Search Engine Technology Is Complex… This Guide Simplifies It!
Search Engine’s Technical Process
How Often Are Websites Indexed?
All search engine providers index a website ranging from every hour to every two weeks (or more); and depending on how often website content is updated will determine how often the website is indexed. New websites are usually indexed within two weeks depending on when the website was launched in the crawl cycle. With each “crawl” of the site, it collects URL’s (web page locations), text and links. It saves both good and bad (broken) links which affect your page ranking.
What Content Is Indexed?
When your site is “crawled,” it compiles an index of all the words it sees and their location on each page. In addition, it saves the text contained in tags and attributes, such as Title tags (title) and ALT attributes (alt) used on images. Most all text-based content can be indexed; however, they do not index the content of some rich media files (flash, video etc.) or dynamic pages (pages that are generated by code). All these indexed words, pages and links are used by Search Engine’s metrics (algorithm process) to show the search results to a web surfer.
Search Engine Metrics (Algorithms)
Each Search Engine (Google, Yahoo, Bing etc.) have their own algorithms (metrics); and over a hundred metrics to process search results on a page. These complex metrics include things like the freshness of content, your region, links and and whether a site is mobile friendly. These metrics change from time to time and therefore your rankings may change over time.
The Real World Of Search Engines
SEO Is Competitive
It is important to understand that Search Engine ranking is VERY COMPETITIVE. You have millions of companies competing for top ranking; and even within your respective industry there are many companies competing against you as well… even down to the local level. It’s a continual process when fine-tuning a website for best search results.
The Myths Of Page Ranking
Even after building a good SEO (Search Engine Optimized) site, you are never guaranteed a top spot on page one of a search engine. Many people often think that just having a site up and running means that their site will automatically appear on page one of a search engine. But remember, there are many, many factors involved in search engine ranking. It’s not something you can just buy or enter a setting on each search engine to get high rankings.
Don’t Rely On Search Ranking For All Of Your Business
One of the mistakes businesses tend to make about their website, is that once the new website is up and running that they will get all kinds of calls or emails; this very seldom happens! As stated earlier, there are many factors in getting your page listed on page one of search engines. Then, you have the actual conversion of a site visitor to consider. Most site visitors will leave a site before looking for more information if they do not find what they like on the home page. The marketing aspect of your site now becomes an important issue. Unless you run an online shopping cart, as a company, you cannot rely strictly on your website for business. You still need to market your business using traditional means such as Social Media, AdWords, Banners, Advertising or Commercials
What About SEO Services?
Even Google cautions against using some SEO Services, because some of these services use shady tactics that will actually penalize your ranking such as “link farms.” However, some SEO Services are legitimate and go by Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. All that SEO Services really do is research your industry for relevant keywords, than analyze your website to see if it contains those relevant keywords. This can all be done by a webmaster with help from the client’s understanding of their respective industry. The only real advantage to SEO Services is if they truly have a relevant website network of pages, ranking and external links (backlinks to your website) that are relevant to your industry. The biggest drawback with these services is that they overcharge for their services; running in the hundreds per month.
Search Engine Optimization
What Is SEO?
The term SEO means “Search Engine Optimization,” which means to optimize a website for the best results on search engines. SEO can be done between the client and the webmaster of the website. The concept of SEO is to make sure that important industry keywords are searchable on the website; along with relevant links within content, and that the “title”, "description" and “alt” tags (for images) are all used with these relevant keywords.
What Are Keywords?
Keywords are the actual text that your industry or subject-matter uses the most. These terms are the words that a majority of users will use when they search for your website.
Text & Images
Search-bots index just text of a website. They do not index any words that are displayed on an image or rich media (flash, video etc.). It is important to understand this, because search engines can only index the text that is on a website. That is why having plenty of relevant pages is important (more later). It is also important for SEO that all “Title” (title) and ALT (alt) tags have relevant keywords filled in. ALT tags are used on images.
Do You Have A Site Map?
To help your search ranking, it is recommended that you have some sort of page on your site that is a Site Map, or a SiteMap.XML file that contains all linked pages on your site. Search-bots look for these when indexing your site.
Links, External Links & Backlinks
One very important aspect of your site is relevant links in, going from and back to your website. These links have a major impact on your search ranking. It tells search engines that your site is relevant to the industry. Here are the major points for each:
- Internal Links: You need to have links on your site that point to other parts of your site. These should be relevant keyword links about the content of your site. You should have links on every page and mention them 3-5 times each if possible across the entire site.
- External Links: You also need keyword links that point to other relevant websites that are in your industry; preferably sites with high traffic.
- Back-Links: Another key that most people neglect is back-links. These links are links located on other websites that point back to your website. Typically the links would be your website address or keywords that point to a page on your site. These are things that the client should do within their marketing strategy. This can be done through Link Exchanges, phone directories, industry associations, chamber of commerce and advertising ads.
2 Levels of SEO
There are 2 Levels of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) that can be implemented on a website.
LEVEL 1: Every website we build automatically comes with Level 1 SEO implentation. You will provide all necessary text content, which we, as the web designer, will take and make sure that all relevant keywords are used in the copy, meta tags and image tags. We handle the SEO on the website side for you. The key to good SEO strategies is to use plenty of the most important keywords used in your industry within your website. Here are some things we implement...
- The Use Of Important Industry Keywords
- The "Title" & "Description" Tags Are Used Properly
- Images Contain Keywords For The "ALT" Tag
- Keywords Are Linked Across The Site
- We Use Google's Web Guidelines
- And Much More!
LEVEL 2: After your website is built (and live for 3-4 months) and the ranking is not as high as you would like because of competition, you may want to implement a Level 2 SEO Service, which we DO NOT OFFER. These SEO Services typically provide AdWords, Backlinks, Blogging, Analytics and other marketing strategies. However, even Google cautions that you choose SEO Services that are reputable and follow Google Guidelines because some of those services use "Link Farms" (backlinks) that can actually lower (penalize) your ranking. These SEO Services tend to charge a lot of money for things that you don't need. Here are some benefits in using a SEO Service...
- AdWords Can Get You Traffic To Your Site
- Backlinks Are Important For Search Ranking
- Blogging (Fresh Content) is Important For Search Ranking
- Keyword Analysis Will Match Industry Standards
- And Much More!
SEO Website Design Tips
Most Important Website Metrics Needed For Good Page Rankings
Below is a list of the most critical website design elements that you should implement for best search engine ranking, listed in order of importance:
- Lots Of Fresh Updated Content: A website needs to have a lot of content. This gives the search-bots more text to index, thus creating more relevancy and keywords for users to find your site. But, it is FRESH content that search-bots like the most. This signals to search engines that your site is always providing fresh content that is very relevant to the industry. Fresh content will move your page ranking higher. The minimum “freshness” of your site would be monthly updates. Often blogs or news pages are ideal for fresh content.
- Industry Relevant Keywords: Using relevant keywords for your industry is crucial. You want to include on your site the words you know people will use to search for your site. You want the most important keywords sprinkled throughout your site at least 3 times for each keyword.
- Links & Back-Links: As stated above, links within your page, links going to other sites, and links pointing back to your site is important. This signals search engines that you’re relevant and useful to your industry. This should not be overlooked in trying to get your site ranked higher.
- Relevant Navigation Links: The navigation links on your site needs to be relevant to your industry. They also need to be short and what users expect in menu navigation. Stick with web standard naming conventions.
- Title, Description & Alt Tags: The “Title” tag is the text that appears on the top (or tabs) of a web browser. The “Description” tag is in the html code, and not visible on the web page, but only visible on search engines. The “Alt” tag is used for images and should be text that describes the image for screen readers. Each tag should be relevant to the content or image on the page. Search Engines key on these tags, so it’s very important that they have the most important keywords filled in.
- Age of Website: Because page ranking is competitive, the age of a web site may come into play. Sometimes newer sites take time to get to the top. If your competition has had a site up for 5 years, and they are ranked #1, it may take some tweaking of your site and some time to overtake them at that spot. You will need to study their site and do more than what they are doing to surpass them.
- Traffic To Website: When a site is new, it has no traffic to speak of. That will affect your page ranking. That is why you need to have Back-Links (as mentioned above) and a marketing plan in place to drive traffic to your site. You must take advantage of traditional advertising to drive traffic to your site. As your traffic increases, search engines will rank you higher because you are providing content that is relevant to users.
- Location: Designing a site for global traffic compared to local traffic is different. If a user types in “landscaping services;” they will get search results from all over the world. But, if they type “landscaping services maine,” the search results will try to find more local sites in Maine. Therefore, it is important that you have some of the cities or towns listed on your site. It helps you target local areas better.
- Load Time Of Site: The speed at which your site loads affects your ranking as well. We are very cautious of this fact and advice you not to put to many images on the home page. The code platform of your site also affects the load speed of your site. We prefer to build sites using standard HTML/CSS because they load faster. WordPress sites (most CMS’s) tend to always load slower because they use hundreds of backend code to display pages.
Sign Up For Search Engine Business Listings
One thing every business should do is sign-up for a free business listing on each Search Engine. This listing will include a map, your business description, phone and hours. This listing should appear in local searches.
Improve Your External Back-Link Presence Online
You should also sign-up for business listings on online telephone directories such as Yellow Pages. To improve your back-link presence online, it is important to contact associations within your industry and see if they will list your website on their site. You can also sign-up for links exchanges or actually run banner campaigns on other websites. All this will improve your ranking and help drive traffic to your site.
There is a lot of metrics that goes into page ranking, and getting to the top may take some tweaking of your site. You have to evaluate your ranking on an on-going basis because Search Engines change their algorithms from time to time. But to be competitive in the “Search Engine” fight for the top spots, you have to make sure that you do more than your competition does.
If you keep up with the major triggers of page ranking such as; lots of fresh relevant content, relevant links (in, out and back), industry keywords, external advertising to drive traffic; then your site should do well without having to spend hundreds of dollars using a SEO service.
It is important to remember, that just having a website alone doesn’t guarantee top ranking or lots of business. Positioning yourself on search engines takes some tweaking and some time to get you on page one. We can help you in the implementation of the website, but it is you that really knows your business the best. With your knowledge, your marketing and being proactive; working with us will help your site be optimized for the best possible page ranking.