Source: Superb Internet
It’s a well-known fact that great content and presentation are vital to a successful website; however, in a crowded and increasingly competitive marketplace it has become more and more difficult to stand out and be noticed. Even with a reasonable advertising budget and programs to increase word-of-mouth referrals, finding the right target audience and getting their attention is a struggle many businesses have trouble with.
One of the largest (and least expensive) means of attracting traffic is through search engine referrals. While advertising and other forms of marketing actively seek to reach out and capture people, search engines allow people to find you when they are most likely to have interest which leads to a higher chance you can convert that interest into a sale, or whatever other need your site was created to satisfy.
However, no matter how narrow your niche, you can guarantee that there are dozens, if not hundreds or thousands, of other websites that will be vying for the same click you are. Depending on a number of different factors, you may very well not appear on the first page of search results for key search terms that describe your website—perhaps not even in the first ten—and that could be a critical factor that determines whether or not your site will succeed or fail.
In this series, we’ll explore strategies to optimize your website’s visibility in the increasingly crowded online landscape, as well as understanding the logic behind the world of Search.
Why is SEO so important?
Increasingly, search traffic has become more focused on the top ten results of a particular query, to such a degree that approximately 90% of all clicks are from results listed on the first page. Over 40% are given to the first result alone, with the click-throughs dwindling steadily thereafter. Clearly, it is vital that you try to rank as highly as possible if you want a chance of attracting traffic. This is where Search Engine Optimization (SEO) plays a key part in your success.
The first step in SEO planning is to identify the important keywords and search terms that you want to use to direct traffic to your website. Put yourself in the shoes of prospective visitors and consider what interests, questions, or needs they might have and how you can fulfill them. The best way to do this is to make yourself a definitive source of content and information in your field. Writing articles about any and all topics related to your field will draw traffic and help to raise your ranking, as well as help to show you are an authoritative and knowledgeable source, thereby increasing trust with your audience.
Say no to Black Hat Techniques
It is also important to keep in mind that unlike in the earlier days of search technology, search engines have become very adept at recognizing “spam,” i.e. many pages with the same content, or random repeating terms used to try to increase your ranking. Further, the rules used to determine what constitutes spam are always changing in order to prevent abuse. For instance, Google uses an artificial intelligence algorithm which updates every thirteen hours. So while it may be tempting to take shortcuts and in some cases you may even see a short-term spike in rank, over the long term such a strategy will fail.
Keyword Universes and Latent Semantic Indexing
Rankings are also based on keyword populations, which all have different characteristics that are based on the individual environments for each keyword or phrase. The density of a particular word or phrase on your site may actually drop your ranking or cause it to be removed as “spam” if used too often, and the point at which this happens can vary. For example, there may not be any problem if the term “dedicated servers” has a density of 5%, but for “managed hosting” this could cause your site to be banned from searches using that term.
In order to counter this damaging possibility, it is vital to review your competitors’ results for each keyword/phrase you are targeting to ensure that you make the appropriate adjustments to improve your visibility instead of harming it. The so-called “universes” that contain each keyword or phrase are based on distribution curves with varying slopes, and your ranking depends on how close to the top of the curve you are scored. Your goal will be to match, and hopefully surpass, your top five (ideally)competitors by figuring out what is working for them and do a better job of it.
You will also want to take care to ensure you use all natural forms and variations of your keywords when writing your content. Despite the fact that you may be targeting the term “dedicated servers,” Google’s spam detection algorithm will likely dismiss the page as spam and not include it at all if it sees no other forms of that term (i.e. the singular “dedicated server”).
Use words that are associated with your top keywords by your competitors. This is known as the proximity factor or latent semantic indexing (LSI). LSI uses a technique called singular value decomposition (SVD) that extracts the conceptual content of a body of text by establishing associations between words that appear in similar contexts. LSI is much more effective than Boolean keyword queries used in the past, which yielded irrelevant results. Implications for search are that we can craft our content and links in ways that are consistent with the way the top performers do, and also create links that are surrounded with these related terms. Whereas in the past purely Boolean searches were often plagued by keywords with multiple meanings that caused irrelevant results to be returned, LSI is able to determine more accurately what the end user is searching for, and by creating your content using these alternate terms to link them to your content, and therefore your site. A great —and little-known—tool for determining associated keywords is to enter a tilde (~) in front of a query, which will pull the associated keywords, and can then be used on pages and links.
Content is KING
Webmasters who put in the effort to develop real, useful content will see their work pay off. The search engines are merely trying to deliver what people want to see, and by keeping webmasters honest they also help you to make a genuine and mutually beneficial connection that will more likely result in you achieving the goals your website was meant to achieve in the first place.
While targeting keywords is certainly a major form of SEO, there are other factors that should not be overlooked. One that some may find surprising is the performance of your website itself. Google has hinted that it “may” consider the speed in which pages load when it indexes websites as part of its page rank algorithm, which would make sense as it aims to deliver a fast and reliable searching experience.
What about Dedicated IPs?
Some have stated that having a dedicated IP (one that is not shared with other sites) can increase rank, but it may instead be due to the fact that websites that have their own IP address are more likely to be on a dedicated server as opposed to sharing a server with many other sites that may be more prone to reliability issues. Also, if your site is not loading properly, it is possible it will not be indexed in the first place. For this reason, it is important to ensure that your site is as fast as possible and always online, which in most cases suggests that you strongly consider dedicated server hosting. Of course, the success or failure of your site depends on the ability for people to reach it, so your choice in hosting has ramifications far beyond the scope of this topic.
In our next installment in this series, we will be discussing how search has evolved through the use of artificial intelligence algorithms to include customized results for each user based on their past search history, what their intents are, and their current location (proximity). We will also look more into how spidering (page indexing) works, how you can optimize your site to make the best use of it, and common issues that can affect the spidering process and interfere with your SEO efforts. Stay tuned for more tips and suggestions from our helpful experts on optimizing the effectiveness of your online presence.
Dale Bunten is Director of Marketing at Superb Internet and has 11 years of experience in Search Engine Optimization and PPC marketing for highly competitive keyword terms. Dale is a frequent speaker on SEO as well as various other Internet marketing topics and issues.