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Clients often ask what our approach to SEO is, below outlines our policy. What is SEO? Essentially SEO is the art/science of improving the position of your website on the search engines (Google, Yahoo and Bing being the three main ones) for your chosen key phrase or phrases. There is no real mystery to getting to the top of the search engines, if you have well structured, popular and unique content, search engines will find and promote you. Key phrase A key phrase is the phrase that a person types into the search engine to begin their search – ‘cheap flight to Japan’ for example. The beginning of the process of SEO is therefore deciding what your key phrase(s) should be. This in itself is not easy and should be based on how many people are searching for a particular phrase weighed up against how likely it is that you can succeed in getting to the top position on any or all of the search engines. It’s a judgement call. Free tools such as Google Adwords Keyword Tool , Google Trends or Microsoft Ad intelligence (but no Australian specific data yet) can be used to help identify key phrases and the competition around them – these are free, many paid for alternatives also exist. We would recommend that you focus on one, or at a push two, key phrases for your main site. Well structured content – ‘on-page SEO’ (an InkBox standard) There is no substitute for well structured content and getting this right will far outweigh anything else that you do to optimise your site on the search engines. Your Domain Name and URLs If you have the option, your domain name should contain your key phase. dunsboroughplumber.com.au will appear above joetheplumber.com.au for the key phrase ‘Dunsborough Plumber’ all else being equal. However, all is not lost for Joe. Having the url joetheplumber.com.au/dunsboroughplumber will help his ranking and there are also things that he can be doing to help on local search results – which is a topic in itself... Domain names should be as short as possible and regionally relevant (.com.au for Australia.) Domain names and URLs appear in the search results, see figure 1. Perhaps surprisingly, both the length of time that you’ve owned the domain name AND the amount of time you have committed to own it for (ie paid for) also make a difference. Page Title This is stored in the ‘head’ section of your site – it appears within the search engine results (figure 1) and within your browser in the tabs – but not on your actual site as seen by the public. It is the most important factor in SEO and also affects the chances of a real person clicking on your link. It should be readable by humans, but configured for search engines. It should contain your key phrase to the left, be no more the 70 characters long, should use ‘|’ rather than full stops and commas and you should not repeat the title across multiple pages. A good page title is ‘Dunsborough Plumber | Joe the Plumber’ and a bad one is ‘Joe the plumbers home page.’ Meta Description Still in the ‘head’ section of your site, the meta description is used to tell search engines about your page and is important as it is the used by search engine with their search results under the title (figure 1). Again, it should contain you keyphrase early on. A ballpark of 150 characters should be used, but this is by no means fixed and shorter/longer descriptions are fine. We would emphasise here that you really should be enticing a real person to click on your link using your meta description, as its value to your search engine ranking is comparatively minor. Many sites don’t have meta descriptions – this can be fine, as the search engines will create their own description based on your content. But, they can get in wrong, particularly if you have less relevant content high up in you page, so why take the risk. Keywords Meta Tags In days gone by, webmasters used to ‘stuff’ meta tag keywords with lots of vague and irrelevant terms hoping to climb the listing for a large amount of key phrases. Google have categorically advised that they don’t look at the meta tag keywords anymore as a result and Bing have stated that they mark sites with excessive meta keywords as spammy. We would advise, at most, use just one meta key phrase and if you’ve currently got a lot of meta keywords, remove them. Headings (H1, H2, etc..) These need to be relevant and contain your key phrase(s) or related phrases. Content Content is king. Unique, relevant, fresh, well structured content is what will set you apart. All of the above is really just to help the people find you content. Search engines are just the way people will get there. You should mention your key phrase within your content, ideally near the top. However, don’t get spammy. Write for your human audience. Google et al are sophisticated enough now to decipher what you are up to and semantically relevant supporting keywords, not multiple mentions of the same keyword will work better for you. If you know your subject – you’ll be fine! Foot notes on content... Video content is currently highly valued. User reviews or comments offer a great way to collect fresh, unique content. Newsfeeds, although not unique, provide fresh content which is relevant to the user. Social streams have a similar effect. Images should be clearly labelled with both title and alternative text. Internal Links Our final piece of advice about your ‘on-page SEO’ is internal links. Like external or third party links, internal links help search engines and people find your content. So, for example, if you’ve got a page /web-design and you are referring to web design on another of your pages, it makes sense to link to it – both from a user and a search engine perspective. The link should be on the text and not the address itself. For example, on Inkbox’s /graphic-design page, we could have the text – ‘Ink Box also offer a professional web design service from our Dunsborough offices, providing a full...’ XML Sitemap To ‘help’ search engines index all of your content they request that you publish a sitemap written in XML. So we do. Popularity – links. So, we’ve covered ‘well structured’ and ‘unique’ content, but we also stated that search engines will promote you if you are popular. So how to become popular and how do search engines judge this? Answer - Search engines judge your popularity by the links on other sites that point to your site. (But not all links and sites are equal, to put it mildly). So, “how to create these inbound links and how to become popular?” To become popular, you could pay people. You could pay lots of sites to have your links on them. The trouble with this is that the search engines know what you are doing (they check when you get the links and how ‘appropriate’ they are). You can’t really buy popularity long-term can you? So we don’t recommend that you do this, with the caveat that one or two well placed ‘bungs’ might be appropriate – but we’re definitely talking quality not quantity here. The best links are from highly popular sites. They are the hardest to get. Kind of makes sense. If you can get a link from a mega site (the ABC as an example), then this will really help you appear popular. After the mega sites, relevant directories (industry specific and local) are useful, as are links from similar local business – Joe the plumber would benefit for a link (looking for a plumber in Dunsborough) on Bob the electrician’s site. Outsmarting Google There have been and are many ways to attempt to outsmart Google over the years. The afore mentioned meta keyword stuffing, pointless key phrase links on the bottom of a site’s own pages, link farms and link building programs, purchase of multiple related domain names pointing one master site... If you think you’re smarter than Google – good luck. (And please let us know your success.) However, we recommend a well structured site, with appropriate and relevant incoming links.
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