Google has made more changes to its search algorithm in recents months than any other time I can remember,with the Panada update and the 4 corresponding revisions since Feb 2010.
I believe that all these things now mean one thing for SEO’s. Design now matters for search engine optimisation, and design will continue to matter more and more.
There is a great discussion lead every time a company with no blog asks why they can’t get links. Another question, usually before that, is why do we need a blog at all, our product pages show everything there is to know about us and our services? And lastly, why on earth do we need to spend hours on social media chatting with people; we don’t call people on the phone just to chat with them and make them feel better do we? Well, no matter how many times these questions are asked, they are good questions that deserve a good answer.
Below are the slides from my SEO with WordPress talk for the WordPress Brisbane meetup last week.
When I give a talk, I generally leave most of the text off the slides so people aren’t subjected to listening to me read straight of from the slides. I thought for this talk I would also post some notes to accompany.
After reading this article on inc.com, I had to do a quick post as this is something that I have been asked about recently, and nothing tells the story better that this example.
The final post in my 10 days of search engine optimisation (SEO) tips is rather new in the search engine world. In fact, it was only announced on the Google Analytics blog on the 9th of April 2010. The speed of your page is officially a factor in Googles rankings. So what does this mean for your site? This means it’s now time for your web designer or SEO expert to take a look at a few factors.
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Here are some quick things to take a look at on your website to help your page load faster:
- Reducing the file size of your images
- Using CSS Sprites (This is a process where all frequently used images and icons are put into one image file. e.g. Here’s a Facebook sprite. )
- Placing CSS files in the <head> tags of your document
- Removing and redundant code
- Externalise inline CSS and Javscript
- Using a Content Delivery Network (CDN) (This basically means that your site is deployed across different servers around the world and your sites hosting will be delivered from the server closest to the users geographical location)
There are quite a few other factors that you can take into consideration as well. If you are using Mozilla FireFox you can install Firebug and Yahoo’s YSlow add on to assess your pages performance. If I was in radio I’d have to say something like “There has never been a better time to optimise your website for speed”.
PageRank is often talked about in the search engine optimisation (SEO) community as it is essentially Google’s measure of importance of any given page on the internet. Many SEO experts will talk amongst their peers about how high their PageRank and compete with each other to see who can get a higher PageRank for their site. Frankly, I find this behaviour a little absurd. As far as I am concerned the thing that matters the most of a site is whether or not the site is performing in Google for the selected keywords. That being said, PageRank does come into play but achieving the highest number possible doesn’t always mean that the page will rank higher than competitors pages.
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So how goes Google determine the PageRank of a site? Google determines your PageRank by counting the number of back links (or inbound links) to your site and also factoring in the PageRank’s of the referral sites. I bet that still doesn’t make enough sense for a non-geek so let me use an analogy. Think of PageRank as word of mouth for your business. We all love it when people talk about our business in positive terms but it’s even better when you receive positive praise from a well known industry figure or even a celebrity. So if a celebrity (high PageRank) talks about our business (low PageRank) then our site gets a reputation boost (higher PageRank) over time.
How can I boost the PageRank of my site?
There are a few ways to boost the PageRank of your site. Some of these include:
- Writing press releases and articles for publications on external sites with links back to your site
- Asking affiliates and associates to place a link to your site on their site
- Publishing video content on sites with a link back to your site
- Publishing blog posts that have engaging content so people will link back to your site or “tweet” about your posts
- Participate in forums with a link back to your site (provided the site allows this)
- Comment on other peoples blog posts
How do I check the PageRank of my site?
You can check your PageRank on this site. Alternatively you can install the Google Toolbar and be sure to enable the PageRank option in the settings or if you are using Mozilla FireFox as your browser then you can install the SearchStatus addon.
Firstly, I’ll let you know what alt attributes are in case you haven’t heard of them before. Alt attributes show alternative text that is displayed if an image is missing or a tool tip if the user hovers their mouse over an image. Alt attributes are also important for visually impaired readers. You will see many images on websites that will have have alt attributes that just reflect the images file name.
<img alt="DSC007.jpg" src="/images/DSC007.jpg" width="800" height="600" />
This bad for search engine optimisation. Your alt attributes should contain a small amount of data that gives a brief description of what can be seen in the image. It’s best to use images that are relevant to your SEO campaign so that you can use your keywords in the alt attributes so that Google has more keyword repetition and density. If the example I used above was a picture of a person wireframing while he was redesigning a website and you were targetting the terms “website redesign” then a good alt attribute would be something like this:
<img alt="A man in the process of a website redesign." src="/images/DSC007.jpg" width="800" height="600" />
Don’t stuff your keywords into your alt attributes!
Black hat search engine optimisation “experts” used to perform the practice of keyword stuffing both in content and in the alt attributes of images. They would often only put the keywords in all the alt attributes. This would sometimes get effective results for a short period of time but in the long run Google would often black list the site in it’s results. Make sure that this doesn’t occur during your SEO campaign! This practice is very unethical and is frowned upon in the SEO community.
Sitemaps can take two forms. The first form is the one that is known by most every day users and that’s a sitemap that shows a list of all pages on a website in a list of links to those pages. These are great for assisting usability and are excellent for accessibility. The second form is much lesser known form of sitemap. It’s a XML (Extenisble Markup Language) version of a sitemap that is used by Google and also Bing. These site maps are located in the root directory of your website and are basically list of links that search engines love to read. We use a WordPress plugin to generate our sitemap. (You can view our sitemap.xml). You can check if your site has a sitemap by typing in www.yourdomain.com/sitemap.xml into a browser. If you don’t have one then you should definitely get a web designer or SEO expert to create one for your website then submit your sitemaps into Google and Bing.
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The robots are taking over
Another important file that you should have in the root directory of your website to assist search engines to crawl your site is a robots.txt file. (You can view our robots.txt). This file lets search engines know which directories search engine robots are allowed to crawl to read the contents of those directories. If your website has directories that contain private files then you should have rules in place to disallow those directories. Your SEO expert should fix both your robots.txt and sitemap.xml files as part of the initial setup of an SEO campaign.
I know that the saying “Content is king” has been frequently used in the web design industry over the last three or four years but it really is true. Continually, adding new content to your website has two main benefits. Firstly, you can keep your existing and new customers up to date with any news or new products your company has developed and secondly, this new content means that Google will have something to read each time that your site is crawled by Google’s robot: Googlebot!
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The Googlebot loves fresh content. On nom nom!
If you frequently update the pages on your web site, you will eventually increase the rate that the Googlebot will crawl your site. This may take 3 – 6 months to take full effect however some times the results will occur usually. Think about the Googlebot like a human being again. If a human being always read the same content on your page then what are the chances of them coming back to read it more than once or twice? Pretty slim right? Well if you don’t update the content on your site then the Googlebot will get bored and will not keep coming back as frequently to recrawl your website. If you update your content with articles, blog posts or new products then the Googlebot will crawl your site more frequently which will increase your search engine rankings and also increase the number of visitors on your website. How long has it been since you’ve added new content to your website?
When you are optimising your site with the intention of generating traffic to your site you should have a read through each page and ask yourself: Does this page have a clear focus? Often many companies will try to put everything on their home page rather and as a result Google will struggle to understand the main focus of your page. If the page mentions carpet cleaning, computers and guitars then Google will not know what the most important item is on your page. Have a clear focus for each page.
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Keyword density refers to the number of times a term or terms are mentioned on a web page. There are a number of tools and browser plugins available that will measure the keyword density of a web page. There isn’t a known effective keyword density for a web page but you should make sure that the terms you are optimising for are frequently mentioned both in content and in heading tags. Sometimes it is effective to look at your competitors keyword density and then generate content with around the same amount of keyword density of your competitors site. Have a look over the content on your site and start thinking about how you can start optimising the content on your web site.