these areas tie up and you’re not engaging in any questionable practises you should have a really strong position in the results pages. Tailored results could go into the area of ‘questionable practices’ – especially if you’re trying to show Google one set of content and Bing another – like the ‘bait and switch’ tactics of blackhat SEO that are hopefully now defunct entirely.

Yes there will be slight variances in the algorithms between different search engines, but as they all chase the same end goal – relevance – the odd tweak here and there shouldn’t make an appreciable difference. I would imagine that the refining of the algorithm should tend towards perfection of relevance – so as long as search engines progress at the same rate, we should presumably end up at place where results are practically identical across the board.

EBS Marketing can help you with great SEO, no matter the search engine targeted – specific ones or just all of them. We can also help you with PPC advertising; tailored, targeted and refined ad strategies to help you attract and convert customers.

Is your site fast enough?

Today’s powerful flashy web 2.0 destinations are a far cry from the basic text and small images only properties of old. As websites have got more complex and hence more resource intensive surfers have at the same time gotten less patient. In 1999 a visitor to your site might have waited 8-10 seconds for it to load. These days they’ll get impatient with anything greater than a 2 second wait.

If your site is too slow your bounce rate might go up, visitors may load fewer pages, cart abandonment may be a big problem and it’s hardly likely to engender positive social media references.

Your SEO efforts can receive a big boost from addressing site performance issues. Website speed is taken into account in Google’s algorithm, they say: “Faster sites create happy users” and “Like us, our users place a lot of value in speed – that’s why we’ve decided to take site speed into account in our search rankings.”

Server power

So how can you start to address performance issues? Let’s first of all look at the server your website is running on. If you’re running your website on shared hosting – which is practically impossible with some ecommerce platforms like Magento – you really want to look at upgrading to a VPS, or Virtual Private Server. Already on a VPS? Then your provider likely offers a very simple interface for increasing the power of your server, such as memory and CPU. Refer to your software’s documentation (or your developer) and allocate at least their recommendations – more if you can to future proof it.

You can also get more out of your server by optimising the software. Remove or disable unused programs to free up more memory and CPU. Look at software such as your web server and your platform – again, what services or plugins can be disabled? Does your platform offer speed improvements such as caching or compilation?

A word of warning though: ensure you know what you are doing when you disable items as you could inadvertently cause your website to break, be less secure or slow down – exactly the opposite of what we want!

If you receive global visits and your traffic is particularly high you may want to invest in using a CDN – Content Delivery Network. These services distribute your content amongst several locations and your visitors are simply directed to the optimal one. There is more to it than this of course, but it can be an effective way of boosting site performance.

Optimise your content

You can increase your website’s performance by making some decisions about the media you use on your website. You need to strike the right balance when choosing your encoding quality – too low will look (or sound) poor, but too high impacts your websites performance negatively.

Maybe some items are extraneous and can be removed entirely? Maybe you overdid it on the flashy animations? On a personal note – and I believe I’m not alone here – please don’t give me an introductory video/animation before I can get into your website. For me making it skippable doesn’t really help either! (Opinions may vary!)

EBS Marketing can help you optimise your website for better performance and address your overall SEO strategy – feel free to contact us for more information.

Universal Search Series: Wrap Up

During our Universal search series we’ve taken a look at optimising for various areas of Google search:

Image

Video

Shopping

News

 

We’re now going to wrap this series up with a review of what we’ve covered and a look at some good quality SEO advice that works across these areas.

Content

We’re always saying it, but it’s true: content is king. All the best optimisation, PPC, social media tactics in the world will all come to nothing if the content it leads to is sub-par. Whether you’re informing, entertaining, warning or marketing, the content needs to be high quality, well structured, keyword rich but not stuffed. Focus on this area first.

Tags

Tags allow you to get a bit more information in as a descriptor – handy for, say, images, where you can use the alt tag to describe what’s in the image. This helps Google as its image recognition is basic at the moment.

Filenames

Another area in which you can use a bit more text to describe the file in question, so put a few descriptive keywords in there. It also helps when you return to it later; – you’ll have an idea of the content without opening it first.

Description

Add descriptions to images and videos as a caption – and correct Google’s attempt at closed captioning your videos via voice recognition whilst you’re at it – to give you a keyword rich description for your media content.

Data, data, data

Meta data as well as data itself. What is meta data? It is data about data; data that describes data. For example, video meta data might include the following data on a video: title, tags, description or on an image the EXIF data is meta data. Make sure such sections are complete and accurate.

Sitemaps are an important form of structural data for Google. An overall sitemap is important, but it is helpful to add sitemaps for areas such as news and video.

Don’t block them

There are two areas to this: – robots.txt and navigational elements. Your robots.txt needs to be carefully configured to avoid disbarring access to content you want indexed. Your navigation should be followable by Google – so no Flash or Javascript. If you must use these you absolutely have to provide alternate access means to Google otherwise your SEO campaign will suffer measurably.

So there you have it – Universal Search wrapped up! Good luck populating your content with rich media content including your images, videos, news and products.

 

And if you need any help with optimisation, digital marketing, E-commerce or social, please get in touch with EBS Marketing.