A Few Secrets of Effective SEO

Irina Ponomareva

Category: SEO Basics

Search Engines are the most effective tools for bringing traffic to websites. The searcher uses them to find a source of information or a service. The owner of the site that contains information or represents a service provides everything that is necessary - and the search engine lists the site and ranks it high for searchers to click on its link in the listing. That's how the interests meet.

Of course, the reality of the search engine world is not that simple. These complicated mechanisms have a lot of factors to estimate and a lot of variables to calculate before they "decide" which site of the vast number of apparently equally relevant resources to make number 1. And they will tell you nothing about those variables, nor will they simplify your task when you are trying to affect their decision and achieve good positions in search engines for your targeted keywords.

The art of SEO is not any simpler than any other art. It takes talent and labour. And it takes certain knowledge of some rules and secrets that may seem easy and obvious at first. But why do people find them hard to accept and follow? Why do they come to numerous SEO forums and ask the same questions again and again? Maybe they just aren't really obvious?

Questions and answers

1. How do I start?

You start by asking yourself what your site is going to be about. You define your goals and target audience; then you just shut your eyes and concentrate on your own ideas on how your future site should look and how it should be structured. Keyword research comes later; if you manage to answer the main questions, which are "What kind of pages am I going to have on my site?" and "How will those pages be connected to each other to form a site?" it will be much easier to find the right keywords.

Of course, if you are not creating a new site but working on an existing site, you don't have the luxury of performing this preliminary meditation. You just look at the pages you've got to optimise and find the best keywords for them.

2. Do I need to target all my keywords on the home page?

By no means. You've got your whole site to play with, and the opportunities this gives you in terms of optimising for different keywords are tremendous. All pages from your site have their chances to be ranked and found, and these chances shouldn't be neglected.

There is one important consideration though. Your home page is always the one with the greatest authority, from the search engines' point of view, and with the best chance of achieving decent rankings for appropriate keywords. So, it has become common practice to target the most competitive search terms on the home page.

3. How do I determine a competitive term?

That's easy, if you are familiar with Google's advanced search operators. The allintitle: operator combined with your targeted keywords will show you the number of pages that have your targeted keywords in their <title> tag. The allinanchor: operator brings forward the pages containing your term in the anchor text of their inner links. You can also use both of them in the same query to refine the results of your research. Combined with the grand total of all the pages found for the term in different engines, they will give you a rough idea of the level of competition in your targeted SERPs (search engine result pages). Of course, there are other factors affecting the competition, such as the niche (for instance, the SEO niche is very competitive by definition), the quality of the sites already sitting in the top 10, and such like. You will have to research into all these factors to get a better idea of what is waiting for you - and yet only when you start actually chasing your keywords will you see the whole picture.

Don't be intimidated though. When you start actually doing SEO for your site, your web statistics will show you a lot of niche-specific key phrases you have probably initially missed - and they will still be effective and well targeted.

4. Do I need to include my keywords in all the alt attributes of my images?

Hey, of course not! What gave you that idea? Imagine yourself a visitor browsing the site with graphics turned off (spiders are just like those visitors), and you will see why spacer.gif images should have nothing in their alt attributes (just alt=""), and a picture with a white horse on it should have alt="horse" or alt="white horse", but not alt="gifts gift baskets birthday gifts wedding gifts buy gifts online", even if you are actually targeting those keywords. You should never sacrifice usability for the sake of keywords or SE positioning. Ever.

5. My successful competitor is doing this and that on his site, and it brings him good rankings. Should I do the same to achieve the same results?

No, you shouldn't. To make your SEO the most effective it can be, you should be original and unique, and never copy anyone at all. The search engines see their goal in delivering their users the best quality results possible; and being unique means quality (provided you offer something of genuine value). Those who imitate and copy get filtered and devalued by the engines, so don't yield to the temptation to reproduce the next guy's work on your site. Just be yourself.

Of course, basic SEO rules are to be understood and followed. Keywords in the copy; keywords in the title; keywords in the link text, and make sure your site is easy to navigate and use. But at the same time, you should always remember that SEO is an art, and every art requires all the creativity and imagination you possess, in order to be successful.

The main ingredient

If you really aim at being successful online, you should think about long-term success and never expect quick results. If your site is new, be prepared to face the Google sandbox. It may last for less than a year, but if you are ready to wait for a year or more, you won't be too disappointed if it actually happens to you. Patience is going to be the main ingredient of your overall SEO success, as it always has been, and always will be.

Year after year the Net grows, the algorithms become more sophisticated and the engines will slow down their reaction time. Year after year, SEO work is going to require more patience and more dedication if we really want it to be successful. It's the most important secret of effective SEO there is, and though it sounds simple, we all know how hard it is at times to stay patient with the engines.

Yet I know you can.

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