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Search Engine Optimisation: what you need to know

There is a lot of misunderstanding and confusion regarding SEO so here is is a basic overview of what is normal and what can be expected:

Q. What is a great result?
A. Any position on page one is generally considered a good result and is the goal we strive for.

Of course position 1 is even more desirable but aggressive behaviour in seeking rankings is very dangerous and can easily result in a penalty for the whole site. Therefore the risks must be balanced against the potential rewards.

Q. How long will it take before I see results?
A. The answer to this depends, as with all SEO issues, because it varies greatly from site to site. As an overview, you should see positive results within a month but it may take 3-6 months for low to medium competitive terms and a year or more for highly competitive keywords.

You should not look at SEO as a quick fix to better rankings in Google. It is a longer term investment.

Q. Why are there keywords in the report that are not improving?
A. Many of the keywords in the report we provide will have been included for reasons of safety with regards to Google. Google is always looking for ‘unnatural activity’ and focusing on a handful of keywords is certainly a red flag for this. Many of the keywords have been added to dilute ‘anchor text density’ and are not actively being promoted. They serve the purpose of keeping the density of any individual keywords below 1%.

We will have used the core keywords given to us by you at the beginning of the project and these are what we actively focus on. The same is true if you see keywords in the report that you do not see as 100% relevant to your business. They are there for reasons of keyword density etc. so don’t be confused or concerned about this.

Q. Why are my rankings fluctuating?
A. There are several reasons for this. The first is the Google Caffeine algorithm. In simple terms, Google is viewing new activity as News. It wants to show breaking news activity in real time so ranking results can happen very quickly. After a period of time Google no longer views this as current news event and thus begins to lower the results. If no more activity happens then the drop remains; Google deeming that it was in fact news that is ageing and is no longer trending.

If more activity occurs then Google will generally improve the rank, but not to it’s original highest position because, clearly this is not breaking news twice so it commands a less impressive position the second time

This process continues until a point that Google no longer considers it news but a static story. This is where rankings tend to stabilise. This can be a bumpy ride for the uninitiated! The key here is to understand this process and that this is normal and it can take some time for stability to occur.

The second reason for position fluctuation is simply competition. When you go up, somebody else goes down. If a keyword of phrase is valuable, many companies will have employed SEO companies to compete for the traffic. It’s a constant tug of war in a zero sum game.

The third reason is Google updates. Google frequently update their algorithms, each change bringing what is affectionately known as ‘the Google dance’. These fluctuations and changes are beyond anybody’s control and unfortunately are simply part of Google’s normal process. These changes are neither announced or explained by Google and happen as often as weekly at times and always monthly. Major updates occur approximately every two years.

Q. Can we give certain keywords a push?
A. Yes, but very gently. Aggressive behaviour will almost certainly result in penalty. This is why it’s important to view a project as a whole and not just as handful of high value keywords. A high density of ‘anchor text’ is a big red flag asking for trouble and is to be avoided.

Q. What is Anchor Text?
A. Anchor Text is a link back to your website using the specific keyword as the link. For example:

‘Click here for more information on Red Widgets’

The anchor text here are the words red widgets and would be a link back to your website when red widgets is clicked on. This is what Google uses to rank specific words. Keyword rankings are improved in this way. If we create 100 links using this text the keyword density would be 100%. This will work in the short term but it will also almost certain end in disaster as this is very unnatural behaviour. Ideally we would not want to use any keyword more than 2% of the time. We can push this 2% a little but it’s not advised to do it often.

Q. Is Meta Data still important?
A. Yes and No. It is very important from a human perspective. It’s an advert for your business and a call to action. It’s not so important form an SEO point of view.

Here is a bad example of meta data that most still believe is the correct way.

Red Widget | Blue Widget | Green Widget

Company X, we sell red widgets, blue widgets and green widgets. We also offer Service A, Service B and Service C.

This is written for search engines, it’s keywords-stuffed and awful from a users point of view

Here is a better example:

The highest quality red widget with a 100% guarantee

We carry only the highest quality widgets backed by our 100% customer satisfaction guarantee.

Much more user friendly!

This second example will serve much better, this first may offer very, very marginal ranking advantage but overall will not deliver results in terms of sales or user experience. We must keep the balance between user experience and the cold mathematics of algorithms.
SEO should be viewed as a medium to long term investment/process. The easiest way to think of this is Reputation = Rankings. Every activity performed is based on building reputation.

Google is looking for sites with a good reputation to show in the same way we would only recommend business we believe to be reputable.

The digital reputation of a business has to be build up and cared for in the same way it does in the physical world. It can’t be created on demand any more than an individual can demand respect from another individual. History, time and many other factors that can only develop naturally go into this. It is a process of cooperation.

Bear in mind also that the physical size and reputation of a bricks and mortar business does not transfer into the digital world, they are two totally separate and non related entities. The digital reputation must be built and managed from scratch over time.

(current at Sept 2014)