What is SEO Search Engine Optimisation?
At it's core Search Engine Optimisation is a discipline aimed at getting better results from the search engines. The internet is a tough place to compete on an equal footing with companies with limitless budgets and people permanently employed to work the systems. Google, Bing and the other search engines are continuously updating their algorythms to make it more difficult to cheat.
Search Engine Optimisation as a discipline is continuosly evolving to meet the changes in the Search Algorythms. Some of the basics have not changed and never will. In order to compete there are still things that can be done to get the best possible results from the search engines. These have been done since the start of the algorythms and in many cases just the basics are enough to ensure that the results you need, are achievable.
Black Hat vs White hat
In the 90's when people started understanding the power of the search engines two schools of thought developed. The two schools of thought were named oddly enough because of the Spy vs Spy cartoon in the Mad magazine. The white hats followed the rules and the black hats tended to be the law breakers. It could also be because of Spaghetti Westerns that the two schools got their names.
Black Hat SEO is about gaming the system. Black Hat SEO on occassion gains short term success, but web sites using black hat techniques often dissapear over night when the different search engines update their algorythms. In the 90's it was easy to rank for a keyword, all you had to do was make sure you had it appear on your page most often. Keyword stuffing no longer works because the algorythms changed and having good content with the keyword appearing at a maximum ratio became the norm.
I once wrote a post on a blog saying bad things about a major internet supplier. I repeated a phrase a large number of times, and the other pages on my blog ranked higher for the search term despite them only having the phrase as a menu item. Some of the ways of using keyword stuffing was keeping it off page by making text the same colour as the back ground, so someone would write a decentish article, and add a dozen lines below it with "hidden" text. Before the algorythm change these techniques were great, after the algorythm change the pages dissapeared from the Google results.
Over the years there have been many changes in algorythms and the sites that offer no value get removed from the search results. It seems to me that using black hat techniques is a lot of work, and that energy can be better employed doing things right. My Dad used to complain about there always being enough time to fix stuff afterwards but never enough time to do it right in the first place, Black hats seem to favour this method.
What is the right way of doing SEO
I took some time out from doing the coding and design, and started a wood working business called Pretoria Kitchens. I ranked number one on Google for the term Pretoria Kitchens and that was enough to keep me as busy as a cucumber in a womans prison. I could have spent a lot more time on optimisation of the site but I reached a point where if I were to do any more quotes, I'd have to work 20 hours a day to keep up.
Over the years I have achieved more results for myself and for clients than they needed. My thoughts about traffic are that there is good traffic and bad traffic. It doesn't mean much to a small business in Pretoria or Sasolburg that they are getting a thousand visitors a day to their web site from Atlanta Georgia, or Moscow, New York, London and Paris. These visitors have no benefit whatsoever, and I consider it bad traffic. If my business is in Boksburg and I service clients in Benoni, Springs and Brakpan as well, good traffic will be people from my target market. Twenty new visitors from Springs is of way more value to me than ten thousand from Bloemfontein in this scenario.
Optimise for local traffic
The first rule of optimisation as far as I am concerned is to target the people that want to give me money. I want the good traffic that will enrich me. Statistically you need two hundred visitors to a website, to do a sale, but this changes drastically when your traffic is people that actually want to spend money in your area. If you are getting the majority of your traffic from people in Germiston and you offer a service in Germiston, statistically you will be getting a better result from your web site. Even if you supply widgets nationally, people will search locally first, target specific areas and grow from there.
Optimise for specific products and services
It is far easier to rank for "postform tops" than it is to rank for "board merchant". It is far easier to rank for "oak side table" than it is to rank for "oak furniture". The secret to this is that once you are ranking for enough "single products" and are getting traffic that sticks around, Google will upgrade your importance and ranking becomes easier for "general merchant".
Quality vs Quantity
You can never go wrong supplying quality information. Good content always ranks higher than poor quality content. People look for information online and the one that supplies the best information gets the traffic, because one of the things the search engines do is see how long people stick around. If you have a 95% bounce rate, the Search engines will assume that your content is not as good as the site with a 60% bounce rate and they will rank higher than you. The longer someone spends on your web site, the more likely they are to go to the contact us page.
Bounce rates are simple to understand. If someone finds your website on Google, visits, doesn't find what they are looking for and leaves to visit another website, that's a bounce. People bounce far quicker if your content is not what they are looking for. Great title tags and meta descriptions that tell people exactly what the specific page is about, (note! not the site) will improve click throughs and reduce bounce rates if they are honest.
Should I put up prices?
Over the years I have heard, "My prices are confidential, I don't want my competitors to know what I charge", I have one answer to that. Do you give price lists to your customers? If you don't they are shopping elsewhere where they don't have to fight you to get information. If you do, your competitors already have your price list. The easier you make it for your customer or prospect to get information, the more likely they are to support you. If pricing is volatile in your industry put up a disclaimer, like "prices are subject to change without notice, they are dollar sensitive and the prices here need to be confirmed. They may even be cheaper than listed because of discounts we offer to customers with money in hand, use them as a guide line only"
If I am in the market for something like say a camera, I am going to look for prices on line, and based on the online pricing I will see if there are any discounts available and I will buy from the site that gives me the best information and seems most trustworthy. If you are not putting up prices and specials, you are on the back foot from the word go.
If you have any questions, feel free to ask.
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