Posts Tagged ‘SEO’

IP Address could effect SEO and ranking!

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

Whenever you listen to self proclaimed “SEO guru’s” waxing lyrically about SEO, they are always talking about onsite and offsite SEO. The conversation gets sprinkled with acronyms  (I’m sure half of which are designed to confuse) and they focus on the fact that onsite SEO is the first step in Search Engine Optimisation.

How is this wrong?

The server that your site is hosted on has more influence on your sites performance than you would initially think. There are a

number of items which need to be checked to ensure that you are getting not only the best value for money, but that it is the best hosting solution to ensure that your site is able to rank well within the search engine results pages (SERPS – see how I threw in that acronym?)

IP Address

When you host your site you need to check if you are on a dedicated IP or a shared IP. The IP address is :

a numerical label that is assigned to devices participating in a computer network that uses the Internet Protocol for communication between its nodes.

and will look something like : 196.55.562.1

The important thing here is to make sure that you are not sharing your IP with any “bad neighbors”. Bad neighbors can be defined as any website that is practicing black hat SEO techniques, is a porn site or a gambling site.

These sites are not valued by search engine robots and spiders and when you share your IP with them, your site could be penalised at the same time. The best thing to do would be to do a reverse IP look up to see who your neighbors are. A great tool for doing this is

Mummy Maze.

The next step would be to make sure that your IP address has not been listed as spam; a great way to do this is by doing a Blacklist Check.  This will help you in working out if your IP address has ever been used for shady doings.

While there is no definitive answer at the moment from anyone at Google or the other search engines; it is not advised that you share your IP with too many different websites. The smaller the neighborhood the better seems to be the general feeling. What’s more if you can arrange it so that the websites you share your IP address with are all similar in terms of the category they fall into, then even better.

Where to host?

Again there has been no definitive answer to the theory that you should host in the country where you intend to do business; but it is the generally accepted norm as far as SEO goes. This line of thinking does make a lot of sense; especially when you think back to neighborhoods : you don’t necessarily want to be sharing your neighborhood with sites that are all in the UK and you are trying to do business in Australia. Although as I said, that is all still up for public debate.

A basic guide for how to build a Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) friendly website

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

Points to remember for developers and designers

I would like to start with the very basics of SEO.  What is SEO first of all?

SEO is a process and often a guarded method of listing/improving the visibility and ranking of a website in search engines (such as Google, Bing, Yahoo and many others) and in-turn attracting more visitors. SEO can also be described as the activity of optimizing a website to make it more search engine friendly, and getting higher positions in search results.

Now that we have a better understanding of what SEO is I will continue with the first basic SEO methods and tips for when you are building a website.

Basic SEO steps to remember when you build a website:

<HEAD> section:

  • Add a <title> tag in your header section. Make sure that the title tag contains your most dense keywords from the particular page that you are working on.  Do not make the title too long. Eg: <title>Pet Zone | dogs | cats | pet food | pet shop</title> Do not use more that 3 or 4 keywords. You don’t count the main name as a keyword in this case Pet Zone. However the name can be used in the title tag. Do not use any punctuation such as apostrophes. Each page should have a unique name and title. The length of the title tag should not be more than 66 characters.
  • Add a Meta Description in the header with a brief description about that particular page. This should not be more than 160 characters
  • · Add a Meta Robots tag (<meta content="index, follow">) “index” is telling Google that it is allowed to index this page and “follow” is telling Google to follow all links on this page. This is the standard. This is automatically created in CMS systems.
  • Add a Meta Content-type tag (<meta http-equiv=”Content-Type” content=”text/html; charset=UTF-8″ />) which informs Google of the specific character encoding you will be using on the page. UTF-8 is the generally accepted content-type for SEO. This is automatically created in CMS systems.

<BODY> section:

  • Keep the copy (content) on the page between 300 and 500 words.
  • Ensure you use the keywords you are trying to emphasis throughout the copy and in some instances make use of the bold and underline attributes for those keywords.
  • Keep your title tag (<title>), page name (URI) and your header 1 (<h1>) the same – this gives Google a clear understanding of what you are trying to promote on the page.
    Eg: If the file name is “food-for-pets.html” then your header tag as well as the title tag should be “Food for pets”. This is the general rule, slight variations are accepted.
  • Along with the previous point, you should name your images in-line with the topic of the page.
    Eg: Image name “food-for-pets.jpg” (Do not use any uppercase text in your title).
  • Include at least one image on each page that will be used on the website that you are building and always make sure that the alt tag and a title tag for the image has a short description of the image (1 – 3 words). Also include the image dimensions in the image tag.
  • Use footer navigation.  Add a link to each of your main pages in your footer.

General SEO steps to remember when you build a website

  • Add bread crumbs to each page.
    Eg. Pet food – dog food – dry dog food (create a hyperlink to each relevant page).
  • Create social media links. Eg: Links to Facebook, Twitter or any other social media accounts.
  • Make internal links. If you make reference to information that is elsewhere on your site, make a link to that information.
  • Make sure your HTML and CSS code validates! Use http://validator.w3.org/ for this.

Tips for Developers

  • When possible (and only in HTML built websites (not CMS)) make sure you include all header tag data in one PHP include file. This makes SEO maintenance and future changes simple and efficient. The same can be done with many other elements of the site such as the footer section. This keeps all the data in a central location and makes life easier for everyone.
  • Make sure your CSS code is in a CSS file and not coded into your page directly.
  • Avoid building or using frames as search engines do not pick up frames.
  • Do not be shy to use Header tags (h1 to h3) h1 being your most important heading.
  • Always make sure you added a very short description to alt tags (Images and Links)
  • Make sure your internal and external links are working.
  • If the site is for a service or company, add the company location on Google Maps.
  • Try keeping all JavaScript code and files (.js) in ONE file. This drastically improves page load speed therefore increasing the SEO health of the website.
  • Try keeping all CSS in one file for the same reason mentioned above.

Tips for Designers

  • Although Google is attempting to read flash files, avoid using flash menu’s if possible. (http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2008/06/improved-flash-indexing.html)
  • Make sure there is always at least one Call-to-action on the page.
  • Images for the website needs to be a small and compressed as possible without the loss of quality.
  • Anchor text: Please do not use “click here” or anything similar as links on the page. This emphasizes that the words “click here” are words we would like to rank for. Make sure you use descriptive links throughout the design.
  • The logo of the website needs to be a link that points back to the home page. This is a generally understood standard.

search engine movements : new and old

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

It looks like the Search Engine battles and shake ups are never going to end. Earlier this week Ask announced that they were no longer going to be competing in the search engine market as they saw Google as being market leaders controlling the majority of the market and (Im guessing) they were not too keen on reinacting the David & Goliath story.

Rise up Blekko

As one falls though, another rises to takes its place. The latest search engine on the block is one called blekko. Now while they are definitely no Google; they are certainly putting a few interesting search query parameters to the table.

One of these is their “slashtags”; which appear to be ways of profiling your search queries. These slashtags can be created by users and then saved for future searches. Essentially its exacltly like a list in Twitter.

Other than this small “feature” their user GUI is very traditionally Google (if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it). What they currently don’t have is additional refined searches like image search, news, blogs and news.

What is painfully missing from the search results is a form of paid advertising. Whether this means that they are hoping to gain some traction before unleashing their advertising model on their users; or if they are not sure if monetising their site is right at the moment(sounds a lot like “the social network” that).

Google review

Whatever the case is; this will be an interesting search engine to keep an eye on. I’m under no illusions that they are going to topple the mightly Google; but competition is always healthy.

Interesting to watch though while we are back on familiar ground is the rumours starting to slowly turn around the rumour mill that Google may “influence” the search results when it is a Google property that needs to rank.

Or is this just the talk of disgruntled SEO “gurus” who can’t get it right or perhaps even other search engines trying to tarnish a still superior reputation?!

Only time will tell what will happen – but this is one we will be watching very closely!

Bounce rate : 4 sure-fire ways to improve it

Monday, October 4th, 2010

The bounce rate of a website is a metric that displays the amount of visitors that entered your site, viewed only one page and then left. In basic terms, its a representation of how many people didnt find what they were looking for on your site. Your bounce rate is directly linked to a number of aspects of your website and as  an online marketing professional, I come across a number of websites with bounce rates ranging from 1% to around 77%. And yes, it is possible to have a website with such a low bounce rate. Follow the below steps to not only improve your bounce rate, but to also improve the overall quality of your website.

Copy

You’ve heard this before but copy is king. As cliche as that statement is, its true. Your copy needs to highlight valuable points of interest to your visitor. If the copy is rubbish or spammy, the visitor will leave. Although most of your visitors wont spend too much time reading your content, making the important points bold and in some cases underlined will definitely catch the visitors attention and give them a clear understanding of what you are trying to portray. If you are using WordPress for your website, making use of Talooma’s Copy Compass plugin will help streamline and optimise your copy.

Site Design

Site design can have a massive impact on your bounce rate. Personally, if I’m searching for something and land up on a website that looks like it was built in the Roman era, I leave almost immediately without even reading the copy on the page. Ensure your site design is modern, easy on the eyes and displays information neatly without any advertisements (especially the page on which you are trying to convert users into sales or leads).

Call to actions

A call to action is a phrase, image or link that directs visitors to act in the manner you would want. Many websites fall short on catchy call to actions and therefore leave the visitor either trying to find the link that gets them to the next level, or leaves them in the dark as what to do next. This can have a drastic impact on your bounce rate.  Take a look at some of these CTA’s to get some idea’s for your site.

Basic Landing Page Optimisation
Google Website Optimiser
Testing different variations of certain key elements on your page may be a good way to identify problem areas on your site. For example, your header tag of your page may be throwing people off. Running the same page with different variations of these key elements is not a difficult task. I suggest making use of Google’s Website Optimiser tool to run these experiments.

In short the bounce rate of your website is one of the more crucial or critical metrics to keep an eye on. But do not only pay attention to bounce rates in isolation as certain pages especially well optimised pages (with call to actions that don’t lead away from the page) will have an acceptably high bounce rate.

Landing Page Optimisation (LPO) for Beginners

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

Landing Page Optimisation

One of the most critical factors in determining how many of your visitors will convert into sales or leads depends on the design and layout of your page and site as a whole. Without a well planned and thought out structure, you may as well throw your money down the drain. Landing Page Optimisation or LPO is a procedure within Search Engine Optimisation that aims at increasing conversions by analysing  and modifying existing key pages.

Relevant Content

Make sure that the link that the user clicked to get to the page is directly relevant to the content that is on the landing page. In other words, if your link is “Mozambique Honeymoon Specials”, make sure that you have got Mozambique Honeymoon specials on that page. Try keep word count on the page below to below three hundred as you don’t want the user to worry about what he/she is missing if they are going to skip reading the content.

Highlight important phrases and words

As many of the users will only scan the content on the page you need to make sure that certain keywords and phrases stand out from the rest of the words.

“Call to actions”

Once your user lands on the page, your goal is to convert the user into a potential sale or lead. By adding “call to actions” you are allowing the user to accomplish this. Make sure your call to actions stand out from everything else. Ensure using bright colours and enticing copy to attract the user to fill out the form or click the link.

Keep it simple

You want your user to instinctively know what to do next on the page. Keeping everything simple and minimalistic is the best way to avoid making the visitor think about what to do next.  Removing the navigation links (except the home link) will ensure you stop the user from wandering off. Make sure you remove other advertisements, distracting images and irrelevant text from the landing page.

Test, test and test again.

Create different versions of your landing page (eg. product.html, product1.html, product2.html) and run these through Google’s Website Optimizer. This will enable you to further optimize your landing pages by identifying which version of the page is converting more visitors. Once you have identified a version that is performing the best, start the whole process again. Landing page optimisation is all about experimenting with and analysing how users interact with your landing pages.

An introduction into LSI – Latent Semantic Indexing

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

By definition LSI is an indexing and retrieval method that makes use of a certain mathematical technique known as the Singular Value Decomposition.

The theory behind LSI, however, is not of importance to us. All we need to know is how LSI works. LSI considers other, somewhat related , words on your site with regards to ranking. In other words, excuse the pun, words taken from sites considered to be “authority sites” are set aside in a database that Google references when determining how to rank that page on your site.


Hints and Tips for using LSI to your advantage

Firstly you need to work out what your hot topic words are.

You can do this using Quintura (www.quintura.com), Adwords broad-match keyword matching, Google’s new Wonder Wheel, use the Google Synonym Tool, or watch some of the little-known Google Tech Talks where they show their internal related keyword generator being used.

Once you have determined you hot topic words, you see how to rearrange your copy to have more mentions of the hot topic words closer to the beginning of the copy and how to mention them more than once without overdoing it.

Another tip would be to create a separate page for each of the hot topic words and link to and form the internally and within your page text. A perfect example of this can be found on the DiscoverSEO site (www.discoverseo.co.za), where services are listed and then hyperlinked to the page focusing on that service.

Building links another way to build page rank through social bookmarking and manual link submission.

Checking the page rank of your website pages regularly is also important for you to monitor the progress of the SEO work you do on your site and to make the necessary adjustments accordingly.

That is the long and the short of LSI. All the best!

For more information on how DiscoverSEO can assist your business in extracting maximum value out of your web solution, contact us TODAY – (011) 807 6149 or visit DiscoverSEO – www.discoverseo.co.za

SEO department qualifies as Google Advertising Professionals

Monday, October 26th, 2009

JD Internet Consulting and DiscoverSEO are proud to announce their latest achievement attained by the SEO department.

Over the past couple of weeks, the SEO department consisting of Jonathan Houston (Online Marketing Manager), Megan Trow (SEO Specialist) and Nick Duncan (SEO Specialist), have been hard at work preparing for the Google AdWords Professional Qualification by engaging in the online tutorials, group discussions and working with client accounts.

Recently, the team then completed the GAP exam individually online and qualified with the following results:

Jonothan Houston 92.27%
Nick Duncan 90.91%
Megan Trow 90.61%

Congratulations!

For more information on how JD Internet Consulting can assist your business in extracting maximum value out of your web solution, contact us TODAY – (011) 807 6149, business@jdconsulting.co.za or online at www.jdconsulting.co.za.

Canonical Links – Specifying duplicate pages

Monday, October 26th, 2009

If you don’t already know, duplicate content can have a hazardous effect on your SEO efforts, and we were lucky enough for Google to tell us about it in February this year. Google released an article hinting that you should specify your preferred version of your page(s). And when Google “hints” something, you’d be stupid not to make it a standard in your procedures! By using canonical links, you are telling Google which page is the “original” or “preferred” page, of a page that can have multiple variations that are identical or very similar.

What is a canonical link?

A canonical link is a <link> element specified in the <head> section of your duplicate page(s).

<link rel=”canonical” href=”http://www.example.com/products.php?prod=tyres” />

Give me an example!

If you have a page listing all the tyres you are selling, such as:

http://www.example.com/products.php?prod=tyres

and another page listing the same information, but sorted differently, such as:

http://www.example.com/products.php?prod=tyres&sortedby=brand

You would need to specify your preferred version of the URL on the duplicate page. Therefore, if you would like the first URL to be your preferred page, insert the canonical link pointing to that page into the duplicate page. When I mention the term “preferred page”, this indicates the page that you would want Google to list in the SERPs.

What most don’t understand.

This works perfectly well for the example mentioned above, but did you realise that even if you dont have an e-commerce site and you believe that you do not have any sort of duplicate content on your site. Chances are, you do! The URLs below are all different in the eyes of a Google bot.

http://www.example.co.za

http://example.co.za

http://www.example.co.za/

http://example.co.za/

http://www.example.co.za/index.html

http://example.co.za/index.html

And did you realise, your PageRank™ is probably being spread between some of them? This is due to the fact that others link to you differently. Its a given that you cannot control how others link back to your site, but you need to let Google know what your preferred URL is so they can transfer the properties accordingly. Inserting some code into your .htaccess file to accomplish this is a very good idea. You should also keep in mind not to have contradicting URLs in your sitemap.xml, and using Google Webmaster Tools to specify between “www” and “non www” is another must do.

Conclusion

Google is not the only search engine using this standard, Yahoo! and Bing have both incorporated this into their algorithms and you can read their press releases here and here. So in the hope of increasing the efficacy of your SEO knowledge, keep this listed at the top of your “SEO to do” list.

The Social Media Wave

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

Having just attended the 2nd Annual Social Media Conference in Johannesburg I thought it pertinent that I blogged about Social Media and how it is affecting people, business and marketers alike.

We have become a society fixated with immediate results and instant gratification…

The evolution of the internet itself has fueled a lot of this transformation in information consumption.

The first “version” of the internet was basically a directory and if you were listed there you were doing well… You spoke; and the masses had little choice but to listen.

Then the Internet changed and people were able to talk back… Conversations started between companies who were ready and willing to engage and their consumers who were more than ready to give them their thoughts…

The third “version” of the internet we find ourselves in at the moment is commonly referred to as the “social web” as it is no longer about 2 way communication between a website and a consumer, but the interaction of the consumers themselves about your company or product  where  most of the time you are not expressly invited to the conversation.

The beauty of social web though is that while you are not being engaged 1 on 1 with your consumers conversations, you are more than welcome, nay, encouraged to listen to what they are saying and then respond.

The key lessons there are ‘listen’ and  ‘respond’

Censoring and gagging your consumers who are talking about you – especially when it is bad – is possibly the worst thing that you could do for your brand. It shows that you are frightened about what the public generally thinks about you or that you are arrogant in believing that their thoughts are not worth listening to… Listening to your consumers, and more than that, offering them a platform on which to speak about their interactions with your organisation – both good and bad – is the first true step in understanding and utilizing social media to your advantage. Listen to them and learn from them.

Responding is the next and equally important lesson. When people are talking negatively about you it is far, far easier to simply ignore what they are saying and hope like hell that they are going to go away and the issue will be forgotten…

Not Going To Happen..!

As what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, similarly, what happens on the internet, Stays On The Internet…! The negative comments are not going to go away, they are not going to be forgotten and with the advancement of Search Engine Optimisation, and the stance that Search Engines are taking, user generated content, the same content that you are trying to ignore, the search engines are giving value to and are 9 times out of 10 ranking highly on prominent search engines.

Probably higher than your website itself…!

This means that you need to respond quickly and effectively to any negative and indeed, positive comments that are being made about you online.

social-media-converstion-flower-brian-solis1

Claiming ignorance is no longer an option as access into these conversations has never been easier and the information is readily available 24 hours a day, begging and pleading for your attention… And if you are not going to give it your attention, your competitor is and they are going to turn your unhappy customer into their happy customer!

Combining these 2 very important aspects with a way to integrate your social media strategy with the rest of your marketing strategies is a guaranteed way to success, not only in avoiding alienating your current customers, but also in winning new ones.

The realm of social media is still a new and scary place to be, which is why many businesses and marketers are hesitant to get their hands dirty as they relinquish all control that they had by pushing messages one way, and have to succumb to the masses thoughts and opinions.

It is precisely this reason why we need to get involved in social media and be forever vigilant as to what is being said about us online and ensure that  we are adequately prepared to embrace the challenges and successes that social media brings.

Does your mobile site validate?

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

I have recently been developing mobi sites for some of our customers and after an immense number of hours researching, I have yet to find a South African mobi website that validates. Can someone point me in the right direction please?

Before we go any further, let’s define the term “Validation“:

1. To declare or make legally valid.
2. To mark with an indication of official sanction.
3. To establish the soundness of; corroborate.

After some time, I managed to validate the 2 mobi websites I have been busy with and to be honest, it was somewhat of a challenge. Rules and guidelines have been laid out by the W3C to ensure (or try to ensure) that websites (including mobi sites) keep to the best standards of practice. This ensures search engines can actually crawl your webpages and it maintains universal understanding between browsers and users. For more information on understanding the phrase “Validating a website” please refer to the first half of this wordpress post.

With mobile validation, your validation score is represented by a number, with the maximum being 100 at the top of the scale, and the opposite side can go into negatives. I have taken a look into some of the most well known SA mobi sites and can say that they do not score well at all, they range between -13 and 77.

Some common errors included the following:

  • Extraneous characters (whitespaces or comments),
  • The document does not validate against XHTML Basic 1.1 or MP 1.2,
  • The Table contains less than 2 tr elements,
  • Page weight errors,
  • Embedded external resources,
  • Nested tables,
  • Cache control,
  • Incorrect character encoding,
  • Incorrect Doctypes,
  • Broken links,
  • and the list goes on…

It is imperitive to source a web design/mobi design company that complies with the W3C standards. This will ultimately save you thousands in the long-run when you decide to hire a SEO company to market your site online.

For those of you that don’t know how to validate your site, visit the W3C Mobile Validator page to try yourself, but once you have pulled enough of your hair out, consider JD Consulting.

If anyone knows of any valid mobi sites, please send me the details.