Search engine optimization (SEO) has never been more important. Almost 90% of people use search engines for product research; and with 33% of all search engine traffic going to the #1 spot in Google, ranking well can make or break your business. In order to get your business from SEO Zero to SEO Hero, we’re comprehensively covered two of the most important aspects of SEO strategy: keywords and backlinks.
Keywords are the phrases used when searching for information and products through a search engine. The keywords that appear in your content will influence which search terms your website is visible for – so an intelligent keyword strategy is essential for SEO success.
Short-tail keywords are the basic words and phrases that make up the majority of search queries. In a niche like footwear, your short-tail keywords would be words like shoes, boots, socks and Ugg boots. These simple search terms drive a lot of traffic, and as a result, they’re likely to be hotly contended by dozens of businesses.
Long tail keywords are the longer, more obscure phrases that make up a much lower percentage of overall search terms – think Size 10 boots, Nike Air Max and Converse for sale in Toronto. These search terms are typically modified by additional qualifying terms, like price, location and description. Whilst long-tail keywords drive much less traffic than their short-tail counterparts, they’re also much less competitive – and often easier to rank highly for.
There was a time when Google determined a page’s relevance to a particular search term almost entirely from its keyword density. Pages that contained more mentions of a keyword were deemed to be more relevant than those with a lower density – and Google would rank the page higher as a result.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before this practice was abused. Site owners realized that increasing their keyword density to ridiculous levels gave them a serious advantage in the search engine results – and in pursuit of a hallowed #1 spot, website content began to resemble this:
We sell custom cigar humidors. Our custom cigar humidors are handmade. If you’re thinking of buying a custom cigar humidor, please contact our custom cigar humidor specialists at firstname.lastname@example.org – Google
In direct response, Google overhauled their search engine algorithm. Instead of shooting up the rankings, websites with super-high keyword densities were instead penalized, classed as spam and removed from search engine results. Nowadays, keyword density is less important in determining a page’s rank – and as long as your content has a clear title, topic and direction, you shouldn’t worry about your density.
Traffic vs Competition
In a perfect world, your business would rank for all the major short-tail keywords in your niche – as they drive the most traffic. Unfortunately, unless you’re the biggest firm in your industry, this isn’t going to be easy. Bigger businesses have bigger budgets, and can afford to buy traffic, create content on a daily basis, and generally dominate the search engines.
Thankfully, long-tail keywords can actually be more lucrative to pursue. With less competition for these keywords, your business could rank for dozens of long-tail terms for the same cost as a single short-tail. Long-tail keywords are also more conducive to making a sale – as somebody searching for Converse for sale in Toronto is more ready to buy than somebody searching for shoes.
When choosing your keywords, focus on the traffic of your keyword relative to its competition. The most lucrative phrases occupy a sweet spot of low competition, and high traffic. They aren’t always easy to find, but they do exist – and with a bit of perseverance, your business could rank for dozens of high-selling terms.
Backlinks refer to the hyperlinks that lead from external websites to your own site. These links play a crucial role in SEO, giving Google, Yahoo!, Bing and co. an insight into your website’s popularity and legitimacy.
Backlinks are based loosely on a principle known as PageRank. Created by Google’s co-founder, Larry Page, the PageRank (PR) system allocates websites a score, reflective of its popularity and authenticity. PR is determined by Google, and dependent on a huge number of factors – but generally speaking, trusted, established websites with tons of backlinks, unique content and visitor activity will score the highest PR.
Backlinks can pass PR from website to website, and a link from a high-PR site will actually boost your own PageRank score. Take advantage of this fact in your linkbuilding, and seek out links from the highest-scoring sites. Unfortunately, this works both ways – so it’s crucial to avoid links from obviously spammy websites!
Once upon a time, all links were created equal – regardless of where they came from. This meant that websites could seek out backlinks en masse, approaching websites from any industry and attempting to solicit a link. Obviously, this wasn’t great for user experience, so Google made a concerted effort to reduce non-contextual links.
Nowadays, a link’s importance is determined by its relevance to your own site. Returning to our footwear example, obtaining a backlink from a dog training website will have virtually no impact on SEO – but obtaining a legitimate link from Nike.com would hugely affect our efforts.
Anchor text refers to the words and phrases that contain a hyperlink. Prior to Google’s Panda update, it was good practice to keyword-optimize your anchor text wherever possible – but in an attempt to eliminate backlink manipulation and spamming, Google now favors a diverse anchor text profile. Alongside your optimized anchor text, make sure to include branded anchors, non-descriptive anchors and even naked URLs.
- Keyword anchor: Converse for sale in Toronto
- Branded anchor: TorontoConverse.com
- Non-descriptive: Click here!
- Naked URL: http://torontoconverse.com/
Hyperlinks can be divided into two categories – dofollow, and nofollow. Dofollow links pass PageRank between sites, and Google incorporates them into their analysis of a site’s importance and relevance. In contrast, nofollow links share no PR, and Google intentionally ignores them when crawling a website.
Nofollow links are designed as a protective measure, allowing websites to prevent any negative implications from linking to potentially suspicious content. They also act as a great way of deterring comment spammers – by discrediting their links, and removing the incentive of blog commenting. Whilst it may seem like a good idea to obtain as many dofollow links as possible, Google disagrees. It argues that any legitimate website would have a mixture of do and nofollow links – so to avoid penalization, don’t shy away from nofollow links!