Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is a term often misunderstood. At a glance, the term might be misunderstood to mean a search engine itself is going to be optimised, improved or tweaked in some way. The actual meaning of the term “SEO” refers to measures taken to tweak a web sites content to make it more attractive to Google and other search engines.
Read on below and hopefully this article will leave you with a clearer idea of what it means to apply SEO tweaks to a web site and thereby increase potentially increase traffic to the web site via search engine results.
My new web site has just gone live, when can I expect to see it in Googles index?
First of all, when can a web site owner expect their web site ot appear in Google? In order to be able to judge the effects of any SEO, the web site has to have been indexed by the search in the first place.
Typically this might be between 4 days to 4 weeks and sometimes longer. To hasten the process of getting your web site indexed, a web designer might submit your web site manually through Google’s webmaster tools. Indexing in this way is suggested by Google as way of more quickly drawing Google’s attention to a new web site, or to draw Google’s attention to a web site that may have recently undergone some comprehensive changes.
If your web site is not manually submitted through Google’s web master tools, then not to worry, Google will also automatically find a web site and add it to its index as a matter of course.
Ok, my web site is appearing in Google, what are these things called “Key Words” and how can they influence Google?
A key word (or key word phrase), is something that when typed into Google, will bring up your web site, or similar web sites. The phrase itself “key word” naturally suggests that these words are important. Where the confusion can sometimes lie is when key words all get lumped together as being of equal importance. They are not all of equal importance – the most important key words for you, a web site owner, are the ones that a person will most commonly type into Google to find a web site like your own.
A side effect of misunderstanding keywords, is that some people will often be misled into believing that their web site appearing for any keywords is somehow of value. e.g typing in “replace rusty pipes” may bring up a local plumber on page 1 of Google results. However, it may be that only 1 person a month actually types that into Google. On the other hand, the key word phrase “Timbuctoo plumber” is something residents of Timbuctoo are more likely to type into Google. With that in mind, an SEO advisor would probably suggest to a Timbuctoo plumber that their web site should be optimised for the keyword phrase “Timbuctoo plumber”.
I can see my site in Google, but why isn’t it appearing on page 1?
This is a question often asked by new web site owners wondering why their recently launched web site is not yet bringing in any visitors via search engines. Out of all the potential punters wishing to be on that first page of results, who are the lucky ones that actuall end up there? Its not easy – being page 1 of Google result (for your most common key words) is seen as a Holy Grail for any web site. It needs to be earned, not expected as a given.
The first thing to look at here is your geographical market area and how many of your competitors have web sites in this area? Imagine a small town Timbuctoo with 5 plumbers in it and also imagine these 5 plumbers have web sites. If all of these plumbers have web sites that are optimised with keywords that point to the Timbuctoo plumbers, then quite possibly you might see all 5 of these web sites on the first page of Google results.
Now imagine a city the size of Shanghai, with possibly 200 travel agency web sites. In that city, a new tourist agency appears and immediately their web site will appear on page 1? No, this is not likely to happen as the new web site is dealing with 200 other websites competing for page 1. Many of these web sites may have been there for years and have already built up a strong presence in Google.
So your web is now in Google results and if you are the plumber in Timbuctoo, you may already be on page 1 of Google results for the search term “Timbuctoo plumber”.
However, if you are the Shanghai travel agency with 200 web sites competing for a spot on page 1, what then?
How does Google judge one web site to be more worthy of a higher spot on Google than another?
Keyword inclusion – The most basic level of SEO that can be applied to a web site. You’d think it would be a given but its certainly not. Simple things like having “Timbuctoo Plumber” at the beginning of the meta title and description tags. Also including these a few times in heading tags and in the content of a web page – these are the often ignored basics that can drag your web site down in Google results.
Ok, so now lets look at a bunch of 200 fictional web sites with the basics of keyword inclusion taken care of. All things being roughly equal in this sense, what then are the other criteria that Google uses to place a higher or lower value to a web site in its search results?
- A web site with regularly changing content
Google favours web sites that have regularly changing content. The engineers at Google have decided that a site with regulary changing content is uptodate and dynamic. Why? Well, a TV station that shows episode 1 of a series week after week is likely to receive less attention than the station that shows the entire series. A loose analogy, but close enough.One way of having regularly changing content on your web site is to install a blog and regularly post articles of interest. Having done this, also allow comments so that you are inviting active discussion and participation on your web site.
- The amount of time a web site visitor will spend at a web site
Google now places value on how long a user stays on a web site and how many pages you have browsed. A high amount of time spent at a web site is an indicator of that web sites usefulness and value. Accordingly, Google will see a web site that holds a user’s attention, as more deserving of attention in its index than a web site that only holds a user for a short period of time.This factor is ofcourse influenced by the previous factor – A web site with regular changing and interesting content is more likely to engage a user for longer periods and also encourage repeat visits.
- Quality back links
What is a back link? A back link is link to your web site from another web site. Google looks forquality back links. A quality back link is a link that comes from a web site that is highly regarded by Google.
This system has had a history of being abused via linking schemes that were set up to create a lot of low quality “spammy” incoming links. In 2012, Google released updates to its search engine that penalised web sites that participated in these schemes.
SEO – Conclusion
There are many things to focus on re building a good position in Google results. After your initial web site work has been done and good keyword placement has been applied to your site, probably the next most important thing that can be done is paying attention to having regular changes to your web site content. As a web site owner, this is the area that you have the most direct control over. Making use of this factor will put you ahead of your competitors who may rarely, or not all, update and add new content to their web sites on a regular basis.