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SEO - useful or obsession?

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is a big thing these days, but how important is it, and what are its limitations?

Googling SEO will return over 130 million pages, so it has attracted a lot of attention.

SEO is about changing the content of the pages on your website to be more favourable to showing at the top of search results, but what does that involve? This article will hopefully clarify some of that, but also help align your thinking to look at the long game.

The most popular search engine, in the West at least, is Google, and so a lot of this discussion will use them for illustration.

Criteria ^

Google uses over 200 different criteria in assessing how pages are ranked, so there is no simple solution.

The basic theory of search engines is that a person searches the web using text likely to be used on pages of interest. That requires well-behaved page writers to provide content that supposedly included those words in ways that provided interesting information when people clicked on the links in the top search engine results.

That did not last long! For us to see why, we will look at some criteria and how they were subverted to game the system.

Some examples of critieria that are used by search engines are:

  1. a.Any words from the search term that appear on the page.
  2. b.The numbers of times the keywords occurred on the page.
  3. c.The hidden title tag on a page that is shown on the tab for pages in a browser, but is typically used as the heading text for returned search list items.
  4. d.The hidden description meta-tag on a page that is meant to give a succinct summary of the page content, and which, if it includes any of the search words used, is displayed below the search results heading, to give an idea of the content.
  5. e.The h1 heading tag, which should be the visible page heading.
  6. f.The URL address for the page.

Early attempts, and a lot of current ones, stuff these full of the most popular keywords likely to be used by those wanting what the site offers. Unfortunately, many didn't make their content as enticing as the keywords, while some fallaciously used the words to lure unsuspecting searchers to content that had nothing to do with the searches, and so tarnished the search engines reputations.

For this reason, the hidden keywords meta-tag has not been used by Google for a decade, just because people used to stuff it with every keyword they could.

Some use multiple URLs, each with a popular search phrase and redirecting to a common home page. Google now considers such gateway pages disfavourably, and while some popular older sites still use them, along with pages stuffed with keywords, new pages will be downranked.

Search engine designers began to expand the criteria to better indicate usefulness and ranking by including criteria like:

  1. a.The number of words between appearances of the keywords.
  2. b.Correlations between keywords, or synonyms, used in different parts of the page.

Of course, as each new criteria is identified by SEO opportunity hunters, they get exploited, often touted as some new magic bullet to SEO paradise. While they may work for a little while, the search engine business is spending billions on research to find new ways to thwart such hijacking.

This is why there are the 200+ criteria that Google uses, and to which they will add many more, so making it very difficult for SEO bounty hunters to rort their algorithms.

Content is king ^

Generally, search engines, at least in the organic results, are trying to connect searchers to content that will prove of value to them.

With Google et al spending billions on researching how to do that, rather than spending most of your time battling uphill to keep ahead of them, it is better to cooperate and just concentrate on producing the good content that your site visitors actually want.

This has the benefits of:

  1. 1.You producing content that you can optimise for your purposes.
  2. 2.Your visitors are more likly to stay engaged on your site

Good content will generally have a broad range of words related to the popular keywords people really interested in your site may use, just because you cannot describe what you do or offer without the coverage that requires them.

Your site will also have many inter-related, but not duplicated, pages, and that will indicate depth and breadth of your site's content to search engines.

You may have other sites, and relevant cross-links between them will enhance your site's search reputation.

Just be aware that a search engine may not index all pages on a site. This may be because there is something on a page that may run afoul of their rules. It may be because they are not being linked to enough by the rest of your site, so it pays to cross-link between related pages as much as possible, though external linkes to pages are still better. Sometimes it just might be that there is too much duplicate content with other pages.

Google acknowledges that they don't index all pages, so you may never get full indexing, despite what you do. Just do what you can to get get links to all pages, within the rules.

Reputation ^

Search results are a popularity contest at the instant of the search, but there are efforts other than content optimisation that can improve that popularity.

While you may get to be on the first page of search results with a suitably crafted, but unlikely, search phrase, if you are competing in a popular search, you will not be anywhere near the top if the search contains only a word or two of those used in your test phrases.

Some in your industry will top all searches related to your industry, even if they haven't optimised for SEO. This is because they have a history of being clicked on a lot in search results. That is, they have a high reputation for being clicked to, and so search engines rate them up.

However, it is not ony that they were clicked on a lot, but that those who have clicked on them haven't resumed searching soon after. This highlights why content is important because good content keeps people on your site, whereas poor or misleading content will soon send visitors back to search for something more suitable.

So search engines are not just making direct judgements about the relevance to the search terms from their page analysis, but they are also accounting for visitors voting with their fingers as to what is most relevant to them. So, trying to game the search engines will ultimately fail if your content does not keep visitors reading long enough.

It used to be that a site could gain a good reputation by getting sites with good reputations to link to them, and so when search engines noted those links, they would assume that the target site was wortthwhile.

However, many of such reputables sites noted that their writers seemed to be a bit dubious in how they included links to perhaps unworthy sites, and so took measures to limit the benefits to target sites. In addition to telling search engines to ignore such outgoing links, they also stopped including referrer site information with the link, so that the target site could not ascertain from where incoming links came.

Of course, while a reputable site's links may have lost their use, if they have content that refers to content on a site, and especially if by name, that site will still earn some reputation benefits.

The search for reputation is not lost, because a site can link out to reputable sites. This relies upon the search engines, knowing the content on the target sites as reputable, enhancing the sending site's reputation. That will only work if there is a high degrees of synergy between the page with the link and the target page's content.

This is best if the target site's content provides:

  1. a.Supporting evidence for the sending site's assertions, especially by research papers or statistical reports.
  2. b.Thoeretical justification for the sending page contents.
  3. c.Evidence for the site owner's reputation, such as by reputable and well-curated third-party review sites providing good customer reviews, with some search engines showing those ratings in the search results.

Such sites have what I call enduring reputations, as opposed to the instantaneous popularity contest of a search, just because such sites have proved to provide reliably provide a consistent quality of information and so are enduring in the search engines eyes.

Once your site has established its own search engine reputation, by people clicking on search page links enough, then you don't need to target reputable sites, though it can still help maintain yours.

Some have tried to get instant reputations by subscribing to link farms, which are a whole bunch of such backlinks on a myriad sites. Google et al track these farms, and penalise or even ban those who use them. You do not want to get banned by Google!

Ads ^

Search engines have put up their real estate for renting in the forms of ads, but how useful are they?

People have spent money very quickly on these ads, but without the conversion to sales that they expected. That is because they pay each time a person clicks through to their site, even if they don't buy. Myriads of visitors to your site don't mean much if the vast majority don't buy what you offer.

Therefore, a lot will depend upon what you offer that is of relevance to your target market.

Paying visitors can be roughly allocated as:

  1. a.Instant buyers - want it now - favour pictures.
  2. b.Researchers - need to know all about it - favour words.

If your services or goods typically require their purchasers to understand them in some depth, you will find instant buyers are like annoying blowflies. Conversely, researchers will seem like tyre-kickers to an instant food place.

Google has now understood this, and is placing typically quick sale ads above and below organic content, which is what researchers are typically interested in. Therefore, you are probably a good candidate for search engine ads if you sell instant gratification goods or foods, especially if you have a physical location, as that will favour you to those buyers in your area.

This all means that you will need to construct your website to favour the type of buyer you want. If you look at your site visiting stats, researchers will tend to be those hanging around for up to 15 minutes as they consume all the words. Unfortunately, because of the shorter time instant buyers spend on sites, the stats may not show up the difference between them and those who abandoned your site.

Remember though, a researcher who has done all their needed research can then be ready for instant gratification, so make sure you have left instant gratification links in judicious places -- though not too overtly -- among your wordiness for when they are ready to convert!

Takeaways ^

We have looked at search engine dynamics and what it takes to make it to the top.

The key takeaways for getting top search engine results are:

  1. 1.Build a quality site, filled with worthwhile content.
  2. 2.Link to relevant real sites that support the content on the pages with those links.

Anything else is a distraction of your's and your readers/customers' time.

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TS: art-a 3ID: 2018-03-27-01-00-00Now: 2020-07-16-00-43-23Powered by: Smallsite Design©Patanjali SokarisManage