July 29, 2011

An SEO guide for Wineries Part 4

posted by mark in Winery SEO Guide

Last time, we explored the search engine process. At the end of that post, I commented that, should you do a great job of “being an authority”, “you have a fighting chance of ranking against your competitors”. Let’s explore what that means.

Express Your Authority

When you use a search engine you may not think about the results that are returned or the order they’re returned in. You may be surprised to see how important the top few results are. Although this article is from 2006 and the numbers may have changed slightly, you can see how powerful a top ranking can be. The fact is, people rely on the engines to give them the most relevant and best information on their search in the top few results, and rarely go hunting lower on the page or on page 2. They’re more likely to rework their search if they don’t see what they want.

This puts a lot of pressure on the engines to be certain that users are served within the top few results. After all, the goal of a search engine is to be beneficial to their customers. They want to provide the best, most relevant information available. This requires that the engines analyze the pages their robots crawl from many different angles – there’s no silver bullet when it comes to finding the best result. At this time, Google uses over 200 signals to rank websites for a given search. Some of those signals are well known and some are kept secret by Google, after all the last thing they want is for people to be able to “game” their algorithm. Let’s explore some of the ones that the SEO community knows about.

1. Relevance
This one is an easy one. If your page is not relevant to the searcher’s search, you will not be able to rank. For example, if a searcher is looking for “best cabernet in napa” and your page is about different types of soda, there’s no way you would be able to rank in their search results.

To improve relevance, you should choose the topics that you want to write about and make sure you provide a page for each with plenty of good quality text on it.

2. “Brand” Relevance
A branded search is a search that includes your brand name in it. These searches are very important for you to rank for. You want your fans to find you in the engines when they search for you. Fortunately, there are signals in the engines that will help your site rank for branded searches. The engines look at signals such as the URL that your site has, the title of your home page, the amount of times your brand is mentioned on your site, and the number of other sites that refer to your site using your brand name.

Here’s a tip: It is a good idea to choose a domain name that includes the name of your brand. At the time of this writing, engines are still using the presence of your brand name in your URL as a relevance factor. So, if you are the owner of the Seven Eagles Winery, you will want to seriously consider putting your site on seveneagleswinery.com.

3. Site Authority / Links
A very strong signal to the engines that your site is a valuable member of the Internet community and therefore should rank higher comes in the form of links to your site. Each engine keeps track of how authoritative a site is as a whole and how authoritative each page on that site is individually. As sites begin to link to you, because they love your writing or because they love your wines (or because they love your site!), you will begin to gain authority. The more authority the site that links to you has, the more authority you will gain from that link. As I mentioned, authority is gained on a full site level and on a per page level. If you have many links to a single page on your site because that page is incredibly good, your site will benefit from all of those links and secondary pages will enjoy some benefit. Naturally it’s better to have many links across many pages of your site. It is also good to have a diversity of domains linking to your site. Many links from a single site are not as good as one link from several different sites.

I like to think of a link as a positive vote for your site – the site that links to you is vouching for your quality. As in real life, if Robert Parker vouches for your quality, it’s much better than if, say, Mark Angelillo does. Robert Parker has much more authority than I do. On the web, a link from CNN.com is much better than a link from awesomewines.net.

After reading this, it might seem tempting to try to go get links however you can. Please note that it is not a good idea to buy links or trade links with sites that are of low quality. In fact it is expressly against the quality guidelines of the major engines. Google has a good page on this and other quality guidelines. The reason this is such a good signal is that it is hard to fake people being interested in your wine or content. You can’t control that, and attempting to get around this might risk your site getting reduced in the rankings or worse, being banned from the engines.

If you focus on branded searches first, choose your topics wisely and write relevant articles about those branded topics, you’re much more likely to see increased rankings in the engines.

Ready to move on? Proceed to Part 5: HTML is The Language of the Web

by Cliff Top · August 6, 2011 at 4:28 pm

Great topic Mark. Content Management pages have areas for SEO words and phrases to be entered (as opposed to the words actually used in web page content). How important is it to populate these background administration areas? Trying to incorporate key words into the visible content on web pages can aften lead to some pretty turgid copywriting. When you come to look at winery sites please have a look at http://www.thehaypaddock.co.nz. Your comments would be most welcome.
Looking forward to more from you.

by Ali · August 10, 2011 at 12:55 pm

Great stuff–thank you! I look forward to the next post.

by mark · August 12, 2011 at 3:43 pm

Cliff – I’ll definitely give your site a look when I get to the audits. Depending on where the SEO words are used they can potentially be helpful, but it would be good to think about it from the standpoint of “Are these SEO words useful for my readers?”

Proper categorization and tagging of content is important for users, too. I agree that key word driven content ends up feeling improper. It’s best to think about writing the article for your users, and think about what someone might type into a search engine to find your content. Past that, getting a second great article up is probably a better call than agonizing over the SEO words…

Cheers

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