DIY Search Engine Optimisation

Increase your page rank on Google and other search engines by reading the tips on this page.

  1. Understanding Jargon
  2. Selecting keywords
  3. Search google for your keywords as a starting point 
  4. Where to make SEO changes on your website
  5. Every page is different - this is important
  6. Incoming Links - Link Building
  7. Domain Name Considerations
  8. New Content / Refreshed Content
  9. Site maps and Webmaster Tools
  10. CMS Considerations
  11. Other things you might like to consider

Jargon

  • Keywords and Key phrases - This is the text someone might search for to find your website.
  • Google - The number 1 search engine worldwide. What's right for google is typically right for all search engines.
  • Meta Tags - This is a technical term for hidden text on your website that is designed for telling search engines about your page.
  • Meta Title - This is the text that is partially visible on your browser window title bar
  • Meta Keywords - Your keywords entered here, should also be used somewhere within the page. Commas optional.
  • Meta Description - A human readable description of your web page that may or may not be used in search results.
  • Page Heading - (or H1 Heading) - The page heading is normally the first human readable and largest heading on your page, at the top of your content, and beneath any graphical banners.
  • First Paragraph - The first paragraph is the first human readable paragraph of text on your page. Typically 1 to 3 sentences following your H1 page heading.
  • Link Text - This is the text that is underlined, that you might click to go to the destination link.
  • ALT Text - Hidden text behind an image that describes the image for an image search or for the blind.
  • URL - This is similar to a web address, except the URL is longer, and every page on your website has a unique URL so that search engines can point to a specific page.

Selecting the right keywords

  • Use some keyword selector tools to pick better words
  • Think about the product or service keywords that someone would enter in a search engine trying to find a business "like yours".
  • Consider the geographical word that someone might likely search for. Trades people would be searched by a suburb or town name. Where as a speciality food store, or small appliance store, might be searched by city, state or country name.
  • Consider all the synonyms and sub classifications. Eg, if you sell shoes, you need to specifically state that you also sell "footwear, sneakers, high heels, slippers and flip flops". You need to consider all permutations of your keywords and the sub classifications thereof.
  • Consider using misspelled and slang words on your page. Or perhaps on your page footers. The youth are notoriously bad spellers and the Internet and mobile phones have created lots of slang words and abbreviations. If you are targeting that audience, you might like to try using their language on your page. It's really that simple, google lets customers search for the words that are on your page, any words.
  • Consider using non plurals even when plurals might seem your first choice, but use both. All words with different suffixes do return different results.
  • Consider focusing on problems and symptoms. If your product or service is a solution to a problem, then it might be the ailment someone searches for, not the cure. This applies to other industry problems, not just health.
  • Review the keywords in your web statistics. It tells you want words are working for you, but not the ones that are not. However, it might give you some hints for better words.
  • Don't worry too much about your company name. If someone is searching for your business name, then they will likely find you. Just to be sure, you want your business name appearing more times on your web pages that any other website. So your business name should be listed on the bottom of every page in the copyright area.  
  • If one of your keywords is too generic or too competitive, don't worry. Try focusing on a niche market. In a small country you might provide a broad range of services, but internationally, you should target a niche. Better to be at the top of your niche, than half way down any other list.
  • Whatever keywords you do select, make sure you actually use them in your website content. Search engines might look smart, but they are not. They cannot see your pictures nor make word associations. So if you have pictures of shoes on your website, it doesn't hurt to state categorically that "we sell shoes".

 

Search Google for your Keywords as a Starting Point

  • Search for your keywords as the starting point for working out what you need to do.
  • Consider what a search engine does. It searches web pages for words that appear on those pages. That is important to remember, people too often believe there is something more magic going on.
  • Think of every key phrase is a different advertising space, like a TV channel or radio station. An advert on one results list or radio station is not heard on another. You need to rank well for each phrase individually. Just because you rank high for "wellington B&B" doesn't mean you rank well for "wellington accommodation"
  • Note your current position for each key phrase individually in a spreadsheet, you need to be found or improve from your current ranking. Take note of the competing listings on the page above you. What do you think they are doing that you are not?
  • The search results on the left hand side of the page are organic search results. The search results on the right of the screen (plus sometimes at the very top) are paid adverts called Adwords.
  • Good organic results can be achieved for free, however it takes time for your changes to be reflected in the search results, and takes even longer before you learn to make the right changes.
  • The blue/purple link text on google is exactly the same as the meta page title on each of your web pages and can be changed in the rename area of each page.
  • The black summary text is typically the first readable paragraph of text on your web page following the first main heading. (or the meta description) it all depends on what words were searched, and the location of those words on your page. 
  • The green text at the end of each search result is the URL to the web page. There is opportunity to increase both page rank and visitor conversion by getting your keywords into the filename part of page URLs, so that the filename looks relevant to the user.

 

Where to make SEO changes on your website

  • First of all, each page is different. Target each keyword phrase on a different page. More on that in the next section.
  • In your content
    • Make sure all your keywords words appear in your viewable page content, at least once, preferably more often.
    • The first paragraph is the most important place to put your keywords. Then the second, and so on. The closer your keywords are to the top of the page, and the more prevalent your words are on the page, the more relevant your page is to these words. It makes sense. But don't cheat. Google knows if you just copy and paste text... So pad it out and get creative with your writing. Try and include your key phrase at least twice in the first 3 sentences of your first paragraph.
    • Keep all the words in the key phrase together, even if it doesn't read well, and reword your sentences as best you can to cover up what you're doing. Eg you might like to say "we have the best accommodation in wellington" but if "wellington accommodation" is the key phrase, then you might need to say "our wellington accommodation is the best available"
    • Don't forget to your
    • You can put emotive statements into the page headings, and sub headings on your page. However, it is argued by some that it is still better to use keyword text everywhere rather than emotive statements.
    • Put your first paragraph of text at the very top of each of your pages. If you are using a gallery or FAQ page, then you might like to use the page "introduction" to put that text in. For shopping categories, consider using the category intro text. Product pages will automatically use the product description as the first paragraph.
    • Be generous with content on any page. You should have at least 1 paragraph of text on all pages, and at least 3 paragraphs on your home page. It does not hurt to have too much text on any page, but perhaps ensure long text is buried below the scrollable area of the page just for human friendly reasons. No one has received negative scores for having too much text, it's just hard to maintain.
    • The more times your keywords appear on your page the better, but do not repeat the words obviously. No copy pasting.
    • Put specifically used misspelled words and slang in your page footers, or at least below the scrollable area. Include a disclaimer indicating clearly what you are doing. Eg "Similar keywords that help you find this page might be .....".
  • In the top SEARCH ENGINES menu tab, you can get fast access to all of your pages, categories, products and blogs meta tags. 
  • In the RENAME area of each page, you can also do the following
    • In the RENAME area of each page, or in the SEO section of the CMS, you can enter a "page meta title". This is the text that appears in the blue browser title bar. It is also the text that appears as the balded search result heading in Google. It is also used by google to rank your page more highly for your key phrase if you have titled your page with the key phrase in the heading. And more so, put the key phrase on the left of your title, then put your company name or point of different to the right of that. Eg "wellington accommodation - the best B&B in wellington - XXXX"
    • Meta Keywords - Please leave these blank if you don't know what you are doing. The meta keywords should only include words that actually appear in the content of your page. You are highlighting the most important words by putting them in the meta keywords box. You will be negatively scored if you put invalid words into that box.
    • Meta Description - Basically the same rules apply for this as you use for your first paragraph of each page. Include your key phrase at least once, but the sentence should be human friendly. Think of this as the black text that might appear in the middle of your google search results.
    • On the rename page, you can also enter a custom file name, containing your keywords, to be included in the google search results. A filename will be included in the green URL of the search results. A human friendly file name will be more likely to be clicked that otherwise. Search keywords in the filename will help your ranking and will also be balded in the search results.
    • For product categories, all of these items can also be updated in the dedicated SEO area, and some of them in the shopping categories management area. This includes category filenames.
  • Other Places
    • When uploading an image via the wizard, consider using the "alt text" to insert keywords for your images. Other images will be automatically coded to the product title or gallery page title. You can also right click on an existing image, edit properties, and update the title/description there also.
    • Include your company name on the footer of your website design - on all pages. This is normally taken care of for you by a copyright message, which serves this dual purpose. Consider including your suburb, town, city and country in the copyright line, as this will partially associate all your page content with those regions, increasing the likelihood your page will be found during a geographical search. You may also like to consider replacing the word "we" or "us" from time to time with your company name, which will help your company name be visible in search results while other text is stuffed with keywords.

 

Every Page is Different - This is very Important!!

  • Do not expect people to always come to your home page first. Everyone has a different problem they want to solve, or a specific product they want. Consider searching for "Hamilton Accommodation" and seeing the results for "AA travel" or "Jasons" websites. If you clicked on those websites you would not expect to go to their home page, you would expect to go to the page most applicable to your search phrase: "Hamilton Accommodation"
  • So dedicate 1 page on your website per key phrase. A significant proportion of all google searches will cause a a customer to come to a "landing page", not your home page. So optimise certain pages of your website to be landing pages for each key phrase. Think of your website as a fishing line with lots of different hooks. You never know what fish is lurking, and you need to have the right hook for the right fish. For example:
    • The home page should be dedicated to your most highly trafficked phrase, or the niche phrase you wish to target most strongly.
    • The contact us page is probably the best place to optimise for your company name.
    • The map page could list all relevant suburbs or regions where you generally do business.
    • Each category and product page can take care of themselves, so long as you put the right words there.
  • It's good to use an FAQ style area of your website, where you can dedicate a unique page to a unique key phrase, openly and honestly. Eg for "ailments" or other "keywords or interest". The more you take this focus, the more your website will grow, and the more opportunities you will find to offer better content to your real human readers.
  • The bigger the website, the bigger your spider web to catch flies. Even if you are not hand crafting every page for SEO reasons, websites with more pages will get better ranking eventually.
  • Foreign Languages - In order to not confuse search engines, you should put foreign languages on a separate website. This will ensure each separate website will be uniquely optimised for the different languages. We will provide discounts on websites that are duplicated only for language reasons. Alternatively consider using an FAQ format page somewhere on your website to provide individual "landing pages" for your key phrases and elevator pitch in multiple languages.

 

Incoming Links 

Refer to the following diagram to understand our link ranking works. We present 4 retailers, each with a range of links. All else being equal on each of their websites, which website would you expect to be ranked the highest on google? Answer: D then C then B and A last. The greater number and greater quality of incoming links to Retailer D is best.

  • A great tool for guaging how many your incoming links and their ranking is
  • Incoming, outgoing and link exchanges?
    • Once you are found by google. the next most important thing you can do to increase your search rank is incoming links. An incoming link is a link from another website to yours.  This is like the other website is referring business to you, or endorsing you, or advertising you. In plain English this is a good thing. The more the better. Incoming links increase your traffic. To get an incoming link, you need to ask (and possibly pay) the other website to set this up for you.
    • Outgoing links are not good. These are links that take people from your website to another website. Not only has that ended the chance for you to complete a sale, but you are also negating any value of any incoming links. You should want more incoming links than outgoing links. A links page on your website is a necessary evil for link exchanges.
    • Link exchanges are good, but please avoid link exchanges from companies or directories you have never heard of. They will not be good for you. Link exchanges are excellent if done with other businesses in your industry, or country. These kind of link exchanges create communities and strengthen either your industry keywords or your geographical keywords. All else being equal, a community of websites will be ranked more highly than another website not involved in any linking.
    • Internal Links - These are links from within the content of one of your pages linking to another page on your website. These types of links help identify and control the relevance of more important pages in your website.
  • Link Text
    • To maximise the benefit of your incoming links, you should also consider what the link text says. Where possible provide the other website with the link text you want them to use. Avoid link text that is merely your web address, company name or "click here". Make it a clear key phrase like "Cheap shoes at Johns Shoe store". Using key phrases in link text will improve your ranking for those words a lot. Think about it, google doesn't have a lot to go on when considering what your website is about, so if it is making the decision between 2 websites, one referred to in a link as "click here" and the other as "buy cheap shoes here", which one do you think will rank more highly for "cheap shoes" and which one for a search on "clicking here"?
    • Take note of directories like "finda" that actually allow you to purchase more links and control that link text.
  • Where to get incoming links from?
    • Business Directories, Paid and Free. Different industries have all sorts of directories relevant only to them, and there are too many to list here.
    • Suppliers or customers
    • Friends and Family
    • Members of your organisation, or industry associations you belong to
    • White papers - writing a white paper for a government website or news organisation, is a good way to get a quality link if nothing else.
    • Wikipedia articles.
    • Government directories, there are heaps of government owned directors including those related to major sporting events like the Rugby world cup, or the ministry for economic development.
    • Forums, Blogs and Social Networking sites. -
      • Whenever you get the opportunity to add a link, do so.
      • It is good to participate in forums regularly. If your link is not relevant to your post or reply, only include your link in your signature. However, having good white papers or educational content on your website is a great reason to link from a forum to your website.
      • Discuss topics intelligently. Do not spam a forum with obvious advertising.  People aren't stupid and will skip your message if you do this. Don't think of forums as a way to get links, think of them as a way to get customers through quality dialogue. You can find thousands of popular usenet newsgroups here; http://groups.google.com.
    • You might also like to create "fan club websites", the sole purpose is to pretend that they are independently endorsing your website through links. Some people do this by creating a forum for their business or finding some way to make the website seem legitimate, but with the end goal of increasing incoming links from another web site.
    • Submit your site to as many search engines as possible. It takes time, but it's worth it.

    • Create social networking profiles, with links back.
  • Geographical linksfrom mapping systems will often get priority over an organic listing in google. See next section
  • Site Maps - This is a good way to identify all the pages of your website so that Google can at least easily find all your web pages.

 

Geographical Considerations - Local Retail / Services / Trades

 

Domain Name Considerations 

  • Older domain names and websites that have existed for a long time, without any outages, typically rank higher than newer websites, even if the content has not been updated for ages.
  • Domains that are registered several years in advance, set them selves apart from domain squatters that cannot afford to renew 1000's of domains years in advance. It is a small cost to a business owner to renew only 1 domain several years in advance, and Google can easily determine this small piece of information.
  • Using a domain name with keywords in it is obviously better than one that doesn't, but don't change your old and successful domain name just for the sake of it. you will lose all that history and rank you built up over the years.
  • You only need one domain name for Google. It will mostly ignore your other domains. Some argue you should have redirections from all your other domains, but this is not necessary from our perspective.
  • Having a .nz domain suffix, will ensure you rank more highly in google.co.nz.
  • With our CMS, you can register additional domain names and have them "mirror hosted" in other countries. We will mirror your website free of charge on those other domain names. So you can get the same geographical search benefits in those other countries local instance of google.
  • Your website can have multiple web addresses, so you might like to use additional domain names for gauging the success of radio or print advertising, to keep them separate, however, this isn't really on topic for SEO.
  • Considering all of the above, it may be good to register a few domains, but collecting large numbers of domain names is unlikely to help you much, excepting the people who may just happen to type it in one day (unlikely). Ignore warnings from overseas domain registration companies trying to sell you your domain or trademarks in another country. If you don't want or need the domain, then just ignore them. There are so many possible name variations and suffixes, you just don't need to worry. But securing .com and also .nz or .uk or .au is important if you live in one of those countries.

 

New Content / Refreshed Content?

  • Yes changing your content and adding content to your website will increase the ranking for a short while, but for many people, it is a waste of your time doing it, without enough reward to justify it.
  • if you don't really have much information to add, then don't bother. You could regularly add news and events to your website, but just changing a few words on your home page every day or week is not going to give you economical return.
  • You are better spending your time on other websites writing content with links back to your website. Participate in forums, blogs and social networking to keep your brand and links in front of people.

 

Site maps and Web Master Tools

  • Google Web Master Tools will help you get your new website found more quickly
  • It will help you fix any errors that occur with your website search results.
  • It will improve your ranking. Refer to the link for more info.
  • You can download a site map in the SEO area of our CMS
  • www.google.com/webmasters/tools/
  • http://www.bing.com/webmaster

 

CMS Considerations

  • Take care on your choice of web designer or content management system. Some CMS do not make websites which are search engine friendly, IE where the URL's to each page are different each time a robot visits due to a session ID, or the URL's are long and unfriendly to read. Other downfalls of some CMS are that the template design code obscures the content, or uses important tags like H1 for logo or company name placement, rather than immediately preceding the first paragraph.
  • A good CMS to use is , Web Widgets Content Management System which generates web pages suitable for indexing by search engines and does not fail any of the tests above. Web Widgets also provides an easy way for you to update your keywords and meta tags without technical expertise, and provides helpful tips along the way.

 

Web Statistics

  • It's important to monitor how your website is working for you.
  • You can view your web statistics free of charge by logging into the CMS, and you can also have them emailed to you on a regular basis.
  • The statistics package we have integrated with our CMS is awstats. It provides good easy to read results, and is known as a server side stats package. You may also like to consider Google Analytics which can give you more information about the size screens that customers use, as they are client side stats collectors.
  • Where can I insert Google Analytics?
    • There is an area to do this in the SEO or custom design settings or under the domain name statistics and SEO area.
    • You can also insert specific Google Analytics tracking code for monitoring advert "conversions" to a enquiry form thank you page or shopping checkout page. Use the insert Video function in the tool bar or go to HTML mode and scroll to the very bottom and paste it there.

 

Pay Per Click

  • Adwords is an option you might like to consider for immediate results.
  • Make a different advert for each key phrase (or set of similar phrases) you are targeting. The advert will be more effective if it is highly relevant to the searcher keywords. The searcher knows what they are looking for, your advert needs to speak to the searcher, it speaks loudest if your advert heading includes their keywords.
  • With pay per click, budget is an important factor, so only make adverts for key phrases of 3 words or more. Your advert might be shown to less people, but at least you know it will only be clicked on by the people who really want your services. If you spend less on the wrong people, you can spend more on the right people or enter new markets.
  • Target only 1 market at a time, until you learn the ropes. If you enter a new market (country / language), make sure your website is ready to support them.
  • Make sure your advert link goes to a page highly relevant to their needs. This will quite likely not be the home page. Put yourself in your customers shoes, they don't know you, they searched for some words, found your advert, now what? Make sure the next sentence they read on your website flows obviously from the wording of your advert. So quite likely you will have a different landing page for each advert.

 

Other things you might like to consider

  • Avoid the excessive use of Flash or Shock Wave on your website. Although a Flash website looks great, no one will be able to find your site. Most graphic designers who use a lot of Flash forget to do the most basic of search engine optimisation - including page titles, keywords, and alternative (non flash) representations of the website. Flash sites look good, but you can hardly ever find them in search engines.
  • Goggle's new search relevance buttons, users are making their own decisions about the relevance of pages 
  • Google tool bar page rank, this sends information to google as to what pages you look at, even if those pages are book marked or entered directly to the address bar from a business card. This helps google make decisions about which websites are more relevant even if not searched for.
  • Search around for more information on the Internet, as SEO best practises are always changing. Read some excellent information from Google here - http://www.google.com/intl/en/webmasters/ 
  • Get a nicely formated report of how your website SEO is going, and includes some more tips and tricks peculia to your needs: http://websitegrader.com/
  • Some more cool tools - http://www.seomoz.org/tools

Don't wait, do it now!  Make some changes and watch your ranking on google go up and down over the forthcoming weeks. Note: it now takes up to six months to get listed on Google once you submit your site.

  


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