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SEO tactics to cut through the web clutter, 10 top tips: Start-up Technology Feature

10 top SEO tactics to cut through the web clutter

By Oliver Milman
Tuesday, 03 July 2012

feature-seo-rely-domain-thumbEven though some of Australia’s largest retailers have yet, even now, to properly get to grips with its rise, the surge in online shopping appears to be slowing.

 

Research out this week by NAB shows that Australians spent a whopping $11.3 billion in online goods and services in the 12 months to May 2012.

 

While this figure is up 14% year-on-year, the rate of growth is slipping. Year-on-year growth was 19% and 15% in March and April 2012 respectively.

 

While this increase is nothing to be sniffed at – traditional ‘bricks and mortar’ retail grew by just 0.2% in the same period, it’s clear that the online marketplace is becoming tougher for new entrants.

 

We may not be at saturation point just yet but start-ups looking to sell online will have to work ever harder to stand out from an increasingly crowded field.

 

With this in mind, Wai Hong Fong, SEO guru and co-founder of OzHut, has outlined 10 key tips on how to cut through the online traffic and reach your target audience.

 

To read each of Wai Hong’s SEO gems, click on the tabs below:

 

 

1. Sort out your title tags

 

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Search engines determine a website's relevance to a search query according to on-page (internal factors) and off-site (external factors) signals.

 

Tags are arguably one of the most important on-page factors to work on. They can potentially affect rankings with immediate effect.

 

When writing title tags, you must ensure that all relevant keywords to the page that you are describing are contained in the title tag. You can find relevant keywords to the subject matter of the page by using the Google Adwords Keyword Tool.

 

It's optimum practice to use no more than two or three keywords or one or two key phrases (two or three words per phrase) in a title tag. For more competitive keywords, it's also better to put them closer to the front (left-hand side).

 

In writing your title tags, you need to bear the user in mind. As titles will show up in the search results, the number of people clicking through to your website will be determined by how relevant and human-readable these titles are.

 

Poor title tags which are less appealing to the user's search intent may lose clicks to listings that are lower in rankings.

 

When possible, title tags should be formed with a good flow and connection between the keywords, like in a sentence.

 

If this is not possible, such as in cases where keywords/key phrases are very long, you just need to ensure that the title tag appears in a meaningful and aesthetically appealing way in the search results.

 

Title tags in search results will also be truncated after they exceed 70 characters, so it is best practice to ensure all important bits or the entire title tag is within 70 characters.

 

It is also good practice to include your company/website name at the front or at the back of the title tag on all pages as a branding exercise and to help the user associate the page to the brand.

 

Example of a keyword stuffed title tag: “telescopes – binoculars – OzScopes Australian shop”

 

A better, human readable, search engine friendly, title tag for the above would be: “Telescopes & Binoculars by the Australian Telescope Experts | OZScopes”

 

2. Content is king

 

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You need to ensure that the content on your website is written for the user, while keeping the search engines in mind.

 

As a start-up with limited resources, a good strategy for creating killer content is to first pick out a niche/topic that you are familiar with.

 

Always look to create content that adds value to your target market. Once you've found a good topic, you can then start identifying which keywords you'd like to target for the page.

 

These should not exceed two or three keywords or one or two key phrases, similar to title tags.

 

These keywords should be included in your title tags as well. Again, you might want to consider using various keyword discovery tools such as the Google Adwords Keyword Tool.

 

An important next step is to consider the intent of the people that would be searching for the keywords you are targeting. Are they generic keywords like 'gadgets' or 'buy gadgets' or are they more specific like 'great gifts for men'?

 

The key here is to ensure that the content of your copy matches the search intent behind the keyword that is being typed into the search engines. Once you've put some thought into the search intent, then you can go ahead and write something useful to the visitor.

 

For example, the intent of a search for "telescope viewing" is probably for information in using a telescope and not product information as compared to a search for "telescopes for sale".

 

As you're writing, remember to always write with users in mind. There's no need to stuff the page with your keywords 10 times all over. Google's smart enough not to be fooled by it.

 

What's more important is mentioning it once or twice and considering other related keywords to the topic of your choice. For example, if you are writing a guide on "how to choose a lawnmower", you might want to talk about gardens, grass, motors or anything that is related to a lawnmower.

 

A really useful resource is to use Wikipedia to ensure that you have a topical understanding of the subject matter and spark some other ideas of related topical ideas.

 

3. Don’t overlook meta descriptions

 

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When your website appears in a Google search, Google will use some key data from your website to create your entry in the search results.

 

The three primary pieces of information that make up your listing are your title tag, meta description and URL (Uniform Resource Locator, otherwise known as your web address).

The meta description is the blurb of text that appears below the title tag in the listing and is limited to 155 characters.

 

If the meta description is longer than 155 characters, Google will only show the first 155 characters and cut out the rest.

 

There are some instances where Google will not shorten your meta description, such as when the search query is extremely long, i.e. more than 75 characters.

 

If no meta description is provided, Google will automatically use text from the page which it deems relevant, usually the first few lines.

 

This may or may not be beneficial, and it's best practice to ensure you determine what Google shows to your users.

 

First of all, it is important to note that meta descriptions do not affect your rankings, but it does have a very important part to play in the SEO process.

 

A well-written meta description will improve the click-through rate of an organic listing since users are able to understand the content of the website better.

 

So what makes a good meta description? Firstly, try to use the keywords that you're targeting for that particular page at least once or twice in the meta description.

 

Search queries that include the keyword in the meta description are bolded and will stand out.

Try to find the balance between having relevant keywords in the meta description and ensuring that the meta description describes the content of the page in a human readable format.

 

You can also include trust-inducing bits of information about your company, like a phone number or city of residence, which can help people know that you're a genuine business.

 

Finally, provide a value proposition for the potential visitor to click on your listing versus your competitors.

 

Great offers should be included in your meta description, such as free shipping if you're an ecommerce website or free first consultation if you are a B2B service provider.

 

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4. Know how Google views your site

 

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Search engine optimisation is fantastic when you know what you're doing. But what does Google actually have in its memory of your website?

 

Knowing what Google has in its index is a really important part of checking your website and making sure it ranks well.

 

If the Google Bot, which is basically Google's automated script that indexes the entire internet, is not picking up your quality content or your entire site, then you are missing out on ranking for your selected keywords.

 

Here is a tip that will show us immediately how Google is indexing your website.

 

The first thing we need to do is to go to google.com.au and type in the following:

 

site:nameofyourdomain.com.au/urlofchoice.html

 

So for example you could type:

 

site:www.startupsmart.com.au

 

or

 

site:http://www.startupsmart.com.au/planning/

 

The “site:” command essentially tells Google to display all pages with the following URL in it. This is a very useful way to show all pages of a particular domain to us.

 

Click on the ‘cached’ link next to the search engine listing of the listed page. This will pop up with Google's version of your site with the date which this page was last indexed.

 

Note that the Google Bot could have visited your site at a more recent date than the one shown here but, generally, it doesn't change the date unless the site itself has changed since its previous visit.

 

An important thing to ensure is that all of your important content is displaying accurately and completely in the indexed version, compared with your live version.

 

If certain text is not displaying, there could be a few reasons to consider – Javascript text, flash or images without alt text, for example. If you have any important content in the formats above, you should recreate them in a text form somewhere else on your site.

 

Finally, don't forget to check the 'text-only version' of your site which can be found as a link on the top right of Google's cache of your website. This will enable you to filter out all the other bits on your site like images and help make checking the content easier.

 

5. Get link building

 

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Once you've nailed some of the basic SEO tips you can do for your business, it's time to start working on one of the most important aspects of search optimisation: link building.

 

Search engines value the links between websites highly. In fact, incoming links are the most important determinant of your website's ranking for any given search term in Google.

 

You can think of links much like a voting system. As websites link to yours, Google counts them as votes, indicating that those websites consider yours to have something of value or relevance.

 

The important thing to remember is that the quality of the vote is significant as well. The authority and relevancy of the websites that link back to yours will determine how much weight Google gives to that link.

 

For example, a link from theage.com.au will inevitably be better than a link from mymumsblog.wordpress.com.

 

In fact, one link from theage.com.au will be better than the combined weight of 10 different links from Mydadsblog, Mymumsblog, etc.

 

This is because theage.com.au is an established site with a very strong history, thousands of links from other authoritative sites and Google knows all of these and more.

 

If the page that is linking to you is relevant to the theme of your site, that is given weight as well. For example, if an article on theage.com.au talking about web hosting services links to your web hosting business, that link will be more valuable than an article on 'cooking' that mentions web hosting services.

 

6. Following the no-follow rule

 

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Links, as I've explained previously, are vital for your business' SEO. Another key component of links is the “nofollow" tag.

 

This tag was originally introduced in 2005 by Google to help webmasters combat spammers.

 

So how does it work? Basically, you add this tag to the end of the link structure as follows:

 

{a href="/http://www.startupsmart.com.au" rel="nofollow"}.

 

This tells Google that the link above shouldn't be given any credit ('linkjuice') even though it's on your website.

 

In the past, webmasters would use this tag to do what is called page-rank sculpting, where they will attempt to no-follow links to pages that they do not want to rank in an attempt to improve the link juice given to the other pages.

 

However, Google has since confirmed that any link on a page will still be attributed link juice but links with nofollow will have theirs dissipated, making this practice somewhat obsolete.

 

So where does this leave us? Firstly, you want to make sure that links you build to your site don't have the rel="nofollow" tag attached to them.

 

Better still, try to contact the webmaster with the actual code (including anchor text) of the link you are asking for.

 

Finally, any pages on your website which you do not want to rank for a particular reason should be 'no followed', i.e. privacy information, terms and conditions, etc.

 

Do take note, however, that no-following a link does not guarantee its exclusion from the Google index, especially if another website links to it.

 

7. Create a keywords list

 

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As you’re crafting your SEO plan, it’s vital to conduct research on what keywords are relevant to the market you’re targeting.

 

This is important as you don’t want to be optimising for a bunch of keywords that no one is actually using when they are searching for a product.

 

For example, if you are selling rubbish bins in Australia, it’s important that we optimise for the term ‘rubbish bins’ and not ‘trash cans’ or ‘garbage cans’.

 

Generally speaking, keyword research will help us identify these pitfalls.

 

Next, you need to sit down with key people in the business for a good 30 minutes to an hour to brainstorm which keywords your customers would use if they were to search for the products/services your company provides.

 

Once you’ve got your list, plug these keywords into the very popular Google Adwords Keyword tool.

 

This tool is the most widely used and the data it presents in terms of volume of searches is great for estimating the market. However, it should by no means be treated as conclusive data.

 

It’s imperative that you select the geographical region (in this case Australia) when using the tool. Otherwise you might end up with highly inflated numbers that are completely wrong.

 

Once you’ve done that, the Google Adwords Keyword tool will show you a list of other related keywords that you may not have captured during your initial brainstorming session. Make sure to compile a full list of all these keywords, including the estimated traffic data that the tool provides.

 

What you will have now is a first draft of your keyword list that is most relevant to your business. You then need to group these lists into categories.

 

For example, if you have the words ‘garbage cans’, ‘garbage containers’, ‘garbage bins’, ‘rubbish bins’ and ‘rubbish cans’, you would group the ones with the word ‘garbage’ together and the ones with the word ‘rubbish’ together.

 

This is important because you’d want to craft out a page for each category that you’ve identified.

 

Essentially, what you’d want to have at the end of this process is a list of relevant keywords to the products/services in your business that have been categorised in an orderly fashion.

 

You would then be able to use this list by creating pages on your website that target the various categories or by associating existing pages to those keywords.

 

Be sure to use all the principles we’ve learnt so far by including the keywords in the title tag, content and other important SEO principles.

 

8. Don’t rely on your domain

 

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In the last couple of years, we've seen businesses rush to grab domain names that match the keywords they are targeting for their business.

 

For example, if you were involved in the retailing of computers, laptops.com.au may have been a highly sought after domain name.

 

The reason for this is that many people perceived having the exact match of the keyword you're targeting in the domain name to have great SEO value.

 

While this is one of the hundreds of metrics that are used in Google's algorithm, it definitely doesn't hold as much weight as it used to.

 

Bing, for example, seems to give exact match domain names so much weight that it used to be called ‘the exact match domain search engine’.

 

What we're seeing here is the inevitable shift in the field of search from gaming the algorithm towards providing actual value to the visitor of the site.

 

New technology is enabling the automation of processes that allow search engines to think more like humans and actually value the things we value when it comes to the search results.

 

So, if you're starting up a business and think that buying that fancy domain name for a big chunk of money would be an important SEO investment, think again.

 

While the name of your website is important (I'd personally go for short and memorable), search engines are now giving more weight towards content usability, social signals and usage data i.e. things that actually matter to the potential user.

 

9. Good web design matters

 

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In November 2010, Google launched a featured called Google Instant Previews. This feature allows people a sneak preview of how a website looks before having to click on it.

 

While a lot of SEO involves improving the ranking of your website, good SEOs know that the click through percentage is equally important. This can be influenced by your meta title, meta descriptions and how your website looks via Google Instant Preview.

 

To see this in action, Google your favourite keyword and simply look for the double arrows that appear when you hover your mouse over a search listing.

 

When you click on this listing, you’d find that Google has stored a record of how that webpage looks. It will even highlight areas of the page which contain the keywords in question.

 

So what should you do? Firstly, make sure you do a preview of your webpage for your main keywords and compare them to your competitors.

 

This is usually a good indication of whether you are potentially positively influencing click-throughs or you’re losing out.

 

For those of us who need to give our websites a freshening up, it is always a wise decision to vet whether the web developer/designer really knows about SEO.

 

10. Tracking your SEO efforts

 

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Hopefully by now we’ve got a list of keywords we’re targeting and we’ve used this information to influence the content that we have on our website.

 

So how do we actually measure the effectiveness of our efforts?

 

There are three tools that we will look at today that will help us ensure that we are constantly measuring and monitoring our SEO progress.

 

The first tool that is a must have for every webmaster is Google Analytics. If you are using a popular CMS like Wordpress or Joomla, then this is as easy as setting up your Google Analytics account and inserting your GA code into your website settings.

 

GA gives you the ability to monitor the ups and down of your site traffic, where your visitors are coming from and your most popular pages, among hundreds of other uses.

 

With ecommerce tracking, we are even able to attribute sales to the actual keywords that brought them.

 

The second tool that we need is Google Webmaster Tools. With Webmaster Tools, you can find out what the click-through is on the keywords that are driving traffic to your website, what percentage of the total impressions on a keyword that you’re getting and what links that are pointing to your site have been indexed by Google.

 

Finally, try to keep a weekly record in a spreadsheet of your website’s ranking for all the keywords that you are targeting in your list. In order to do this, you can use the Seobook Firefox rank checker plugin which requires you to install the Mozilla Firefox Browser to use.

 

Keeping a regular record of your progression through the ranking positions is crucial to ensure that you are able to notice any trends or improvements that you may or may not be aware of.

 

Also, it helps you to differentiate traffic that comes from increased rankings (link building, etc) from traffic that comes from increased click-through (meta descriptions/titles).

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One of the best articles I have ever read about some simple SEO tactics for a website - thank you so much to Start Up Smart for putting such a fantastic article together :)
CC , July 09, 2012
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