SEO Basics | Natural SEO
How many websites are ranking at the number one position using only natural search engine optimization? When I say natural search engine optimization I mean, their owners have not done any work on their sites at all, they have just produced very good content and over time people have recognized the quality and linked to it in some form or another.
My guess and a very educated guess I might say is probably anywhere in the region of none. Anyone who builds a website whether that is an individual like you and I or a company, wants the site, they have spent time and effort working to be seen.
Even if we only carry out the essential on-page SEO basics then that is, at the minimum, still manipulating the search engine rankings in our favour. Isn’t that what SEO is all about? Yes, but there are right ways to do things and wrong ways in an ethical sense.
SEO Basics | Keeping Your Head Warm
You will often hear in internet marketing circles, terms like white hat, black hat and grey hat so what exactly are these hats and which one should we be wearing? Normally that would depend a lot on the colour of your shirt and shoes but in this case it depends on your morals.
The different colour hats represent the way in which you or the company you are paying to carry out the search engine optimization on your site. White is the cleanest and morally correct way, through to black being classed as completely breaking the rules, and then grey merely bending them slightly. Let’s break them down into a little more detail.
SEO Basics | White Hat
As I said above white hat SEO is completely organic and comes from people or sites naturally linking to your content, over a very long time these links build up in turn the pages in the site move up in the search engine rankings.
More and more people like your site/pages and a snowball effect starts, and then sooner or later your site is getting closer to the top spot for a few keywords. Really though for this to happen, not only do you need to be very patient, your site has to be full of extremely good content even controversial, something that gets people talking.
This is the SEO basics of what is known as white hat SEO and the sort of search engine optimization that Google encourages.
SEO Basics | Grey Hat
Grey hat SEO is what 90% of the community practice and along with the on-page SEO basics as outlined in Google’s SEO guide, like using your keywords in the title, description and heading tags.
Grey hat is more centered on the way links are built to your site, whereas with white hat, link building happens naturally, with grey hat, the links are purposely made with a view to increase the site position in the search engine rankings. How you set about building links to your site is up to you, there is certainly nothing illegal about using grey hat techniques and I’m quite sure that you won’t go to prison for it. Will it or can it harm your site?
At the moment the only thing I have seen is if you build too many links to a new site then it can seem unnatural to Google and I have seen sites drop from an initially good position for a new site to going completely off the chart, could this be Google punishing the site aka “sandbox”?
This is a common debate in many internet marketing forums at the moment. One thing we can be sure of is building thousands of links to an already established site cannot do it any harm, if it could then we could simply build thousands of links to our competitors sites and one by one knock them out of the rankings until we are left at the number one position.
Obviously Google is not going to allow that. I would suggest that on a new site you get the on page SEO basics right and then start building links gradually until the site has matured and then step up the link building.
SEO Basics | Blackhat
Black hat SEO is like cheating the system, using underhand techniques to try to manipulate your way to the top of the search engines. This is short-term thinking, if you are trying to build an online presence using SEO then your plan should be genuine and long-term.
Google is always changing the calculations they use determine where they position a site and they are doing it to give their customers the best possible results. They don’t what to show spam sites any more than we want to see them.
Using the white hat or the whiter side grey hat methods will always give you a better chance of a long-term successful business than trying to cheat your way to the top. If you can get there and stay there then the rewards will be so large that they will pay for all the hard work and patience ten times over.
Some examples of black hat techniques are:
Keyword stuffing, this is over using the keyword that your trying to rank for, to the point where the text is unreadable. Do not confuse this with good on page SEO basics. Keyword density should be around one to two per cent and to the reader be undetectable.
Invisible text, this is colouring the text on the page the same colour as the background in order to trick the search engine spiders into thinking there is more keywords on that page than there really is.
This kind of search engine trickery does not work for long if it works at all. At the end of the day wear a light grey hat that is closer to white, stick to the SEO basics and reap the rewards long term.
Keyword Placement & Content
The placement of keywords within the content on our site and various on-page SEO that really should be performed on our sites if they are to have any chance of reaching that all important first page.
The single most important place to have your keywords is in your domain name, whether that is your home page, an internal page or post page. It is a lot easier to optimize for one keyword per page than it is for many to begin with, after a while your pages will be found for many different keyword phrases and by using some free analysis tools like Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools we can see which keywords our pages are being found for and converting into sales, and then by using some off page SEO basics we can bring our pages up the rankings for those particular keywords.
To start with it is best to focus our SEO efforts on one keyword phrase per page, post or home page and as I said the most effective place for those keywords is in the domain name. I am sitting in Jo-burg airport writing this waiting for a connecting flight, I have just ordered a slice of cake while thinking of an example for a domain name.
Let’s say that your site is about South African Cakes. Your domain for the home page would be South African cakes.com and say one of your pages was about the delicious cheesecake I’ve just eaten then the domain for that page would be South African cakes .com/South-African-cheesecake. By having our keywords in the name of our pages immediately tells Google and more importantly our readers what our pages are about.
Title and headings
Your keywords should also appear in the title and the headings of the page that you’re optimizing, if you are using word press or any WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) style platform for building your website then the page or post has a box for entering your title.
If you are using an HTML editor to build your site then the title needs to go between the title tags. They look like this <title> South African Cheesecake </title>. Your title doesn’t have to be just your keyword as long as it includes your keyword.
The next thing we should include our keyword in is our headings these are in HTML h1, h2, h3, and h4. In word press these are in the font size options heading 1, heading 2 etc. Now in most cases, it is only important for the SEO basics to use the h1 tag but using the h2 and h3 tags as well can only reinforce the power of your keyword. The same thing goes for the headings as long as they include your keyword, so it might be <h1>My First Taste of South African Cheesecake<h1>.
Including your keyword in the description is something that many website owners very rarely do and if you do then you will have an immediate advantage over your competition.
Not only does this give you the chance to explain in more detail what your site is about to the Google spiders but also to give your potential readers an attention-grabbing line of text for them to click on when they see it in the search engine rankings.
The same thing as with the title and headings, if you’re using WYSIWYG then just enter your description in the description box and if you’re using HTML then it is a little more complicated than before as we will be using a meta tag:
<meta name=”description” content=”Your description here” />
Your description going between the quotation marks after content.
These are the three most important places to use your keywords for your home page, internal pages or even your posts. If you were to follow this for your own site then you would be more optimized than around 90 percent of the websites online today.
A quick check using my favourite free tool Traffic Travis, type any popular keyword phrase into the SEO analyses section and you will see which pages have the keyword in the title, h1, and description and depending on the market; you’ll see that most of the sites in the top ten don’t even have the keyword in these areas.
Now imagine your site has similar off page SEO as your competition but you have your keywords in the right places then your pages will come out on top every time. Taking the time to gain a small amount of knowledge on SEO basics can give you a big advantage.