This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series Undertstanding Online Marketing

SEO All You Need to Know

In part one of this Online Marketing series I touched briefly on SEO. I actually touched briefly on a great many subjects, and most of them are directly related to Search Engine Optimization. In this article I am going to try and explain the details of SEO that you need to know to be successful online.

In the Online Marketing the Whole Enchilada article, I gave you this short and somewhat cryptic explanation of SEO:

SEO – Search Engine Optimization. This term is often misused and is almost universally misunderstood. Simply put SEO is getting the search engines such as Google to rank you site highly. There are many “Black Hat” methods. However as Google has become more advanced most of these “black hat” methods have been rendered obsolete and can actually get your site de-listed from Google.

Black Hat SEO

I made a point of talking, briefly, about "Black Hat SEO" methods. Nothing that would be considered a cheat or a hack that is meant to trick the search engine's into ranking your site higher than the content dictates, are truly SEO. Eventually, and in the case of Google, quite rapidly, the black hat methods are discovered and circumvented. In fact many of the "Black Hat SEO" methods can get your site blacklisted by Google. I recommend you avoid any hacks or "tricks" to artificially rank you site higher in Google.

Google, Yahoo and the other search engines are predicated on their ability to find the valuable content that their users are looking for. So if you offer content that is relevant to the key words that you are optimizing for, you should rank high. Why this is not universally true is often due to poor SEO by the web site owner. This issue based on the fact that search engines use an algorithm to determine web pages relevance. Most people do not know how to show their content in a way that Google, Yahoo and the other major search engines can understand. The companies that have developed the search engines do not share their algorithm with the general public for good reason. Allowing wide access to them would allow mischievous folk to find loopholes and cheat the system. Not to mention that the algorithms are the most valuable Intellectual Property of the Search Engines.

The Algorithms are constantly changing, as they are made more effective daily. Google has a team of terribly smart individuals finding ways to make their searches more relevant and to bust the cheats. This evolution has created a sort of arms race between the black hatters and the search engines. In the end the search engines always win, they have more resources and ultimately a site ranked artificially high offers less value to a searcher and thus they won’t return to the site anyway.

Your goal when trying to SEO a site, then cannot be to try and circumvent or cheat the search engines. You cannot win this battle long term. You must focus your efforts on creating valuable content that a user would seek out, and then displaying it in a way that Google finds relevant to your keywords. Now that I've gotten that out of the way, let's get to the true nitty gritty.

On page SEO

All SEO starts with the URL. As far as the search engines are concerned a page related to "Non Celebrity Endorsement" is more valuable to the user if the URL contains the term. So NonCelebrityEndorsement.com will naturally have a higher score for the term than something on SuccessU.com. However, by using appropriate Permalinks we can overcome this.

What is a Permalink? It is the full URL to your specific post or page. If I create a post here on Success U with the Title "Non Celebrity Endorsement", the permalink would be something like http://www.succesu.com/non-celebrity-endorsement/. As you can see the full URL contains the term. This is due to the fact that we use the title in our permalinks. Given that Google takes into account the location of the term in the URL, a site with the term earlier in the URL will have a higher value in terms of SEO. So with our example and all other things being equal, the site http://www.noncelebrityendorsement.com will outrank a post here with the url http://www.succesu.com/non-celebrity-endorsement/ for the term "Non Celebrity Endorsement". Logically this makes sense, an entire site devoted to a topic should rank higher than a page at a more broadly based site.

I already mentioned it, but now let us discuss the page title as it relates to SEO. For our sites the permalink contains the title, so having the title optimized is a double whammy. I highly recommend using your page titles in your Permalinks. The title tag is just another way the search engines determine what the heck your page is talking about. In the same way that a reference book needs to have the subject in the title, so that a viewer can know what it is all about, your page needs a title that represents the content. More importantly the search engines want this info, so you should give it to them. Simply put, good on page SEO, uses a title that includes your keyword phrase.

Header Tags in SEO

The Header tags (<h1>, <h2>, <h3> etc.) are a series, with h1 being the largest and h6 the smallest, of tags used to define a portion of text and act as a topic header. If your page was a book then the H1 might be the chapter heading while H6 might only represent the header of a quote within a block of text. If you imagine the header tags as the various chapter and section titles of your page then it should be clear to you why they are important to SEO. Each of these tags represents a “title” for the content that follows them.

The most important on page SEO tactics rely on the effective use of Header tags. I always recommend using your keyword in at least the h1-h3 tags. On this very page you will see the “Header Tags in SEO” used above is an h2 tag. I also recommend only using the h1 tag once per page. If your content requires any additional h1 tags you should split the additional information into a separate page.

Keywords in your Content

Keyword stuffing is a big “no-no”. Don’t do it. If the natural flow of the content does not include your keyword don’t try to force it in. Google only looks for the keyword to be on a particular page in 3-7% of the total on page content. That is a pretty low threshold so there is no need to push the keyword in any more than is natural.

You should include the keyword or phrase in your first and last sentence. If you are actually writing about the subject that your keyword is relevant to, then this should be really easy. As we all learned in high school English, when writing about a topic you want to begin and end with a brief explanation of the subject. Of course we all learned later in life to disregard that rule. With regards to on page SEO it is a great rule to follow.

Images and Media in Effective SEO

With the rise of podcasts and online video Google had to determine a way to value the content of a wide range of media for search results. What they learned in the process, is that video, audio, animation and even images are a great way of sharing information. Consequently they tend to give a higher rank to pages that contain media that is relevant to the search phrase.

Just like text based content the search engines cannot really know the subject without some help from us. The search engines cannot listen to podcasts or watch a video and make an effective judgment as to the value of the content. So what should you do to effectively SEO your media? Include title and alt tags that contain your keyword or phrase. I always encourage people to use at least one image related to the subject. It is of course better if it in some way illustrates the topic rather than being a total non sequitur.

Tune in to the Correct Frequency

The more you discuss a topic the more you obviously know about it. Whether true or not, this is the perception of the online community. As far as Google is concerned, this is all that matters. This is why I tend to suggest a blog for most clients. I said most, and I mean it. Many companies, in fact have no value to add to the world with a blog, but they are in the minority. The important task when setting up a blog for a business is understanding what valuable information they can share with their clients. For some I have recommended telling the funny stories they have, related to the work they do. For some it is only new features about their products. Others add value by telling the inside story on a campaign. Always ask “What is the compelling interest in this post?” Yes the search engines will rank your site higher if you post more often, but a bad post is far more damaging than just not posting. You cannot rescind bad content, so make it valuable.

Internal Links

Once you have a well written page with valuable content, you need to start telling the world about it. The first and often best place to start is on your own site. Start building links to your pages from your other pages. Every time you mention a topic that you have already covered create a link to it. The text of the link needs to be your keywords. A common mistake is doing something like ‘click here” rather than just creating a link out of the text itself.  A good link related to online marketing. A bad link about online marketing. Click Here. The same is true for links coming from other websites; you want the link text to contain your keywords. If the link is an image then make sure the title and alt tags contain your keywords.

Off-Site SEO

Now we are about to jump into a subject that is related to many of the future articles in this series. Off-Site SEO encompasses a broad swath of topics and techniques and is the part of SEO that is mostly out of your hands. I mentioned a great many of these techniques in “Online Marketing the Whole Enchilada”. Ideas like Article Automation and Link exchanges are two examples. Each of these techniques will require its own article, so I will not get into the details now. Instead I want to cover the ideas and general rules associated with off-site SEO.

Off Site SEO is primarily focused on creating valuable in bound links to your site. There is nearly a limitless array of ways to accomplish this goal. Broadly speaking this is online marketing. Whether a link comes from Adsense, a banner ad or a link from within page content, it will affect your search engine ranking.

The higher the site sending the link, the more value associated by the search engines for the link. This is actually compounding. A website with a high Google page rank sending a link to your site boosts your rank; it also generates some traffic to your site. This traffic also boosts your page rank. The more links the better. We tend to think of links in the thousands, not individually. However, a single link coming from a very popular site can be worth hundreds of links from low ranking sites.

Google gives a Page Rank (PR) of 0-10 to every page it has indexed. This is the value that Google associates with a link from that page. A PR1 is twice as valuable as a PR 0. A PR2 is twice as valuable as a PR1, etc. Thus a single link from a PR10 page is equivalent to 1024 links from a PR0 link. Obviously what you really want are many links from high PR sites. All of the online marketing techniques that I will talk about in future articles are devoted to doing exactly that.

Social Media and SEO

Social Media such as Twitter and Facebook utilizes a broad and active community to generate a tremendous amount of content. Most of it is worthless, but using these tools can add a huge amount of in-bound links and traffic to your page. What you should understand is that social media sites are no different than any other in regards to your SEO efforts. All you really want from them is links and traffic. The devil is in making that happen effectively.

When sitting down to write this article It was very difficult for me to decide which of the SEO strategies to talk about first. One that I really wanted to lead off with is the tactic of creating a unique page or post for every keyword or phrase you want your site to rank for. However it was necessary to talk about many other issues to fully give the value of this particular aspect of on page SEO.

Looking at the many things I covered in this article; try to imagine doing each of these things for a whole slew of keywords. Not only would the page be obscenely large, it would be hard to read. For this reason alone you should always create a unique page or post for each keyword/phrase you want your site to rank for.

Rather than leading off with it, I decided to end with this note to keep it fresh in your mind. Build each of the pages with all the other bits of advice and tactics I mentioned. Link back to each of these pages from within the others. If you do your research, and follow all of this advice, your pages and thus your site will rank higher for your keywords. This is all you really need to know about SEO.

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