SEO (or “Search Engine Optimisation” if you unravel it) can be roughly translated as:
doing what we can to improve how our website ranks in search engines such as Google
(This article is part of my ongoing ‘Business Guide to Websites‘ series.)
I had an email the other day which went along the following lines:
“We’ve had some advice and we’re only getting 600 hits a month. This is not sufficient”.
Hmmm….where do I start this?
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is a phrase shrouded in mystery but, in simple terms, it is about improving the ranking (position) of a website in the Google (or Yahoo/BING) search results pages.
To drill down a little further into what SEO means it’s best to take another look at Google:
This post talk about some misconceptions with regards to the practice known as “link building” and how it (supposedly) affects where your website appears in search result listings.
In order for Google (or any decent search engine for that matter) to respond to our search queries (e.g. “south wales business networking“, “overseas property insurance” etc) they need some method of “ranking” websites in relation to such search requests…otherwise search results would be completely random!
The intricacies Google uses to rank websites is obviously top-secret (otherwise spammers would try to gain unfair advantage) but Google are pretty open with what they consider to be important factors (more on that later). With Google though, relevancy is the watch word.
Google use special computer programs called ‘spiders’ to frequently analyse your website. These spiders examine, amongst many other factors, the text on your website pages to determine which search phrases they are relevant to; this is why using the right “keywords” is important.
These spiders are also very interested in the links which they find in your web pages. These links are the bits which allow us to click from one page to another or one website to another.
Back links are links which are on a different website but pointing back to your website. Google counts these “one way” links as pretty important but only if they come from a relevant source. E.g. if you run an Insurance website then relevant back links could come from insurance blogs, other financial websites etc. Simply trying to gain more of these back links for Google’s sake is really not very useful.
The other type of link is called a reciprocal link – this is where “website A” has a link to “website B” and “website B” has a link back to “website A“. Google generally deem such links to be less important than the one way back links discussed earlier. However, the key here again is relevancy – if it is relevant for “website A” to link to “website B“ and vice versa then do it! But do not do it for Google’s sake,.
If you get an email from saying “if you link to me and I link to you then it will be good for Google” then please be very wary. If it’s relevant and good for your users and you don’t mind people potentially clicking off your site then great.
Google have some very, very, very smart people working for them and they are more than aware of people trying to ‘game the system‘ and gain unfair advantage in their search engine results. They update their algorithms up to 600 times a year to constantly stay abreast of people trying to take such unfair advantage.
They take the impartiality and relevancy of their search results VERY seriously. Google’s entire business model relies on this relevancy.
There’s nothing wrong with trying to get your website listed in more relevant directories etc. But simply trying to gain extra “links” is a wasted effort – e..g some link building companies will blindly post onto random blogs so that they can secure that elusive back link. What they forget is that this:
1) Google ignores many links from blogs
2) If the comment added to the blog looks like spam it will be rejected anyway. Further more, do you really want third parties representing your company in this way? If anyone should be contributing to industry blogs then surely it should be the specialist, you!
A good link building strategy would involve either finding useful directories to be listed in, useful websites to set up links with (perhaps with a referral/commission scheme in place ), perhaps using social media to also promote your website.
Link building strategies need to be carefully thought out if they are to be successful. They can be useful but relevancy is the key. Simply focussing on gaining extra links without looking at the bigger picture is foolish.
To close I’ll leave you with some words from Google:
“Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines. Don’t deceive your users or present different content to search engines than you display to users…”
“Avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings. A good rule of thumb is whether you’d feel comfortable explaining what you’ve done to a website that competes with you. Another useful test is to ask, ”Does this help my users? Would I do this if search engines didn’t exist?”
…..and this cracker!
“Don’t participate in link schemes designed to increase your site’s ranking or Page Rank. In particular, avoid links to web spammers or ”bad neighborhoods” on the web, as your own ranking may be affected adversely by those links.”