So, you've chosen your keywords, and you are regularly adding new keyword related content to your site. What else can you do to boost your natural rankings?
One thing to consider is whether the content you are adding is working as hard for you as it could do. For example if you add stories to a blog, those stories should show up on the home page (perhaps just as a summary/headline). Having new stories appear across the site leverages the impact of adding new content, as Google sees changes not just in one or two pages, but across the entire site.
There are certain parts of a page which Google pays additional attention to when looking for keywords. The most important of these is the title of the page. This is one area you should never overlook. The title should be relevant to the content of the page, and to the keywords that you want people to find you on. The title should also be unique across the site. Far too often on sites that are performing poorly for SEO we see the title tag is not being effectively utilised.
Some of the HTML markup (the code that underlies each page) is also given additional emphasis by Google. You've probably heard of H1, H2 tags. These tags are traditionally used to identify the more important content on a page. In the new era of HTML 5 the relevance of these tags has reduced a bit, but they are still a good opportunity to emphasise some text. However once you get to the point of worrying about the content of specific tags within a page it's important to not lose site of the overall goal, which is to produce interesting and relevant content for your visitors. The days of being able to fool Google with a bit of keyword stuffing in some header tags are long gone and you are far more likely to get penalised for trying to influence search results in this way.
At this point, if you're still not ranking successfully then it may be time to consider more drastic options. Sometimes a website's HTML build is just bad, it contains far too much markup / noise within the HTML and Google stuggles to identify the relevant content from the irrelevant. This is more likely to be the case if it was built some time ago before the widespread use of HTML 5 markup. A full rebuild of the HTML can often rejuvinate a site's SEO rankings and give it a significant boost. This is because the new build can emphasise content over HTML structure, and Google will love the fact that the site appears to be actively developed. Google likes change, because visitors generally like change. Any rebuild however should be followed up with more regular additional content as before, so that the benefit is not lost.
Finally we come to off-page SEO. As well as the content of your site, Google also considers which other sites are linking to you. If a high quality site has a link to your site then some of the love Google has for the high quality site is assigned to your site. This idea of ranking sites based on who is linking to them is the basis of the Google Page Rank algorithm. In the past any link from any site was a good thing as links from a lot of 'low quality' sites would add up. But recent changes Google have made (including the notorious Penguin and Panda updates) mean that Google can now penalise a site for having too many low quality links.
If you think your site may be getting penalised because you have a lot of links from low quality sites (such as link directories, rather than 'real' sites) then one way to fix this is to ask the site to remove you. If this fails then you can use Google Webmaster Tools to disavow links that you want Google to ignore.
A more common problem is not having enough links from high quality sites. Sometimes this is not an issue. Most sites get along fine without having lots of links from other sites. But if you are competing against a site that does have a lot of high quality inbound links you are at a disadvantage. This may just be because the site in question is older, so has had more time to accrue a lot of inward links. But it may also be because they actively seek out high quality inbound links.
At this point SEO simply comes down to marketing spend. You can pay SEO firms to write articles for you, or use their contacts to generate high quality links. If your competitors are doing this and you aren't then they will most likely win the SEO war. In any form of marketing/advertising if you pay more you get more enquiries. When considering a budget for offsite SEO spend you should consider it alongside marketing campaigns in other media such as radio/press advertising. It's a common mistake to thing that SEO advertising is in some way much cheaper than these markets, as at the end of the day the cost is related entirely to what your competitors are spending.
If you find that off-page SEO marketing isn't for you then an alternative is to go directly for paid adwords links. These are adverts within the Google rankings. Of course they also cost money but if you can target your keywords effectively, and do the necessary research (or have someone do it for you) then adwords can prove more effective than paying for off-page SEO campaigns.
In the next post we will look more into the adwords system.
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