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Why does my site need SEO – Part 2/2

telescope

telescope (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In this second post about “why does my site need SEO” and issues that might prevent you from ranking better, we’ll start with one of the most underestimated mistakes that webmasters make.

Why does my site need SEO? – Part 2

  • Failing to understand how Google prioritizes links.
    Here is a typical scenario for most websites: two links to the home page on the upper part of the site, one from the clickable logo and one from the navigation bar, the latter with the anchor “Home.”These links appear on all the pages, and make navigation easier, as they allow users to go back to the home page regardless of where they are.However, which one of those two links will Google prioritize? As we found out, this is what happens:

    • If you have only one link to a given URL, and it’s embedded in an image with an ALT attribute, Google will use it as anchor text
    • If you have two URLs in the same page, one as an image and the other as text, Google will prioritize the latter, regardless of its position or the ALT tag of the image link.

    Forget about the dear old “Home” as anchor text then, and try to use a more descriptive one. Also, remember two more things when it comes to links:

    • Google prefers HTML over Javascript
    • If the first link uses the rel=”nofollow” attribute, that will block the crawling of the second one, even if it’s not nofollow.

    The safe bet is to make sure that the first link to a URL is a keyword-rich text, as it will have priority in Google’s eyes on any other URL that might come further down in the page.

  • Moving to a different URL without letting Google know.
    If you are moving an entire site to a new URL, what happens to all the old backlinks, and how can you avoid losing your hard-earned Page Rank? The solution is a Google tool for webmasters, called Change of Address Form, whose purpose is to inform the search engine that your site has moved. On top of that, you want to put permanent redirections (called 301) from the old pages to the corresponding ones in the new site.The difference  between the tool and the 301 is that the first provides the information about the change at site level, whereas the latter is for single pages, but it definitely won’t hurt to use both (in fact, Google recommends it), and for two reasons:
    • The PageRank from the old URL will be passed on to the new one
    • Users that visit the old URL directly, from a bookmark, old backlinks or by typing it on the address bar, will be led to your new site, without getting the infamous “Page not found” response.
  • Building slow loading pages.
    Last but not least, don’t forget that users want speed, and so does Google. A slow-loading page will affect you negatively in two waysIf you use Adwords to promote your site, a high loading time will lower your Quality Score, resulting in higher Cost Per Click of your ads and a less favorable placement

    Whether you use Adwords or not, slowness will bring you down in the rankings.

So, do you still think you don’t need an SEO guy?   These should be some good reasons why does my site need SEO.

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Why does my site need SEO – Part 1/2

Why on car

Why on car (Photo credit: openpad)

And how is that going to help me get better rankings, more visits and more money?  And who needs SEO anyway?

If you want to be number one in Google for a given term, you need to start from a couple of things that SEO cannot give you:

  • get a mission,
  • build a brand,
  • produce amazing content and
  • share it with the rest of the world

Oh, and don’t forget to let Google know.

So – why does my site need SEO?

If relevance and importance are what you need to be at the top, you don’t want to shoot yourself in the foot by blocking all that from Google’s view. In this two-post series, you will learn about the possible SEO pitfalls that may limit your ranking in the search engines, and how to fix them.

  1. You have too many non-text elements.
    Flash Javascript, AJAX, they make your site look fancy, and your designer sure did a good job, but they have a problem: they’re not text, which is what search engines crawl to understand what a page is about. So unless you are a very well established brand like Armani or KFC (in that case visitors will use your name to get to your site), remove those elements, or at least keep them to a bare minimum.
  2. You use the same title tags and meta description in every page.
    Every page needs to have its own piece of content with its own unique title. Google already knows the name of your site from the home page, so don’t use it every time. The same applies to the meta descriptions (the snippet that appears under the link in the search results): make them unique and compelling to click on.
  3. Your URLs are dynamic.
    OK, we’re getting a little technical here, but bear with me. An URL like www.example.com/category/wedding-dresses is static (meaning that the page doesn’t change unless you edit it), and will give the search engine a pretty clear idea of the content of the page. On the other hand, when the content is pulled from a database and is the result different parameters, you will get a dynamic URL with those parameters in it. There are two issues with that: first the search parameters are non-descriptive (they read something like item, sectionid, option  and so on), and this won’t give Google any information about the content. Also, when different parameters give the same result, there can be two or more URLs for the same content, leaving the search engine wondering which one should be indexed.
  4. You have one home page, but different URLs.
    Even when your site is not database-driven, your home page might still have different URLs pointing at it. For example:http://example .com – http://www.example .com – http://example .com/index.php – http://www.example .com/index.phpThe result of this division is that the page rank for the home page will be divided in four, thus diluting your efforts of building authority to your site.The solution to dynamic and multiple URLs is an HTTP code called 301, which redirects all the different versions to the canonical one, making it more clear for the search engine.

The list doesn’t end here; stay tuned for the second part…

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Basic SEO – DIY SEO for free

English: Tools

English: Tools (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you manage a site or a blog, you probably received at least one email from an SEO company, offering you their services. But do you really need an SEO professional? If you never did any optimization on your site before, here’s the good news: there are a couple of important DIY SEO  tweaks you can do yourself – for free.  It will help your site be the most search engine-friendly it can be.

Let’s look at them in detail.

Title tag

This is the single most important factor of on-page optimization. If you are on the home page of your site with a browser like Firefox or Safari, the title tag is the text appearing at the very top, sometimes in the tab of the open page. If you look at the HTML of the page, it’s the text between the <title></title> markers.

In the Home page, the title tag is the first thing that search engines get to know about your site when they crawl it, so it has to describe what it is about in an accurate and natural way. Remember however, that only 70 characters are normally displayed in search results, so you will need ability to wordsmith it to come up with something short, descriptive and appealing.

Products page. Take a look now at the title tag of your products page: is it the same as the home page? If that’s the case, it needs to be changed. Again, search engines use the title tag to figure out what the page is about and they assume that each one has different content, hence different titles are required. To sum up: when it comes to title tags, duplicates are frowned upon, and the more specific the better. If you find it difficult to come up with a detailed title for your products page, chances are that you need to further divide them into sub-categories, and this brings us to the next important SEO factor.

More info about Title Tags on our SEO FAQ’s page.

Site structure

Search engines like sites with simple and linear structures. The assumption is: if they are easy to crawl for them, they’re easy to browse for the visitors, and user experience is paramount. As a good rule of thumb (given by Google) for DIY SEO, each page of your site should be no more than three clicks away from your Home page.  Figure it out by laying out your sitemap on paper or a mind mapping tool.

The mother of all sitemaps?

The mother of all sitemaps? (Photo credit: hungrybrowser)

Sitemap

Whenever the structure of your site makes it difficult to search engines to craw all the pages, then a sitemap will do the trick. Simply put, it’s a list of all the pages of your website: once you have it in place, the search engine will easily find every single piece of content. Especially for WordPress users, sitemaps can be easily generated and updated with the use of specific plugins.  (Leave us your favorite in the comments.)

Meta descriptions

Search results are always displayed with a description right underneath the link. These short summaries are called meta descriptions, and are the first thing users look at, when they decide if the link is worth clicking or not. Although they’re not a ranking factor (and Google will not necessarily show them in search results), if compelling and clear, meta descriptions will likely boost your click-through rate.

Use SEO Mofo’s SERP tool to check what your meta will look like in Google.

Images

Whether you sell products or services, or you simply have a blog, your site needs images. Not only because visual aids make content more interesting, but also because they have now become one of the quality signals that search engines use to separate the wheat of legit sites from the chaff of spammy content.  Google has recently introduced changes to the way images are displayed in search results, which have reduced their importance as traffic source.  However, there is a detail that remains important: the ALT tag, which is the only piece of text attached to the image, that search engines actually crawl. Although it won’t necessarily boost your rankings, a well-phrased ALT tag will be a chance to include an extra keyword in the text of the page.

Site speed limit, Canna industrial estate

Site speed limit, Canna industrial estate (Photo credit: macspite)

Speed

There is actually another important factor to take into account when it comes to images, and that’s their size, as that affects loading speed, and speed is important. Again, this is related to user experience: when we click on a link and the page takes forever to load, we tend to bounce back. There are different ways in which site speed can be improved, and some of them are quite technical, but you can start right now, by optimizing your images and making sure that the size you upload is the one you want on the page. If you upload a huge image and then let your CMS do the resizing, your server will still have to deal with the size of the original, and more pixels need more bandwidth.

That is what we recommend to everyone as some simple, free SEO tips for DIY SEO – before you hire an SEO consultant, check out these simple but important SEO tasks.

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5 SEO Tips for Bloggers

5 Spot

5 Spot (Photo credit: Thomas Hawk)

You you just trying to do good writing and not playing the game of all the SEO tricks?  All those silly “tips” that are supposed to skyrocket you to the top ten of Google.

Instead of all that junk – here are five simple and straightforward SEO tips that will help you rank better integrating seamlessly with your writing.

SEO Tips:

  1. One post, one topic, one title. Titles are not only important for your readers but for search engines too, which after all are also readers, although not human. Make sure that the title reflects the topic of the article, and that the article is about a specific topic only. Search engines don’t like confusion and neither do your readers.
  2. Add the metadescription. This one not about ranking but about getting more clicks. If you scroll down your WordPress text editor page (because you are using WordPress, right?), you will likely see a box where you can add a description of the page with a maximum of about 140 characters. This is what searchers will likely see when they find your page in the search engine results, so use it.
  3. Don’t forget the main keywords. We’re not asking you to do keyword research, or maybe we are, but a very quick one. Go to Google and start typing the keyword that best describes the topic you are writing about: the auto-complete function will give you the phrase that people actually use to search that topic on the internet, with probably a couple of variations as well. Incorporate those keywords in the body of the text, just to help search engines understand even better what you are talking about.
  4. Use images and give them titles. You are probably already using images in your posts (and if you’re not, start now), but you should also give them a title using the so called ALT-tag. That’s what search engines use to “read” a picture, so the content of the post will gain more clarity in their eyes. An added bonus is that you might even rank and receive organic traffic from those pictures. Again, WordPress makes it very easy to add the ALT-tag, so there’s nothing technical to learn.
  5. Write guest posts. No blogger’s an island, as the poet used to say (well, sort of), so reaching out to the other people in your niche should be a natural thing to do. You can do it in forums, via email, or commenting on their blogs. The most effective thing you can do however, is to write a post for their blog, with a link to your site. Just one word of caution though: do it for the relationship and the traffic, not for the link.

That was our five quick and painless SEO tips to make your blogging efforts more rewarding.  Good luck.

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Why does my site need SEO? (Part 1)

And how is that going to help me get better rankings, more visits and more money?  And who needs SEO anyway?

If you want to be number one in Google for a given term, you need to start from a couple of things that SEO cannot give you:

  • Get a mission
  • Build a brand
  • Produce amazing content
  • Share it with the rest of the world.

Oh, and don’t forget to let Google know. That’s where SEO can help: if relevance and importance are what you need to be at the top, you don’t want to shoot yourself in the foot by blocking all that from Google’s view.

In this two-post series, you will learn about the possible SEO pitfalls that may limit your ranking in the search engines, and how to fix them.

SEO Issue:  You have too many non-text elements

Flash Javascript, AJAX, they make your site look fancy, and your designer sure did a good job, but they have a problem: they’re not text, which is what search engines crawl to understand what a page is about. So unless you are a very well established brand like Armani or KFC (in that case visitors will use your name to get to your site), remove those elements, or at least keep them to a bare minimum.

SEO Issue: You use the same title tags and meta description in every page

Every page needs to have its own piece of content with its own unique title. Google already knows the name of your site from the home page, so don’t use it every time. The same applies to the meta descriptions (the snippet that appears under the link in the search results): make them unique and compelling to click on.

SEO Issue: Your URLs are dynamic

OK, we’re getting a little technical here, but bear with me. An URL like www.example.com/category/wedding-dresses is static (meaning that the page doesn’t change unless you edit it), and will give the search engine a pretty clear idea of the content of the page. On the other hand, when the content is pulled from a database and is the result different parameters, you will get a dynamic URL with those parameters in it. There are two issues with that: first the search parameters are non-descriptive (they read something like item, sectionid, option  and so on), and this won’t give Google any information about the content. Also, when different parameters give the same result, there can be two or more URLs for the same content, leaving the search engine wondering which one should be indexed.

SEO Issue: You have one home page, but different URLs

Even when your site is not database-driven, your home page might still have different URLs pointing at it. For example:  http://example .com – http://www.example .com – http://example .com/index.php – http://www.example .com/index.php

The result of this division is that the page rank for the home page will be divided in four, thus diluting your efforts of building authority to your site.  The solution to dynamic and multiple URLs is an HTTP code called 301, which redirects all the different versions to the canonical one, making it more clear for the search engine.

The list is not complete – stay tuned for the second part…

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