A few years ago I wrote the article Ten Steps To Higher Search Engine Positioning. The article was well received due to the breakdown of the core requirements for ranking a website being reduced into simple steps. Well today we’re going to break it down into 5 steps. Is it even easier to rank a website today than it was a few years ago? More straight forward? Yes. Less time consuming? Not a chance.
As our company provides guaranteed SEO services for our clients, two things are necessary:
1.We need to know that our tactics work
2.We need to maximize efficiency so we’re not having to charge our clients unreasonably high rates
And so we’ve developed processes by which we can attain maximum results in the least amount of time through carefully developed stages. While we are interested in all the major engines, it is of course Google that we spend the lion’s share of our time studying (having never heard a client say, “I don’t care about Google, just get me ranking on Ask.com.”) Here are the steps we use to optimize websites (including our own) for Google.
Step One: Website Structure
The structure of your website affects the way search engine spiders see your site and thus, affects your rankings. I’m going to assume from the get-go that your site is in a position to be spidered and the internal links followed (i.e. none of the content is hidden due to poor development). This does not mean that the structure is optimized.
The way the code appears on your page affects the way the search engines prioritize specific content. For example, if your navigation appears higher in the code of your web page than the content then it is given a higher priority. The goal then is to make the core sections of your page appear higher in the code than the portions that are not critical to the optimization of each page. Generally the content area of your page contains the majority of the keywords and is more easily optimized and tweaked. For this reason, you will want the content of your page to appear higher in the code. This is especially true if you have image-based navigation.
The methods for doing this differ depending on how your site was initially built. If your website was built using tableless design practices (ideal) then the matter is “simple”. Now, I can’t get into all the details here as this is a huge area unto itself. There are many great sites, articles and forums on CSS that get into this area of structural optimization in detail and where you will find many helpful forum members willing to help out and answer questions. Or of course you could hire a professional developer who already knows how to do this in which case it will take a fraction of the time. This will depend on your resources, time and of course – whether you’re a do-it-yourselfer simply interested in learning another web development skill.
If learning a new development skill appeals to you, here are some useful resources you’ll want to check out:
If your website is designed using tables the solution is actually much easier though less ideal. As Beanstalk’s Mary Davies wrote about in her article on Table Structures, with table-based designs the issue is resolved by simply structuring the cell layout in such a manner that the spiders “read” the content before the navigation and/or other, less easily optimized portions on your page. Knowing that a picture is worth a thousand words I’ll resurrect the one used by Mary to illustrate how this is done.
We can see that a blank cell is placed above the left hand navigation. Because a search engine spider reads from top to bottom, left to right they will hit the top table (the header) and then proceed to the table cell down and to the left. With the vast majority of sites this will be the left hand navigation however, if the table structure illustrated above is followed this will lead a spider to a blank cell. The spider will then quickly move to the cell on the right which is the main content area of the page. It is only after seeing the content that the spider will move back to the left, crawl the navigation and then proceed down to the footer.
The Point Of This
The goal with site structure optimization is to create an environment where the spiders will crawl the most important (and most easily optimized) content as early on the page as possible. This will give increased priority to the content that matters most.
Step Two: Content Optimization
Content optimization is, for our purposes here, the optimization of the wording and formatting of the page and site content to maximize its effect on a site’s rankings. There are three defining principles to this stage:
Keyword density counts
The formatting of content matters
Overall site relevancy helps
So let’s discuss these in order:
Keyword density is essentially the number of times the keywords are used on your page relative to the total number of words on the page. If you had a page that was 1000 words in total and you used your keyword 100 times you would have a keyword density of 10% (this is way too high by the way).
The optimal keyword density generally seems to hover around the 3 to 5% range. Of course the optimal level fluctuates with the algorithm however it’s been a long time since I’ve seen it leave this range. You will find sites that rank with higher and lower densities than this. Keyword density is not the only factor (or how easy would an SEO’s job be?).
If you want to check your density against the densities of your main competitors there are a number of tools you can use to do this.
The Formatting Of Content
Content in header tags as well as bold, italic, anchor text and other formatting options increases the weight this text carries. Now, this doesn’t mean to run out and bold every instance of your keywords in your content but rather to make use of this as you are trying to draw the visitor’s eye to the important content on your pages. Logically enough, if you are targeting a phrase on the search engines then it is highly likely that you will end up wanting to draw the visitor’s eye to these keywords periodically on the page. This is more about usability and conversions than anything else. If a visitor enters our site using the term “seo services” we want to make sure that they find this phrase quickly when they land on the page. This will make the visitor feel more comfortable and help them more quickly find the content they are looking for.
If a page we are working on has an overall keyword density of 4% we would target to attain roughly 25 – 30% of this in some sort of formatting outside of the standard of the site. That said, the visitor is more important than the engines and if doing this will take away from the visual appeal of the site then it is not recommended. We can make up any loss in other areas.
Overall Site Relevancy
The relevancy of your entire site is going to impact the rankings of an individual page. If your entire site is about mortgages for example, you’re going to find it easier to rank for related phrases than if you have a general site with a single page about mortgages. This is because the cohesion of content among the pages of your site builds the overall relevancy of the site to that topic. If we think about it, when Google is trying to determine if a searcher if likely to find what they’re looking for on a site are they likely to believe a site with a single page on a topic is going to give the searcher the information they’re looking for or are they more likely to assume that a site with many pages on a topic is going to prove more useful to the searcher?
So we’ll resurrect the overused saying “content is king”. Many pages on one topic will fare better than many pages on different topics.
Don’t miss the other steps in tomorrow’s blog.
This article was taken from: Beanstalk