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The 6 most important components of SEO

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Even in the ever changing world of search engine optimisation there are a few golden rules that no one should ignore and that are always worth spending time, thought and a little money on. So make a note of the 6 most important components of SEO.

Keyword selection

Picking the right keywords to describe your business and focus your SEO on is crucial; keywords that may seem obvious to you may not be obvious to potential customers and you can easily pick words that no one searches for. Conversely, you could also pick the same keywords all your competition use (including that big multinational spending tens of thousands on SEO work) and find good search positions almost impossible to get.

A simple start is asking employees and friends what keywords they would use to describe your services and taking a look at competitors. Google also offer a fantastic free tool called Trends; you can type in any SEO keywords and see how popular they are, which countries are using them and which are the most popular and fastest rising related keywords. Combine this with another free Google product, Webmaster Tools, and you can get some really interesting information. Webmaster Tools tells you all about the people who came to visit your site, and the keywords they typed in to find it. Spend some time playing around with these resources and it can really help you selecting quality keywords.

Web design

It may seem obvious, but good web design is essential to ensure search engines can access your site, find all the pages and understand all the content. Clean, standards obeying code, well structured navigation and fast loading times make it easy for search engine spiders to crawl through and index your site.

Original content

Recently Google has been focusing on a growing cheat. Websites with large numbers of pages using the same keywords tended to do well in search listings, so a lot of sites started using SEO software to automate writing thousands of very similar pages repeating the same keywords. A Google update called Panda has made a huge dent in this practice, ignoring any page which more or less duplicates others. The Webmaster Tools Advanced Indexing feature will tell you if any of the pages on your website are being dropped for being repetitive.

Keyword density

It’s important that your chosen keywords show up lots of times on your website, but there’s a balancing act to be struck, repeat them too much (called ‘keyword stuffing’) and your pages will be dropped. Keywords also need to be nicely spread across every page, packing a couple of paragraphs on a ten page website just tells Google you have a couple of relevant paragraphs but the rest is nothing to do with the subject at hand, good SEO spreads keywords around your site at just the right density.

Other on-page factors

A web page is more than just the body of text a visitor reads, you also have the title of the page, the website address itself and all kinds of tags hidden in the code which offer secondary titles, lists of keywords and descriptions of on-page images which your web designer can add. Extra weight is also applied to headings and emphasised text in the main copy, so make sure each is used wisely!

External links

Also called backlinks or third party links, search engines will consider how many other websites are linking to yours as a sign of its quality. This was another area open to abuse as people found ways to automate link building into poor quality directories. Another Google update called Penguin changed the way this is calculated, to be useful to SEO links now have to come from websites that are relevant to the keywords and that also meet Google’s opinion of a good quality website.

More than ever, quality is the name of the game with Google closing numerous quick-fix routes to good search engine positioning in the last year. But follow the 6 most important components of SEO, and you can still get yourself into the top positions.