At the recent Conversion Leaders Summit on improving website performance, Danny Dover, an SEO specialist with SEOmoz.org, provided some fresh insight into search engine optimization.
One of the thought leaders in the space, his presentation covered a six-point checklist to help improve any website’s SEO.
Why does SEO matter?
SEO drives traffic to your website for free. The traffic-driving alternative is to buy pay-per-click ads. Organic SEO links—the actual search results generated by Google, Yahoo!, etc.—generate about 90 per cent of all clicks, while PPC ads only generate 10 per cent. When done correctly, SEO can create a lot of free traffic.
The higher your rank in a search engine’s results, the more traffic you’ll get. The number one position gets 42 per cent of the clicks. Number two falls to 11 per cent; number three gets 8 per cent; and finally, number 10 drops to 3 per cent. Clearly, you want to be in the top five because people don’t look much beyond that fifth result.
How does SEO work?
There are two primary consideration factors in SEO, popularity and relevancy.
Popularity in SEO means links. SEO experts suspect that links account for 75 per cent of the overall Google algorithm, making them extremely important. Google emphasises link profiles—where they come from, what the anchor text says, etc.—and you can optimise your link profiles by studying them, as well as those your competitors are using. Tools such as Yahoo! Site Explorer or SEOmoz Open Site Explorer will help you with this.
Relevancy translates to on-page optimization, which includes such things as keyword choice and where it’s located on the page. On-page optimization makes up 25 per cent of the Google algorithm. Here, the important things to look at are the URL, title tag, meta description, content, and images with Alt text. The title tags are probably the most important area, with the URL being second. Also, content helps build relevancy as well as popularity (gaining links).
Here is Danny’s SEO six-point checklist to improve your SEO:
1. Study the cached, text-only version of your site (and your competitors). Perform a Google search and select the “cached” option from the results page. Then select the “text-only version” from the cached page. The text-only version shows you what Google sees as important when trying to determine relevancy.
2. Avoid duplicate content. Search engines have a difficult time determining relevancy when they run into duplicate content, e.g., a website accessible from both http://www.company-name.com and http://company-name.com. It’s a common mistake, and it hurts SEO.
3. optimise your site’s global navigation. This is especially important on ecommerce sites. Make sure your categories and subcategories are well-implemented and are as close—from a click perspective—to the homepage server as possible. Search engines rely on this categorization; and every time they go down another level, another subcategory, they devalue that page.
4. Use a robots.txt file. This is the one file on your server that you can use to control the search engine and what it can and can’t see.
5. Submit a sitemap. The sitemap is an XML file you submit directly to the search engines. It’s a complete list of your website, and it’s easy for the search engines to parse. Basically, sitemaps help you get indexed, so they can make a dramatic difference.
6. Look at the links. Check out where your competitors are getting links with one of the tools mentioned earlier. By discovering where your competitors are getting links from, you can tailor your content and link building efforts to leverage their success.
If you’d like more information, you can view a 10 minute video of Danny’s presentation (by selecting ‘View SEOmoz presentation’), or see a replay of the entire webinar (by selecting ‘View entire presentation’), under The Conversion Leaders Summit here.
Charles Nicholls is founder and chief strategy officer of SeeWhy and author of “Lessons Learned from the Top 10 Converting Websites” which can be downloaded here. Contact Charles at [email protected], and follow the company on Twitter at @seewhyinc and Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/SeeWhyInc.
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