SEO, The Useful Beginners Guide, part 4: Refining Your SEO

SEO, The Useful Beginners Guide, part 4: Refining Your SEO

If you’re reading this, I’m going to assume that you’ve already read the earlier installments from the series. Therefore, you should know the basics of HTML from an SEO perspective as well as having a pretty good idea of how to formulate a plan for optimizing your web site.

Now it’s time to look into some of the finer details: The things that set a good SEO strategy aside from a great one.

Site Structure

As we’ve discussed, Google is keen to pigeonhole content in order to illuminate the true value in it. We have already studied the hierarchical relationship between the primary HTML web page elements that are used by Google to index content:

i.e. Meta-Title > H-Tags > P-Tags > Img Alt Tags & Anchor Text
> Meta-Description > Meta-Keywords

 

But now it’s time to look at another hierarchy: The structure of the site itself. A web site’s structure should be defined by the user-journey. So, when a user finds something interesting on a page, they can click through to another sub-page that goes into more detail… and so on. Or, to consider the reverse, if a user can’t find what they are looking for, they will hit the back button to see more options to ‘drill into’ on the page higher up the hierarchy. Google knows this and therefore looks at the structure as a way of indexing content.

First and foremost Google looks at the elements we’ve already discussed such as Metadata and H-Tags, but it also looks at the URLs of the pages. After all, what better indication is there of relevance to a particular subject! Page URLs can be edited in HTML or through most CMS interfaces, although be careful to change all of the links to that page elsewhere in the site or they won’t work any more!

The generally trusted site-wide SEO strategy is this: Optimise the home page for all of your chosen phrases as best you can, then assign individual internal pages to individual search phrases. For example, your home page should be talking about all of the products or services you offer, but each internal ‘Service’ or ‘Product’ page should only talk about a specific one. These internals then corroborate your home page optimisation.

It’s not always easy to get every single one of your search phrases in good balance on the home page, as you’ll see in the next section. As such there will always be exceptions to the rule, but they are few and far between. To re-state the SEO mantra: Just be honest and transparent about what value your pages offer and you should be fine.

Keyword Densities

Most of what we’ve talked about so far has been aimed at making sure Google indexes you for the right things. The most crucial part of their algorithm that decides where you appear relative to other web sites optimising for the same thing deals with ‘keyword densities’.

Keyword density is exactly what it sounds like; the number of times a keyword is used within a certain number of words (often given as a percentage). Here’s the catch… The keyword density of a particular phrase should be as high as possible without being too high. In other words, it should be high enough that Google sees it as being a major topic within the content, but not so high as to seem ‘spammy’.

The generally accepted rule of thumb is to aim for around 3-4% in your body text, although it’s usually best to look at the top 10 sites for that term and work out what their density is. Simply count the words on the page, count the number of times the keyword is used and calculate what that is as a percentage. An obstacle to finding this balance can be when several phrases contain the same keyword… This can cause the density of that one word to seem too high and therefore ‘spammy’ (having a knock-on effect on the entire phrases).

The other metric to watch here is the total amount of content on a page: How many words should there be altogether? It’s usually better to have more content rather than less as it shows you’ve got something to offer people. However, too much content can a) seem ‘spammy’, or b) put users off reading causing people to leave the site. Again, look at your competitors for an indication and always remain focused on the user experience… It’s all about offering value! Some topics just require more words than others.

Finally, it’s important to have the right keyword density not just in general, but in each of the Metadata Tags, within H tags, within Image Alt Tags, within URLs, within anchor text… Indeed anywhere a keyword is used! Chance are, so long as you’re being honest about the value in your site and labeling things properly, you’ll find yourself in the right ball-park. And to repeat myself for the dozenth time, don’t forget to look at your competitors’ sites to see how they’re doing it!

Semantic Links

You’ll need to balance the pursuit of good keyword densities with the inclusion of semantic words and phrases.

Google is very clever. They’ve studied the behavior of people clicking links and searching for information over a 14 year period; and they’ve got a pretty good idea of the relationships between different phrases and words that lead people to the same results. For example, the phrases ‘Magento Web Design Staffordshire’ and ‘Magento Web Developers Staffordshire’ yield virtually the same search results. That’s because Google have seen how people searching for either seem to end up behaving the same way and going to the same sites.

Plurals, locations and other easily definable links can all be used to strengthen the importance of a phrase on a page without compromising keyword densities. Eventually, Google will curate a cloud of related keywords specific to your site that you are seen as important for; and they will therefore list your site for a wider range of search terms.

 

That wasn’t too painful was it! The bottom line with SEO is that the code is not hard to learn, the concepts are logical and, while there is no set of golden rules that works for everyone, you can always look to the competition to see how they have done it.

Be honest, be enthusiastic and enjoy!

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