What is Search Engine Optimization?
Search Engine Optimization or more commonly know by it’s acronym SEO, is the process of optimizing your site so that search engines like Google know exactly what is on your site, what topics you’re writing about and what keywords are present in a page. This allows the search engine to display your site as a result for people searching for topics and keywords most related to your articles.
In Laymans terms it’s making your site understandable for Google to analyze.
Google doesn’t employ thousands of workers to categorize every site on the internet, Google automatically ‘tries’ to figure out what your site is about through a mixture of sophisticated algorithms and feedback from search results. SEO is about trying to help Google figure this out by adjusting certain elements of your site to fit what Googles algorithms are looking for, of course SEO isn’t just about Google, but the general concept is the same.
Why do you need Search Engine Optimization?
In most cases you don’t really need SEO. Websites like Lazada get really heavy traffic even with really bad SEO .(Until recently the description for the Lazada page still points to Dafiti, a similar Rocket Internet site for shopping in Brazil).
Even sites like Zorro-unmasked get about 2,000 hits/day without breaking out the expensive SEO packages.
However, for sites like mine, that derive a whole load of traffic from Search Engines, SEO can be a effective way to increase web traffic, and help nudge you on your way to create an online community. Websites by Anwar Ibrahim, Najib Razak, Lee Chong Wei don’t need SEO because they already have star power to draw in the crowds. For the rest of us fighting for the scraps online, SEO can be helpful, but you need to be careful not to go overboard with the SEO–it’s good but not that good.
Never Optimize to deceive
There is however, one very strong caveat before we begin. Search Engines like Google work really hard to ensure that they deliver results to search queries that are relevant to the search, as long as you optimize your site for the search queries that are relevant to the content of your blog/website, then you and Google are on the same page.
If instead you’re trying to trick a bunch of people to come to your Porn site by optimizing for keywords like “Cheap Laptops and Handphones” sooner of later Google is going to figure you out and you’ll be banned.
You should always optimize your site only for search queries where the content on your site would be helpful. There was a blogger online, who wrote a blog post with the title “Nuffnang Buffered Earnings – RM7000 Lagi Bulan Ini“ only to explain within the post that he was merely dreaming of getting Rm7000/month. This of course didn’t sit well with a lot of people, particularly those searching for info on Nuffnang online, people would search for Nuffnang and see this title on the results, and figured they could look at a Nuffnang “Success story” only to be fooled by his dreaming. At the same time, he’d get at least 3 advert impression and cash in.
You should never do this, people don’t like being lied to, and Google doesn’t like being an agent of your deception.
Another misconception people have is that because content is free on the internet, you’re allowed to do these sorts of tricks online. It isn’t, people may not be spending money, but they’re spending their time to visit your site. Tricks like these only prove you don’t care about other peoples time.
Where to get real info on SEO
The SEO world is full of snake oil salesmen, who sometimes have no idea what they’re talking about. A lot of SEO sites online are just full of crap, charging upwards of Rm10,000 to guarantee results. Like all other guaranteed results, they should be avoided like the black plague.
So instead, I turned to Google to help me out with my SEO and I found a great Youtube Channel for GoogleWebmasters, this is Google telling you how best to Optimize your site so Google can search through it.
Now even in Malaysia we get lots of SEO packages that range anywhere from a few hundred to a 10’s of thousands. Even if you’re going to use an SEO consultant (they could be helpful), it’s good to at least visit the Google Youtube channel, find out what Google is saying and see if that resonates with what your SEO consultant is saying. If they don’t jive, it’s time to look elsewhere.
So synthesizing what I learnt from watching all those videos, I got this:
SEO Tip 1: Good Content
Good content meets 3 criteria.
It’s original: It hasn’t been published somewhere else before and not plagiarized.
It’s helpful: It will actually help someone do something, or change the way people think about something.
It’s written well: Good English always helps, keyword stuffing doesn’t.
The best benchmark for Good content is just trying to figure out if what you’ve written would be something you’d want to read. If it isn’t, re-work it.
SEO Tip 2: Urls help (but not much)
If you have a URL like www.cloudcomputingmalaysia.com, you’re more than likely to come up tops when anyone searches for “Cloud Computing Malaysia”, however because of this there’s a lot of people trying to capture the same market you’re competing for by naming their urls similar to yours. There’s nothing to stop someone from getting www.malaysiacloudcomputing.com and polluting your brand.
However, if you instead chose something like www.keithrozario.com/cloudcomputing/malaysia/article.html, that makes your site both brandable and url relevant.
So instead of using a date separator in wordpress, use a category separator. Unfortunately, my site has too many articles at this point for me to follow my own advice, and Google actually advises it only if you’re starting a new site, because while URLs help, they don’t help much. Changing my separator from date to category will cause some broken links, and at this point it may no longer be worth it for me.
However, if you’re starting a new blog, you might want to use that.
SEO Tip 3: The Title
The title of your post is of paramount importance, the Title is what search users will see on the Google Results. So you need to entice them at this point, to click on your page instead of someone elses.
Showing up on the results in one thing, but getting people to click on your page is something else altogether. You need something enticing, but at the same be clear enough so that Google knows when to display your page on searches.
SEO Tip 4: The Meta description tag
If you have a WordPress Blog, download the All in One SEO Pack to edit the description fields of all your post. Google picks up the description and either displays that in the search results or uses it to determine what topics the particular post is about.
The description tag is made even more important by the fact that the meta keywords is no longer looked at.
SEO Tip 5: Neglect the Meta Keywords tag
The Meta Keywords field is no longer looked at by Google. This was because in the early days people would stuff this field with thousands of keywords, almost all of which was not relevant to the site or it’s content. So Google and most search engines worth their salt would never use it anymore.
SEO Tip 6: Links
Getting people to link to your site help in raising your pagerank, but it’s really hard to get links. Trust me, I’ve been trying.
However, what you want to do in writing good content, is instead of linking with a link <here> phrase. You can just use “head on over to the Googlewebmasterhelp channel on youtube, and watch every video. It’s worth it.” This way the link appears as part of the text, and helps Google really determine what your site is about.
Using a descriptive anchor text for your links helps Google determine this.
SEO Tip 7: Meta Data for Images
If you include images in your post, it helps to spend some time writing the meta data of the images. This includes the file name and alt-text of your picture. The file name, is the actual name of the file, I admit sometimes I slack and paste the exact same filename as I downloaded from Flickr, but a better practice would be to rename the filename with something more descriptive. The alt-text is also a good place to spend some time describing what the image is about. In the old days, the alt-text was there primarily for slower connection speeds to view the alt-text before the image loaded, but these days Google uses it to figure what your image is about.
Google has no idea what a image is about, so providing it this information helps Google determine what the picture on your post is and how it complements your content. Remember Google is trying to display the most relevant results to people searching for stuff, so the more information you give it about what you site is about, the better, and that includes describing your images better.
SEO Tip 8: Forget Keyword Density
A lot of people seem to think there’s a magic formula for keyword density. There isn’t. Good content can have the keyword plastered all over the post, or just mention the keyword once.
Google practices the point of diminishing returns for this one, if you mention a keyword once, that’s good, twice slightly better…but if you begin keyword stuffing all over your site, Google will penalize you.
Remember Google has to contend with a lot of crappy sites out there, who try to drive traffic by deceiving Google,so Google always tries to stay one step ahead by trying to find out these guys who keyword stuff their site in the hopes of getting more traffic. If you put too many keywords on your site–Google will think you’re just a crappy site–and you aren’t.
SEO Tip 9: Use the right tools
If you SEO your site but don’t have the right feedback to determine what’s working and what isn’t. That’s bad.
So install tools like Google Analytics for your blog. Google analytics lets you see how often your blog has appeared for search terms, and how often people click on the link to your blog.
Also use the Google Webmaster tool, to get up to date information that Google wishes to send to Webmasters.
Also, if you’re on wordpress the All-in-One SEO Pack plugin is a must have.
SEO Tip 10: Focused
Writing One point per post, makes it easier to focus your post. Also it’s easier to SEO for just one point, then it is to SEO for 15 well-written points.
This also ties in with what people do online. People don’t search for 15 topics at once, they search for one item at a time, and the more focused your post is on addressing that one concern, the more likely you’re going to get clicked on.
Remember, writing a blog post and writing a book are two different things. Although, this post is already 1600 words, and I should really stop.
And so I will.
but not before I conclude.
SEO is an art not a science, so there are no guaranteed results. However, the one principle that never fails is that if you write good content–people will visit your site, and Google will actually work hard to ensure your results display accurately in the results. So before you begin to think that SEO is going to solve your problems, first get your content up and running and only after try the SEO bits.
Hope that helps.
OK, now I’ll stop.