Article: Back To SEO Basics | GuruBob’s Blog | Robert Somerville

Posted: January 31, 2011 in Uncategorized

Excellent advice from the “Guru”!!!

Back To SEO Basics | GuruBob’s Blog | Robert Somerville

Back To SEO Basics | GuruBob’s Blog

Posted on January 31, 2011 by Guru Bob

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” – Albert Einstein

I am fortunate to be in a position to offer SEO advice to a number of people and in this capacity I have observed that many (if not most) of the problems that people face with search engine optimization (SEO) don’t stem from overly complex issues but from either a mis-understanding or mis-implementation of the SEO basics.

Funnily enough, it does remind me a little of a situation from my past. Years ago, when I was a young, ambitious geo-scientist I would occasionally find myself in need of advice from the Chief Geo-Physicist. In offering advice, he would always irritate me enormously by going back to first principles to resolve whatever problem I had. How could it be that the answers would be found there I kept thinking to myself? The situation was doubly vexing when more often than not…that was indeed where the solution was to be found. Eventually, I came to realize that I should not make assumptions and when in a need to troubleshoot, I would carefully make sure that the solutions weren’t a lot simpler than I thought if only I took care to make sure I hadn’t overlooked the fundamentals.

But what has all this to do with SEO you may ask?

The more I have found myself in a position to troubleshoot SEO issues the more important I have found it to have a clear process for reviewing the circumstances of the issues while at the same time ensuring that the fundamentals have been implemented properly. This post has been written to describe the process I use so that people might be able to troubleshoot for themselves without having to seek external advice for something that might be founded in the SEO basics.

Of course any analysis of the SEO characteristics of a page or website should initially start by determining whether Google and the other search engines have discovered and indexed the page/post or domain under question. If this has not happened, then other considerations apply (has the domain been banned for instance) which are beyond the scope of this post but may be the subject of a future posting.

The remainder of this post therefore discusses circumstances where there are no issues about whether a page/post or website has been found and indexed but where the ranking outcome (within the search engine results pages or SERPS) is inconsistent with what is expected. There is no difference whether the factors discussed below are addressed while the content is being considered and published or during a troubleshooting exercise after the fact. The fundamentals must be implemented to ensure the best SEO outcome. Throughout this post wherever I mention the word ‘keyword’ that refers to either a keyword or keyphrase.

Step 1 – Understanding the Keyword

Having established that the domain and/or page has been found by Google, the next step is to understand the keyword being targeted. Using Market Samurai, I establish the traffic potential and that the SEO competition is not so extreme that under normal circumstances it would be almost impossible to rank on page 1 of Google for that keyword. In addition, from the amount of (phrase match) competition an expectation of the time it might take to achieve a Google Page 1 ranking is suggested as is the volume of link building that will be necessary.

My general rule of thumb is that for keywords with less than 30,000 competing pages (phrase match) then the time to rank on Google page 1 may be 1 – 3 months. Were the competition to be up to 100,000 then it may take from 3 – 6  months and that greater than 100,000 then from 6 months to a year. These time frames are simply due to the time it would take to achieve the degree of off-page authority (external back links) that would be required to rank for keywords that have greater numbers of competing pages. Of course these numbers aren’t specific but are based on my experience over the last few years.

Secondarily, Market Samurai can also be used to assess the ‘quality’ of the competition currently ranking on page 1 of Google for the keyword being assessed. The purpose of this is two-fold: firstly to ensure that those sites that are ranking aren’t too competitive and secondarily to establish the level of authority that the ranking sites currently have so as to set an appropriate expectation for the amount of work that will be required to out-rank them.

It goes without saying that there is no point in targeting a keyword that has no commercial potential if the purpose of the page or website is to make money. It is recommended to ensure that evidence of commercial activity exists if that is the case although that subject won’t be discussed in detail in this post.

Step 2 – Assessing On-page SEO factors

Once the keyword meets the requirements of step 1, it is necessary to publish content that has been appropriately optimized for this keyword  in order to rank in the SERPS for that keyword. It is amazing the number of pages that fail to do this thereby seriously reducing their ranking potential in the SERPS.

In simple terms, if you want to rank in the search engines for a keyword then it is paramount that you have a page or post on your website that has been properly optimized for the keyword you are targeting. While on-page SEO factors may not ultimately be primarily responsible for the final ranking your content will achieve, it is imperative they are implemented properly as a sound foundation to maximise the value (from an SEO perspective) of the external links that will point to the page. Ultimately, it is the quality and quantity of your external links that determine your final ranking in the SERPS, but the value of the link network will be significantly reduced if the keyword optimization of the link network and the page they point to are not consistent and optimized for the keyword being targeted.

But not all on-page SEO factors are equal, so I have categorised them below as being either critical, recommended or optional:

Critical on-page SEO factors

  • keyword or phrase is contained within the domain or URL
  • keyword or phrase is contained within the title of the page or post

Recommended on-page SEO factors

  • keyword or phrase is contained within the meta-description of the page or post
  • keyword or phrase is contained within a header tag on the page or post
  • keyword or phrase occurs in the tags of a post (especially pertaining to a blog)

Optional on-page SEO factors

  • keyword or phrase occurs in the first paragraph of the main content of the page or post
  • keyword or phrase is bolded and/or italacized and /or underlined
  • keyword or phrase is used as the anchor text of a link within the page or post
  • keyword or phrase is used as the alt text of a link within the page or post
  • keyword or phrase is used as the title tag for an image contained within the page or post
  • keyword or phrase is the name of the image file used within the page or post
  • keyword or phrase is used 4 – 5 times at least within the whole page or post (1% keyword density)

I highly recommend that you ensure that at least the critical and recommended factors detailed above are implemented in your published content and as many of the optional factors as the circumstances allow. The goal is to ensure that when the search engines spider and index your page/post there is no uncertainty about what keyword the page/post is relevant for.

Step 3 – Assessing Off-page SEO factors

Assuming the keyword and on-page factors have been properly considered and implemented then a poor ranking outcome will almost certainly be due to a lack of authority in the eyes of the search engines (primarily Google). This lack of authority will almost certainly be due to either a link network (that points to the page or post) that is either too small, lacks links from other authoritative sites or is optimized (through the anchor text of the links) for the wrong keyword.

The first thing to do is assess the size of the link network (using the SEO competition module of Market Samurai) that points to your page/post and compare with the link networks of the pages that are currently ranking on page 1 of Google for the targeted keyword. Pay particular attention to the number of links that have a Google pagerank greater than zero. While it is necessary to have a platform of PR 0 links, the reality is that your ranking will be influenced much more by the smaller number of high PR links you have than the higher volume of PR 0 links.

Ultimately, it is possible to rank high for any keyword if you have enough (quality) links but at the very least you need to have more links than your competition has.

Assuming you do have more links than your competitors but are still failing in the SERPS, then you will need to assess the anchor text of the links to ensure that the keyword or phrase that predominates amongst your links is again consistent with the keyword being targeted. I have had several cases where there were plenty of links to a page being assessed but where the anchor text was different than the keyword for which the page was expected to rank for.

In the end, let’s be very clear, if the on-page factors are properly implemented for a keyword being targeted then the ultimate ranking outcome is almost entirely dependent on the number and quality of the external links that point to the page. But the value of the link network is considerably enhanced when the on-page and off-page factors are both optimized for the same keyword.

In almost all cases (after having established that a page/post has been found by the search engine spiders) the process outlined above is the procedure I follow when troubleshooting an SEO problem. If the ranking outcome is not as expected then the problem usually tends to exist within one or several of the areas discussed above.

There is only one other factor that may need to be considered and that is the impact of time. It is clear to me that sometimes it takes time for the search engines to discover and give a page credit for certain on-page and off-page factors. This is especially true when something has changed on the page or when the link network is constantly changing due to additions or losses within the link network. On several occasions, I have witnessed that it has taken Google from 4 – 8 weeks or more to recognise a change or to give credit for ranking factors that should have positively influenced the ranking position of a page or post within the SERPS. So, if everything discussed above is in order, make sure that a sufficient period of time has elapsed before you come to the conclusion that a problem exists.

So there you have it. My motive for writing this post was to assist people who may need to troubleshoot a poor SEO ranking outcome and for whom a review of the SEO basics may reveal the problems that are the cause.

It is…as it is,


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