These days, search engine rankings are critical to the success of any website. Google is the most popular website on the internet, and rightfully so. Everyone who uses the web frequently uses Google search, or some other search engine, to find an answer to their query. The beauty in this is web users can find websites they had never heard of thanks to the power of search.
As website owners, this is straight-up gold. There is no other industry that has this kind of exposure potential.
However, Google’s search engine algorithm that determines how a site ranks has hundreds of different factors. This can be overwhelming for the casual website owner. There’s a reason why there’s an entire industry built around SEO (Search Engine Optimization), there’s simply a lot to do when optimizing your website to rank highly in the search engines.
SEO in its Simplest Breakdown
All of the complexity of SEO can be taken and broken down into two things: content and links.
In it’s simplest form, SEO really does boil down into those two things. Have lots of good content about a topic? The website will rank highly for that. Have lots of good links from sites about a topic? The website will rank highly for that topic. Even though there are thousands of tricks, big and small, on optimizing a site for SEO, it all still comes down to content and links.
Quality and Quantity
Google and all other search engines take into consideration both the quality and quantity of content and links a website has. Search engines really like to see large websites, that are updated regularly, with lots of content about certain topics, and an abundance of incoming links to the website on those specific topics.
While it is tempting to crank out as many pages as you can and get as many links as you can, that is often not the best method. Don’t get me wrong, having lots of pages and links certainly is very important for SEO, but the quality of that content and links is even more important.
For example, 100 links from 100 different Twitter accounts with an average of 20 followers each won’t carry nearly as much weight as one link from only one big website like Apple or Microsoft. The same goes for content. If you have 100 really small pages that only mention a keyphrase once, it won’t carry as much weight as a few large, detailed, and informative pages that mention the keyphrase many times.
These examples are by no means an exact science, but they get the point across.
Now, let’s talk about the type of content search engines like to see. Like was previously mentioned, search engines really like to see lots of content, keyphrases used over and over, large websites, and regularly updated content. Let’s dive into these one by one real quick.
Search engines reward websites with lots of on-topic content. Content normally takes the form of articles or blocks of text, but can be other things like galleries of images or videos. How that content is formatted is quite important though. Just a large block of run-on text won’t be nearly as helpful as a well formatted article with titles, images, formatted text, links, and symantec code.
The “density” of that content is very important for SEO. One page that talks a lot about one topic and mentions a certain keyword or keyphrase many times will do much better in the search engines than a page that talks about many different things. Conversely, spamming the same phrase over and over and over too much will even work against you. That is called “Black Hat SEO.” Sites that employ dirty tactics to try and manipulate the search engines will be penalized and pushed back in the search engine rankings.
While the quality of the content does matter, search engines still really likes to see very large websites. Websites with hundreds, thousands, or even millions of pages tend to do very well in the search engines. That’s why sites like Wikipedia do so well in the search engine rankings. Wikipedia has millions of pages of content. So the more pages a website has, the better it tends to do in the search engines. But again, be careful about taking it too far. If a website has dozens of pages with the exact same content, search engines will penalize that site for using Black Hat SEO.
Search engines also reward websites for updating regularly. Even though search engines really like old websites, a website that hasn’t changed since 2002 is much less likely to have relevant content than a website that puts out a new blog post every week. Even if a website doesn’t have a blog, simply changing the text on a few pages every few weeks or months can go a long way to improving search engine rankings. But a blog or news section that adds new pages on a regular basis is by far the best way to keep a site updated and relevant.
Obviously, this is only scratching the surface of content SEO. There are many more factors in search engine optimization when it comes to a site’s content, but this covers the most important components.
Links are also very important in search engine optimization, but it is a lot more difficult to obtain links than it is to optimize content. After all, I can easily add a new page to my website, but I can’t get a link from another website at will. There are many different tricks and strategies to obtaining links, particularly quality links. In my opinion, the most effective strategy for obtaining links is simply “if you build it, they will come.” Focus on making quality content, and other websites will notice good content and link to it.
What makes a good link? Like previously mentioned, the quality of the website providing the link is very important. Links from large, established websites carry a lot more weight than links from small and unknown websites, but it doesn’t stop there. Websites with similar content are a lot more important. For example, if Apple linked to a tech blog’s post about an Apple product, that link from Apple would carry a lot more weight. However, if Apple linked to a website offering reviews of restaurants that specialize in steak, that link would carry a lot less weight.
Not only does the content of the website contribute to the link effectiveness, but the text of the actual link is very important in SEO. A link to Vuepoint Creative that says “click here” would carry very little weight. However, a link to Vuepoint Creative that said “San Antonio Web Design” would be very helpful. This holds true to websites from Website A to Website B, but also links from Website A to Website A. So when creating links on your website, don’t ever write something like “click here to learn more about our web design services!” where the “click here” is the text of the link. Instead, write something along the lines of, “learn more about our web design services” where “web design services” is the actual link. Again, this even applies for “internal” links.
As everyone knows, these days social networking is hot stuff. Just about everyone has their own accounts on any number of social networking websites. Search engines actually have a very special section of their ranking algorithm for social networking sites. While a link from a tweet from CNN will carry a lot less weight than a link on the home page of CNN, social links can still be quite helpful. Search engines actually take into consideration the number of followers, shares, and likes a link has from a social share. Even if social networking isn’t your favorite thing to do, it should not be neglected. Building a following on social networks not only increases the number of visits your website gets, but it will even boost your website’s search engine rankings.
Finally, let’s revisit the topic of obtaining links. While the “if you build it, they will come” philosophy still holds true. It definitely cannot be your only strategy. Networking and building relationships with other website owners who run similar websites can be a great way to obtain quality, on topic links. Building that social networking presence will increase visibility, build relationships, and get people to re-share your links. Webmasters will also often agree to link exchanges to have a mutually beneficial boost. The strategies for link building are endless and vary depending on the content of your site.
Black Hat SEO
Before I finish up this article, I want to talk a little more about “Black Hat SEO.” This term applies to techniques that specifically try and manipulate and trick search engines. Thankfully, avoiding Black Hat SEO mostly comes down to common sense. Search engine algorithms are quite impressive, and are very good at detecting good websites and bad websites. Even if you think you have some way to game the system, or see another site manipulating the system, don’t do it. Search engine ranking algorithms are constantly changing and improving and you will get caught eventually.
We Can Help
Think all of this is a little daunting? Need help taking your site to the top of the search engines? We can help! At Vuepoint Creative, SEO is one of our specialties. Give us a call and we can take your website to the next level.