Onsite optimisation factors that are often overlooked in SEO

For anyone who has their own website, or is in charge of a site for another company or organisation, search engine optimisation is definitely the hot topic of the day.

Though it won’t transform your company into a global success overnight, optimising your site for search engines should see a gradual increase in your traffic and page rankings.

When trying to improve their SEO, a lot of people focus on link building and social media, but there are actually a lot of onsite techniques you can implement that will help to improve your site’s SEO.

What is onsite optimisation?

Onsite optimisation refers to the internal changes you can make to your site to make it easier for the search engines to crawl and index it.

For years, this mostly meant packing your site and TITLE tags with keywords in the hope it would push you up the rankings. That technique is now frowned upon by search engines, and can actually get your site blacklisted if you try it.

These days, web masters and developers have to adapt and improve their techniques as algorithms change. But there are still a few standard onsite SEO techniques that are easily overlooked, but also easy to implement.

Tags

If you’re not familiar with HTML or how a web page is structured, every page in your site will have a TITLE tag, META tags and <h1> tags that give information to the search engines and can be used to your advantage.

For a long time, META tags were seen as one of the most important ways to improve onsite SEO, they let you list keywords, phrases and descriptions for each page, and this is then picked up by the engines when they crawl you site.

Less weight is now given to META tags, but filling them in is still a good idea. TITLE tags are still pretty important and they should contain your keyword and important information. This won’t appear on your webpage, but the search engines will see it.

<h1> tags are normally placed around the title on each page and tell the search engines what that page is about. Again their importance has waned a bit, but they can still help to boost your rankings.

Image optimisation

Many people assume that the search engines are only interested in text, but this is simply not true. Make sure all of the images on your site have their ALT tag – the text that appears when you hover over an image – filled in with relevant information.

Images are actually rated above videos, maps and news by search engines, and a quick search of Google images shows how importantly search engines take image indexing.

onsite optimisation

TITLE tags are important for telling a search engine what you site is about

URLs

When building a website it can be easy to name URLs after your own naming system, but if this is made up of seemingly random numbers and letters, the search engines won’t know what it means.

Try using clear, concise URLs that clearly state what a webpage contains, this will help search engines to crawl your site and users to find it.

Quality

As search engines become more intelligent, it is becoming harder to trick your way to the top of the rankings. One of the key factors that is now coming into play is the basic quality of your site.

Is it well laid out, is everything clearly labelled and most importantly, is it well written?

Making quality the top priority for website rankings should encourage web builders to create interesting and relevant content, contained in websites that are easy to navigate and quick to use, making the internet a more interesting and informative place for everyone.

About the author: Tom Shurville is the managing director if Distinctly Digital, the SEO agency from Hertfordshire. Tom prepares tailor made solutions for their clients making sure that the companies’ can reach their target audience.

Picture credits: Wikipedia 1

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Using Images to Improve SEO

Although Search Engine Optimisation is largely about creating authoritative and unique text content, Google, Bing and Yahoo also have image search features that specifically deal with imagery. Images are largely under-optimised by webmasters, but they have the potential to drive high quality traffic. Just like you would for a webpage, you should optimise your images in order for them to rank well for relevant search queries.

Photographs on a mantelpiece

Image Credit: Leonard Pine / Image Source – IE244-053

How to get Your Images Found by Search Engines

When it comes to interpreting images, search engines have only a few factors to go by. They don’t read the IPTC Meta Data and can’t interpret image detail by reading the raw image file. Instead they use several key indicators to determine what an image is about. Here are three simple things you can do to give search engines more information about your images:

Use a Descriptive Filename

By default, most cameras will name an image something like ‘IMG00347.jpg’. This tells you nothing about the image. By renaming the image to something like ‘dog-chasing-rabbit.jpg’ there is instantly some context and search engines will use these keywords.

Changing the filename may seem like a simple process, but it is one that really could make a difference. Of the billions of images on the internet, most have unfriendly file names. By making your images stand out, search engines are more likely to interpret them more effectively and rank them for relevant search queries.

Use a Descriptive Alt Tag

Alt tags (or Alternate Text Attributes) allow you to create a search engine-friendly description of your image. The alt tag is most commonly seen when an image fails to load or does not exist because it defines the ‘alternate text’ to be displayed in place of the image.

Father and daughter on swing seat

Image Credit: Christopher Robbins / Image Source – IS098U5YG

Search engines use the alternate text to understand what an image is about. Best practice is to briefly summarise the image’s key features. For example, “father and daughter on swing seat” is an appropriate summary of the above image and informs search engines about what the key features of the image are.

Google’s Matt Cutts explains the importance of using Alt tags:

Submit an Image XML Sitemap to Google

Google have now introduced Image Sitemaps. Image Sitemaps are a way of adding image-specific tags to your XML Sitemap that include details about the image including caption, description, geographical location and license.

Assuming that you already have an XML Sitemap (which you definitely should!), adding the image tags is fairly easy and most WordPress Sitemap Plugins now do this automatically. Not only do Image Sitemaps add content to images, they are a great way to show Google exactly where all your images are on your server. This is especially important for dynamic websites that may call images via JavaScript, and hence are not necessarily crawlable by Google.

Where can I Find Images to use on my Website?

For many, taking and retouching photos is not an option because they don’t have the time, experience or equipment. It is not uncommon for people to instead go straight to Google Images and copy photos from there. Unfortunately this probably means that they are beaching copyright which can result in litigation.

The images in Google are plucked from all over the web. They are not free images and the copyright holder is well within their right to charge for use, or refuse use altogether. Where copyright is breached the copyright holder may enforce their rights and this can result in hefty fines.

There is, however, one easy solution. Many webmasters are now turning to stock photography and buying royalty free photos. ‘Royalty Free’ means that, for a small fee, you are licensed to use a particular image. This usually means that images can be used as many times as you wish, so long as you don’t give or sell them on to other people.

With millions of stock photos available, stock photography is increasingly becoming one of the most popular sources of imagery on the web. Given the SEO benefits of using photos on your websites, the low cost of stock photography and the range and quality available, webmasters have no excuses when it comes to optimising their sites for image search.

Have you had any positive (or negative) experiences ranking your images? Have you used stock photography? Feel free to comment below and share your experiences.

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Google Disavow Link Tool – Clean up those Spammy Links

If you have ever suffered from your site dropping which you believe is due to spammy links targeted at your site then you may be thanking your lucky stars that Google have finally released this Disavow tool to discount those links. Negative SEO has gained a lot of attentions since Penguin update.

Here is Matt Cutts Video introducing this…

Webmasters have been asking Google for a long time now for this tool and they have finally listened. Bing was first to introduce such a tool and it was only a matter of time before Google decided enough is enough with this Spam.

Many website owners were affected massively with sites dropping left right and centre after the initial penguin update back on April 24th 2012. This update affected websites owners with an over optimisation penalty. Basically anyone that had too many of the same anchor text links to their site.

My main income site was also affected even know I had been doing natural link building but a competitor decided to send thousands of links using the same anchor text to my site, all from spammy forums. I believe this was the main reason why my site dropped in the rankings.

Who is this disavow tool for?

Basically there will be 3 main reasons why anyone would feel the need to use this tool

  1. A competitor has linked to your site many hundreds or thousands of times from spammy websites or forums. Like ME!!
  2. You outsourced the seo link building and you believe they used dodgy links
  3. You used paid for links or blog networks and you want to tidy up your link profile.

If you have received a warning in your Webmaster tools account then you will likely benefit from this. If you haven’t then its possible that you don’t need to, however I’ve previously asked them to discount thousands of spammy links to my site and all I got was a template e-mail saying ‘No Manual Spam Actions found’. So I believe even if you haven’t had the e-mail or notification in Webmaster tools, and believe you need to disavow those links to your site, then submit away.

Remember Penguin is algorithmic, those extra links will affect your link distribution and anchor text ratio.

How can the Disavow Tool help you?

Its quite simple to use the tool. First you will need to have a Webmaster Tools account.

Head over to the Google disavow link tool here: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/disavow-links-main

Specify your site then agree to the warning screen if you wish to continue. This tool should be used with caution as it may harm your websites ranking in Google’s search results. If you are not longer ranking then you may have nothing to lose anyway.

Here is an example of what a file might look like:

Google Disavow Link Tool file

Many webmasters may feel like they could be giving too much away to Google, but to be honest not every webmaster does their own SEO or link building. Google’s spam team do want to help reduce the spam so this is a good thing.

Yes this is going to help Google build up a list of sites that need removing from their index, and if you’ve used any sites in bad networks then they are likely to get reported and removed anyway, so clean up your act or hire a professional quality SEO consultant :)

You should always focus on building quality links not only for the link benefit but to promote your business and gain extra traffic.

Thanks Google for doing something about those spammy links. Negative SEO has caused lots of issues for both website owners and SEO companies. Trying to remove links added by previous SEO companies is not a fast or easy task and also can cost money when blog owners charge to remove the links.

Don’t expect that after submit the links through the disavow tool that your site will automatically jump back up. It will take some time for those links to be removed from the index or discounted as passing any form of link juice. There will be loads of links that Google will need to manually review.

You should continue working with professional SEO consultants to build authority links to also repair your link profile.

I would like to hear your thoughts. Do you welcome this new tool? Are you likely to use it?

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How to use Google Search – SEO Tips and Tricks

First its important to understand basic searches and how to use Google search to find the best results. You may find some keywords will relate to 2 different things so its important to try and tailor your search to narrow down the search results. Below are some useful SEO Tips and Tricks;

Here are some Basic Search Examples

blue widgets – Find web pages that match either keywords in any order within the web pages meta tags and content. Results will be shown with the words blue and/or widgets. This is known as a broad match. Notice non quotes used!

“blue widgets” – Find web pages that match the exact keywords in the exact order. This is known as an exact phrase match. Notice the quotes used

blue or widgets – Find web pages with the words blue or widgets

Use Google Search for Keyword Research

When doing keyword research for SEO campaigns, there are some useful tools to use to give you suggested keywords, such as the Google Keyword Tool, Keyword Tracker, and many others such as Market Sumarai, Micro Niche Finder etc.

But sometimes your Keyword Research is right there in front of you. Here is a few smart ways to use Google search engine.

    • Start typing in your main keyword and see what the Google suggest brings back, you will find common searches related to that keyword term.

Example; I typed seo, you may see some personalised searches if you have searched for other seo keywords before, but below the line if you scroll down you will see suggestions, such as seo tips, seo services, seo software, seo book etc.

    • Simply Search for your main Keywords and see what Google related searches are, these are often to the right or bottom of the search (depending on if their are ads or not).

Example; search for seo and you will see ‘Searches related to seo’ – seo techniques, seo tips, seo tutorial, seo guide and a few others.

    • Use a ~ Tilda – Use the tilda in front of your keyword to find related keywords. You will see the usual search results but not only will your main keyword that you used after the tilda will be bold/highlighted, but other keywords that are related will be bold too.

Example; search for ~seo and you will see that related keywords are Search Engine Optimization is a related keyword.This is useful when creating content for your website as it will allow you to use varied keywords in your content and to make sure you don’t stuff your text with too much of the same keywords, known as keyword stuffing.

    • Site:url – This allows you to check if a certain URL is indexed in Google and how the search engine sees the site. You can also see how many pages in the index.

Example; type in site:seoguide.org.uk and you should see the following. These details are picked up from the meta tags in the sites header code. Such as the Title tag and the meta description.

    • Allintitle – This allows you to search for keyword in only the title tag of each website listed in the search engine. This allows you to see how many competing sites are trying to use and rank for those keywords.

Example; type in allintitle:”seo guide” and we’ll see approx 47K results. Remember to use the quotes!

    • Allinurl – This allows you to search for the keyword in the URL Remember search engines are looking for relevancy so checking how many competing sites with your keywords in the URL can help you determine how competitive those keywords may be to rank.

Example; allinurl:”seo guide” shows our site has to compete with approx 27K other pages

    • Inanchor – This allows you to see how many web pages have links using the keywords in your search criteria

Example; inanchor:”seo guide” shows approx 700K pages have links with the keyword seo guide as the anchor text link. That’s quite a lot of links!

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