Search Engine Optimisation Basics

A lot of our work at Baltic Blog Design has been for very successful affiliates, and we think its worth sharing some tips and good SEO methodology that we’ve learnt or picked up along our merry way.

Search Engine Optimisation, that was first left to hard working affiliates to figure out has now becoming a key part of any company that has a significant online presence. The trouble is however, while affiliates and SEO guru’s are clear on the difference of Black Hat (Bad) and White Hat SEO, a director of a small to medium enterprise will only want results in web traffic. Often this leads to companies grabbing hold of old hearsay and web myths along with Black Hat SEO in an attempt to beat their rivals to the top of search engine lists, which could be dangerous for their website.

We understand many affiliates will know SEO very well, but it make’s sense that we explain the basics to our customers starting out on the web with their blogs.

SEO 101

There are many Search Engines on the web, but only a small select few themselves control the majority of traffic. It then stands to reason why most SEO techniques have been focused on major players in the search engine business such as Google, Yahoo and MSN. In this brief article we will be focusing on Google which is generally considered to be the most popular search engine used in the UK.

Google’s algorithms and search criteria are on a large part, unknown to the public, but through SEO it’s possible to use what information has been made public alongside testing and analysis to work out what will work best to gain a higher page rank and increase web traffic to a site.

For instance, we know that for competing websites Google’s software can analyse the content of a web page and makes decisions on the page’s relevance compared to its domain name, metadata and other competing websites. It counts web pages linking to your site (backlinks - often known as linkjuice) and takes into consideration each websites own page rank:

A website (A) with links from many other reputable websites will score highly in a search compared to a site (B) with links from many lesser ranked domains, but a site with few links (C) will score the lowest. It’s worth noting however, if a website’s content is completely unique, or contains unique keywords – it will be listed first for those keywords as long as Google has indexed the site.

Google works this way to favour websites with original content that offer genuine products and services or deliver valuable information. In turn their software attempts to filter through and block websites created solely for underhand marketing techniques such as link farming and spam, but it must be constantly updated to keep up with the latest tricks and hacks.

Black Hat SEO

Unfortunately search engines cannot fully comprehend a web page as we humans do and it’s still possible to exploit flaws and loopholes in the current system. While this may at first achieve amazing results in driving traffic to a site, Google, among other search engine providers, have become increasingly aware of this and the site will likely end up being blocked from ever appearing on their pages again.

Black Hat SEO is generally bad for the web too. Originating from the pornography (link farms) and spam industry, web pages full of nonsense clutter up the web. They have been generated to create backlinks to boost a domains pagerank while fooling search engines into thinking they are legitimate pages, they are often known as Splogs.
Large corporations have in the past have fallen off the top listing when a search is carried out specifically for them, due to overenthusiastic affiliates keyword stuffing, and bidding on the companies own brand name.

While a nuisance to a web surfer, and somewhat a clutter in cyberspace, Black Hat SEO techniques are actually most dangerous to the websites and domains using them. If a website’s purpose is to grab money and run, when the site is inevitably blocked it will have served its purpose. Any company wishing to keep their business online and on their chosen domain name will do well to steer clear of any blatant Black Hat techniques, as any increase in traffic will probably not be worth the risk of being shut out from the major search engines.

Good SEO

Good SEO is about following search engine requirements, using common sense and using analytical tools to increase readability by, and relevance to searchbots, browsers and people alike.

Search bots and spiders need to be able to read pure content, they cannot see flash animations or images and do not like to find lot’s of code between coherent sentences as they are not great at understanding our language in the first place. This is one reason web designers use CSS, as it separates design from content.

When building a website there are many standards to comply with that offer usability to the public and often allow accessibility to the blind and disabled. These standards in turn are used by search bots to make sense of the site – header tags are taken notice of for keywords, and alt tags provide information explaining the image.

Browsers need web compliant code to display web pages, and bad web code will prevent a website displaying correctly. This alone could prevent a website appearing on a search engine, but more than likely if people cannot see a webpage correctly in their browser, they will not link back to the site, or visit the site again.

Customers surfing the web want clarity: marketing mumbo jumbo, sales patois, flashy animations or intro pages will almost always serve to annoy them. Product descriptions should be as clear and concise as possible.

Blogs are not new, but more and more they are being recognised as a very good way to get noticed by search engines and promoting a company’s website. We have mentioned many of the benefits of blogs on our “how we work” page; the key advantage though, is the ease of updating content on a website combined with the ease of setting up an RSS feed to syndicate your content so users can subscribe to it, and other sites can link back to it.

Link exchanges with relevant websites, or website directories have always made up an important part of SEO. Get in the news! Create publicity stunts! Simply getting a link from a highly popular website will work wonders for web traffic. Use Digg and other sociable web tools such as add this. Building up links can be an arduous task but if a site offers meaningful, unique or competitive content, links to the site will grow organically.

Failing that; employing someone to submit a site to hundreds of web directories is a valid option if you can afford it. This is not the same as building link farms: acquire a database of web directories to submit to and instruct someone to add your site to them. If someone contacts you promoting the service, especially if they have fantastic claims of success, they will probably be charging money for nothing or utilising Black Hat SEO techniques that could put your domain in jeopardy.

This is just a brief outline on SEO, there are already books, plenty of forums and blogs on the subject. There are many old pieces of information that are no longer relevant and myths that we have seen companies and affiliates cling onto. A large proportion of SEO when sold to the layperson will be snakoil too, so it’s definitely worth reading up on. In the future we will be posting a few issues in SEO that we’ve came across working for our online clients, so watch this space!

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