When you read any of popular blogs about the web, sooner or later you are gonna come across term SEO. This acronym is a bit mysterious because it’s rather generic term meaning lots of different things. SEO acronym means Search Engine Optimization and it describes techniques used to increase website’s visibility in Google search results. The reason why people try to influence Google results is that first few pages of search results generate the most traffic for given search words – and the more traffic, the better!
Take a look at your own behaviour – do you go through first 10 pages of search results or is it just first one, maybe two? How do you think it affects websites further down the results?
Short glossary of SEO
SEO – Search Engine Optimization.
Indexing – process of adding website to search engine database, including making copy of site’s content and preparing it to be used with the search engine.
Web Spider – special programs used by search engines to automatically crawl and index websites.
SERP – Search Engine Results Page, usually has 10 entries per page plus paid adverts.
PageRank, PR – link analysis algorithm used to measure site’s importance on the web.
Website Authority – credibility, reputation and knowledge of given website. Its worthiness.
Organic traffic – traffic that comes from Google and other search engines.
White Hat SEO – SEO techniques recommended by search engines which involve no deception and no dirty tricks.
Black Hat SEO – techniques using deception and disallowed tricks to lure traffic into the websites. They will get you banned sooner or later.
How search engines work
Let’s think for a second how Google and other search engines see and search the web. In the past their only way to find information was to use spiders to automatically crawl the web and index web pages: starting point was a Google website directory (which still exists), so web crawler was indexing sites from directory first and then it was following sites’ links to find new content. Once new content was found, it was indexed and whole procedure was repeated.
Initially Google was taking small number of things from website as factors deciding its rank in search results for given keyword. Let’s say we are looking for phrase “how to blog” – in the very old days Google would count number of each words on given page, number of other pages linking to given page (and their count of relevant words), number of errors on the page, number of images, their descriptions and where keywords were placed (search score was increased if keywords were in titles and meta tags). This is when old school SEO was born. Web developers quickly found that stuffing lots of keywords related to search query into page can increase content’s position in SERPs. The biggest problem is that Google constantly evolves – SEO specialists learn new tricks every day and they use them to increase their pages’ traffic. After a while Google gets updated which limits effectiveness of their methods. And the battle continues…
SEO Ranking factors
Nowadays nobody really knows how Google search engine works and what does it take in account while calculating page position in SERPs. One thing is certain: it’s a lot of stuff. Recently Google published site which explains how the search works in interesting, animated way – it is here. I strongly suspect that a lot of data is extracted from Google Analytics code which is installed in virtually every website. Let’s try to discuss some of better known ones.
Keywords still play big role in determining how site’s content is related to given search query – it’s hard to imagine that page without single “blog” word (or related, like “WordPress” or “post”) is about blogging, right?
I strongly believe Google takes number of comments on given page into consideration. The more comments the better. Another thing is how many comments is from the same user. Remember: comments is name AND link. So what does it mean if there is lots of comments on website A linking to website B, AND lots of comment on website B linking to website A? It means these sites are friendly, and authority can flow between them.
How many other sites have link to given page? Are these links from content area (old dofollow) or from comments (nofollow)? How are linking pages’ keywords related to the given page? Did comments appear in bulk or over time?
Bounce rate and user behaviour on the site
What does the user who entered given page through SERP result? Does he immediately exits (bounces)? If so, it means he didn’t find what he was looking for and website is not related to search query. If not, it means there is something interesting. When user clicks something on the page, maybe that link is more related to search query than original result?
Placement and number of adverts
Recently Google started penalizing sites which had too many adverts above the page fold. The same applies for adult only content. I am not even mentioning any attempts to “cheat” the engine (doorway pages filled with keywords, content cloaking, shadow domains, links exchanging, duplicating content etc) – all this stuff can work for a short time but eventually will get your site banned from search results – and it’s game over then. Same things with Adsense – don’t even think about cheating it.
The older, more mature site, the better. Google learned its lesson and treats all new pages with caution – in the past lots of rogue pages went into first SERPs by using aggressive SEO techniques, wrecking havoc to the unsuspicious users. Every new page which climbs the rankings at fast pace is sandboxed (it’s relevance score is limited) – and “new” doesn’t necessary mean time, it may mean content.
How often is new content released on particular website? How often is site’s content updated? Are there any dead links on the site?
It’s said that search relevancy is determined by over 200 factors, which we will probably never know, because it’s Google secret – can you imagine what would happen is exact algorithm was commonly known? I am pretty sure black hats would use it to their advantage.
Is there a hope?
Oh yes, of course! There is a lot of simple things that can be done to improve your site’s ranking in SERPs. They are not magical solutions and won’t take you to the top of most popular queries fast, but when used on the long run they are gonna help you big way!