Yesterday in Part the First, we covered crawling, finding your niche and a little bit about how to approach SEO. Today we’ll cover the basics of on page optimisation
Optimisation: The Bit You’ve Been Waiting For
Now you’re armed with your niche search terms (e.g. Fiat Car Spares London) you can make sure your site is optimised for them. There are a few places that we need to look at – this does require a little bit of HTML coding knowledge, or access to someone who has such knowledge (these people can often be bribed with beer/cider/wine/chocolate delete as appropriate.)
You can find more about title tags in general here, we’re going to focus on the SEO specifics.
Each page on your site should have a unique title tag, with the homepage having the most important of your search terms. Keeping with our car spares example, the title tag of the homepage could look something like this:
<title>Fiat Car Spares for Sale in London - Made Up Car Co Ltd</title>
If you have product pages, then the title tag for one of them might look something like this:
<title>Front Fog Light for Fiat Panda - Made Up Car Co, London</title>
It’s pretty simple, don’t you think?
Heading tags are an important way of telling visitors and search engines what a page is about, generally the heading tag will be similar to the title tag, though shorter.
For our product pages, the heading tag would be the product name:
<h1>Front Fog Light: Fiat Panda</h1>
If you’ve got a lot to say about the front fog light for the Fiat Panda you might need to split the page with subheadings (much like I’ve done on this monstrously long post), so you might have:
Only use sub-headings if you need them, they’re there to make it easier for people to read the page and filling it with unnecessary heading tags won’t help that.
If you’ve spent some time looking into SEO you’ll doubtless have heard the phrase “content is king”, and it is. If your content isn’t actually readable, useful and related to your chosen topic, then there’s no point in optimising anything else.
As a general rule your search terms are going to appear somewhere within the first 100 – 200 words on the page. Don’t force them in there though (this is where a lot of issues have arisen in my experience) human visitors, who are the ones that will actually buy your products, have a natural sense of “spammy” text. If you try to force in multiple references to your search term, it will stick out like a sore thumb and will negatively impact on their likelyhood to buy. If visitors feel you are being spammy in your website, they’ll anticipate your business practices to be the same. In essence you’ll be perceived as less trustworthy.
Going back to our old pal the front fog light, here’s an example of spammy text:
The front fog light for the Fiat Panda is designed to replace the current front fog light in your existing Fiat Panda. Buy your new front fog light for the Fiat Panda now.
Instead focus on getting valuable information about the product to your potential customer:
This is a new, original Fiat part comprising the outer front fog light casing and fixings for all models of the Fiat Panda from 2000 onwards. Prices include VAT and exclude delivery, we have replacement, used, front fog lights for older models here.
When you link to another site on the web the search engines view that as an endorsement by you for that site and judge you by your recommendation. Be careful who you link to. If you link to questionable sites, very irrelevant sites or just plain pornographic sites, the search engines will hold that against you. When your site becomes popular and sucessful (which or course it will) you’ll get loads of requests from people and companies for you to link to their site. Some will offer you a link back in exchange, some will offer you money. Whatever the incentive, think very, very carefully about accepting. If you do accept, ensure that you make it clear that the link is an advertisement or other paid endorsement as you could fall foul of both the search engines and trading regulations.
Congratulations – you’ve just optimised your website, on Monday we’ll deal with link building but for now, I think you’ve suffered enough!
I know, I know…You’ve read a hundred of these posts and haven’t got anywhere right? Well hold back your cynicism for just a moment because this might be the post you’re looking for.
Over the years as both a full-time SEO and as a freelance developer I’ve worked with a lot of site owners and webmasters who have endeavoured to optimise and promote their own sites. Some have had great sucess, others…not so much. Their various sucesses and failures have built up quite a library of useful tips and tools, and those are what I’ll be sharing in this series of posts.
Today we’ll cover the background work, including crawling and finding your niche, but first a little chat about the best mental approach to SEO.
Many SEOs view their relationship with the search engines, and particularly Google, as being in a digital arms race where the SEOs are constantly battling to get one up on the mysterious algorithm. Perhaps in some sense that’s a fair viewpoint from the pro’s perspective, but it isn’t a helpful mentality for the site owner or webmaster who is trying to “go it alone”.
The search engines are not trying to prevent your site from doing well, they are utilising all the data available to them in order to return what their systems consider to be the best sites for a given query. If your site isn’t being returned for that query, it’s because the search engines don’t have enough data saying that your site is relevant. So, in order to make your site return you need to supply the engines with more accurate data. Keep this in mind and you’ll find the process of optimisation a lot easier.
Crawling: Is Your Site Visible?
In order for the engines to have accurate data about your site, they need to know it exists. If your site is new then you’ll find it helpful to tell the engines about it. They make it easy for you to do this by each providing a suite of tools for webmasters, you can find them with the following links.
You’ll need a login for each of the engines, but it’s worth the effort to do so. Once you’re in you’ll be able to submit information about your site and ensure that the engines can sucessfully access (or “crawl”) your site. Your webmaster dashboards will also be the place the respective search engines notify you of any problems with your site. If you only do one thing from this post, do this, the wealth of information that Google in particular provides is invaluable.
Positioning: Find Your Niche
SEO is just like business in general, you are in competition with other similar businesses to get the attention of potential customers. Finding your niche, the thing(s) that make you stand out from your competitors, will help you to grab that attention for yourself. The more competitive your market is, the more important finding that niche will be. Time for an example? Yes, I thought so too:
Let’s say that you have a site that sells spare parts for cars, if you search Google for car parts you’ll see somewhere in the region of 107 million sites that Google considers to be relevant to that query. That’s an awful lot of competition.
If your business is based in London, that narrows the field a bit bringing the competition down to around 15 million.
If you specialise in Fiat parts (Italian electrics, meh!), then we’re getting somewhere just about 300 thousand competing sites.
And…for the sake of sillyness, if you particularly specialised in Fiat Panda spares you’re in luck as there’s only about 14 thousand results. I think you get the idea.
The great thing about targeting niche terms is you’ve reduced your competition and, more importantly, you’ve “qualified” your audience. If you only sell Fiat spares then getting visits from people who need a part for their Audi won’t help either of you, by filtering your potential audience down to people who want exactly what you have to sell you’ll dramatically increase the ratio of visitors to sales (aka your “conversion rate”). This ability to pre-qualify your audience is pretty much unique to search and it’s fantastic!
Still don’t feel like you’ve gotten anywhere? Look out for Part the Second where we cover on-page optimisation or share your thoughts in the comments.
I’ve just completed a series of web banners for the good people at the World Land Trust to encourage donations toward their vital work saving endangered habitats.
The banners were created in a range of sizes and styles so that web publishers could select the options that suit their site best.
The work was done pro bono.
As a new to the market online comic book store, Comic Geeks are starting from a blank canvas and needed a logo that had a sense of fun.
I used classic bold fonts and subtle gradients to get that graphic novel feel and was delighted to hit the nail on the head with the first concept.
I’ve also enjoyed reading a lot of comic books…for market research you understand 😉
Safety workwear manufacturers and suppliers Safehands Services International were looking for a brand identity design that reflected the strength and quality of their safety clothing and equipment.
In addition to the logo design, I created a range of complimentary stationary including business cards, letterhead and compliment slips.