SEO in a nut shell
SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is the process of tweaking web sites to improve rankings. SEO is split into two parts, the first being on page optimisation while the second is off page optimisation. On page optimisation is related to all factors on the web site directly, mainly the code. Off page optimisation is all the factors that affect rankings that are off the site, essentially other sites linking to you.
This is the process I personally follow. Most Search Engine marketers will follow the exact same steps, and if they don''t they will come to all of these steps at some point within their campaign. If they don''t they are really not following SEO best practises.
Every single SEO project will follow these steps.
- Analytics installation and analysis
- Keyword research
- Keyword mapping
- On-page optimisation
- Off-page optimisation
After these steps have been followed, we go back to the start.
Analytics Installation and Analysis
There are a number of products on the market that will do the job, but Google Analytics is probably the most popular. Google analytics is free, easy to setup and has an abundance of features for you to get your teeth stuck in to. There have also been some pretty cool additions recently such as real time analytics and visitors flow visualisations. Google provide Conversion University which has a load of learning material available for free and comes in the shape of videos.
Keyword reseaerch is essentially gathering data related to the keywords that users type into search engines. This data is then analysed and short lists of keywords can be drawn up which can be expected to bring the highest conversion rates. There are an abundance of tools available that claim to offer the best data and the best methods of coming up with the most profitable keywords. I think the best way is to just simply use the Google Keyword tool, as there simply can not be a better entity on the web that can provide more comprehenisive data than Google. The Google keyword tool is reasonably easy to use, you plug in your keyword and various metric are returned.
I think to of got this far you should have a pretty good idea what keywords are going to bring you the most money. They are probably the keywords you do not rank for and the keywords that all your competitors are on page 1 of Google for. Gathering these metrics are a way to confirm what your target keywords are as well as if there are any that you have missed out.
Coming to a decision which ones to take forward into your keyword mapping stage comes down to finding a good balance between how competative the keyword is as well as how many times it is typed in. You must also consider long tail keywords that count contain 3 or more unique keywords. For example "SEO Services Surrey" could essentially target "SEO Services", "SEO Surrey" and "SEO Services Surrey". So when coming up with your short list consider the combinations that you could make up.
The process of organising which pages will be optimised for which keyword is known as keywword mapping. This is an important step to ensuring the on-page optimisation that you are about to carry out is organised. It is also an oppotunity for your client to sign off the work that you are about to carry out on their web site.
When I map keywords to content, I simply create a spread sheet with the url, page title, meta description and h1 columns. Once filled in you have a comprehensive plan of which keywords you are going to target on which landing page.
When people talk about SEO is the process of tweaking code on a page to enahnce keyword weight, in esscence this is the step thay they are talking about. The on-page optimisation stage is reffering to the keyword mapping document you have created and implementing what you have planned on your site. Providing you know your way around HTML this is probably the easiest and quickest step. Of course some sites with complex templating systems will be harder to implement the on-page work and this is where you perhaps need to get a developer involved.
There are many tools available that will guide you with what you are doing here. However my advice is not to completely ignore tools but to try and implement the work your self. These tools do not know the search engine algorithms, the only people that do are the people that work for Google. Over time you will get a feel for what adds value and what doesn''t. There is no point wasting loads of time matching what a tool tells you when there is absolute no proof that what it is telling you is going to make any difference.
I think the HTML elements that really make a difference are the title tag, the h1 tag and then the meta description, in that order. I would not bother wasting time filling in the keywords meta (Google does not even look at this tag) , alt tags in images with keywords and I would not bother wasting time trying to bold keywords in the copy. Try for your self and see what works.
While all the other steps we have just discussed make a difference, web sites linking to you is what really is the difining factor. This is where it gets hard. There is no golden forumlae here and it comes down to begging, stealling and borrowing to get links.
When taking on a campaign as as stating point I will always analyse the compeitions back links. This will be a clear indicator of how hard it is going to be to achieve some success. You could spend a life time following what a particular tool is telling you with regards to keyword prominence, but it will not make one little bit of difference if you do not have any back links.