SEO Tutorial

SEO Tutorial

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the activity of optimizing web pages or whole sites in order to make them search engine friendly, thus getting higher positions in search results.
This tutorial explains simple SEO techniques to improve the visibility of your web pages for different search engines, especially for Google, Yahoo, and Bing.

Audience

This tutorial has been prepared for beginners to help them understand the simple but effective SEO characteristics.

Prerequisites

We assume you are aware of simple web technologies such as HTML, XHTML, Style Sheet, etc. If you already have developed any website, then it is an added advantage and it will help you understand the concepts of SEO explained in this tutorial.

SEO - What is SEO?

SEO - What is SEO?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. SEO is all about optimizing a website for search engines. SEO is a technique for:
  • designing and developing a website to rank well in search engine results.
  • improving the volume and quality of traffic to a website from search engines.
  • marketing by understanding how search algorithms work, and what human visitors might search.
SEO is a subset of search engine marketing. SEO is also referred as SEO copyrighting, because most of the techniques that are used to promote sites in search engines, deal with text.
If you plan to do some basic SEO, it is essential that you understand how search engines work.

How Search Engine Works?

Search engines perform several activities in order to deliver search results.
  • Crawling - Process of fetching all the web pages linked to a website. This task is performed by a software, called a crawler or a spider (or Googlebot, in case of Google).
  • Indexing - Process of creating index for all the fetched web pages and keeping them into a giant database from where it can later be retrieved. Essentially, the process of indexing is identifying the words and expressions that best describe the page and assigning the page to particular keywords.
  • Processing - When a search request comes, the search engine processes it, i.e. it compares the search string in the search request with the indexed pages in the database.
  • Calculating Relevancy - It is likely that more than one page contains the search string, so the search engine starts calculating the relevancy of each of the pages in its index to the search string.
  • Retrieving Results - The last step in search engine activities is retrieving the best matched results. Basically, it is nothing more than simply displaying them in the browser.
Search engines such as Google and Yahoo! often update their relevancy algorithm dozens of times per month. When you see changes in your rankings it is due to an algorithmic shift or something else outside of your control.
Although the basic principle of operation of all search engines is the same, the minor differences between their relevancy algorithms lead to major changes in results relevancy.

What is SEO Copywriting?

SEO Copywriting is the technique of writing viewable text on a web page in such a way that it reads well for the surfer, and also targets specific search terms. Its purpose is to rank highly in the search engines for the targeted search terms.
Along with viewable text, SEO copywriting usually optimizes other on-page elements for the targeted search terms. These include the Title, Description, Keywords tags, headings, and alternative text.
The idea behind SEO copywriting is that search engines want genuine content pages and not additional pages often called "doorway pages" that are created for the sole purpose of achieving high rankings.

What is Search Engine Rank?

When you search any keyword using a search engine, it displays thousands of results found in its database. A page ranking is measured by the position of web pages displayed in the search engine results. If a search engine is putting your web page on the first position, then your web page rank will be number 1 and it will be assumed as the page with the highest rank.
SEO is the process of designing and developing a website to attain a high rank in search engine results.

What is On-Page and Off-page SEO?

Conceptually, there are two ways of optimization:
  • On-Page SEO - It includes providing good content, good keywords selection, putting keywords on correct places, giving appropriate title to every page, etc.
  • Off-Page SEO - It includes link building, increasing link popularity by submitting open directories, search engines, link exchange, etc.

SEO - Tactics & Methods

SEO - Tactics & Methods

SEO techniques are classified into two broad categories:
  • White Hat SEO - Techniques that search engines recommend as part of a good design.
  • Black Hat SEO - Techniques that search engines do not approve and attempt to minimize the effect of. These techniques are also known as spamdexing.

White Hat SEO

An SEO tactic is considered as White Hat if it has the following features:
  • It conforms to the search engine's guidelines.
  • It does not involve in any deception.
  • It ensures that the content a search engine indexes, and subsequently ranks, is the same content a user will see.
  • It ensures that a web page content should have been created for the users and not just for the search engines.
  • It ensures good quality of the web pages.
  • It ensures availability of useful content on the web pages.
Always follow a White Hat SEO tactic and do not try to fool your site visitors. Be honest and you will definitely get something more.

Black Hat or Spamdexing

An SEO tactic, is considered as Black Hat or Spamdexing if it has the following features:
  • Attempting ranking improvements that are disapproved by the search engines and/or involve deception.
  • Redirecting users from a page that is built for search engines to one that is more human friendly.
  • Redirecting users to a page that was different from the page the search engine ranked.
  • Serving one version of a page to search engine spiders/bots and another version to human visitors. This is called Cloaking SEO tactic.
  • Using hidden or invisible text or with the page background color, using a tiny font size or hiding them within the HTML code such as "no frame" sections.
  • Repeating keywords in the metatags, and using keywords that are unrelated to the website content. This is called metatag stuffing.
  • Calculated placement of keywords within a page to raise the keyword count, variety, and density of the page. This is called keyword stuffing.
  • Creating low-quality web pages that contain very little content but are instead stuffed with very similar keywords and phrases. These pages are called Doorway or Gateway Pages.
  • Mirror websites by hosting multiple websites - all with conceptually similar content but using different URLs.
  • Creating a rogue copy of a popular website which shows contents similar to the original to a web crawler, but redirects web surfers to unrelated or malicious websites. This is called page hijacking.
Always stay away from any of the above Black Hat tactics to improve the rank of your site. Search engines are smart enough to identify all the above properties of your site and ultimately you are not going to get anything.

SEO - Web Site Domain

SEO - Web Site Domain

When you start thinking of doing a business through internet, the first thing that you think about is your website domain name. Before you choose a domain name, you should consider the following:
  • Who would be your target audience?
  • What you intend to sell to them. Is it a tangible item or just text content?
  • What will make your business idea unique or different from everything else that is already avilable in the market?
Many people think it is important to have keywords in a domain. Keywords in the domain name are usually important, but it usually can be done while keeping the domain name short, memorable, and free of hyphens.
Using keywords in your domain name gives you a strong competitive advantage over your competitors. Having your keywords in your domain name can increase click-through-rates on search engine listings and paid ads as well as make it easier to use your keywords in get keyword rich descriptive inbound links.
Avoid buying long and confusing domain names. Many people separate the words in their domain names using either dashes or hyphens. In the past, the domain name itself was a significant ranking factor but now search engines have advanced features and it is not a very significant factor anymore.
Keep two to three words in your domain name that will be easy to memorize. Some of the most notable websites do a great job of branding by creating their own word. Few examples are eBay, Yahoo!, Expedia, Slashdot, Fark, Wikipedia, Google, etc.
You should be able to say it over the telephone once, and the other person should know how to spell it, and they should be able to guess what you sell.

Guru Mantra

Finally, you should be able to answer the following questions:
  • Why do you want to build your website?
  • Why should people buy off your site and not from other site?
  • What makes you different from others?
  • Who are your target audience and what do you intend to sell?
  • List 5 to 10 websites that you think are amazing. Now think why they are amazing.
  • Create 5 different domain names. Make at least 1 of them funny. Tell them to half a dozen people and see which ones are the most memorable. You will get more honest feedback if the people do not know you well.
  • Buy your domain name that is catchy, memorable, and relevant to your business.

SEO - Relevant Filenames

SEO - Relevant Filenames

One of the simplest methods to improve your search engine optimization is to look at the way you name your files. Before writing this tutorial, we did a lot of research on file-names and found that search engines like Google give too much importance to file names. You should think what you want put in your web page and then give a relevant file name to this page.
Just try giving any keyword in Google search engine and you will find file names highlighted with the keyword you have given. It proves that your file name should have appropriate keywords.

File Naming Style

  • The filename should preferably be short and descriptive.
  • It is always good to use same keywords in a filename as well as in page title.
  • Do not use filenames such as service.htm or job.htm as they are generic. Use actual service name in your file name such as computer-repairing.htm.
  • Do not use more than 3-4 words in file names.
  • Separate the keywords with hyphens rather than underscores.
  • Try to use 2 keywords if possible.

File Name Example

Listed below are some filenames which would be ideal from the users' point of view as well as SEO.
slazenger-brand-balls.html
wimbledon-brand-balls.html
wilson-brand-balls.html
Notice that the keywords are separated by hyphens rather than underscores. Google sees good filenames as follows:
seo-relevant-filename as seo relevant filename(good)
Filenames with underscores are not a good option.
seo_relevant_filename as seorelevantfilename (not good)

File Extension

You should notice that .html, .htm, .php and any other extension do NOTHING for your visitors, and they are simply a means of offloading some of the work of configuring your webserver properly onto your visitor's. In effect, you are asking your site visitors to tell your webserver HOW to produce the page, not which one?
Many Web masters think that it is a good idea to use filename without using extension. It may help you, but not a whole lot.

URL Sub-Directory Name

From Search Engine Optimization point of view, URL sub-directory name hardly matters. You can try giving any keyword in any search, and you will not find any sub-directory name matching with your keywords. But from the user's point of view, you should keep an abbreviated sub-directory name.

Guru Mantra

Keep the following points in mind before naming your files:
  • Keep the web page filename short, simple, descriptive, and relevant to the page content.
  • Try to use a maximum of 3-4 keywords in your filename, and these keywords should appear on your web page title as well.
  • Separate all keywords with hyphen rather than with underscore.
  • Keep your sub-directories name as short as possible.
  • Restrict the file size to less than 101K because Google chops almost everything above that.

SEO - Design & Layout

SEO - Design & Layout

The website design and layout gives the first impression about your site. There are sites which are too fancy and regular net surfers just reach those sites and come out even without creating a single click.
Search engines are very smart but after all, they are software and not human being, who can read the content of their interest. If you make your site too complicated, then the search engine would not be able to parse the content of your site properly, and finally indexing would not be efficient, which results in a low rank.
The actual page content should have a keyword density of about 10% and should weigh in at about 200 words - but there are as many opinions about this as there are SEO experts. Some say, keyword density should be 5% and some say it should be 20%. You can go with 10% which is good enough.
Here are a few guidelines that you should keep in mind while designing a web page.
  • You should have more text content than HTML elements.
  • No frames. They are the enemies of search engines, and search engines are enemies of frames.
  • No ads if possible. Because most of the ads use Java-Script which is not advised to be used.
  • No JavaScript. If you need JavaScript, call it from an external file rather than dumping the code in the HTML file. JavaScript drop-down menus prevent spiders from crawling beyond your homepage. If you use them, be sure to include text links at the bottom of the page.
  • Do not put anything in the page topic that does not fit perfectly.
  • No unnecessary directories. Keep your files as close to the root as possible.
  • No fancy stuff (Flash, Splash, Animated Gifs, Rollovers, etc.) unless absolutely necessary.

SEO - Optimized Keywords

SEO - Optimized Keywords

A keyword is a term that is used to match with the query a person enters into a search engine to find specific information. Most people enter search phrases that consist of two to five words. Such phrases may be called search phrases, keyword phrases, query phrases, or just keywords. Good keyword phrases are specific and descriptive.
The following concepts related to keywords, help in optimizing the keywords on a web page.

Keyword Frequency

This is calculated as how often does a keyword appear in a website title or description. You do not want to go overboard with frequency, however, since on some engines if you repeat a word too many times, you are be penalized for "spamming" or keyword stuffing.
In general though, repeat your keyword in the document as many times as you can get away with, and up to 3-7 times in your list of metatags.

Keyword Weight

It refers to the number of keywords appearing on your web page compared to the total number of words appearing on that same page. Some search engines consider this while determining the rank of your website for a particular keyword search.
One technique that often works well is to create some smaller pages, generally just a paragraph long that emphasizes a particular keyword. By keeping the overall number of words to a minimum, you can increase the "weight" of the keyword you are emphasizing.

Keyword Proximity

It refers to the placement of keywords on a web page in relation to each other or, in some cases, in relation to other words with a similar meaning as the queried keyword.
For search engines, that grade a keyword match by keyword proximity, the connected phrase home loans will outrank a citation that mentions home mortgage loans assuming that you are searching only for the phrase "home loans".

Keyword Prominence

It is a measure of how early or high up on a page, the keywords are found. Having keywords in the first heading and in the first paragraph (first 20 words or so) on a page are best.

Keyword Placement

Where your keywords are placed on a page is very important. For example, in most engines, placing the keywords in the Title of the page, or in the Heading tags will give it more relevancy. On some engines, placing keywords in the link text, the part that is underlined on the screen in a browser, can add more relevancy to those words.

Best Places to Put Keywords

Here is a list of places where you should try to use your main keywords.
  • Keywords in the <title> tag(s).
  • Keywords in the <meta name="description">.
  • Keywords in the <meta name="keyword">.
  • Keywords in <h1> or other headline tags.
  • Keywords in the <a href="http://yourcompany.com">keywords</a> link tags.
  • Keywords in the body copy.
  • Keywords in alt tags.
  • Keywords in <!-- insert comments here> comments tags.
  • Keywords in the URL or website address.

Finding Keywords

There are many different ways to find keywords for your website. Some good keyword ideas are:
  • The potential words, people would use to find your product or service.
  • The problems that your prospective customers may try to solve with your product or service.
  • Keyword tags on competitor's websites.
  • Visible page copy on competitor's websites.
  • Related search suggestions on top search engines.
  • Using an online tool such as Google Keyword Tool
  • By analyzing your website carefully and finding out proper keywords. This task can be done by expert SEO copywriters.
  • Pay attention to stemming for your keywords - particularly to what the root word is and what Google considers to be a match for that word, when optimizing pages over time.
  • You can do brainstorming to identify correct keywords for your site.

What is Word Stemming?

Google uses a feature called word stemming that allows all forms of the word - singular, plural, verb form as well as similar words to be returned for a given search query.
So if someone types in "house plans", not only the pages that are optimized for that phrase but the pages that contain all variations of that phrase are returned. For example, "house plan", "house planning", "house planner".
Hope you have some understanding on keywords and you also know how to identify them and where to use them. The next chapter explains how to optimize metatags for better results.