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Search Engine Optimization - the basic stuff you need to know


Search Engine Optimization is the name of process of ranking a website in the organic search results of search engines. It is one of the most powerful ways to find and connect with customers I've ever found and I want to tell you how it's done.When we talk about Search Engine Optimization in Sweden, we talk more or less exclusively about optimization for Google. The reason for this is Google's dominance in the market with a cap on somewhere around 96% of all queries being made. And it is quite achievable to claim the top spot on important generic keywords in Google search results.


Many who come in contact with Search Engine Optimization for the first time, usually reacts with a "we are already at the top". Usually though, they refer to brand related queries. The fact that Kevins Car Repairs is the number one result when someone searches for Kevins Car Repairs is quite common (and rarely requires any real optimization), but it is when you are number one on a search for Car Repairs that thing can get really profitable. The challenge is to figure out which keywords are the best ones for your business: naturally you want to claim your own brand but there is so much more traffic to be had!


The whole point of that ranking well on major generic keywords, is that you are right in front of the customer at just the time when he or she is willing to buy the service or product you offer. To many, SEO is often more of a sales channel than a marketing channel. If you compare Search Engine Optimization to other forms of marketing, you’ll soon realize that it is down there at the very end of the conversion funnel: buyers are close to their purchasing decision and probably already know that they will buy something – the only thing they’re looking for is where to buy it.

Step One - Keyword Analysis

Admittedly, Search Engine Optimization isn’t a step by step activity: there are great benefits to working on several areas simultaneously. To make it a better tutorial though, we’ll go through each activity on a step by step basis. You’ll benefit on iterating through all the steps in this tutorial several times though as most SEO projects are about endless measuring, valuing and improving.

Search Volume

Keyword analysis is the process of finding keywords that will be profitable for you, while at the same time not costing you too much to take positions on. The very first thing you need to do is to figure out the search volumes in your niche, i.e. how many people are actually searching for a particular word or phrase. Google's keyword tool is the best place to start for this. Make sure you set it to exact match and focus on the local search data to get accurate information.

Relevance

Armed with data from the keyword tool you now have to choose the keywords that fit really well for you. It is often easy to stare yourself blind at the big numbers, but what you need to do, is to find words that can make you money. It is not certain that those are the biggest words in terms of volume: if you sell custom-designed furniture, it might not be "furniture" that is the keyword to begin with, but rather "designer furniture". Hopefully you know your product and your customers well enough to find the most relevant words.

Willingness to buy

Not only do you have to find your keywords from a product or service point of view, you also want to find the keywords where the search is made close to a buy. There are many different reasons to use a search engine: many people are just searching for information, many might want to be entertained, and only some are on the lookout for an item they want to buy. The purpose of the search query is usually reflected in the keyword and you'll need to be a bit clever here. The phrase "book car repair online" is a pretty clear search that could lead to sales for you, while "What is the world's fastest car" obviously will not work.

Step Two - Your site

Most people usually think of work being done on and to the site when they think of Search Engine Optimization. It is also the part of SEO that is often seen as the most complicated, but the truth is, it’s quite simple (the basics anyway).

Readability

The very first thing you need to address is that your site is built in a way that Google can read and index. There are a variety of methods to build sites out there, that seriously sabotage Search Engine Optimization and using Flash or frames are probably the most common. Google simply cannot crawl websites built with these methods. The best way to verify that Google is able to crawl your site is to simply check their text cache. Type cache: yourdomain.tld into the search field and click on the version with only text to provide a result like this one.

Navigation

The same applies to the navigation of your site: it is important to have normal links into every page you want Google to find on the site. Now, Google themself claim that they can read, for example, JavaScript but to be fair it doesn’t always work that great, so standard HTML links are to prefer. In the past, many gave the advice to link as much as possible internally on a site, to build a structure as flat as possible, but such advice isn’t always optimal. Rather, try to build a "deeper" site if you have many pages on it, and put links to your key pages in the main navigation, while others can be included under each category.

Text and captions

Search engines use the text on a page to determine its content, and there are good reasons to make an extra effort when it comes to design and content. What you want to do is to write text and create pages that are very clear as to what they are about. Make sure the keywords you have chosen to optimize for can be found in the page's Title, headings and body text. Use the tool at Sökmotorkonsult to measure the effectiveness of your pages and get suggestions for improvements.

Step three links

Working with links and link building is really the biggest part of Search Engine Optimization: this is where you will get to spend the majority of your time. It is the quantity, quality and relevance of links to your site that will determine how you rank in the search results. Google also measures a thing called anchor text. Anchor text is the text that is clickable in the link and if a link says Click Here, in Google's eyes the page that the link points to will be about Click Here. Hence, you want to get links with anchor text that describes your content, your keywords, rather than Click Here’s. But tread carefully: don’t over optimize your anchor texts or Google will deem your link profile unnatural and filter the site.

There are plenty of methods to build links and some are more complicated than others. Remember, you often "get what you pay for" when it comes to links, and the links that are easier to come by often have less value in the eyes (algorithms) of Google. If you want to immerse yourself in link building, I would recommend Sökmotorkonsults guide to link building. For many people starting out, it is the link building that will cause the most headaches: it is usually difficult to do it on a reasonable scale, though this is something that most SEO companies can you help with. Beneath are some recommendations for companies or consultants that can help you.

Recommended Resources

Magnus Bråth, well known Search Engine Consultant
Christian Rudolf, SEO in Scandinavia
Clement Jerusalmy

Resources for Search Engine Optimization

There are, as you might imagine, a long list of sites on the web that offer tools and helpful advice about Search Engine Optimization. There are of course large amounts of knowledge, and it is hard to fit everything into one article. Therefore, I recommend a number of online resources.

Tools for Search Engine Optimization

There are a number of very good tools one of which, Google Keyword Tool, we have already mentioned. Google Webmaster Tools is also an obvious start for the search engine optimizer. To find and keep track of links to your site, as well as its SE Rankings, I can highly recommend SEOlytics and Majestic SEO. If you need to keep track of a large number of sites and their SE rankings, Advanced Web Rankings is the tool for you. A tool that can make a big difference is also the On Page Tool available on the Sökmotorkonsult that we have already mentioned.

Forums and Blogs

There are numerous blogs and forums about search engine optimization and I have picked out a couple of favorites. It is far from all of the blogs that are worth reading, but it's a good start.

SEO Book - Major American blog and the best SEO forum.
Search Engine Land-The biggest news site in the global SEO community.
Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide by Google

 

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