Introduction to SEO

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is arguably the most difficult task for website creators. We make these awesome websites, and we have no solid way to share them with people. We also do not have the luxury of a massive marketing budget. Do not get too down on yourself. There is hope for the small developers like us. Google actively works to bring users to the best website for their search terms. That means Google loves websites with great content that are closely related to the user’s search terms.

Wait you say… Google seems to have a bias towards websites with a ton of links. In this world, it seems like the amount of links is all that matters. False! Granted, links are probably one of the most important metrics, but they do not hold the majority. Think about how much stuff users search for… millions of different terms. These big name websites obviously can’t cover all those terms. You have to find your niche. Mine, unfortunately, is crowded out by tons of developers that got the idea of creating a website for web development tutorials. No worries. You stand a much better chance than I do. Let’s take an quick look at what all factors into SEO.

SEO factors

  • Content
  • HTML
  • Architecture
  • Links
  • Social
  • Trust
  • Personal
  • Violations
  • Blocking

So basically, we have 7 topics that help your website’s SEO, and we have 2 topics that significantly hurt your SEO. SearchEngineLand.com drafted an amazing image “The Periodic Table of SEO Ranking Factors” for all of us that do not fully understand SEO (no one really does besides the guys who create the search engine algorithms), which is pictured below. We will discuss all of these little elements as we move through the SEO tutorials.

SEO Ranking Factors

References

Alexa Rank

What is the Alexa rank and why you should care about it? Alexa is one of the top websites that rank the popularity of websites. While you can always see your own analytics using Google analytics, you have no way of knowing how you compare to other websites. Well, that is exactly where Alexa tries to come in. The Alexa rank can be used to compare your website’s popularity against others. However, Alexa has a few ways in how it tracks this rank. None of the ways are perfect, which means Alexa is not even close to being 100% accurate, but it does tell you more about your website than any other website can.

So, how do you get the magical number? One of the primary ways Alexa determines your rank is by using the data from users with the Alexa toolbar installed. Each time they visit your website, it will help your rank. So what are the other ways? They do not really give us any information. Alexa just says their rank is determined by the Alexa Toolbar and other “diverse traffic data sources”. So, how exactly do we increase our Alexa rank?

How to Increase Alexa Rank

Install the Alexa Rank Toolbar on your computers

According to Chrome, there are only about 250,000 people with the Alexa toolbar (Chrome Extension). Most of those users will be scattered across many different websites, so even installing the toolbar on all of your computers could help you. I believe that it tracks your computer’s IP address so downloading it for different browsers on the same computer is useless. Of course, you will need to visit your website on these different computers. Just installing the Alexa toolbar will not help unless you actually visit the website.

Ask your friends

I recommend asking your friends to install the Alexa toolbar on their computer. Even if you can only get 10 friends to install the toolbar, it will dramatically increase your Alexa Rank. Again, your friends need to visit your website often for this to work. But, that should not be a problem because your content is great they want to read it.

Ask your users

Finally, you might want to consider asking your users to install the toolbar to increase your Alexa Rank. I have this as the last option because it is an annoying burden to place on your users. If your users really love your content, they might be willing to install it to help you. However, I would not make this a highlight on your website as it seems desperate. Consider placing it after all of your content.

That wraps up a few of the best ways to increase your Alexa Rank. Remember it is pretty important for your website, but it is not the end of the world if you cannot get a great rank. But, I would invest some serious time into improving it. Good luck with your website and your Alexa Rank.

Website Directories

Web directories have guided the internet almost since the day it was born. Search engines are amazing in these modern times, but they still cannot read or categorize our websites effectively. Therefore, the only option is to manually register your website with a bunch of website directories that contain categories for your website. They have categories based on what the author thought was relevant. You should always respect this because if he only wanted to create a directory for arts and crafts, obviously, my site wouldn’t be a good fit for his directory.

It is important to understand that there are thousands if not millions of website directories. I can tell you right here and now that there is no good reason that you would need to submit to more than 100 high quality directories. Don’t list your sites if the directories don’t provide a form of organization like categories because this will actually hurt your search engine ratings. Google will look at that directory and see a ton of unrelated sites, which will immediately tell Google, “Hey, this is a link farm.” Upon finding things like this, Google and other search engines give you a lower score in their algorithms.

DMOZ Directory

I am proud to say after a good long battle of trying to get in the Open Directory Project, After Hours Programming finally has an entry. Yes, it is quite rewarding, but DMOZ has lost a lot of credit to search engines like Google over the years. Google does use DMOZ to help create descriptions and a few other things, but it is not nearly as powerful of a link as it used to be. It might be a bit soon to say this, but DMOZ’s PageRank is not any more powerful than another high PageRank. Matt Cutt’s (the Google Guy) has even discussed how Google uses DMOZ. So, if you can’t get in, it isn’t the end of the world. However, don’t stop trying though because it is still a pretty cool feeling.

Web Directories

Below is a current list of great web directories that allow you to provide information about your website and not just the url.

Google PageRank

If you haven’t heard about Google’s PageRank, you are missing one of the most important aspects of having higher search results in my opinion. PageRank is basically a popularity contest for websites. The more links a page gets the higher the PageRank is for that particular page. However, it is slightly more complicated than that. Let’s say we have 2 pages. Page 1 is wikipedia.com, which has a really high PageRank. Page 2 is my page, sadly with a rather low PageRank. If Wikipedia was to link to your page, your PageRank would increase by a much greater margin than if my page linked to you. Also, it isn’t simply about the number of links either. If you had a ton of links from pages with low PageRanks, it still isn’t as good as 10 pages with really high PageRanks.

Often when discussing PageRank, people often refer to it with the metaphor of a liquid inside of a container. In the context of this metaphor, the container is your entire website, or even a web page. The liquid is this abstract value of relevant points. With each and every link on your website or webpage, you are basically saying, “Let some of the liquid flow here.” Of course, this means that the liquid that leaves your page to “flow” to other pages lowers the relevant points for your web page or web site.

But, how do I keep the PageRank juice on my page? Personally, I hate this idea, but if you must… Many big and strong sites like Wikipedia use the HTML element a attribute rel which is set to “nofollow” (Home). This will currently keep the search engines from following the link;therefore, you keep the juice inside your container. But why fight the juice? Why not the let liquid flow from page to page based on how you created it? You put those links on your page to help your users right? So, why is it that search engines shouldn’t let those pages also have some importance? Well, that is just my argument against it and I hope to always have a dofollow website.

As a final note, PageRank is a very important factor in determining where you show up in the search results. That being said, it is technically possible according to Google, that a page with better content and a lower PageRank might be placed higher in the search results than a page with terrible content and a very high PageRank. Of course, this just shows that links aren’t everything especially in areas where their are not many competitors. Always remember great content is the most rewarding factor.

References

Content

In SEO, content should be your number one priority. Even if you do everything else and don’t contribute much to this topic, you website will fail miserably. Users dig content, but they dig great content even more. What good is a website that has no important content? It isn’t. If you have come to this website to attempt to figure out how to promote a website with no content, shame on you (unless it’s a web application). Let’s break down content into its components:

  • Quality – Content must be well written and of high quality.
  • Research – Find keywords that are suited for what you want to write about and stick with this controlled vocabulary.
  • Words – Use words and phrases that you expect users would search for when looking for your content.
  • Engage – Make your content engaging and interesting so they users will never want to leave.
  • Fresh – Outdated content stinks something fierce, create new vibrant content as often as you can.

Now, we can discuss each of these terms. Quality is simple. Don’t make typos (unlike me) and structure your sentences well. Consider running your content through spell checking software like Microsoft Word. Also, do not create little tiny pages with less than a couple of paragraphs. On the flip side, do not create a massive document that has like 50 paragraphs.

Research and Words are one of those things that people generally fail to do at the beginning and try to implement later (guilty). If you have studied the Information Architecture tutorials, I discuss the importance of controlled vocabularies. Search engines are quite clever, but let’s face it. They still do not understand the content. They only see the words and maybe even a thesaurus of the words, but they do not “understand” it as we humans do. So, find words that you think your users will use to find your content and stick to using them. Do not being overly annoying with it, but try to use the controlled vocabularies where appropriate.

Engage and Fresh are both very important to users. When I use engage, I don’t mean you have to have your users actively doing tasks. I mean be interesting because you are and you just need to express it in your writing. We all love reading articles that interesting authors write and it makes us more forgiving of things like typos and other errors. Fresh content is pretty self-explanatory. Create content that is awesome as often as you can. Google and users feeds on new content. Feed the Google Monster and feed your fans.

References