Frequently Asked Questions

Search Engine Optimisation

Everything you ever wanted to know about SEO, and then some.

I’ve heard so much about Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) that I’ve become confused and worried.  It all sounds so complicated, and in the realms of either rocket science or witchcraft.  What’s it really all about?  Is it as complicated as it sounds?

Search Engine Optimisation, or SEO, is all about preparing the pages of a website such that they stand the best possible chance of achieving top results on the search engines, and maximising traffic from the search engines.  It’s not difficult or complicated in any way at all.  Quite the opposite.  It’s extremely simple.  Most of it is so painfully obvious; if only webmasters would stop to think about what they are doing.

At the most fundamental level, SEO is about:

  • Making sure the pages of a website can be crawled
  • Ensuring properly constructed pages
  • Improving the written content on the pages

There are a number of complimentary services to the above, but essentially that’s it.

Unfortunately, so few of the so called professionals who claim to be experts in this area actually know very much about it.  Or if they do, they hide it very well indeed!!  It is our belief that the vast majority of misleading advice has been repeated so many times, by so many people, that in some circles it’s taken as being accurate and true.  There’s mention of black hat, and white hat SEO techniques.  The white hat techniques being apparently permissible…?

It’s all complete non-sense!

If your unsure as to whether any advice your given is reliable or not, there’s a very simple acid test.  When considering the advice you’ve heard or been given, you must ask yourself:-

“If there were no search engines, would I still do this?”

If the answer is “No”, as it so often is, then don’t do it!  Don’t waste either your time or your money on services or schemes that will only result in your website being penalised for attempting to manipulate the search results.  Instead, devote your time and resources into improving your content and website services.  At the end of the day, there is no other way to achieve the long term results your seeking, in terms of ranking or search engine traffic.

An example of this nonsense that we encounter frequently is companies that register numerous domain names that include keywords as well as geographic place names, that are then redirected to 1 website.  Google is very quick to detect duplicate content and manipulation of this type.  It simply doesn’t work.

Another example is creating pages that have essentially the same content as other pages of your website, but with different geographic place names.  This will not achieve the results you are hoping for, but will result in penalties from the search engines and a pretty silly website.

You may create landing pages for PPC campaigns (Pay Per Click), which you instruct the search engines not to index.  That’s not only fine, but probably a good idea.  However, to create pages that you would not otherwise have created, in the hope of manipulating search results, is folly.

Any idea or scheme that is suggested to you that does not involve improving your website for both users and search engines, usually in terms of navigation and/or content, is a waste of time, money, and effort.  At the most basic level, the SEO process is simply about improving your web pages to make them easier to crawl, and to legitimately improve their content for both search engines and users.

Lastly, when considering whether or not to enlist the services of an SEO company or individual, they should be both able and happy to simply explain what they intend to do, and why.  You should then apply the acid test mentioned above.  That is, if there were no search engines, would I still do this?  If they either cannot, or will not, explain their plans; or if their plans will not improve your website in some way regardless of search engines, do not enlist their help.  If they do not make you feel completely comfortable about what they plan to do, or if it seems in any way confusing, the chances are they really don’t understand or care about the true nature of search engine optimisation.

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I’ve found a number of SEO companies that guarantee top 10 rankings.  How is it possible to guarantee search results?

Quite simply, it isn’t possible to guarantee results on the organic listings, or search results pages (SERPs).  The only way to be certain of top 10 results, is through PPC (Pay Per Click) campaigns.  On Google, this means using Google Adwords, which can be extremely effective for some websites.

Many companies that offer search engine optimisation or search engine marketing make outrageous claims that simply cannot be backed up.  This is the most common one.  Frequently you will be told about the company having a special relationship with Google, or that they “work closely with the search engines”, which of course is completely untrue and thoroughly misleading.

Google does not have any such close relationships or working partnerships with any SEO company or individual, not anywhere on the planet.  They do not inform anyone of algorithm updates, changes, or policy.  Certainly, not in the way they would have you believe.

There are frequent interviews with Google staff and engineers where they occasionally offer insights as to what’s going on, but these are not secret in any way.  There are blogs, and forums that you can monitor to find out exactly the same information as the rest of us, such as the blog by Matt Cutts, a senior Google engineer on the antispam team, or the Official Google Webmaster Central Blog.

You should think twice about enlisting the ‘help’ of any search engine optimisation or marketing company that offers ridiculous guarantees like this for organic search results.

How to get your website into the top 10 rankings on Google

It’s really quite simple, how to get top 10 rankings on Google, and every other search engine.  More than anything, it’s all about content.  Fresh, top quality, unique and engaging content; and making sure the search engine crawlers can access it.  There’s no point in creating a great looking website with superb content that you update frequently, if the search engines can’t find and crawl your pages.  I guess thats more of a design issue, so consider how your pages will be crawled if your thinking about a new website.

Think about each page of your site as if it’s the most important page of your site.  Make sure you introduce your page well with a good, appropriate, unique title in the<title>…</title> tag.  Make sure also that you have described your page correctly in the meta description.  The search engines will likely use this description as the page preview in the search results.

On the page itself, make sure your content begins with an <h1>…</h1> heading tag; and make sure there is only 1 such tag on the page.  There should be definite synergy between the meta title, description, and the opening content heading.  Make sure your page content is unique and engaging if you want it to do well on the search engines, and if you want your website visitors to be interested.

Images can make a page more interesting and engaging.  Where appropriate, use images to if it will help the users to understand and/or relate to your content.  If relevant, create a summary or conclusion at the end of your page.

Where relevant, create links in your page content to content found elsewhere on the web that relates to your page topic.  This helps the search engines to understand the general topic of your page, and it is reinforced by the links to similar or related content.

Lastly, create new pages and content regularly.

If you do these simple things, you’re pages and content will naturally do well, and naturally attract inbound links by interested visitors.

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My website does very well on other search engines, like Yahoo and MSN, but it’s nowhere to be found on Google.  Am I being penalised?

Firstly, it is important to understand that all the search engines develop their own algorithms, which are constantly being updated and tweaked in an attempt to improve the results they offer.  Ranking highly on Yahoo for a given phrase is no guarantee that the website will achieve the same or even similar results on other search engines.  Similarly, if a website does manage to achieve a top result for a given search on any search engine, it would be short sighted indeed to assume that it will remain highly ranked for that search term.  The changes in the algorithms can cause dramatic changes in the SERP’s (Search Engine Results Pages).

Sites don’t get banned or penalised unless something has been done in an attempt to deceive or manipulate the natural search results.  Typical attempts at deception include hiding content on the page and/or keyword stuffing, or attempts to artificially inflate link popularity.  Rest assured, if you don’t make any attempt to deceive the search engines, or fool them into giving you a higher rank for a given phrase, then you have no need to worry about penalties.

Given the constantly shifting algorithms, and constant influx of new and updated page content on other sites, the best advice is to optimise your site for lots of related phrases.  This improves the sites chances of ranking highly for a selection of search terms, not just one.  Also, the search engines will respond favourably to seeing lots of related phrases and terms.  Any quality content page that discusses a subject will include a good selection of terms related to that subject.  For example, if Google is attempting to determine the subject of one of your content pages, it will be better able to do so if it detects a selection of common phrases that are frequently used when talking about that subject.

This principle is commonly referred to as either Latent Semantic Analysis (LSA), or Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI).

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I’m new to search engine optimisation (SEO) and I keep reading about keywords and phrases.  How important are they to the success of my website on Google?  What are keywords?

In the realms of search engine optimisation, or SEO, keywords are the critical words that are frequently used in connection with the topic of a page.  So for example, if you have a page on which the main topic is ‘chocolate’, that might be considered your primary keyword.  It’s the actual topic of your page.  However, there are other words that typically get used when talking about chocolate.  Actually, it’s hard to talk about chocolate to any degree without using some other related words, such as cocoa, cacao, or the cacao tree, milk, hot, dark, truffle, cocoa butter, cake, etc.  All these words are very frequently also used when talking about chocolate.

When you are writing copy for a page of your website, you will know what the primary topic of the page is.  With a little thought, or research, you can quickly identify other words that will typically come up when discussing your primary topic.  If you manage to write a page of content that manages to avoid using all these other related keywords, you have to wonder if you’ve really put enough thought or effort into your content?  How did you manage to avoid using any of these other words?  Have you actually written a worthwhile page, or have you written as little as you can get away with, but still expect to be No.1 on Google and gets lots of search engine traffic?

When writing any content for your website, you should make every effort to use as many related words and terms to your primary focus as possible.  Don’t just use, re-use, and over-use your primary keywords.  There are 4 very good reasons for this:

  1. Any copy that over uses any word simply reads badly.  Your website visitors are likely to be unimpressed.
  2. The search engines are capable of determining a page thats been keyword stuffed in order to manipulate search results for a particular search term.  It won’t work in the long run, and you run the risk of being penalised for it.
  3. When web users do searches, they use a variety of words and phrases.  If you want to get as much traffic as possible, you should attempt to use as many related words and phrases as possible so that you cover as many opportunities as possible.
  4. Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI), as used by Google, is actively checking to see if your page which appears to be about topic “x”, uses a selection of the other words that should naturally appear when discussing that subject.  If it does, it’s probably a better match than other results found in the index.  i.e. Improved rankings and traffic for your website!

To identify and use as many related keywords on each and every content page of your website is extremely important.  Failing to do so will result in significantly less search engine traffic than you would otherwise have gained.

A popular tool for helping you to identify keywords for any subject is the wordtracker tool.  This tool takes the idea of keyword research into a science all of it’s own, which may not be as helpful as it first seems.  A little thought and some common sense should help you identify a good selection of related words for any subject that you feel comfortable writing content for.  If not, then perhaps you need to research the subject of your content page a little further before you attempt to write it?

Please, above all else, remember that there’s really little point in publishing weak pages that offer no interesting or unique content.  Your site won’t attract links or the traffic you want if you aren’t able to genuinely engage your users.

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I’ve had lots of spam emails from people and companies guaranteeing top ranked results if I pay for their SEO services.  Also, I’ve found a few websites offering similar guarantees.  Do you offer guaranteed top ranked results on Google?

Prospective clients often ask if we can guarantee top ranked results on the major search engines, particularly Google, if they take our search engine optimisation service.  It’s usually pointed out to us that there are other SEO companies that offer such guarantees.  However, it’s both impossible and misleading to offer such promises or guarantees; therefore, we don’t.

You should be extremely wary of any company or individual who claims to offer any such guarantees; or claims of close relationships with Google or Yahoo.

The purpose of our search engine optimisation service is to better prepare your website for the search engines to ensure they have the best chance possible of ranking highly.  We don’t employ any “tricks”, it’s just clear and honest preparation of pages to ensure their quality, and appropriate content.

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There are so many myths of what makes a website do well on the search engines, and so many so called ‘tricks’ to make a website do better on the search engines, sometimes referred to as “white hat SEO techniques”.  What are the qualities of a good website that will likely rank highly on the search engines, including Google?

What are the qualities of a good website?  Well, when building a new website, there are a few simple things to consider if you want the site to do well on the search engines.  The most important factor to consider is, “How easy is it to crawl the pages of the website?”.  So many people don’t take time to consider whether or not their website can actually be crawled by a search engine spider at all.  If your website is to stand any chance of getting top ranked results on Google, it’s critical that you make it as easy as possible for the site to be crawled.  If your in any doubt about this, check your website with a text only browser.  See if you can reach every page of your site in a text only browser, such as Lynx.  If you can’t, then the search engine spider won’t be able to either.  Therefore, think carefully about your site menus, and consider also a sitemap.

Next, you want to make sure you write good, interesting, unique content for your website.  At the end of the day, it’s the copy that gets indexed and shows up in the search results.  Make every effort to write quality copy for your pages, not just bullet lists of services or products.  When writing your copy, try to use the same terminology as your target audience or target market.  Use as many related terms and keywords on your pages as possible, but above all ensure that your copy is genuinely interesting, and unique.

Ensure that your website has some “hook”, something that differentiates it from related websites, and offers a reason to come back or link to it.  That might be a blog, news articles, or maybe even tutorials on how to use products that you sell.  Excellent examples of this is are websites that offer support forums, or video tutorials for software that you can buy from the same website.  Some websites also syndicate their news articles, and tutorials which is great for getting those related backlinks.  Try to come up with something that will set your site apart from the pack.

Key qualities of a good website that will perform well on Google and other search engines:

  1. Make sure your site can be fully crawled (most important)
  2. Write top quality interesting content that users will want to link to and bookmark
  3. Have a differentiator.  A hook.  Something that makes your site stand out, in order to encourage those repeat visits, backlinks, and bookmarks.
  4. Continually add new, genuinely unique and interesting content.

Lastly, you must promote your website.  Make sure your target market know you have a website.  Tell your customers, and potential customers about your website in whatever way is appropriate to you.  Whether thats by creating press releases, email, telephone, or post; or even all three.

If you have a marketing budget, use it wisely to target the right audience.

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I got an email from a company offering to sell me lots of keyword rich domain names, saying that it would guarantee me higher rankings and increased traffic for my website.  Is this a good idea?

This is a highly deceptive practice that is likely to get you into trouble on the search engines.  Any attempt to deceive the search engines will ultimately lead to penalties, and possibly even get your website banned from Google.

Whilst you could forward all requests for your numerous domains via a 301 permanent redirect to your main site, it’s unlikely to be a winning formula for search engine success.  More likely it will be an expensive waste of time.

Similarly, if your plan is to create lots of websites for these domain names, you will again get into trouble if the sites simply duplicate the content of your main website.  However, if you are able and prepared to offer genuinely unique and valuable content on each of the sites, there’s nothing wrong in that.

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Link building is tedious and time consuming.  I send out vast numbers of emails every week, asking other websites to link with my own, but I rarely get a response.  Is there an easier way to get links?

If you want people to link to your site, the simplest way to achieve this is to write genuinely unique and interesting content that others will naturally want to link to it.  Moreover, this natural linking is the only truly worthwhile linking.  Reciprocal links are of little or no value and it’s not recommended to devote time or money chasing them.

Do everything you can to improve the information and content on your site so that your website visitors will sit up and take notice of it; telling others about it.  Update your site regularly.  Publish a regularly updated blog, or frequent news articles.  Ensure there’s a reason to link to your site, and a reason to revisit it.  If you do this, the links will come without any further encouragement from you.

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I’ve read that I should bold, italics, heading tags, etc for my keywords.  Also, that I should make sure I do this in the first few words on my site, the last few words, and repeated throughout.  Does this really help to improve my ranking?

It is important to determine the focus of each page of your site, and therefore decide on 3 – 5 key phrases related to that focus.  Having determined your keywords and phrases for the page, they really should appear in the title of the page, and the meta description.  The aim here is to offer an insight to the content to be found on the page.  Having done this, the visible content of the page will include these words and phrases as you discuss the focus of the page.

I wouldn’t worry to much about the placement of these words in the first/last paragraphs, etc.  What would be better is to think about writing a quality content page.  A good format, where it’s appropriate, is probably not dissimilar to what you learned at school:-

  1. Tell them what your going to tell them
  2. Tell them
  3. Tell them what you told them

When breaking up the content in this way, it’s also a good idea to use headings to introduce each section of content.  If you do this, and it seems reasonable to use your keywords in the headings, and in the content sections, then by the end of the page you will have written a high quality piece of copy for your page.  This copy will likely also be highly optimised, quite naturally.

Try not to get bogged down with ideas of keyword density formulas, or keyword weighting.  You should write content for your users, whilst at the same time remembering that if you follow some very simple rules, your page will likely rank highly because you’ve also catered for the search engines.

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I’ve heard that if I create a blog on my website, it will help to improve the ranking of my site.  Should I create a blog for SEO purposes?

Blog pages on your website are no more able to help you achieve higher rankings than any other page of your site.  However, they should mean that you have fresh, unique content thats added to regularly.  Perhaps as often as every day, if not at least once a week?  The search engines like the fresh content, and will gradually become aware of how often it’s being updated or added too.  This will cause them to index your website more often, to get that new content.  The same can be said for regular newsletters or articles.  The key is to add new content to your site.

If you allow others to leave comments on your blogs, both the blog posts and comments may also encourage back links.

Forums can also have the same effect, but you must be vigilant to moderate forum posts.

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When I view the source html of pages on some websites, in addition to the usual meta tags I’ve noticed that some are crammed full of other meta tags like ‘robots’, ‘revisit-after’, ‘author’, ‘rating’, etc.  Should I be using all these on my pages?

In a word, no.  Unless the meta tag you’re thinking of using serves some purpose, don’t use it.  The most common mistake is to use the ‘robots’ meta tag to instruct the search engine spiders to ‘index, follow’.  This is of course what the search engine spider is going to do anyway, making the use of the tag in this case completely pointless.  It should actually only be used when instructing spiders not to do something.  e.g. noindex, nofollow.

The ‘revisit-after’ tag is also pointless, as the search engine spiders follow entirely their own timetable.

Other commonly used meta tags, including any that you might create yourself, should only be used if they serve some purpose.  In truth, it’s rare that they serve any real purpose, and they don’t improve anything from an SEO perspective.  Actually, most pages benefit from having the superfluous meta tags removed, and reducing the footprint of the page.

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Some of the SEO companies I’ve heard from claim to have a “special relationship” with Google, or “work closely” with Google.  How can I find out which SEO companies have the ear of Google?

Quite simply, there are no SEO companies anywhere that have any kind of relationship with Google at all.  Google don’t work closely with, or divulge any special secrets to, or give special attention to any SEO companies on the planet.  Any telemarketer or SEO company salesperson that tells you they have such a relationship, isn’t being honest with you.  You should think twice before dealing with such companies.

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Some budget hosting companies offer exceptionally cheap hosting.  Does it make any difference to my ranking who hosts my website?

In essence, no it doesn’t matter who hosts your website, so long as your website can be easily and readily accessed.

However, if you use a low budget hosting company, you might be surprised to find out the location of the server hosting your website.  It might not be in the country your hoping to attract traffic from?  For example, if you have a plumbing and heating company in London, but your website is hosted in Dallas, Texas, it’s unlikely that your really going to get the traffic you were ideally hoping for.  So, you should always check the location of the server your website will be hosted on.

You may also want to consider how many other websites will be hosted on the same IP address (same server) your website is on?  Some of the budget hosting companies make a profit by running staggeringly high numbers of websites on each server.  Perhaps as many as 10,000 per server.  Technically that might not be a problem if the hardware is capable of running all those sites, but can you be sure that your site is in a good neighbourhood?  Typically, none of the sites on the servers will be monitored.  If some of them are dubious in some way, or under an active penalty of some kind, your own website could end up suffering too.

When it comes to hosting, better to spend at least a reasonable amount of money with a company you know and trust.  If it’s a business website, you should get business class hosting and support.  For a hobby or family website, it might not be so important.

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I’ve been told that because the search engine algorithms are constantly being tweaked and updated, that my pages will also need constant attention to make sure they stay optimised.  Most SEO companies I’ve spoken to say thats why they charge a monthly fee as well as the initial fee, because they will tweak my pages every month when they detect algorithm changes.  Is this all true?

The purpose of SEO is to prepare the pages of a site for the search engines, such that they can be easily indexed and stand a good chance of appearing well in search results.  This involves a number of things, including (but not limited to) checking the page titles, meta description, the meta tags, alt tags, sitemap, and the body content itself.  Having done all this, and having written good keyword rich copy content for the pages, the SEO task is complete.  The focus of each page has been made clear, and includes a good selection of related key phrases in the copy.  Both the title tags, and the meta descriptions reflect the content of the pages on which they appear.

Once we’re happy that our pages are as good as they can be, and that they are ready not only for our users, but also for the search engines; we publish them and wait to be indexed by Google, Yahoo, MSN, etc.  With a spot of luck, we find that our pages begin appearing in the search results for lots of related searches quite quickly, and our website traffic increases.  We see an increase in business, and we order that Aston Martin we’ve wanted for some time.

One month goes by, or maybe two, by which time you must assume that the Google algorithm must have been tweaked and updated a number of times.  Perhaps your pages are now doing better for some search terms than others, and you wonder if you should now go through the SEO process again for your pages?

Well, surely you have to ask yourself if the focus of your pages have changed?  Or are people now using different words or phrases when searching for what your website discusses?  Are your pages less search engine friendly?  Do the meta tags and titles no longer accurately describe the content of the pages they are on?  Can your pages still be easily and readily indexed?  Basically, do your pages need to be tweaked in any way at all?  99 times out 100, the answer is “No they don’t!”.

If the SEO task has been done correctly, and the pages contain well written, grammatically correct, copy that is keyword rich, what on earth would you do to tweak them?  There’s nothing wrong with them and they need no attention whatsoever.  If you were to make any changes, you might find that instead of increasing your website traffic, you actually cause it to fall.

It is true that the search engines like new and regularly updated page content.  They don’t, however, have any interest in pages that are changed purely for change sake.  If the information or message of the page is the same, but you keep rearranging the words on the page, you’re not only wasting your time but you could well be causing more harm than good.  The new content the search engines are looking for, is just that.  New Content.  That usually means adding new pages of content to your site, perhaps through a blog or news articles, etc.

Any SEO company that claims they will be making regular updates to your website in order to maintain high rankings after algorithm updates in order to justify your monthly fee, is assuming you don’t understand anything about search engine optimisation.

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I’ve debated whether it’s best to use <b>BOLD</b> tags, or <strong>STRONG</strong> tags in my copy.  Does Google favour one over the other when it comes to SEO?

On the face of it, this might seem like a silly question.  Surely it doesn’t matter?

The truth is that strictly speaking, Google does favour the <b>BOLD</b> tags.  However, it’s so slight that it probably isn’t worth revisiting any of your copy to change from one to the other.  If your writing new copy, you might be happy to know that yes it does make a difference, but again probably not enough of a difference that it should influence how you create your copy or markup.

What is important is to consider your users, the ones you hope will read and appreciate your content.  Some webmasters, when considering SEO, go to great pains to carefully choose when and where to use italics, underline, bold, etc., but it makes such a small difference that the effort would be better spent on improving the copy itself, if possible.  Over use, or even inappropriate use, of the formatting tags will make your page look confusing, and unprofessional.

When writing the copy of your site, don’t get bogged down in the markup, just write good content!

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When thinking about what I’m going to do to optimise my website to ensure it performs well on the search engines, it’s easy to forget about the fact that I’m building the website to attract users, and business.  Which is it more more important to optimise for; search engines or users?

The honest answer is that you should optimise your website for both search engines and for users.  If you don’t consider the search engines when creating your website, you run the risk of not performing well on the search engines which could mean a significant loss of traffic to your site.  On the other hand, if you optimise only for the search engines and don’t really consider your users, you may end up with a website that your users don’t like or appreciate meaning a loss of conversions.  i.e. Lost business and revenue.

The search engine optimisation process should involve taking a broader view of your website.  You need it to perform well on the search engines, but you also need it to generate sales and income, if its a commercial website.  So, ensure your website is as search engine friendly as possible, and also ensure its full of well written quality content for your users.  Failure in either area will result in lost opportunities.

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The homepage on my sight looks terrific, but has very limited text content on it.  It’s almost entirely images.  I don’t want to spoil my layout by adding visible text, but it occurred to me that I could hide some text behind an image, or make the font colour the same as the background colour, in order to give the search engines something to index and help my site ranking.  Will I be penalised for this?

The practice of hiding text content from users is known as cloaking, and will lead to your site being banned and removed from the search engines.

The search engine spider should always have the same view of your website that any user would see.  If you’ve designed your site such that it’s very heavy on images, but light on indexable text content, then you didn’t considered the search engines when you designed the website and you have a problem that you’ll need to address visibly.  Your site isn’t accessible.

Never be tempted to hide any content in order to achieve better search engine results.  Any attempt to manipulate the search results will result in severe penalties.  Think more carefully about both your users and the search engines when designing and planning your website.

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I’ve noticed that one of my competitors has created multiple copies of their website under different domain names.  Isn’t this spamming, and is there anything I can do about it?

Yes indeed, this is considered a form of spamming.

If you discover this form of misbehaviour as a result of a search engine results page, you should report the result to the search engine.  On Google, for example, you should Report a Spam Result and give details of the search you did and the results you were unhappy with.  When reporting spam of this type, stick to the facts without mentioning how and why you feel so upset.  There’s no point in telling Google that you feel your site is so much better than the spam site, or that you think their web designer must be colour blind.  It could well be true, but it’s irrelevant.

You should use the same spam report form to report anything you feel Google should be aware of, if you suspect they are not.

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Keyword density, and keyword weighting are terms I don’t really understand.  I’m also worried about keyword stuffing though, which I gather is over using my keywords.  How many times should my keywords appear on my page?

There are lots of buzz terms relating to formula’s for constructing a highly optimised page for a given search engine.  Moreover, the formula for each search engine is different.  Makes you wonder how on earth your supposed to build a web page that can rank highly on all search engines?

Well, as with most SEO myths, it’s all non-sense as usual.

Keyword density is the proportion of times your keyword appears in your content, compared to the total number of words on the page.  So for example, if your page has 1,000 words and your keyword appears 10 times, then your keyword density is 1%.  Most advice in this area suggests a keyword density of anything from 4% – 7%.

Keyword weighting relates to the position of the keywords in key areas of the page, and the number of words or letters used in the key areas, such as the title.  For example, keywords at the beginning of a short title, is better than keywords at the end of a long title.

Whilst there is of course some truth to all this, it’s no way to write copy for the pages of your website, and doesn’t take into consideration related keywords (Latent Semantic Indexing – LSI).  Before writing the copy for your pages you should:

  1. Determine the subject of the page, or piece of copy.  This will likely become your primary keyword or phrase.
  2. Establish a selection of related words and phrases that are likely to come up whenever anyone discusses your the topic of your page

Then, when writing your copy, make every attempt to include not only your primary keywords, but also all the related words.  This will improve your chances of appearing well not only for your primary keywords, but the related ones too.  You’ll also find that you’ve probably written a more interesting and readable piece of copy than if you were merely trying to achieve a balanced formula for keyword density and weighting.

What this all means is that you should be optimising your website firstly for your users, and then for the search engines.

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I’ve noticed that some websites get indexed by Google really quickly, but not others.  For example, on a forum website that I use, Google appears to index new posts within hours.  For other websites, it can take days, or even weeks for new content to get indexed.  Why is this?

It’s true that some websites are indexed by Google far more frequently than others.  In some cases, not just daily, but several times a day.

Some experts will tell you this is because of the number of inbound links the site has.  However, while this might be part of the answer, it’s only a small part of the answer.  The main reason it happens is because Google has become aware of how often the content on the website is being updated.

Googlebot, the Google crawler mechanism, is always hungry for new content.  Not just any old content, but good quality, unique, new content.  If it discovers a source which is continually being updated with good quality new content, then Googlebot will revisit the site looking for the new content more often than it will visit a site that doesn’t offer new content particularly often.

This doesn’t mean that you should immediately install a forum module into your website and let your website visitors go wild posting anything they like.  If you do operate a forum, you must be vigilant in moderating the posts from the users of the forum to ensure the quality of the new content being generated.

The key to success on Google, as always, comes down to offering top quality unique content, and lots of it.  The more new content you add, the more often Google will visit your website to index it.  Similarly, the more likely you are to have repeat website visitors, because your website will always be fresh and offering more and more interesting content for your it’s visitors.

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An SEO expert recently advised me to add images to the web pages on my website.  I assumed this advice was just to improve the look of my pages, or will the pages rank higher on Google if I add images to them?

There’s lots of free advice available for improving the placement or rank of your pages on Google.  Being advised to add images to a web page in order to improve it’s rank on Google might not seem like great advice at first sight.  However, it’s absolutely true.

Google is continually crawling the internet in an attempt to discover and index new content.  When it finds new content, it makes a determination as to the quality of that content.  It does this in a number of ways.  Google attempts to determine if the new content it’s discovered should be considerd spam; either in part, or completely.  It will determine factors that relate to the PageRank of the page based on where the page is published, how many inbound links it has, the pagerank of the pages linking to it, the number of outbound links on the page, the rating of the material content of the page, the location of the server the page is hosted on, and what other websites share that server, etc.  There’s a great many factors indeed that come in to play when Google indexes a page.

Putting aside all of the “off page” factors used to determine the rabnk of a page on Google, there are also a number of “on page” factors:

  • Does the page have a unique title?
  • Unique meta description?
  • Is the meta description appropriate to the content of the page?  Does it actually relate to the content thats on this page?
  • Unique list of meta keywords?  Do they specifically relate to the page?
  • Between the title, description, and keywords; how many of the words used can be found in the copy of the page?
  • Are any words on the page, or in the meta data overused?  (keyword stuffing)
  • If the language of the page is English, does the page use natural language?
  • Are there many spelling mistakes, or grammatical errors on the page?
  • Is the page well punctuated?
  • etc…

So, before Google even attempts to determine the subject matter of the page, a great many things are checked.  This is all to do with determining a quality factor for the page.

Google engineers, such as Matt Cutts, have told us many times what Google considers to be a quality page.  In simple terms, it will include:-

  • A unique title, description (and possibly meta keywords) that relate to the page
  • On the page there will be a <h1>…</h1> heading tag containing an appropriate title for the page that the users will be able to see and distinguish from the rest of the content.
  • There will not be any other heading tags at that level.  i.e. Only one <h1>…</h1> heading tag on the page.
  • A quality page will also include one or more 2nd level heading tags.  <h2>…</h2> so that the paragraphs of content are in clearly defined sections.
  • A quality page will have an introduction, a main body of content, and a summary or conclusion at the end.
  • The page may contain links to other relevant pages of interest on the same general topic as the page itself.
  • There will be no irrelevant outbound links on the page.
  • The content on the page will be unique, and not duplicated anywhere else on the site hosting the page, or elsewhere on the web.
  • Lastly, a quality page will include appropriate images, which will have alt tags that describe the content of the images.

Going back to the original advice, about images on web pages improving the rank of the page on Google?  If you are able to improve the perceived quality of any page beyond that of other pages that appearing in the search results on Google, then your page of higher quality and relevance will indeed appear closer to the top than the other lesser quality pages of the same or less relevance to the search.

I do hope that makes sense?

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