Search Engine Optimisation Strategy

by Jim July 18, 2007

I was working on a site recently and it should have been relatively easy to get it ranking in the top five results in Google for its main key phrases. Unfortunately the client had multiple domain names all sharing the same Web pages. This meant that Google would see the same content across multiple Web sites.

The problem with this is that Google sees each domain name as a different website. So if you have.com and .com.au, Google will see that as two separate sites. In order for Google to deliver the most relevant results to their users they have to eliminate sites which may be duplicates of other sites. Search engines consider duplicate content as a form of search engine spamming. So wherever possible you should only ever have one domain name for your web pages. If you have multiple domains they should be permanently redirected to your main domain. This way the search engines will know that there is only one domain name for your website. Whoever hosts your website should know how to do a permanent redirect.

We eventually got our client ranked in the top five for their key phrases; however it took three months rather than three to four weeks, which it should have done if there was no duplicate content.

Blogs

At the recent Evolve conference that I spoke at, blogs were all the buzz. In case you’re unfamiliar with the term Blogs it is short for Web logs which are basically just online journals. The reason they have become so popular is that they are very easy and simple to update. No knowledge of HTML is required to have a Blog. You can literally have a Blog live within minutes. Many advocates of blogs think that they are fantastic for business, myself included, however they should be looked at as a long-term strategy to promote your website rather than something that is going to deliver business to you tomorrow.

Blogs require a long-term commitment and frequent updates if they are to work for a business. Unlike many of my colleagues I don’t believe a business should have a Blog until their website is actually ranking in the search engines.

Many Bloggers consider this position as heresy but if your business is not ranking in the search engines, writing a Blog is not going to fix that probably for at least six months. There are faster and easier methods to get found in the search engines that involve less commitment internally to your business. Ask yourself how much time you have personally to add to your Blog at least once a day. I know I struggle to update mine on a weekly basis let alone daily.

Understanding your online customers

Some business owners get pretty excited to find out that they rank number one for their business name. However if somebody already knows your business name they already know how to find you. Don’t get me wrong you should rank number one for your business name but search marketing is at its most powerful when your message appears in front of the user exactly when their looking for it. Search marketing is about attracting customers who may not know you exist. This is why keyword selection is so important.

Recently we had a client that owned a boutique hotel in Melbourne’s CBD. The main key phrase he wanted to rank for was ‘Budget accommodation Melbourne.’ I explained that I was happy to rank his site for the phrase and probably get it to the number one spot but nobody was typing in ‘budget accommodation Melbourne’. What they were typing in however, was ‘Cheap hotels Melbourne’. In order for him to rank for this phrase we would have to put the word ‘cheap’ somewhere on his site. You need to avoid the jargon and think about your customer. What are they typing in? They don’t care about what the ‘correct’ term is. So are they typing in ‘Avian bird flu’, ‘Asian bird flu’, ‘Bird flu’ or ‘Avian flu’.

Another thing to consider with keyword selection is the difference between singular and plural. Quite often a business will want to rank for a phrase that is a plural. This is not necessarily always a good strategy. Take the government’s website workchoices.gov.au for instance. The government ranked almost immediately in Google for the word workchoices when they first launched their site. For the singular ‘workchoice’ though, they were nowhere to be found. The day after their website went live I wrote a post in my Blog about the differences between singular and plural in Google and I ended up ranking number one for the word workchoice for over two years across all the major search engines. It has only been in the last couple of months that I’ve dropped to second position for the word workchoice. The government website has finally taken the number one position

Even though the brand was workchoices we still get 50 to 60 hits per day for the word workchoice. On several occasions I have had people ringing me out of the blue wanting to know what their obligations under workchoices are, even though our Web site clearly states we have nothing to do with the government policy.

Adwords

Google Adwords is a great way to get in front of your audience quickly. Adwords is a form of Pay Per Click advertising which basically means you don’t pay for your ad until someone clicks on it. In Google, the adwords appear down right hand side of the page and sometimes at the very top with a different colour background. They are clearly labelled as ‘Sponsored links’.

When you setup your adwords account you choose a number of key phrases that will trigger your ad to appear if they are typed into Google. The mistake most people make is that they have too many phrases per ad. Google allows you to setup up multiple adgroups each with their own key phrases and ads. The maximum number of phrases we have per adgroup these days is around 15 ‘ 20.

Google rewards relevancy

The fewer phrases you have per adgroup the more relevant you can make your ad to those phrases. Google wants your ad to be relevant to the search so ideally the key phrases you have chosen should be reflected in your ad. People are more likely to click on your ad if they see a match with their search.

Another common mistake people make is that they do not have tailored landing pages for their ads. A landing page is the destination of the link in your ad. Google sends out one of its bots to your landing page to see how relevant it is to your ad and the key phrase search that triggered your ad to appear. The more relevant your ad and your landing page are, the less you will have to pay per click.

The way we use adwords with our clients is to fill in the gaps that their optimisation campaign cannot target. Usually an optimisation campaign is sufficient for most clients but adwords can be very effective if you get very targeted and specific about keyword selection. The key is to monitor your conversions so you understand exactly what the return on your investment is. More about that another time though.

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