Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Primer
Sometimes, when you work on something for a long time, you get to the point where you forget what it’s like to NOT know what you know. This is extensively documented as “The Curse of Knowledge”. The Curse of Knowledge is simply knowing something and doing something for so long that when you describe it to somebody else, you tend to leave a lot of the details out because you assume everybody knows them even though somebody without the same domain of knowledge has little chance of knowing those details. This leads to a huge communication gap and general misunderstanding.
So, in an effort to overcome any kind of SEO curse of knowledge, SnugData offers the below SEO Primer.
- Alt Text: This is an attribute applied to an item (usually an image) on a web page. It’s important for a couple of reasons – mostly because Google has no idea what a picture on your site is about unless you say so, an the “alt text” is how you do that. So a picture of a chicken coop should have an alt text attribute of, for example, “chicken coop”…not blank and not image_1100099. This goes for the file name of the image as well – give it something meaningful.
- Anchor Text: This is the text you see on the page that signifies a link. If you click HERE, this link will take you to the SnugData home page (opens in a new window so you don’t lose your place here in the Primer). The text “HERE” is the anchor text. Anchor text is extremely important and can drastically work for or against your SEO efforts. There are two important points to consider about anchor text:
- They are hopefully relevant to your website. So if a site is linking back to your site, ideally the anchor text is either your business name, your website URL, or a word or term that closely relates to what your business is about. Keep in mind though, that you have no control over what most webmasters will use as anchor text to link to your site – you can, however, reach out to them to start a dialogue about this when you notice they have created a link to your site with anchor text you would like to change.
- Too much of a good thing can be bad. If your site is about dog training and you have 10,000 links and the anchor text for all of those links is “dog training”, then that is (these days) considered over optimized, meaning, it’s an unnatural link profile. Think about it-what is the likelihood that 10,000 (or so) other people would create a link to your site using the exact same anchor text. It’s far more likely that somebody was black-hatting it and creating those links themselves or via outsourcing. Ideally, you’ll have a varied assortment of anchor text, all relating to your site. It’s natural to have a large percentage of anchor text made up of your business name and your website’s URL.
- BackLink: This is critical aspect of your SEO. A backlink is a link from another site that points to yours. If you think about it a minute, you have (for the most part) ZERO control over anybody in the world linking to your site because all it takes is for them to put a link on their own site with your site as the destination. These links transfer “link juice” to your site based on how powerful and popular…or authoritative…that site is. So a link from cnn.com would transfer a lot of link juice to your site because cnn.com is an extremely powerful site. There are several factors to consider regarding the power of backlinks:
- Relevance: A link from a site that is relevant to yours carries transfers more link juice than a non-relevant site. So using the cnn.com example, if your site is about news items, current events, societal issues, etc, that link would carry more weight than if your site was about children’s poetry or landscaping or something like that. Then again, the content of the link itself matters – the article may have been about landscaping, in which case it would carry additional weight for a landscaping site
- Profile: All of your links, when looked at as a whole, create your site’s “backlink profile” which gives a pretty good picture of what your site has been up to. Sometimes there will be thousands of links to non-relevant sites which is a good indicator of some unethical SEO efforts in the past (10,000 high level links to your site for $5).
- Quantity: The more backlinks, the better as long as they are coming from relevant and trustworthy sites. You cannot have too many of these kinds of links.
- Conversion: Conversion gets thrown around a bit but for me it means simply the completion of a goal. If that goal is somebody clicking “purchase” on your shopping cart, so be it. But it might also be somebody liking your Facebook page or re-tweeting your latest tweet. I consider any of these as conversions.
- Domain Authority / Page Authority: This is a metric set forth by the good folks at Majestic, of which I am a fan. A site’s Domain Authority signifies it’s power…how likely it is to be ranked highly in the SERPs. A brand new domain will have a DA of 1. A medium power domain will be in the 15-25 range. Anything over 30 is considered a pretty powerful site. This is a good metric to take into consideration when looking for backlinks. DA relates to your site overall while PA relates to a given page on your site.
- Hats (black, white, gray, etc): The most common here is “Black Hat” which refers to what Google considers unethical practices to raise a site’s SERP rankings. So an SEO-er that spends his time scraping articles from the internet, spinning them and posting them as his/her own on any of their PBN domains and pointing links within that pirated and spun article to his own “money site” would be considered to be engaging in Black Hat SEO by Google. There are varying shades here to be considered – black, gray, white, etc. Purely “White hat” SEO-ers abide by the letter of the law as Google lays it down. It should be noted here that Google does not like SEO – they much prefer customers pay their “pay per click (PPC)” fees rather than get free search results via SEO.
- Keyword / Keyword phrases: The single most critical part of any SEO effort, and yet it is often overlooked because many business owners spin up a site, put a lot of great content on it but do so without a solid understanding of just how important keywords are. These are the words and phrases you want your site to be ranked for. If you build and sell chicken coops, then “chicken coop” is a good keyword for you. So is “chicken coop plans” or maybe “DIY chicken coop”. The more words in the keyword phrase, the “longer tail” it is. “Chicken Coop” would be considered a keyword whereas “Cheap and easy DIY chicken coop plans” would be considered a “long tail keyword”. As a general rule, the long tail keywords are less competitive (easier to rank for) and imply a higher likelihood of conversion (selling). Somebody searching for “chicken coop” might be researching a science project, they might be trying to sell a coop, or maybe they’re just into chickens. But somebody searching for “cheap and easy DIY chicken coop plans” is definitely looking to either buy or find plans for free.
- It must be noted that SEO practices of the past such as “keyword stuffing” and other nonsense will get your site heavily penalized and maybe de-indexed these days. DO NOT copy any keyword 500 times in the footer of your page and DO NOT think you can get away with it by writing in a white font on a white background. Google figured that out a long time ago.
- If you want to get real geeky, you want a “keyword density” of about 3% or less, so for every 100 words, your keyword should occur only 2 or 3 times.
- Google is also extremely adept at identifying synonyms as well as deriving the meaning of words from the context around it (we call it “LSI” or Latent Semantic Indexing). So instead of “chicken coop”, you might want to use “roost”, “perch”, “chicken sedan (just kidding), or “nesting box”. Get creative – it’ll help raise the chances of your page ranking for additional keywords you hadn’t even planned on!
- Link Juice is an intangible thing SEO-ers are in love with. The more link juice, the better. This is a means of discussing how much power…authority…credibility… a site passes over a link. A link from the home page of forbes.com to your site will carry a ton of link juice and enable your site to ultimately rank higheer.
- PBN: Private Blog Network’s are an SEO-er’s playground. In the past it was common practice to buy up hundreds and thousands of domains, build low quality content on them, and point links from them to a money site to use the power of these PBN domains to rank the money site. It should be noted here that a PBN is normally made up of expired domains that are bought at auction. These expired domains can still have hundreds or thousands of backlinks point to them so spinning up a site with that domain means your new site can inherit all that link juice. This practice is considered Black Hat by Google and they have gone through extensive efforts to shut PBN’s down. PBN’s today still exist and still can have a significant impact when used correctly and carefully, but note that Google is on the warpath here so most SEO-ers take extra precautions to hide their PBN’s from Google’s wrath.
- Referring Domains: This goes hand in hand with BackLinks as it shows how many different sites those backlinks are coming from. You want as high a number here as possible. You can imagine a site with 500 links from a single domain is less trustworthy than a site with 500 links from 450 different domains. Fewer referring domains also means a higher risk for losing link juice if that one domain goes off line.
- SERP: Search Engine Results Page. This is what it’s all about! The higher you rank, the more people will click on your SERP results and land on your web page.
- Trust Flow/Citation Flow: These are metrics from the good folks at Moz.com that signify how trustworthy a site is. Ideally you want a high Trust Flow and a lower Citation Flow. A optimum is a 1:1 relationship between the two. When the citation flow starts to get around twice the number of trust flow, it indicates a site that is spammy. So a site with, for example, 21 Trust Flow would love to have a 21 Citation Flow. If that site instead had a 45 Citation Flow, there is a high chance of some spam or other problem SEO taking place.
For additonal information on the SEO process, and how SnugData goes about it, be sure to take a look at our SEO Process page.