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Google 101

Google Basics

When you sit down at your computer and do a Google search, you’re almost instantly presented with a list of results from all over the web. How does Google find web pages matching your query, and determine the order of search results?

In the simplest terms, you could think of searching the web as looking in a very large book with an impressive index telling you exactly where everything is located. When you perform a Google search, their programs check the index to determine the most relevant search results to be returned (“served”) to you.

The three key processes in delivering search results to you are:

Crawling: Does Google know about your site? Can we find it? Learn more…
Indexing: Can Google index your site? Learn more…
Serving: Does the site have good and useful content that is relevant to the user’s search? Learn more…


Crawling

Crawling is the process by which Googlebot discovers new and updated pages to be added to the Google index.

They use a huge set of computers to fetch (or “crawl”) billions of pages on the web. The program that does the fetching is called Googlebot (also known as a robot, bot, or spider). Googlebot uses an algorithmic process: computer programs determine which sites to crawl, how often, and how many pages to fetch from each site.

Google’s crawl process begins with a list of web page URLs, generated from previous crawl processes, and augmented with Sitemap data provided by webmasters. As Googlebot visits each of these websites it detects links on each page and adds them to its list of pages to crawl. New sites, changes to existing sites, and dead links are noted and used to update the Google index.

Google doesn’t accept payment to crawl a site more frequently, and we keep the search side of our business separate from our revenue-generating AdWords service.

Indexing

Googlebot processes each of the pages it crawls in order to compile a massive index of all the words it sees and their location on each page. In addition, they process information included in key content tags and attributes, such as Title tags and ALT attributes. Googlebot can process many, but not all, content types. For example, it cannot process the content of some rich media files or dynamic pages.

Serving results

When a user enters a query, Google’s machines search the index for matching pages and return the results we believe are the most relevant to the user. Relevancy is determined by over 200 factors, one of which is the PageRank for a given page. PageRank is the measure of the importance of a page based on the incoming links from other pages. In simple terms, each link to a page on your site from another site adds to your site’s PageRank. Not all links are equal: Google works hard to improve the user experience by identifying spam links and other practices that negatively impact search results. The best types of links are those that are given based on the quality of your content.

In order for your site to rank well in search results pages, it’s important to make sure that Google can crawl and index your site correctly. Our Webmaster Guidelines outline some best practices that can help you avoid common pitfalls and improve your site’s ranking.

Google’s Related Searches, Spelling Suggestions, and Google Suggest features are designed to help users save time by displaying related terms, common misspellings, and popular queries. Like google.com search results, the keywords used by these features are automatically generated by web crawlers and search algorithms. They display these suggestions only when they think they might save the user time. If a site ranks well for a keyword, it’s because it is algorithmically determined that its content is more relevant to the user’s query.

updated
10/9/2010

November 9, 2010 | Comments Off on Google 101 | Permalink

SEO basics

Search engine optimisation experts pretty much agree that there are a few important steps to improving your search engine rankings and surprisingly, no technical knowledge is required for any of them.

Step 1: Incorporate Keywords Into Title Tag

This is the #1 factor in achieving high search rankings. While the incorporation of important key phrases into your title tags is not the only way to get your site to the top, all of the suggestions below should be followed. SEO is about balance, not one magic bullet but the title tag is of the first step.

So what is a title tag? It is a snippet of HTML code that appears in the header section of an HTML document. This determines what is in the title bar or tab. Look above, it should say “SEO basics” before your browser name.

You should tell your webmaster to change your title tags. Tell them the most important key phrases for each of your pages and tell them to put them into a title tag. Each page on your site should have its own unique title tag specifically optimised to the key phrase targeted on that page. In other words, it is a mistake to use the same title tag for all pages of a Web site.

Step 2: Install a Blog – and Use It

Blogs are very simple yet powerful ways to drive traffic and rankings. The easiest, fastest and cheapest way to get up and going with a blog is to use Google’s free Blogger application.

This provides a number of advantages. First, it’s easy, free and simple. Perhaps more importantly, however, it is owned by Google, and the Google bots crawl all Blogger blogs regularly. For this reason, the five-minute act of setting up a blog is the best way to get a new site found and indexed by Google, usually within a matter of days. This eliminates the need for submission of your site to Google manually.

It is best to set up the blog so that it resides on your server. Again, your webmaster can easily do this for you in about three minutes — so don’t let him charge you an arm and a leg — and no technical knowledge is required on your side. Blogger can automatically publish all of your posts to your site if set up in this manner.

Once your blog is set up, start posting articles. Articles should be 400 to 600 words in length, and should not be self-promotional –in other words, the opposite of a press release. They should be general interest articles on topic related to your industry or field. How-to articles — such as this one — can be wildly popular. Product reviews are also excellent blog fodder.

Blog entries should be posted on a regular basis, at least once weekly, if not more often. Keep them clear and concise.

Step 3: Increase Global Link Popularity of Your Site (It’s Easy)

Inbound linkage to your site is extremely important, but it must be done correctly. What is correctly? First and foremost, avoid link exchanges and other free-for-all link reciprocation schemes (including a “links” page or “resources” page in which anybody can join). Only link to sites you personally know, and keep these to a minimum.

If you are blogging, increasing your global link popularity is pretty easy through blog syndication and social bookmarking. First, you should make your blog articles available for syndication and distribution across the Web. This is done via article syndication sites — some good ones include EzineArticles and Article Blast. These sites allow you to repost your blog articles for use and republication by third-party sites, most of whom will give you some link love as the source of the content.

The accounts on these article distribution sites (Google search: article distribution) are free to set up and easy to use. Getting the word out about your articles in this manner is a highly effective methodology for inbound link acquisition.

Step 4: Influence Anchor Text of Inbound Links to Your Site

The anchor text of inbound links is an important factor in the determination of which key phrase queries for which your site should rank. Anchor text is simply the actual words which make up the physical link to your site. The most famous example would be “Click Here.”

It is doubtful that you want to rank for the phrase “Click Here.” Therefore, you can influence the type of anchor text third-party sites use when linking to you. While you cannot ever maintain total control over what others do — and this is a good thing, as varying anchor text links to a site is looked upon favorably by Google — a good amount of control can be had via the inclusion of an “About the Author” section in each article you syndicate via the step 3 methods above.

At the end of each article, simply include a short — one or two sentence — About the Author attribution, that identifies you as the source of the article. In this section, include an anchor text link using important key phrases for which you want to appear.

Here’s an example: About the Author: John Doe is the owner of WidgetsRUs, a leading provider of {start anchor text link here}widgets{end link} to Fortune 500 companies. For more information, please visit [Web site URL here].

In the example above, you can see how the important key phrase “widgets” is used as the anchor text for the actual link to the author’s Web site. Google and other engines use the information in anchor text to determine for which phrases a site should rank. By including an attribution to yourself and your site, you will be able to dramatically influence the anchor text phrases third parties use when linking to you.

Step 5: Get Involved With Social Media

Social media is most simply defined as any user generated content. This can take the form of blog posts, videos, forums or any other content that is created on the Web not by the Web site owner, but rather by the users of a Web site. Famous examples include MySpace Latest News about MySpace, YouTube Latest News about YouTube, Facebook Latest News about Facebook, Digg, LinkedIn and many others.

Depending on your target audience, social media can be utilized to both increase inbound links to your site as well as direct traffic. The aggressive pursuit of a social media campaign can take many different forms. Right now, we will discuss the simplest and most effective (in terms of bang for your buck) social media strategy. This is known as “social bookmarking.”

Picture the “Favorites” folder in your browser. This is where you privately bookmark Web sites and pages that you find interesting and to which you will likely want to return. Social bookmarking is simply a way of doing this in a public manner.

Each of your blog posts should be bookmarked to the major social bookmarking sites. These sites include but are not limited to Digg.com, Furl.com, StumbleUpon.com, Technorati.com, Del.icio.us and many others.

You can set up free accounts at each of these sites. Then, simply bookmark each of your blog posts to them. This is usually done via a simple click on a button (for example “Digg this article”) or by manually entering the URL of the article in question. This allows other users to encounter your bookmarked content, and gives them the option to bookmark it as well, providing a valuable opportunity for both links and viral traffic.

These sites are big on spam prevention, so be sure not to go around only bookmarking your stuff. If you are going to do this, it would be wise for you to also bookmark other related content, perhaps even competing content, so that the users of these sites don’t flag you as a spam user.

Step 6: Press Releases

Finally, press releases on a regular basis are a good way to achieve links as well as visibility in news results. A monthly press release can do a lot to solidify your rankings by creating links from authority sources as well as increasing your brand recognition and site credibility. Be sure to make the release about something newsworthy, such as the launch of a new product line, company developments and the like.

Writing press releases is not at all like writing articles – feel free to promote away! Just be sure there is some newsworthy element to it, and steer away from press releases that say nothing more than “we are the best, so choose us.”

Following these six steps will undoubtedly take you far in your quest to achieve higher search rankings.

February 18, 2009 | 1 Comment | Permalink

Good site, bad site

The web is overflowing with the sites which are not indexed on search engines. The reason for this is their website structure, back-end programming and non search-friendly design mistakes. Here are some of the search engine optimisation mistakes that are made.

The biggest mistake is designing the website first and then optimising it. In fact search engine optimisation should be the main component of the design process. It could cost a lot of money and time if we do search optimisation as an afterthought. So it is recommended to have a search optimisation specialist involved in the early stage of the design process.

Once the optimisation process has been started the big mistake many people make is choosing the keywords. In most cases people choose keywords which are in their mind and are descriptive of their website but an average user just may not use them. Google tools can be used to find which keywords are good for your website.

Leaving the title tag empty is also very common. Don?t forget that the title tag is very important for on-page optimisation. And it’s an important place to have a keyword.

Flash is attractive but it’s not search engine friendly. If you really want to use it and you want to make your website search engine friendly then provide an html version of your website.

The same is the case for JavaScript. It is not search engine friendly either, so if you really want to use JavaScript for navigation then provide a sitemap.

Images look better than text but again they are not search engine friendly. Header tags should be used instead of images. But if you are afraid that they will make your site look horrible then try to modify them with a style sheet.

Backlinks are important to get a good ranking on search engines but remember that you should always go for quality rather than quantity.

May 13, 2008 | Comments Off on Good site, bad site | Permalink

Flash – SEO Optimisation

Its common knowledge that flash and SEO are not very compatible, although search engines are currently experimenting with regards to indexing content found within flash files, don’t hold your breath as this is not expected to be happening anytime soon.

Flash Usage Guidelines:

1) Avoid using “splash screen” landing pages for you homepage, although it may look aesthetically pleasing to the eye, the all seeing and knowing google cant.
2) Avoid using flash based navigation systems on your homepage, web crawlers cant determine links, text or images on an embedded flash file.
3) Ensure non-Flash text Version is available for compatibility, provide with an opportunity to supply search engine and visitors alike viable text alternative if flash is not enabled.

In conclusion seldom use of flash is acceptable, however if you insist on adding flash to your website to give it a more dynamic look and feel, we recommend that flash usage is kept to a bare minimum, and used appropriately for example to deliver media rich content, so long as you adhere to the above guidelines inserting a small flash object onto your websites will not hinder your rankings.

April 20, 2008 | 2 Comments | Permalink

SEO Mistakes to avoid

Targetting the wrong keywords

This is a mistake many people make and what is worse – even experienced SEO experts make it. People choose keywords that in their mind are descriptive of their website but the average users just may not search them. For instance, if you have a relationship site, you might discover that “relationship guide” does not work for you, even though it has the “relationship” keyword, while “dating advice” works like a charm. Choosing the right keywords can make or break your SEO campaign. Even if you are very resourceful, you can’t think on your own of all the great keywords but a good keyword suggestion tool, for instance, the Website Keyword Suggestion tool will help you find keywords that are good for your site.

Ignoring the Title tag

Leaving the <title> tag empty is also very common. This is one of the most important places to have a keyword, because not only does it help you in optimization but the text in your <title> tag shows in the search results as your page title.

A Flash website without a html alternative

Flash might be attractive but not to search engines and users. If you really insist that your site is Flash-based and you want search engines to love it, provide an html version. Here are some more tips for optimizing Flash sites. Search engines don’t like Flash sites for a reason – a spider can’t read Flash content and therefore can’t index it.

JavaScript Menus

Using JavaScript for navigation is not bad as long as you understand that search engines do not read JavaScript and build your web pages accordingly. So if you have JavaScript menus you can’t do without, you should consider build a sitemap (or putting the links in a noscript tag) so that all your links will be crawlable.

Lack of consistency and maintenance

Our friend Rob from Blackwood Productions often encounters clients, who believe that once you optimize a site, it is done foreve. If you want to be successful, you need to permanently optimize your site, keep an eye on the competition and – changes in the ranking algorithms of search engines.

Concentrating too much on meta tags

A lot of people seem to think SEO is about getting your meta keywords and description correct! In fact, meta tags are becoming (if not already) a thing of the past. You can create your meta keywords and descriptions but don’t except to rank well only because of this.

Using only Images for Headings

Many people think that an image looks better than text for headings and menus. Yes, an image can make your site look more distinctive but in terms of SEO images for headings and menus are a big mistake because h2, h2, etc. tags and menu links are important SEO items. If you are afraid that your h1 h2, etc. tags look horrible, try modifying them in a stylesheet or consider this approach: http://www.stopdesign.com/articles/replace_text.

Ignoring URLs

Many people underestimate how important a good URL is. Dynamic page names are still very frequent and no keywords in the URL is more a rule than an exception. Yes, it is possible to rank high even without keywords in the URL but all being equal, if you have keywords in the URL (the domain itself, or file names, which are part of the URL), this gives you additional advantage over your competitors. Keywords in URLs are more important for MSN and Yahoo! but even with Google their relative weight is high, so there is no excuse for having keywordless URLs.

Backlink spamming

It is a common delusion that it more backlinks are ALWAYS better and because of this web masters resort to link farms, forum/newgroup spam etc., which ultimately could lead to getting their site banned. In fact, what you need are quality backlinks. Here are some more information on The Importance of Backlinks

Lack of keywords in the content

Once you focus on your keywords, modify your content and put the keywords wherever it makes sense. It is even better to make them bold or highlight them.

February 21, 2008 | Comments Off on SEO Mistakes to avoid | Permalink