Search Engine Optimisation – You Reap What You Sow

Most people who run an online business will know of SEO and appreciate that any website that is well optimised will attract a greater amount of traffic than other sites. It stands to reason, and has been proven to be extremely effective. Unfortunately, some SEO practitioners have resorted to using underhand and unethical optimisation techniques, known as black hat, to get their clients artificially inflated search engine rankings. These methods have proved to be a source of irritation not just to the search engines, but also to website owners who try to run their online businesses in an ethical and proper manner. It seemed for some time that if you broke the rules and cheated the system, then you’d likely benefit. Fortunately this problem is now well in hand as the search engines have introduced algorithm changes that actively seek out all the unscrupulous practitioners. Now anyone caught cheating the system will face the consequences. Unfortunately this has created another problem for online business owners. How do they optimise their websites ethically? How can they enhance their online presence, without antagonising search engines?  The answer is to employ white hat SEO techniques. It really is that simple.

So what is white hat SEO?

When people talk about white hat SEO techniques what they’re talking about are ethical procedures and practices. It’s simply a matter of playing the game with a straight bat and not trying to cheat the system. There are several ways of utilising white hat SEO techniques, but the most popular and proven are the following:

Keyword research and the effective use of keywords

Keywords are the key to the success of any online business. They are what drives searches and ultimately determine whether your business is able to convert these searches. Businesses need to know at the outset, therefore, what likely search terms users will be searching for. They need to identify the most relevant ones for their businesses and optimise their sites to rank for these. If you don’t carry out enough research, the chances are you’ll pick the wrong keywords and unfortunately users will then not be able to find you.

The best place to start is by using a keyword research tool like Google’s AdWords Keyword tool. These will show you the most popularly searched keywords, and compare how effective these keywords are when used in online searches. It might seem obvious, but it’s worth repeating, the larger the number using these keywords, the more popular and relevant they are. Once you’ve chosen you keywords, then you need to incorporate these into your online content. Keyword density then becomes important. It’s all a matter of getting the balance right. It you use the keywords too frequently they will lose their impact, and could be interpreted by the search engines as black hat or spamming. Use then too infrequently and they’re practically useless. No one can really say what an ideal density is, but the general consensus seems to be in the region of 3 to 8% depending on your particular niche or specialisation.

Using high quality content

It’s probably stating the obvious, but quality counts. I know we’ve all heard it before, but you’d be surprised at the number of people who’re aware of this statement of fact, but still churn out meaningless drivel on their websites. They mistakenly believe that all they have to do is get content on the site: end of story. For them the quality is either unimportant, or secondary. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Sites that produce quality content attract and retain visitors because these users know that what you’re offering is interesting, absorbing and worthwhile.  They’ll stay that little bit longer on the website because of that and will come back and buy the goods and services you offer. Good quality content will ensure that your visitors won’t bounce away to your competitors’ websites.

Gaining high quality inbound links

The success of every website is essentially built on reputation. The more respected your website is, the more successful it will become. But to become successful, websites need to be acknowledged by their peers. This means they need to build up a series of quality backlinks from other websites. They can achieve this by providing worthwhile content that can be shared by others. Now it is possible to buy links off the peg, but ultimately they won’t do any good as users will spot them for what they are – low quality and therefore practically worthless. Good quality links take time to build. It might not be what you want to hear, but if a job’s worth doing and all that. Respect and reputation have to earned, and that unfortunately means you’ll have to put a shift in.

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