Search Engine Optimisation part 2:

It's copywriting Jim, but not as we know it

It is vital to understand that people using search engines usually do not search for what you imagine is the best 'sales' text for your site.

Let's imagine you sell Biff Aftershave, and state in a big headline on your site:

"You not only want to look your best for that special date, you want to smell right too.  Something classy that says more than words alone can say! "

Imagine all the words and phrases from the headline above have been indexed by a search engine. What will someone searching for 'aftershave' or 'Biff brand' or 'male toiletries' find? The answer is, from that headline, NOTHING!
But put this in a search engine:
"Something classy that says more than words alone can say" and our site would most likely come out number 1! (In fact this page does.)
The problem is only the site owner who wrote it would dream of searching with such a phrase.

Writing copy for websites is very different from writing copy for press advertisements. Let's try again. We need to pin down those keywords.

How do you search for competitors' websites? What words do enter in the search box? These could be the very keywords you should be using on your site. Note down the keywords that brought you successfully to their site. How did those keywords get on their site? By good luck or good SEO advice? Either way, your competitors had those keywords on their site.

Your site's logs (statistics) will show what kind of words and phrases are being searched for by site visitors who arrive via search engines. If your traffic is low, these might not be representative. And for a new site there will not be any. So here are some external tools:

You can see associated keywords here: [opens in new browser window]

Entering in 'aftershave' at the above site gives us a list of about 35 associated keywords in alphabetical order, from 'aftershave balm' to 'trishave'.
Admittedly many of these are useless, but it does give us some more useful keywords to play with

Now we can find how many people search for particular keywords and some alternatives with figures here: [opens in new browser window and an Adwords account is required to use this tool].

Entering 'aftershave' show the following: [These figures change daily]

Searches/month over 100

Search Term
man aftershave
aftershave lotion
aftershave online
cheap aftershave
bay rum aftershave
aftershave lagerfeld
aftershave uk
aftershave saxon
discount aftershave
polo aftershave
hugo boss aftershave
perfume aftershave

'Aftershave' has nearly 5 times more searches than the next keyword 'man aftershave'. It may not be prefect English, but these are real searches by real potential customers. If we want to use 'man aftershave' we would need to work this into a sentence like, "Gifts for every man aftershave and skin care" for example.

Another question: is it 'aftershave' or 'after shave' and does Google differentiate between them?
Another useful site will quickly tell the difference: [opens in new browser window]. The day we checked 'after shave' had 2.5 times more searches than 'aftershave'. So we don't dump 'aftershave' we use them both, but major with the two-word version.
To see if Google treats the one or two word variants differently, simply search Google for them and compare results. It does not differentiate between 'web site' and 'website', for example.

Then our careful search for keywords would continue. In principle it is better to use more higher-searched keywords and phrases. However, the competition for these keywords will be higher too. Thus a further criteria comes into play, that of 'keyword effectiveness'.

Back to our aftershave: time for a re-write aiming at including our keywords - majoring on the most searched ones - getting them in first as our headline:

After shave, shave, preshave, shower, skin care products for men
- all available online at great savings

But isn't "great savings" reverting to our press advertising copy style again? You may think they are great, but would a potential purchaser ask for "great savings"? Wouldn't they be more likely ask for "big savings" or "online savings" or "discount"? Well, according to the Overture site above the daily searches are:

great savings - 72
big savings - 184
online savings - 337
discount - 113,710

So we would change the headline to include 'discount'.

Google thinks that if you found a phrase important enough to be a headline, it must rate higher in its ranking. You can also see how useless "Welcome to my site" is!
The same applies to words in sub headers and in bold.

You can see how densely you keywords and phrases appear on specific site pages here: [opens in new browser window]

Many consider their home page is the most important page to optimise for search engines, but all pages are important and search engines will list many if not all your site pages and visitors will enter your site at these 'back doors'. So try to think of your site as a number of pages, rather than a complete website. Concentrate on different keywords on different pages - keywords & phrases 1, 2 & 3 on page 1. We actually call file name keyword1.htm – where 1 is the most important keywords of 1, 2 & 3. Then the same with 4, 5 & 6 on page 2 and so on.

There is a limit to the number of times keywords and phrases can be repeated before the search engine realises it is being 'spammed' and could well drop the site from its listings because of this. If you aim for a maximum of 7% of your words to be keywords, you won't run into trouble. This is going to be 3 to 4 times on an 'average' page.

(iii) Inbound Links (also known as 'back links')

Google loves links. It bases much of its rating on links coming into sites. How many links do you have coming in? The logic is that if your site is worth visiting, then another site owner will want to refer visitors to your site for useful and complimentary information (like the links in the text on this page). It's another way of measuring a site's value. You can easily check this at Google by entering the following in the search window: (Note: search engines only show a % of the total links to a domain.)

There is also more to links than just linking to other complimentary sites:
the effectiveness of links depends where the wording (or anchor) of the link. "Click Here" is not as highly rated as say, "Diet Information" (for a diet site, of course).

Also where the comes from plays a part:
an important factor in Google's overall rating of sites is their inbound links (or backlinks). This is rated between 0 and 10, and is called PageRank (PR) (Yahoo has a similar system called Web Rank). If your links come from a site with a higher PR, your PR will similarly rise. So it's quality as well as quantity. PageRank is a registered trademark of the Google Corporation.

You can check any site's PR here:

Check Page Rank of any website pages instantly:

4) General:

Cheaters will be punished
You can try and cheat search engines in numerous ways. There are many businesses out on the web offering services that use these methods and charge handsomely for their service.

Inserting small text (a long list of keywords) that is the same colour as the page background to get SEs to index it, but it remains invisible to human site visitors.

'Link clubs' or 'link farms' are another way. Obtaining valuable backlinks by buying them.

'Gateway' pages and 'cloaking' that have pages of keywords that are to be viewed only by search engines. But check what Google has to say about such ideas. There are many more such cheats and doubtless more to be invented - they may work for a limited time, but could very well result in the site concerned being banned or dropped well down in the lists.

Not all traffic is good traffic
For a few dollars you can buy 1000s of visitors. But unless these are targeted visitors, interested in the content of your site, all you will do is give away your bandwidth/ data transfer and slow down your site. The beauty of traffic from search engines is that the visitors want to come to your site.

Don't let it get you down
What Google is doing is trying to get the best and most relevant sites to the top for each search. A few site actually get to the top of their market simply by doing it right without going out of their way to select keywords and develop reciprocal links etc. But those sites are few and it is more prudent to employ a SEO expert than trust your site's progress to luck.

eCommerce - nobody will buy rubbish
The internet is NOT a magic place where the normal laws of physics and commerce are suspended. The fact is, if you have products or services that no-one wants in the real word - they will receive the same reception in cyber land. Over-priced, uncompetitive items will not sell - end of story.
In fact, it is generally assumed there is an advantage in buying online as opposed to the High Street or shopping mall. These advantages include lower prices, faster delivery and exclusivity (ie. not available elsewhere). So, getting your website high in search engine rankings is only part of the story.

Finally, no-one can guarantee number 1 ranking - though many claim to. Who says so? Google again.