Seo Tutorial

Search Engine Optimization

Seo Tutorial

10/07/2017 12:00 AM by Hitesh (SEO Expert) in Seo

The essentials of SEO

First of all, let me assure you that this is NOT a usual SEO tutorial made mostly of techniques that worked well in 2003 by some guys who didn't try to actually apply these techniques themselves in 2017. This tutorial contains some basic SEO info as well as some more advanced tips and tricks which are actually rather obvious too, but that doesn't make them less important, and it seems that it is their obviousness that makes some people think these tips don't work.

This SEO tutorial is not about "how-to-trick-google-best-of-all" stuff. We expose only legitimate, whitehat and working methods and recommendations here. Read along!

Table of Contents (SEO FAQ):

1. Introduction

One of the buzz-words of the latest 10 years in internet marketing is SEO. Everyone talks about SEO, everyone tries to apply it more or less successfully. If you are experienced in this theme you may skip the first chapters, otherwise read along to learn the very basics.


1.1. What is SEO

The term "SEO" is the abbreviation to "Search Engine Optimization". This is not about optimizing search engines, though. It is about optimizing websites for search engines. But why one needs to optimize a website? To answer this question we need to understand what a search engine is.

Search engines as the way to find an info on the web appeared in the middle of 90's. They crawled websites and indexed them in their own databases marking them as having one or another keyword in its content. Thus, when someone put some query in the searchbox of that search engine, it quickly searched its database and found which indexed pages corresponded to that query.

So, the more keywords of a query a website had, the higher it was shown in the results of a search. We don't know who was the first guy realized that he can make some changes to the pages of his website to make it rank higher, but he was truly a diamond!

So, SEO is something that helps your site rank better in search engines. There are a number of ways and methods of SEO, some of them are legitimate, while others are restricted and considered as "blackhat" techniques. Search engines don't like blackhat SEO and the effect of its usage may be disastrous for your website. Anyways, we'll thoroughly cover this material later in this SEO FAQ.

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1.2. Do I need SEO?

Well, the answer "Yes" is the first thing that comes to mind, does it? But let's think a bit more. Does SEO help... well.. umm.. say some oil-extracting company to sell their product? Does it help to promote a small local grocery in the neighbourhood of your home owned by an old chinese? Does it help Obama to rule his bureaucrats? Well, I guess you've got the idea. SEO is effective mostly for Internet businesses. Do you have one? Then you need SEO. Otherwise, SEO is only one of the possible channels to spread the word out about your product or service. And not necessarily the best one.

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1.3. Should I hire someone or make it all myself?

One of the most frequent unspoken questions is: should I hire a SEO professional or save few bucks and do it myself? There is no one universal answer for all situations, so here are some pros and cons:

  Pros Cons
Hired SEO
  1. You don't have to waste your time;
  2. You don't have to learn SEO yourself;
  3. SEO Pro's can be quite effective.
  1. You still need to control a hired SEO yourself;
  2. SEOs usually don't give any guarantees and actually you must be very cautious while choosing a SEO to hire;
  3. Hired guy may be a SEO professional, but he is not necessarily a proffesional in your theme;
  4. Finally, you have to pay this guy.
Do it yourself
  1. If you want it done right - do it yourself. You are the one who performs all the show, so you know best what is right and what is wrong about it;
  2. You really saving some bucks out there;
  3. You can constantly monitor the trends and apply changes in your SEO strategy on the fly.
  1. You will need to spend some time reading SEO FAQs and tutorials like this one, posting stupid questions on forums and doing other things nubies always do. It doesn't kill, but still takes some time;
  2. You can get very little SEO benefits for all of your efforts and time spent. After all, you are not a guru, right?

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2. Basic concepts


2.1. Search engines

Before we start talking about search engine optimization we need to understand how search engines work. Basically, each search engine consists of 3 parts:

  1. The Crawler (or the spider). This part of a search engine is a simple robot that downloads pages of a website and crawls them for links. Then, it opens and downloads each of those links to crawl (spider) them too. The crawler visits websites periodically to find the changes in their content and modify their rankings accordingly. Depending on the quality of a website and the frequency of its content updates this may happen from say once per month up to several times a day for a high popularity news sites.

    The crawler does not rank websites itself. Instead, it simply passes all crawled websites to another search engine module called the indexer.
  2. The Indexer. This module stores all the pages crawled by the spider in a large database called the index. Think of it as the index in a paper book: you find a word and see which pages mention this word. The index is not static, it updates every time the crawler finds a new page or re-crawls the one already presented in the index. Since the volume of the index is very large it often takes time to commit all the changes into the database. So one may say that a website has been crawled, but not yet indexed.

    Once the website with all its content is added to the index, the third part of the search engine begins to work.
  3. The ranker (or search engine software). This part interacts with user and asks for a search query. Then it sifts millions of indexed pages and finds all of them that are relevant to that query. The results get sorted by relevance and finally are shown to a user.

    What is relevance and how would one determine if a page is more or less relevant to a query? Here comes the tricky part - the ranking factors...

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2.2. Terminology

Here are the basic terms you need to know. All others will be explained along the way.

Anchor text
This is simply a text of a link. Let suppose you have a link like that:

<a href="/seo-tutorial">The essentials of SEO - a complete guide<a>
The link would be looking as follows:
The essentials of SEO - a complete guide

The text "The essentials of SEO - a complete guide" - is the anchor text in this case. The anchor text is the key parameter in a link building strategy. You should always make sure that the anchor text of a link meets the theme of that page. If your page is about dogs, do not link to it with the "cats" anchor text. Obviously, you cannot control all and every link on the web, but at least you should make all links within your own website have an appropriate anchor text.

Inbound link
...or backlink is a link that points to your site. The more you have - the better. But in particular there are many exclusions from this rule, so read the Off-Page optimization section to learn more.

One or more words describing the theme of a website or page. In fact, we should distinguish keyWORDS and keyPHRASES, but in SEO practice they all called keywords. For instance, the keywords for this page are: SEO FAQ, SEO tutorial, etc.

Short-tail and long-tail keywords
Easy one. Short-tail keywords are some general, common words and phrases like "rent a car", "seo", "buy a toy", "personal loan" and so on. Long-tail on the opposite precisely describe a theme: "rent bmw new york", "seo in florida", "buy a plush teddy bear" etc. The more precise a keyword is, the less it is popular, the less people type this exact query in the search box. But! The other side of the coin is: since each query is highly targeted, then once a visitor comes to your website from a search engine query and finds what he is looking for - it is very likely that such visitor will soon become a customer. This part is very important! Long-tail queries are not very popular, but the conversion rate for such queries is much much greater than for short-tail ones.

You may heard this term, but didn't understand what is it. SERP means "Search Engine Result Page". If a user types some query and hit Enter he is redirected then to a SERP. Then he can click one of the results to open that website. Obviously, the results shown in the first positions get much more visitors than the ones from page #2-3 and lower. This is the purpose of SEO, actually: make a website move higher in SERPs.

This is a short description shown by a search engine in the SERP listings. The snippet is often taken from a Meta Description tag, or it can be created by a search engine automatically basing on the content of a page.

Landing page
Landing page is a page opened when a visitor comes to the site clicking to a SERP. Here is an example query:

Free Monitor for Google


In this case, the page is a landing page for the "google monitor" query.

Link juice
This funny term means the value that passes from one page to another by means of a link between them. To be precise: the linked page (acceptor) gets a link juice from the linking page (donor). The more link juice flows into a page, the higher it is ranked. Let's imagine a page that is worth $10 - this is the value of that page. If a page has 2 links, each one costs $5 then - that is the amount of link juice passed to the linked page. If the first page has 5 links, then each one only passes $2 of the initial link juice. Here is a simple picture to illustrate this concept:



Link juice explanation. $5 value links.
Each link passes $5 value

Link juice explanation. $2 value links.
Each link passes only $2 value

This means, the more links a Page A has, the less value each linked Page B gains from that Page A. Obviously, the real link juice value is not measured in dollars.

Nofollow links
Nofollow link is a link that a search engine should not follow. To make a link nofollow you need the below code:

<a href="somepage.html" rel="nofollow">Some anchor text</a>

Google does not follow nofollow links and does not transfer the link juice across such links. You can read more about nofollow links here.

Link popularity
This term designates the amount of inbound links pointing to a site. Popular sites have more links. However, the number of inbound links is only a half of a pie. Read the off-page optimization section below to learn more.

Keyword stuffing
When you put a long list of keywords in a tag - this is keyword stuffing. For instance, a title tag for this page could look like: <TITLE>SEO guide, SEO FAQ, SEO tutorial, best seo faq, seo techniques, seo strategy guide</TITLE> and so on. This would be the keyword stuffing. Instead, the current title of this page (the one you're reading now) looks quite natural and adequately describes its contents. Do not use the keyword stuffing as a) it does not work; b) it is a bad practice that can hurt your rankings.

robots.txt is a file intended to tell search engine spiders whether or not they are allowed to crawl the content of the site. It is a simple txt file placed in the root folder of your website. Here are some examples:

This one blocks the entire site for GoogleBot:
User-agent: Googlebot
Disallow: /

This one blocks all files withing a single folder except myfile.html for all crawlers:
User-agent: *
Disallow: /folder1/
Allow: /folder1/myfile.html




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3. Ranking factors

In general, there are only two groups of them: on-page and off-page ranking factors. It's been argued which one is the most important, but we'll answer that question later in this FAQ. At this time you should understand that both are crucial and both need the proper attention.


3.1. On-Page ranking factors

There are many on-page ranking factors and even more has been spoken of since the first days of SEO. Some of them are really important, while others are said to be crucial for SEO, but actually are useless or even hurt your rankings. You know, search engines are evolving, they change their algos, and something that used to work in 2003 now has become a piece of useless garbage. So, here is the list of on-page ranking factors sorted by their importance and SEO value.


3.1.1. Important stuff

  1. Title
    This one seems to be one the most important on-page factors. You should pay a close attention to the title tag. Here are some tips on writing a good title:
    a) Keep it precise and short enough. There is a popular myth saying that the title tag must be short, because Google (and others too) does not read it past first 60-70 symbols. That's not true (the proof link). Google will read nearly all that you offer to it in your title tag, but the weight of each keyword in the title would be much less in that case. It seems that only first 10-12 words get the benefit from being in the title, so keep it short. Also, a long and spammy title tag is hard to read by human visitors.
    b) Do not stuff it with keywords, instead write in a normal human-oriented style. Instead of "Big gadgets, small gadgets, cheap gadgets, gadgets for sale" use more natural "Cheap gadgets of all sizes for sale". Hope you got the idea.
    c) Use a unique title for each page of your website. Each title should accurately reflect the contents of the entitled page. Do not use the same title all over the website.
    d) Make your title eye-catching! It is title that a visitor first see when screening the results of a search. It is the first step towards the sale - don't ignore it.
  2. Content
    The next important factor is the content of a page which seems pretty naive at the first glance, right? Wrong! Content is the king, as SEOs like to repeat. The quality content not only describes your product or service, it also converts your visitors to your customers and customers to returning customers. The quality content increases your ranking in search engines as they like a quality content. Moreover, the quality content even helps you get more inbound links to your website (see off-page ranking factors below)!

    Basic tips for content are:
    a) Write for humans, not for search engines! Remember: you offer you products for humans. It is human who reads the texts on your website and decides whether or not he is going to purchase the stuff from you. Yeah, technically speaking, search engines read your site too, but I never heard of a search engine that would buy something.
    So you should create a content that is interesting and useful for your human visitors at the first place!
    b) Suggest something valuable. A text merely describing your product is dull and useless. I don't want to know what features a product has. I want to know what is in it for me! Consider that when preparing the content of your website.
    c) Share your experience. Write of something that is interesting to you. Share your experience. Offer some articles or reviews of related products or services (do not borrow them from article sites though - write your own instead). You know - content is the king - so if your site is interesting to your visitors they will link to it on their own.
    d) The first 3 wasn't too SEOish, right? Here is a bit more technical one: keep the text on a page within one theme. Search engines are more about themes now, rather than about keywords as they used to be. So you should think the same way: in terms of themes, not keywords. For each page of your site choose ONE theme related to your business and fill that page with the content relevant to that theme. Focusing your efforts within one-theme-per-page strategy makes it much easier to create landing pages for long-tail queries and also make the whole website more structurized and easy to read.
  3. Navigation and internal linking
    Again an important ranking factor. It seems obvious to create a proper navigation so the search engine crawler could follow all the links on a website and indexed all of its pages then. However, this factor is still being highly underestimated. Creating a clear and easy plain-text navigation helps both search engines and human visitors.

    Avoid using JavaScript or Flash links since they are hard to read by search engines. Always provide an alternative way to open any page at your website with simple text links. Do have a sitemap of your website available from any other page with one click.

    Also keep in mind that quality internal linking spreads the link juice across the pages of your website, and this strongly helps your landing pages rank better in SERP for long-tail keywords. Use this wisely, though. Link only to pages that really need to be linked to.

    Let's suppose you have two pages: one generates you $10 income for every visitor, while other one does only $0.1. Which one whould you link first? Think of it that way and link to the most important and valuable pages of your website, using a relevant anchor text for each link.

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3.1.2. Helpful stuff

The below factors and techniques are not as crucial as the ones described above, but still they help a bit in gaining a higher rank in SERPs.

  1. Headings
    Once upon a time search engines paid a close attention to the heading tags (H1 through H6), but now those days are gone. Heading tags are easily manipulated, so their value is not very high nowadays. Nevertheless, you still want to use headings to mark the beginning of a text, to split an article into parts, to organize sections and sub-sections within your document. In other words, despite headers provide merely a small SEO value, they are still crucial for making your texts easiliy readable by human visitors.

    Use the H1 tag for the main heading of the page, then the H2 for the article headings and the H3 to split the different parts of an article with sub-headers. That would be pretty good practice and is enough to make your site readable by humans. It also adds some SEO points which you should not neglect too.
  2. Bold/Strong and Italic/Emphasized text
    Both are nearly useless, but still have some SEO value (very little though). As with headers, you better use them for the benefit of your human visitors, emphasizing the key parts of the text. But do not put every 5th keyword in a bold text as it looks ugly while not giving any significant boost to your rankings anyway. Moreover, such page would be very hard to read.
  3. Keyword placement
    The value of keywords in a text depends on their placement across the page. Keywords placed near the top of the document get higher value than ones residing near the bottom. Important: when I say top or bottom I mean the source of the HTML document, not its visual appearance. That is why you want to put your navigation and supplemental texts near the bottom of the source file and all important and relevant content - near the top.

    This rule also works in more specific cases: keywords placed in the beginning of the title tag are more important than ones placed 4th or 5th. Keywords placed in the beginning of the anchor text are more important and get more value too.
  4. Keywords in filenames and domain name
    An old trick with putting your target keywords into a filename or having them in a domain name. Still works, but don't expect too much boost from this one.
    a) Keywords in a domain name do help a little, but it is much better to have a short, easy to remember domain name than something like
    b) Keywords in a file or a folder name also help a bit and since you still want to name your documents, why not give them appropriate names? Though as I said before, do not expect any significant ranking boost. For a competitive query it won't help you much anyway. Also, if your page is written in other language than default English (or some other european language), it won't help you at all.
  5. Image Alt attribute
    This one was very popular in 2003, but now keyword stuffing of the Alt attribute does not give any SEO value to a page. The better use of the Alt attribute would be something like this: <img src="some-pic.gif" alt="accurate description of some pic">

    Write a natural description for each image and make sure it reads well. This helps you in two ways: a) your site ranks better in the image search; b) Google often takes the Alt text to create a snippet for the SERP.
  6. Meta Description
    One of the most popular and steady myths (alongside with keyword density) is the Meta Description tag. They say it helps you rank better. They say it is crucial to have it filled with the apropriate description of a page content. They say you must have it on each page of your website. All of these is not true. Nowadays, the only way the Meta Description is used by search engines is taking its content to create a snippet for the SERP. That is all! You don't get any other benefits of using the Meta D on your page, neither do you fall upon any penalty for not using it.

    There is an opposite opinion suggesting not to use the Meta D at all, since a search engine anyway creates a snippet basing on the content of a page and you can't make this work better than a search engine. So why waste your time doing that? Personally, I would not agree with this point, since according to Google guidelines the Meta Description tag is still the preferred source of the info for a snippet. Though it is up to you decide whether you want it on your page or not, since as stated above it doesn't give any additional SEO impact, neither positive, nor negative.

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3.1.3. Useless stuff (no pain, but no gain as well)

  1. Meta Keywords
    Long time ago the <meta name="keywords" content=""> tag was intended to tell search engine the keywords relevant to this particular page. In modern SEO history search engines download websites and extract relevant keywords from their content, so the Meta K tag is not used for web ranking anymore. Simply forget it, it is useless for SEO.
  2. Keyword Density
    One of the most overestimated web ranking factors is the keyword density. What is keyword density and why this myth lives so long? The keyword density of each particular word on a page is calculated as follows:

    KD = Word_Count / Total_Words * 100%

    That is, if a page has 150 words and the word "SEO" is mentioned 24 times on that page, its keyword density would be: 24 / 150 * 100% = 16%

    But why this value is useless? Because search engines has evolved and does not count on keyword density anymore, since it is very easily manipulated. There are thousands of factors that search engines consider when calculating the page rank, so why would they need such simple (not to say primitive) way to rank pages as to count the number of times a word appears in the page text? You may hear the keyword density of 6% is the best rate, or keep it within 7% to 10%, or search engines like kw density within 3% to 7% and other bullshit. The truth is...

    Search engines like pages written in a natural language. Write for humans, not for search engines! A page can have any keyword density from 0% (no keyword on a page at all) to 100% (a page consisting of only one word) and still rank high.

    Well, of course you may want to control the keyword density of your pages, but please consider that there is no good value for this factor. Any value will work if your text is written with a human reader in mind. Why would one still want to check for keyword density if it is not count any more? Because it is a quick and dirty way to estimate the theme of a page. Simply do not overestimate this thing, it is merely a number, nothing more and it is useless for SEO.

    Another interesting question: why this myth is still alive and why there are so many people still talking about keyword desnity as an important ranking factor? Perhaps, because keyword density is easy to understand and modify if needed. You can see it right here with your naked eye and quickly learn if your site is going good or bad. Well, it only seems as that, but not actually is - keyword density is useless, remember?
  3. Dynamic URLs vs. static URLs
    Beleive me or not, there is no difference. Both are of the same SEO value. The days when search engines had difficulties indexing dynamic URL websites are gone for good.
  4. vs.
    No difference either. If you want your site to be accessed with both ways, please add something like this into your .htaccess file:

    RewriteEngine on
    RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^
    RewriteRule (.*)$1 [R=301,L]

  5. Underscore vs. hyphen in URLs
    Once again, there is no any difference from the SEO point. You can use underscore, or hyphen, or even don't use any separator at all - this neither helps, nor hurts your position in SERPs.
  6. Subfolders
    Is it better to have a /red-small-cheap-widget.php file rather than /widgets/red/small/cheap/index.php? Does it hurt your rank if you put the content deep into the subfolders? The answer is no, it won't hurt your rankings and actually it doesn't matter at all how deep in the folder tree a file is located. What matters is how many clicks it takes to reach that file from the homepage.

    If you can reach that file in one click - it certainly is more important and would have more weight than say some other file located within 5 clicks away from the index page. The homepage usually has many link juice to share, so the pages it directly links to are obviously more important than others (well, since they receive more link juice, that is).
  7. W3C validation
    W3C is World Wide Web Consortium - an international consortium where Member organizations, a full-time staff, and the public work together to develop Web standards. Basically speaking, they are guys who invented HTML, CSS, SOAP, XML and other web technologies.

    Validation is the process of checking a page or website for its compliance with W3C standards. You can run a validation of any website for free here. Note, this validator shows not only such trivial things like unclosed quotation, undefined tags or wrong attribute values. It also checks the encoding problems, the compliance with the specified DOCTYPE, obsolete tags and attributes and many more.

    Why is validation needed? A 100% valid website ensures that it will display correctly (and identically!) in all browsers that support standards. Unfortunately, in real life some browsers do not strictly follow the W3C standards, so a variety of different cross-browser problems with the number of websites are not rare thing all over the web. This doesn't belittles the importance of W3C standards, however.

    From the SEO point the validation doesn't look so crucial though. Run a validation through and you'll see a bunch of warnings and errors on their website. This example pretty clearly shows that Google doesn't care of W3C validation itself. At least not as much to give a strong rank boost to valid websites or penalize erroneous ones. It simply doesn't care. The recommended W3C validation strategy is: perform it to make your site working and accessible with all common browsers and don't bother doing it for the SEO purposes only, if you don't experience any cross-browser issues - it works fine as it is.

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3.1.4. Stuff that hurts your rankings

  1. Keyword stuffing
    Google defines that term pretty clear. Once again: write for humans. Repeating keywords across the page can trigger Google spam filter and this will result in huge loss of positions if not total ban of your website. Write naturally, optimize a bit if needed - that's the best way of using keywords nowadays.
  2. Hidden text / Invisible links
    At first, let's see what Google says about hidden text. Obviously, Google doesn't like it and if your site uses such technique it may be excluded from Google's index. You may ask, how would Google know if I use hidden text or not? Ok, I can set "display:none" in my external CSS file and limit the access to that CSS file with my robots.txt. Will Google be able to learn that a page has a hidden text then? Yes and no. This might work in the short term, but in the long run your disguise will fail, sooner or later. Also, it's been reported that GoogleBot not always strictly follows the robots.txt instructions, so it actually can read and parse JS and CSS without any problems and once it does - the consequences for your website and its web rankings will be disastrous.
  3. Doorway pages
    As bad as some SEO method could ever be. The doorway pages are special landing pages created for the only sake of obtaining good positions for some particular keyword. It doesn't have any valuable content and its only purpose is to catch the visitor from the SERP and redirect him to some other, non-doorway page which by the way is usually absolutely irrelevant to the initial visitor's query.
  4. Splogs
    Splogs (derivative from Spam Blogs) is the modern version of the old-evil doorways. The technique was as follows: one created thousands of blogs on some free blog service like, linked them between each other and obtained some backlinks via the blog comment spam and other blackhat methods (see below). Splogs itself did not contain any unique information, their content was always automatically generated articles stuffed with keywords, however due to a large number of inbound links such splogs ranked very well in SERPs dislodging many legitimate blogs. Later, Google implemented some filters to protect itself from the large amount of splogs and now any splog gets banned pretty fast.

    If you own a blog - do not make it spammy. Instead focus your attention on writing good and interesting content. This works better in fact.
  5. Cloaking
    Not as bad in some particular cases, but still a blackhat technique. The method is based on determining whether a visitor is a human or search engine spider and then deciding which content to show. Humans then get one variant of the website while search engines get another one, stuffed with keywords.
  6. Duplicate content
    Being a scarecrow for many webmasters, duplicate content is not actually as dangerous as it is spoken. There are two types of content that can be called duplicate. The first case is when a website has several different ways to access the same page, for instance:

    All four refer to the same page, but actually are treated as different pages having the same content. This type of duplicate content issue is easiliy resolved by Google itself and does not lead to any penalty from Google.

    The other type is duplicate content on different domain names. A content of a website is considered duplicate if it doesn't add any value to the original content. That is if you simply copy-paste an article to your site - it is a duplicate content. If you copy-paste an article and add some comments or review it from your point of view - that's not duplicate content. The key feature here is some added value. If a site adds value to the initial information - it is not duplicate.

    There are two other moments here that are worth to be mentioned. First, if someone copies your text and posts it then on another site - it is very unlikely that you will be penalized for that. Google tracks the age of each page and tends to consider the older one - and it is your website in this case - as the source of the original text. Second, you still can borrow the materials from other websites without a significant risk of being penalized for duplicate content by simply re-writing the text with your own words. There is a way to produce unique random texts using Markov chains, synonymizers and other methods, but I would not recommend using them, since the output looks too spammy and is not natural anyway, so it really can hurt your Google position. Write for humans. Write by yourself.
  7. Frames
    The frames technology not being a blackhat SEO by itself still can hurt your rankings, because seach engines do not like frames, since they destroy the whole concept of the web - single page for single URL. With frames, one page may load and display the content from many other URLs which makes it very hard to crawl and index. Avoid using IFRAME and other associated tags unless you really, really have to and if you do - provide an alternative way to index the contents of each frame with direct links or use the NOFRAMES tag with some backup content shown to search engines.
  8. JavaScript and Flash
    Google can read both JS and Flash (well, its text part of course), but it is not recommended to build your site solely basing on these two. There should always be a way for a visitor (either human or bot) to read the content of a website with the simple plain text links. Do not rely exclusively on JS or Flash navigation - this will kill your SEO perspectives as quickly as the headshot.

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3.1.5. On-page factors summary

Well, if you've read carefully the above parts you already can figure out the summary yourself. Content is the king, but only a quality one is. Do not try to trick or cheat with search engines as this only works on the short run and it is always just a matter of time when your rankings get dropped forever. Providing high-quality relevant content interesting both for you and your visitors is the key to on-page ranking success and (paradoxically!) a half of the way to the success with off-page ranking factors.

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3.2. Off-page ranking factors


3.2.1. What is it?

At the end of XX-th century search engines ranked websites basing solely on their content. The situation has changed after the Google triumph. Google's algos were based on the link popularity, not only the content of websites. So, the more inbound links a website had, the higher it was ranked by Google. The whole concept didn't change very much from those days - popular websites often get linked to, so this factor is applied for calculating web rankings alongside with the content of such websites. In present days it is possible to rank for some keyword even if a website does not contain that keyword in its text! (the proof link)

Needles to say that you should pay an attention to off-page ranking factors as much as you do for on-page optimization. This SEO tutorial describes all the things you should keep in mind while maintaining your inbound links. Read along.

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3.2.2. PageRank

In the first hand, we must separate two things: the real PageRank and the PageRank green bar shown in Google Toolbar and other online and offline PageRank tools. The Google bar PageRank (I'll be calling it the green PageRank, or gPR) is merely an indicator. The real PageRank of a website (I'll be calling it the PageRank, or PR from now) is a mathematical value reflecting the probability of a visitor randomly following the links on websites to open this particular website. The value of 1 means 100% probability, that is a visitor randomly surfing the web will always open the website. Sooner or later. On the opposite, the value of 0 means that a random visitor never comes to that particular website through a link on some other site.

I won't get deep into mathematics of the PageRank since this info can be easily found on the web. I'll only underscore the key moments of the PageRank statistical nature.

  1. First of all, you must understand the following: the number of websites grows each day, while the overall PageRank value always stays the same: 1 (one). In other words, there is a 100% probability of the fact that a visitor opens SOME site on the web. But the odds of each particular website are going lower and lower every minute. If you have 3 apples and two of them are maggoty, what are your odds to take a good apple? They are 1/3 or 33%. If you have to choose one apple of 100 you only have 1% probability. That's the case with the PageRank - it lowers naturally every day.
  2. Due to the pt.1 and the overall enormous number of indexed websites it is not possible to show the exact PageRank value every minute. That is why we need the green PageRank which is updated every 3 or 4 months and shows the PageRank value in a more comprehensible form: as a number from 0 to 10. This number correlates to the actual PageRank very little, it only shows the basic trends.

    Also, the gPR scale is non-linear. One may think that a website with PR2 is two times more popular (or at least has two times more chances to get that random visitor we were talking about earlier) than its unlucky brother with PR1, but that is not true. In fact it is more likely to be that a PR2 website is 10 times more popular than PR1, but 10 times less popular than PR3. Something like this, but the number 10 is only an example here, since we don't know the exact formula.
  3. The PageRank models a random user who is surfing the web and following random links on websites. From the practical point of view this means: the more links all over the web points to your website, the higher its PageRank is.

So, now you know that the key off-page ranking factor is the number of inbound links to a website and the green PageRank is the indirect indicator of that number. However, the PageRank mathematical mechanism considers only a quantity of links, while in fact there is also a quality factor. This is implemented via different filters and value dumping factors that Google applies to each link before including it into the PageRank calculation.

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3.2.3. Important stuff

This part describes the crucial off-page ranking factors you should always pay attention to.

  1. The theme of the linking website
    This one is very important since the links from a relevant website are worth much more. On your link building efforts, try searching the websites that are close or at least similar to your own site theme. Though having a link from the unrelated site is not bad by itself and even Google admits that a webmaster doesn't have a full control on who and how links to its website. Nevertheless, avoid links from unrelated websites or sites with illegal or unethical content (porn, malware etc).
  2. The theme of websites you link to
    On the other hand, you have a full control of the links placed on YOUR own website so if you link to some unrelated website - it is you who is responsible for that and it is your site that will be penalized. So be careful what sites you link to. Linking to some unrelated content not necessarily leads to a penalty, but anyways you should be cautious and link only to quality websites.
  3. Anchor text
    The anchor text of the inbound link is very important and if you can adjust it - try to squeeze all out of it. First of all, avoid using the same anchor text all over the links. Use synonyms, paraphrases, different keywords, whatever else. Second, put the important keywords in the beginning of the anchor text. Finally, do not put all of your keywords into the link. There is really no reason to use anchor text longer than 50-55 characters or 10-12 words. Keep it short.
  4. Landing pages
    This factor is often ignored even by some professional SEOs and webmasters. It is not enough to simply have a link to your site! The link must be a) relevant; and b) quality. And you must be sure that both websites - the linking and the linked - qualify to these requirements. As for the theme of the linking website - see the pt.1. But the theme of your website should also be quality and relevant both to the donor website and to the anchor text of the link.

    Well, it is not necessary in fact, but it helps a lot to have a properly optimized landing pages for every link you have. What this "proper optimization" includes?
    • The landing page must include keywords mentioned in anchor text in its content;
    • The keywords should appear in all important places like the title tag, the headings etc;
    • The overall topic of the page must match to those keywords.
    If a landing page qualifies to all of these - it gets significant boost to its rank, because the corresponding inbound links get much more value now.
  5. PageRank
    The PageRank doesn't do anything by itself and the green PageRank does even less - it is simply an EGO-meter. However, the PR of the linking website (or a candidate) gives you an approximation of what the link from this website is worth, what value it has. Also, high-PR website are considered as trusted and gets some more value from Google. See below for more trust-factors.

    A single link from a PR10 website (if you somehow manage to have one, of course) will quickly boost your own website PR to 7 or even 8 giving you the comparable boost in your search positions. But this factor is the last in the list of important off-page factors, because at first hand you should find a relevant and quality website that is willing to put a link to you and then (only then!) check its PageRank. Exactly in that order. Because quality content is worth more than high PageRank.

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3.2.4. Helpful stuff

  1. Reciprocal linking
    1. The basic reciprocal linking is very simple: site A links to site B while site B links to site A.

      Reciprocal links. Scheme A to B, B to A

      There are other schemes though:
    2. Cross linking. Site A links to site B from page A1, while site B links to site A from page B1.

      Reciprocal links. Scheme A to B, B to A

    3. Circular linking. Site A links to site B, site B links to site C,... site Z links to site A.

      Reciprocal links. Circular links.

    4. Three-in-a-row linking. Site A links to site B, site B links to site C. No link back from C.

      Reciprocal links. Three-in-a-row links.

    5. Combined.

      Reciprocal links. Combined scheme.

    There is a strong misbelief that reciprocal linking does not work anymore. That's not true. It does work, but the efficiency of this method is much much lower than it was in 2003. In 2009 Google greatly reduces the value of reciprocal links, especially for the schemes a and c, but the whole concept still works and really helps to gain rankings on early and middle stages of SEO promotion when literally every link counts.

    Though there are some exclusions (as always however). Needless to say that you still have to choose the partners for reciprocal linking very carefully. Consider the theme of the linking website, its quality, its neighbourhood (other sites it links to), consider the page that would point to your site, pay attention to the anchor text of the link etc. You don't want to exchange links with spammy websites, or websites that use e-mail spam to suggest the partnership. You don't want a link buried 17 clicks away from the homepage.

    Usually you don't want a nofollow link, but even a nofollow link from a relevant site can bring a load of target visitors to your site so it is up to you to decide whether it is only the link juice that you expect from the link exchange, or the auditory too. By the way, you also don't want a link from a page already having 50+ links on it. And the final yet still important note: do not e-mail website owners all over the web with link exchange proposal! That sucks, man, and no one answers anyway, while you will put your karma down to zero with such activity and possibly will receive a penalty from SpamCop or some other paranoid bastards. Don't do that, I tell you.
  2. Web directories
    One more technique that everyone tells it doesn't work anymore. Well, to be honest the efficiency of web directories never was so amazing. In fact there is only one web directory you certainly want to be included into: Google's Open Directory (or DMOZ). Google Directory is a free, human-edited web directory of high value. It is a bit tricky to get included into it, because it often takes months before your submission will be approved (if it ever will), but the game worths the candle - a link from DMOZ is a significant boost to your website value and a drop of life-giving link juice too.

    If you have some free funds to spend, you may also want to be included into several paid inclusion directories, starting from Yahoo Directory which seems to be the most respectful of them. Also, here is a great article on directory submission you should definitely read. Don't miss the outstanding list of directories to submit too.
  3. Social bookmarks
    They used to work very well, but due to enormous amounts of spam on the social bookmarking websites the method is not as efficient as it were 2-3 years ago. Promoting a website through the social bookmarking websites has its pros and cons:
    1. Pro: SB websites get crawled very frequently - every 2 or 3 hours. This means if you manage to get there you will get your piece of traffic from search engines pretty soon.
    2. Pro: Social bookmarks not only help you raise your link strength, but also bring some amont of pure traffic from the bookmarking sites themselves. Depending on the popularity of the article posted on SB the traffic to your website could vary from few grains of sand to a pure avalanche.
    3. Con: Unfortunately, you cannot simply bookmark a link to your website and wait for traffic. This could have worked in the first days of social bookmarking, but now it does not. First, the amount of posts (diggs, reddits, stumbles etc) per minute does not leave many chances to each particluar post to get popular. Your bookmark simply may lost between hundreds of thousands others. Second, bookmarking websites often have either moderators or some way for other users to disapprove an inappropriate post or a bookmark. So if you post a bookmark of your own website, the link is deleted and your account is banned. Too bad.

      There are some workarounds for this though.
      • The whitehat one. Post an article or some other valuable (do you hear me? I said valuable!) content on your website and wait until someone else links to it. Then you should bookmark that site instead. This won't increase your link popularity or PageRank, but still bring you visitors. Oh, did I forgot to tell that the other linking site could be yours too? So you may have a commercial website with the article and a non-commercial blog where

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