Your page rank is a combination of how a search engine views your site (mostly through on-site material) and how valuable your site seems to others (mostly from off-site metrics). Only by looking at both can your site’s quality be determined by the search engines. And when the search engine sees an increase in quality, you will see an increase in your page rank.
Traditional SEO techniques are on-site only, and have to do with how your site is presented to search engines that are out mapping the Internet. The purpose of on-site SEO is to show the best possible face when a search engine comes visiting.
There are several features a search engine will mine for information about your site. To make the site “search engine friendly,” this information has to be available to the computer that is trying to catalog the pages on your website both individually and as a whole.
Tags and meta tags
A tag is a word from HTML that is used to inform a browser how to display text for users. Tags are a useful way to give other computers information about the site’s content by highlighting certain elements on each page. While regular tags tell a browser how to format visible text on the web page, meta tags and other tags provide non-visible clues to search engines about how to categorize the page.
Some of the most important regular tags include titles, headlines (especially the first H1 tag), image tags, and the name of the page itself. Technically, the page name isn’t a tag, but it serves the same purpose. An example of a good page name would be www.johnsDogs.com/best_breed.html. People who search for “best breed of dog” will probably find this page easily. Naming this page www.johnsdogs.com/365XJ.html would be a bad idea because there are no descriptive words in it for the search engine to find and index. Even if both pages have the same displayed content, the first name will be much better for SEO.
Meta tags are meant to talk to a search engine directly. The practice of adding meta tags has been abused in the past by some overly enthusiastic search engine marketers, and as search engines have gotten more sophisticated, these tags have become less important. The two meta tags that search engines find most interesting are the keyword meta tag and the description meta tag. The description meta tag is still useful for telling the search engines what to display with your listing (not that they will always listen), but it adds very little value to site rank anymore.
Other important on-site items
Keywords that appear in context within the site’s body text are used to establish relevance. When these words also appear in links (both menu and outbound), as well as in alternate text for images, they help with SEO. An amateur mistake is to overload keywords into these positions and use “keyword stuffing” in written content. Sophisticated search algorithms can detect this and will reject a page that appears to be gaming the system.
Everything that happens outside of your site that either mentions your site or links to it directly is called off-site SEO. This also includes your ads, RSS feeds, and related social media efforts. The critical feature is backlinks – links to your site that have been discovered by a search engine and “connect back.”
For this reason, the same keywords should appear in the anchor text for links to material on your site. Anchor text refers to the computer-readable HTML format for a hyperlink. Just as in the example above, a link like <a href=”http://www.johnsdogs.com/best_breed.html> would be worth more than anchor text that didn’t use “best_breed” as part of the code for the URL. Any backlink to your domain adds value as long it comes from a site with a good reputation. Some marketers will set up networks specifically to provide backlinks to their customers. When they are discovered, whole groups of sites may be shunned or even blacklisted by search engines.
Older techniques such as directories still serve a purpose, but they must be chosen carefully. You do not want to pollute your site by associating with bad apples. A directory with a link at a professionally recognized organization is fine, but a paid link on a phony “directory site” may actually hurt your page rank.
Combining on and off-site
Quality is the bottom line here. As search technology gets better, it becomes harder and harder to impersonate value by manipulating search engine ranking with bogus offerings. This doesn’t mean that both on-site and off-site SEO aren’t important, it just means that it is a losing game to try to fake your way to a higher rank than the search engines think you deserve.
The best and most robust strategy remains having useful content that draws users, and presenting it in a search-engine-friendly way. Fancy wrapping will not hide an empty box for long, while quality content will continue to attract users and grow organically at a lower overall cost. Unless you intend to flip your site and sell it off quickly, short bursts of increased volume will not pay off. So-called “bubbles” of activity burst rapidly and don’t justify the costs.
Pay attention to both on-site and off-site SEO if you want to leverage all the hard work that goes into creating a useful site. Ignoring these basic elements will deny you the visibility a solid website deserves.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Looking for Colorado Springs SEO? Get a free quote!