17 Apr

Is Search Engine Submission Necessary?

A simple question which can be answered quickly; no it isn’t. We could leave it there as we have answered the question but that’s taking the easy way out. The fact remains that there are many who still consider submitting to search engines as somewhat of a holy grail and think their businesses cannot survive without it. These poor, naïve souls would be better off spending their time on what really does matter as far as search engines today are concerned; ensuring their websites contain the best possible content and internal links.

Search engine optimisation is unrecognisable from what it was a decade ago when keywords were used to move you up the rankings. Page one now is all paid submissions, everyone knows that and a huge chunk of these companies marketing budget goes on this. SEO is not dead by any means, it has merely shifted direction in the way the web crawlers do their searching.

In the search of publicly available web pages the crawlers scan through these pages and follow the links within them. They go from one link to another and send all this data back to the servers. This process highlights the important of links as they will travel throughout your website via the links indexing as they go and the more data they collect from a site the higher its ranking will be.

In theory, the owner of a website shouldn’t have to hunt around for where links can be made, this is where content comes into play. If your web copy is interesting, useful and important the placement of links should present themselves naturally to you. As this is the basis of the Google algorithm regarding page ranking content and links rule OK.

In all honesty you aren’t doing your site any harm by submitting your website to a search engine. It doesn’t take long if you only submit to the big guns but one submission is enough. Despite their claims to the contrary it won’t mean your site gets crawled more frequently, or any quicker. There is no cost involved with submitting your site to Google, MSN, Yahoo et al as we stated earlier those at the top of the rankings have paid to be there as a form of advertising.

Think of the Internet as a form of sat nav. You wouldn’t travel to an unknown area without getting directions yet this is what people do every day online. They try to build their online presence without having any real idea in which direction they are going. With their website wallowing somewhere in the bowels of the search engines and people coming across their site more by chance than anything else they invariably blame the Internet for letting them down.

Due to their lack of SEO savvy, or being stuck back in the 90’s and still thinking keywords are king, or both, they have been lost in the shuffle and without taking the latest rules onboard their site will forever remain that needle in a haystack.

17 Apr

Can Any Inbound Linking Hurt My Ranking?

In light of the current information available online it is easy to presume that inbound links are the holy grail when it comes to your search engine ranking. Oh if it was only that simple. While inbound links are undoubtedly a great help when it comes to the searching and indexing of data there are also bad links which can now prove detrimental to your ranking and should be avoided at all costs.
If you have had the same links in places for a couple of years then it’s time to get them checked. The search engine algorithms are almost unrecognisable from the way they worked only 5 years ago and those old, out date links could now be doing you more harm than good. It is well worth your while getting an expert to look over these as with the landscape changing so much you may change them yourself to find they are still past their sell by date.
Google have long cottoned onto the fact that website owners were pushing in as many links as possible to raise their rankings. They classed this as ‘false popularity’ in that nobody had actually found the site useful and created genuine links to it. The updates they have employed over the last couple of years have aimed at bringing up better and altogether less ‘spammy’ results and if you have found yourself slipping down the rankings due to these changes those links need addressing. The last thing you want is spam driven links leading to your website.
It isn’t difficult to spot a dodgy link, even for a complete amateur. Have a look at the sites where the links are coming from and see if they are of poor design in that their purpose is not instantly clear. Also check that the links aren’t coming from unsavoury sites. For example if you have a floristry website you don’t want a link coming from a porn site!
Links should never come from non-relevant sites as in the world of SEO a link is effectively a yes vote so relevancy is vital. If you have ever paid for a link at any time in the past get rid of it now! If Google hasn’t picked up on it already you can bet they soon well so instant removal will protect your site from plummeting down the rankings faster than skis on ice.
If you thought keywords were dead and buried as far as SEO were concerned think again. They have merely shifted position and should now be found within the links. Keyword rich links are best left to the experts rather than trying to think of the terms you would personally search for.
The latest Google guidelines regarding good links are pretty self explanatory;
• Links you don’t control
• Editorial links
• Links you don’t know you have
All of the above get the thumbs up from Google, now its up to you to ensure your site is ticking all these boxes.

17 Apr

The Importance of Anchor Text in Back-links

We all know the important role link building plays in SEO, the more links with anchor text the better right? Well, yes and no. There is a lot of confusion currently regarding the importance Google places on anchor text within back links and if you aren’t an expert it can make pretty difficult reading. It makes sense to start at the beginning and see what Google themselves derive as the relevance of a link and the text it contains.

As Google view links as votes of approval specific, rather than generic, keywords which are relevant to the area of your site to which the links are pointing is essential. The web page the link arrives at should have been optimised in terms of the keyword phrase included in the link. An SEO expert can do this quickly and easily, to an amateur it can all seem a bit confusing.

Logic plays a big part in ensuring your back links contain the anchor text to reap the maximum benefit. As Google have decided that a large portion of their search algorithm will focus on inbound links they are counting each one as a vote of confidence from the source of the link. By analysing all the constituents of a link and where it comes from enables them to determine the specifics. This is turn allows them to gather much more detailed information about the ‘vote’ being cast.

There are really only two common elements in this process; the web page the link is going to and the anchor text within it. It is due to this process that is it so important to get that anchor text spot on. If such a thing as link popularity didn’t exist every anchor text used to create a link would be representative of the content of the website,but as we know this is simply not the case.

In short, Google uses the link to assume a vote is being cast for a website, or rather a specific web page, and the anchor text tells them why the vote is being made. That’s not the end of the story however. Due to link exchanging and artificial inflation of popularity Google no longer stops at anchor text when it comes to validation. It now examines both websites in order to qualify the link, thus emphasising the importance of relevant anchor text and effectively bringing down the curtain on spam links.

Digital agencies who this type of work on a daily basis are the best people to check over all links and anchor text attached to your site. Keeping up with Google’s habit of constantly changing the goal posts is best left to the experts. You can easily find yourself getting bogged down trying to bring both your links and anchor text up to scratch. Valuable time which could be better spent elsewhere.

17 Apr

Absolute Links vs. Relative Links – SEO Value

The debate between absolute links and relative links continues to live on in the SEO world. The individual significance of each has been contested, but it is widely regarded that absolute links provide better SEO value on the whole than relative links.

Many believe that absolute links have less potential for getting messed up when search engines index your page. It shouldn’t really make a difference, but many conclude that this is reason enough.

Furthermore, content scrapers and RSS services may ‘repurpose’ your content legitimately (or not). In either case, shouldn’t a proper back-link be attributed to your site? This situation favours absolute links. Although this is a minor argument, it’s still worth considering.

17 Apr

Incorporation of Company Branding and SEO

SEO is not an exact science. This becomes apparent when trying to incorporate both SEO and branding into a strategy. This process is finicky to say the least. On the one side, SEO deals with the placement of keywords and phrases. On the other side, branding deals with company loyalty and culture. Incorporating both sides dilutes the prominence of both. But eliminating one or the other may not meet all strategic and marketing goals.

Once again, it should be emphasized that SEO is a series of guidelines rather than an exact science. Having said that, the following recommendation can be used to satisfy both sides of the equation. In general, keywords and phrases (i.e. SEO) should remain the focus of any early-stage company, while the incorporation of company branding should appear later in the evolution. This is simply a general statement and should not be taken word for word.

The reasoning is pretty straightforward. At first, no-one knows the name of your company, but perhaps they are searching for your products or services. In other words, you want to target keywords and phrases that focus around your offering rather than your company. As you build loyalty and credibility, branding becomes more important. It’s at this point that you may want to incorporate corporate messaging to strengthen the relationship with customers and instill trust in your brand.

One final thought about branding: if a searcher types in the name of your company, they are likely to find your website anyways. This is due mostly to anchor text and back-links. Therefore, optimizing for the company name is rather insignificant in most cases.

17 Apr

Strategic Use of Images in SEO

When assessing page structure and layout, there is a subtle, yet strategic way to use images in an SEO-friendly manner (beyond ALT tags) that improves your search rank while allowing you to integrate the necessary marketing message(s). Confused? Let’s look at an example:

Suppose you operate a travel site and you want to optimize a given page for the term “Las Vegas hotel”. Suppose that you also want to include an enticing marketing message such as “Book now and save 20%!”. The aforementioned tagline lacks descriptive text, but possesses persuasive characteristics. That being said, you may want to place the tagline in an image and the key phrase (i.e. Las Vegas hotel) in a header tag. This places emphasis on the desired term, yet still provides a marketing opportunity without compromising keyword consistency.

In other words, images are a great place to insert marketing messages that lack the necessary keywords and phrases. Leveraging this technique will ensure that descriptive text is indexed, while less marketing jargon is overlooked. The combination of keyword-rich content and enticing messaging will satisfy both sides of the strategic equation.

17 Apr

Google now discounts all reciprocal links

For a long time, reciprocal links have remained at the forefront of most inbound linking strategies. This is going to have to change. Google now discounts all reciprocal links. The algorithm has been altered to identify the exchange of links by two parties for the purpose of increasing their number of inbound links.

The concept of reciprocal linking defies Google’s original intention with the algorithm. Quality content should attract links. The exchange of links is nothing more than a mutual agreement to unjustifiably promote others’ content with the end goal of promoting your own. Google doesn’t particularly like this (see Link Schemes).

Some even claim that Google is now able to identify three-way linking schemes (i.e. website A links to website B, who links to website C, who links back to A). Whether this is true or not is hard to say. One thing is for certain though: inbound linking strategies should NOT be centered around reciprocal linking. This manufactured form of link creation is not well-received and is ultimately a waste of time. Instead, focus on creating unique, high-quality content in a given niche. The links will ensue.

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