Saturday, July 7, 2012

Introduction to SEO and Keyword Research

99% of all websites never achieve a top ranking in Google search results or in any other search engine, meaning that they only experience traffic from persons with a prior knowledge of the web address in question.

Furthermore, about 40% of Google search queries result in a click on the top-ranked search result, approximately 10-14% of searchers will click on the second-ranked search result and about 8 % will click on the result ranked number 3. If, for example, you are ranked number 7 by Google for a particular search term your site will receive less than 4% of the traffic searching for that term via Google.

If your business is dependent on receiving new search engine traffic to your website it is essential that your website is highly ranked by Google in relation to a spectrum of relevant keywords.

Of course, not everybody can be number 1 for the most popular keywords, however, with the right knowledge, the right tools, a little money and a healthy dose of energy anyone can achieve a number one ranking for some keywords.

Off Page/On Page:

Google uses off page and on page factors to determine an individual webpage's rank relative to a specific keyword.

Off page factors include, domain age, page rank and the number and quality of the links etc.

On page factors include, keyword in the title, keyword in the URL, keyword in the meta tag, keyword in the header tag etc.

The above is just a selection of the many off and on page parameters used by Google in evaluating a particular webpage.

Domain Names:

If you're planning to launch a new site one of your first tasks will be to choose a domain name. To make sure you get the right one it's important to think carefully about what type of website you'll be making.

If your plan is to make a little niche site consisting of one web page, a blog for example, it may well be a good idea to use an exact match domain. In other words, a domain name which consists only of your primary keyword.

In order to acquire a new exact match domain today you have to be very specific. This will also limit the amount of traffic you will receive as Google will only send you traffic relevant to your little niche.

If you want to use your site to go for other keywords then it's better to use a broader keyword in your domain name and build an authority site over time which, eventually, will deliver far more traffic as the various web pages can be optimised against different keywords.

As you gradually build backlinks to the individual pages, the internal links between the pages will secure the site as a whole a better Google rank.

You can still include your keywords in your URL, so the advantage gained by having an exact match domain is limited, however, it does exist.

If you choose a domain which doesn't contain your keyword, or only contains part of your keyword, you will have to do other things, such as building some good backlinks to your pages, in order to achieve a high Google rank.

Given the competition there now exists for top ranking in Google search results, backlinks will always be crucial to success. If you don't have an "exact match domain," just build more or better backlinks.

For evidence that this strategy can work, just consider that some of the net's most successful sites aren't "exact match domains". YouTube, for example, doesn't carry the word videos in its domain name. Despite this, Google ranks YouTube just under Google Videos for the word "videos".

The fact that non-exact match domains achieve a successful ranking in Google for more general keywords is, in part, because many of these sites are quite old, and have built traffic and back links over a number of years. For this reason Google accords them much greater credibility.

Many people recommend,.net extension for a new site as it's slightly easier for sites with these extensions to achieve a high Google ranking. This is good advice if the target group for your website is USA, which is the largest overall market.

If your target group isn't America it's often a good idea to use local extensions as these are more likely to be highly ranked nationally, even in English-speaking countries.

Over 70 per cent fewer search queries are performed in England than in USA, for example. That's still a lot of traffic and, since it's often easier to achieve top ranking with domain in England, it's definitely worth considering hosting a new site on domain.

Major companies will often benefit from publishing several national versions of their website in the local language. These sites can profitably be interlinked, thereby transferring some of their "link juice" to each other.

Including a copyrighted brand name in your domain name is not a good idea unless you have secured prior written permission from the copyright holder. Many companies have no objection as by using their name you are promoting their product, but there are also companies which don't allow it, and you risk having your site shut down which is never nice especially if you've spent several months creating a website and building backlinks to it.

Page Rank:

Page Rank (PR) is Google's way of rating individual web pages. It's a logarithmic scale from 0 to 10, and there are many rumours circulating as to what base Google employ for their logarithms.

It's not information that Google makes public, and it's likely that Google uses an even more sophisticated system internally, for example, one that involves different bases for the different levels of the scale and decimals.

What seems certain, however, is that the value of a link from a particular page rises exponentially the greater that page's PR. This means, for example, that the value of a link from a page with a PR of 4 is several times that of a link from a page with a PR of 3.

It doesn't seem as if Google places any great importance on PR when ranking pages in search results. There are plenty of examples of sites that achieve high rankings in Google search results even though they have a low PR. If large numbers of sites link to a website or if many of the sites linking to it have a high PR then it can easily achieve top ranking.

Google doesn't update PRs very often. Typically updates take place about every 6 months. The most important criterion for determining what PR a page is accorded is the value of its backlinks.

If you have installed Google Toolbar on your browser you can see what PR the page you are on has by rolling over one of the toolbar's icons.

The SEO Quake plugin for Firefox is an even better tool. It's free, so, if you haven't already done so it's well worth your while downloading and installing it.

A page with a high PR will be crawled more frequently by Google than a page with a low PR. This is an advantage as it means that Google will check your site more frequently to index new keywords and content.

Google indexes individual web pages:

It's important to realise that Google indexes individual web pages not whole web sites. Google considers the individual web pages in isolation and when the pages in a site with several pages are linked together Google determines how much "link juice" to transfer between the individual pages.

It is possible for a site consisting of just one webpage to achieve a top ranking for a particular search term but Google uses a number of different parameters when classifying a web page, including other content from the same domain.

Authority Site:

After the introduction of Google's PANDA update in early 2011,the concept of authority sites has become more and more important.

An authority site is a site which Google respects and trusts. If you have an authority site new content will be indexed more quickly and your ranking will receive an additional boost. Your outgoing links will be accorded greater value and you will benefit from extra traffic from long tail keywords for which you haven't even tried to achieve a top ranking. Having an authority site is thus a significant advantage.

There are a number of factors that go into determining what degree of authority Google accords a particular site, and this will be discussed later in this book. At this point I just want to mention that in order to achieve authority site status you must publish original high quality material.

It's no longer enough just having a site with a few 500 word articles consisting of content that's a rewriting of content that's available on other sites.

Google's PANDA update's favour large companies that expend resources on producing a good website and ensure that their content is updated on a regular basis.

That doesn't mean that you can't attract traffic from Google if you only have a one page blog.

You just need to ensure that your blog starts with 1,000+ words of original content, is well written and has high-quality graphics. A website consisting of one single blog will rarely be able to achieve top ranking for a keyword for which there is particularly strong competition, but such a site can easily succeed in generating traffic from keywords for which there is less competition.

In recent years, Google has used human reviews in increasing numbers, not of all the pages that get indexed but of the pages which achieve top rank for a given keyword.

That's why it's important that your site also features high quality graphics. After Google's PANDA updates many people have found that pages which, as a result of intensive link building over an extended period of time have achieved a steadily increasing ranking have suddenly completely disappeared from Google's index or lost 50 places because Google has classified these pages as spam.

A good way of assessing the amount of authority Google accords a site is to note how quickly new pages are indexed. The pages of a high authority site such as, for example, are indexed almost as quickly as they're published. A medium-high authority site will be indexed within 12 hours and a medium-low authority site will have its content indexed within a week. If a site has no Google authority then it can often take more than two weeks for new content to be indexed, and many pages on a site without any authority will never be indexed.


Google indexes individual web pages using keywords.

When it's time to select the keywords you're going to optimise your pages against it's important to bear the following four factors in mind.

Are the keywords you have selected relevant to your product or to what you're trying to communicate?

This is an obvious point but it's worth repeating. The only traffic you should be interested in getting is people who will benefit from reading your website.

Your bounce rate is the frequency with which visitors only view one page when they visit your domain.

A low bounce rate means that your pages are relevant to your visitors as they have chosen to move on to other pages on your domain. A high bounce rate indicates that visitors don't find your site interesting or relevant.

If you choose to register for Google Analytics, you should be aware that you will be sharing information about the traffic to your website with Google. If you have a high bounce rate or if visitors only stay on your site for a brief amount of time then it's not to your advantage to share this information with Google. If, on the other hand, you have a really well written site which captures the attention of many of your visitors then sharing this information with Google can help you achieve a higher ranking.

How much traffic does Google generate for your various keywords?

Google Keyword Tool can help you gain an idea of how many searches are performed each month for a given keyword.

Google works with two categories: "global monthly searches," and "local monthly searches."

The number of searches for related keywords are also shown.

In order to form a conservative idea of how much traffic you can expect to achieve if you gain top ranking for your keyword select the "exact match" option, see how many searches are performed in your area and multiply the number of searches by 40%.

Is Google traffic to your website likely to provide you with extra business?

On the right hand side of the Google Keyword Tool under "columns" you can select which data will be shown. One of the columns is "estimated avg. CPC." This figure tells you what an advert placed at the top of Google search results for a given keyword costs.

If the CPC value is high then the keyword in question has a similarly high commercial value as there are many people who purchase Google adverts for that particular keyword.

Competition. Is achieving top rank for a given keyword a difficult task?

It's a waste of time and money trying to optimise a website to a given keyword if competition for that keyword is too strong. If you don't have a chance of achieving a top ranking, or at least becoming one of the top 5 search results, then you're much better served trying to find a keyword or phrase which experiences less traffic, but for which you can achieve top ranking.

The Google Keyword Tool also features a column called "competition". This only provides a graphical illustration of the number of other pages that are indexed alongside your keyword.

It tells you nothing about the relative strength of these other webpages, and you can't use this information to assess whether it would be possible for you to achieve top ranking status.

There are, however, other ways to estimate the strength of a competitor. This is one of the key considerations you should make before you start the process of devising a page optimised against a given keyword.

When you've achieved an overview of the degree of competition for the various keywords which might be of interest to your website it's time to make a decision as to how many resources you're willing to invest, or can invest, in order to achieve a top ranking position.

Thorough keyword analysis is a prerequisite if you're thinking of making a new page and you want Google to rank it highly. Never spend time making a webpage that you want to achieve a top ranking before performing an in-depth keyword analysis..

Optimising individual webpages:

It is generally recommended that you only optimise a page against a single keyword or phrase. This isn't always the best strategy, however.

You should have 4-6 keywords in your "metanamekeywordscontent", and that means you can optimise your page against 4-6 words or phrases.

It is, however, a very important plus point if one of the keywords also features in the page's URL.

Many SEO practitioners are of the opinion that the words you select as your "metanamekeywordscontent," must be used in the page's text. If you include words in the "meta" tag that you don't subsequently use in the text Google will rate your page that bit lower.

This generally accepted truth stands in stark contrast to a number of Google spokesperson Matt Cutts' public statements. In a Google YouTube video he states that Google makes no use of "metanamekeywordscontent" in connection with page classification.

I don't know what the correct answer is to this vexed question, however, what I will say is that there is no reason to include keywords in "metanamekeywordscontent" which are aren't used and described in more detail in the text of your webpage.

The procedure for a new page is therefore as follows: first, select a primary keyword. This keyword or phrase should be included in the page's URL.

Next, choose 3-5 additional keywords or phrases. These extra keywords do not form part of the web page's URL, but, irrespective of that, it is possible to optimise a web page against more than one keyword.

The extra keyword can easily generate additional traffic if it is chosen with care. It's a good idea to choose words for which competition isn't quite as tough as it is for your primary keyword.

Link building:

If you want to achieve top ranking in Google search results then you'll have to build links to your site.

The days when it was possible to publish a web page with quality content and then grow it organically to the point where it has achieves top status for a given keyword are over.

At the same time, link building techniques are now far more aggressive than they were just a few years ago and pages that once enjoyed top rank status are beginning to lose their positions.

When you build links to a webpage the best method is to use what are called contextual backlinks with an "anchor text." Such a link looks like this:

Text... <ahref="http://yourlink">Your Anchor Text</a> Text...

In other words, links embedded within a text where "your anchor text" is the keyword or phrase you wish to use to achieve a top ranking.

Even if you can't write any text around your link you can still create a link with an anchor text.

Always remember to perform thorough keyword research before choosing your anchor text. Your anchor text is the most important piece of information Google uses in determining which keywords a webpage will be ranked against.

For this reason, a contextual backlink can and should always be used for both internal and external links.

Even though Google values contextual backlinks it would be unnatural if all backlinks to a site took this form. The best strategy is to mix them up with other types of links. Try to achieve a 70/80% to 20/30% balance between contextual backlinks and links without an anchor text.

Varying your anchor text has the virtue of making your link building appear natural; however, currently link building is more efficient if you always employ the same anchor text.

It is my belief that, in future, this will cease to be the case, and if you want your page to achieve a ranking for more than one keyword it can be a good idea to use 3-4 different anchor texts in which the anchor texts' links all refer to the same page.

If your backlinks have a natural appearance than it's a good idea to use your primary keyword significantly more often as an anchor text such that all your high PR links use your primary keyword as an anchor text and your primary keyword is used in 70-80% of the places in which you employ an anchor text.

As mentioned above, the best links are contextual backlinks that are embedded in a text. Links from footers and sidebars aren't accorded the same value as links in the primary text.

It's possible to generate links from a number of different sources, and the best results are achieved if a range of links from different places are employed. These could, for example, include:

Your own domains

Link Exchange

Article marketing

Forum posts

Blog posts

Social bookmarks

YouTube videos

Profile links

Directory links

To achieve a high rank you need backlinks form different pages with a high Google PR. It's of course a good thing if the domains which link to you have a high PR, but what is really crucial is that the page where the link is placed has a high PR.

A webpage with backlinks that only come from high PR sites has, however, an unnatural feel. If, for example, your backlinks consist of 1 PR6, 2 PR5 and 7 PR4 your page will appear over optimised and Google will punish you with a lower ranking.

Google knows that it's possible to purchase high PR links. And, in actual fact, this is an excellent method for achieving a top ranking. If, however, you choose to purchase some high PR links you should also ensure that you also have backlinks from other sites with a lower PR so as to give your site's link patterns a natural feel. Purchasing high PR links can give your site an extra boost, but it's not enough on its own.

It's important to have a spread of backlinks from a number of different IP addresses with a reasonable geographical spread, it's also important to build them at a regular rate.

Building lots of low value links is a waste of time. Links from sites such as link exchange directories where your link shares a PR0 page with 25 other links can form part of a balanced link strategy but don't spend too much time on establishing them.

When you build links from inner pages with a low PR you should ensure that the domain's homepage has PR4 or higher. That will help add link juice to your site, even though the page from which you link doesn't itself have a high PR.

The relevance of the pages from which you link to your webpage to its content is not crucial. How great a significance Google accords to such factors is not something that's in the public domain, but, given that we are interested in achieving a high number of links from pages with a high PR we'd quickly run out of suitable sites if we stuck to sites that are directly relevant to the subject matter of our own webpage.

Since Google introduced the PANDA algorithm update many sites have been classified as spam because they've built too many links. Today, programs such as XRumer and Sick Submitter should be treated with great care, which is not to say that such programs don't have a valuable part to play in a backlinking campaign.

You should also try to do what you can to ensure that your backlinks are stable. If, for example, you create forum links it's a good idea to create your profile first and then come back a week later and add a link. That way, the chances of a moderator of the site in question deleting your contribution because he finds that your primary reason for making it is to build links, are lower than they would have been if you added a backlink to your profile straight away.

I should also just mention here in the introduction that it's also important not to link to or build links from domains with adult content.


Getting Google to crawl your website is easy. To get your page indexed and get links credited to the page they point to may require greater effort on your behalf.

Even top domains feature a number of pages which are never indexed. If there are no links to a page Google will not normally index it.

It's easy to get Google to index a new page - all you need is links. These links don't have to be of a high quality. If you're launching a new domain then 20-30 profile links to the new page all boosted via a boosting program will be enough for you to achieve indexing quickly.

Generally speaking, I recommend that you boost your links. I use Backlink Booster for this purpose but there are plenty of other excellent boosting services.

It takes time to achieve a good position in Google search results:

Beginners often expect to able to achieve rapid results, but it takes time for to build Google's trust in a new site.

When you begin building backlinks, you should reckon on achieving a top ten ranking taking at least 3 months. From there it can easily take a further three months to achieve top ranking even with a good backlinking campaign.

In order to achieve these sort of results, however, you must find a keyword for which competition isn't too hard. If you don't assess your keyword properly before commencing your link building campaign you risk never achieving a top ranking as the competition for your keyword will simply be too strong.

Peter Scheelke is the author of a free 43-page e-book about "Keyword Research". How do I find the best keywords quickly and easily? How can I assess the competition for a particular keyword with precision?

You can download the free e-book at:

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