SEO - Pitfalls and Best Practices

Search Engine Optimisation

SEO, which stands for search engine optimisation, is the practice of perfecting your website to make sure that search engines like it and list it high on the search engine results pages. There are good ways and bad ways to perform SEO, and it is important that you know the difference. Bad SEO can result in a website being penalised or possibly even dropped completely from the search engines.

Although it is possible to optimise your own site; for best results a professional SEO company should be consulted. In the UK there are a number of very good companies online and off, a basic search will reveal the options i.e. SEO London, Search engine optimisation Bristol, and so on.

Google's Panda Update

In 2011, search engine giant Google made a drastic change to the search engine's algorithm that caused thousands of websites to drop heavily in the search engine results. This update became known as Panda, and was also referred to as the farmer update by many. Prior to Panda, Google would rank webpages with their page rank algorithm which made it easier for Webmasters to rank their pages by using a few search engine optimisation tricks.

Since Panda, Google does still use the page rank algorithm but the Panda update includes a new layer that focuses on the entire site rather than a specific page of the site. Furthermore, it focuses heavily on the user experience, so pages that have a lot of ads, are poorly designed, or feature thin content, are penalised and not likely to rank on the first page of the search engines. In order to improve your rankings, try to look at your site through the eyes of the user rather than your own, and provide a positive user experience.

Blog Networks

In February of 2012 Google released a further Panda update. This update was to pull the plug on many blog networks where users could join for a monthly fee and have articles containing links to their sites published. This is against Google's guidelines as these back links are not natural. One of the major blog networks, Build My Rank, had to close down after all its blogs were the indexed by Google.

Blog networks like Build My Rank were open to the public and it would have been very easy for Google to find out which blogs were a part of the network. However, private blog networks that are not open to all and sundry can still be a practical way to increase your site's rank in the search engines.

Delete or Rewrite Low-Quality Content

If you have a large site with lots of pages of articles, it is a good idea to go through them and make sure the content is interesting. If you find any articles that have low quality content either rewrite them or delete them all together. A site with fewer pages but high-quality interesting articles is better than a large site with low-quality content.

For SEO purposes, you should also go through your site and remove any broken links. If your site is a WordPress site there is a plugin called the Broken Link Checker plug-in which makes this an easy task.

Build Natural-Looking Links

When creating back links pointing to your site they should look natural in the eyes of Google. In the past many Webmasters focused on just a few keywords that they were hoping to rank highly for. This is a mistake these days because it does not appear natural, so make sure you use many keyword variations and longtail keywords. You should also include neutral text in your back linking efforts such as "click here", "this website", or simply use the raw URL.

Things to Avoid

Because the Panda update frowns upon webpages that have lots of adverts, you should avoid placing your ads "above the fold." This means the ads should not be visible to the visitor as soon as she lands on your page, but only when she has scrolled down the site. You should not load your pages with the relevant keywords or place hidden text and links within the content.

If your website is an affiliate site, make sure that it provides value for the visitor with relevant and unique content, rather than simply a site that is low on content but full of affiliate links.

Do not create many pages on the same site that basically say the same thing. Panda penalised many "content farms", such as eHow and Suite101 for this reason. Each page should have unique and relevant articles focused on a different subject relating to your niche rather than many very similar articles which do not provide different ideas or thoughts.

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