SEO Basics | Transalpine Internet Sevices

Transalpine has a department specialised in the highly technical field of website content optimization. We explain here how Content Engineering can improve the search engine performance of your website.

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SEO Basics

Search Engine Optimization: a generic term for a set of techniques for improving the rankings of a website in an SERP (Search Engine Results Page).

SEO professionals advise clients on such matters as keyword analysis, site and content optimization, targeted audience behaviour, monitoring of site performance, and backlink generation.

Search Engine Goals

The stated goal of all search engines is to retain user loyalty through effective service. Primarily, this is achieved by returning a SERP list with a variety of best possible matches for a search query. This list will include a variety of types: text, images, video, etc.

There are ways to influence unduly the ranking of less relevant sites - a practice known as spamming. As a result, Google and the other search engines invest a great deal of effort in preventing spam results being presented with high rankings to searcher queries. Repeated attempts to unfairly gain rankings by site publishers may result in a downgrading of the site. Hence, it is the role of an SEO consultant to optimise rankings without compromising the legitimate relevance and authority of a site in the eyes of the search engine.

The Google Algorithm

Google utilises a sophisticated system for ranking sites for relevance, authority and other criteria, such as user responsiveness. A lot of data is collated and numerically evaluated to produce a rapid returns list (SERP) for the user to browse.

Search engines take into account two main categories of parameters: structure and content. Both of these involve analysing internal and external linking patterns.

Structure is concerned with the accessibility of information and the clarity of its presentation and thematic fidelity.

Content is assessed by means such as semantic analysis, which determines the relevance of material to the general theme of the page. For example, the presence of an advertisement on a topic totally unrelated to the theme of the page will downgrade that page's assessed relevance for specific keywords.

Sites which are active, and have the intention of informing a returning public, tend to grow organically. The indexes formulated by search engines will therefore also grow organically. Starting with a clear SEO blueprint for the information architecture will ensure these indexes develop and retain a profile which accurately matches the quality and utility of the site.

Paid responses and organic results

Those who have the budget may circumvent the algorithm vagaries by paying for rankings on the SERP. Google is a profit-making (and how!) private organisation, and makes its income primarily through advertising. One of the ways to advertise is to pay to appear at the top or in the right column of an SERP for specified search criteria. Important keywords need to be bid for. The more competitors there are in that particular field (e.g. 'budget hotels', 'cheap flights'), the more expensive it is to gain that pole position.

Organic results are those that are not paid. The investment to gain organic search results is not so much financial outlay as the time and effort necessary to create a site which gains the authority to return it with a high ranking for its realms of related query keywords.


When a user enters a search string, it is on average 2 or 4 words long. This reduces the link between the query and a targeted site to a limited number of keywords. Success at guiding meaningful traffic (traffic that wants and will use the found site) to a site depends on a clear identification and utilisation of these keywords and phrases.

It is not, however, sufficient to flood a site with content that contains many common keywords. The search engines are too clever for that. To obtain the authority which links certain queries to a suitable site requires painstaking development of structure and content which highlights for the search engine the true appropriateness of the site for the keyword in question.

It is not surprising then that a major area of interest in SEO involves keyword analytics. There are a number of tools provided for this purpose, and it becomes quickly apparent that SEO strategies depend greatly on the uniqueness of the site's offer to a highly competitive marketplace. If the obvious keywords are not likely to bring sufficient SERP ranking improvements, SEO moves into the area of the 'long tail'. These are search queries which are not directly related to a site's core subjects, but can be utilised to steer traffic to it. This is certainly a 'creative' area of research, and is probably where the term 'Art of SEO' originates.

Choice of URL and Age of Site

The URL is a major indicator to a search engine and human navigators about the nature of the site. Here enters also the question of geolocation. An organisation which operates principally locally can gain much more value from a country code TLD (top level domain), such as .ch or, than a universal TLD, such as .com and .net. Unless there is good reason to choose a generic international domain suffix, sites should not throw away the value of a local domain identity.

An older site, which has survived the vagaries of the online world for more than the average time, is more likely to be providing quality visitor experience. Spam (advertising and irrelevant content serving the publisher's purpose not the visitor's) on a site makes that site less likely to survive long, or gain the acceptance of its online community. It certainly will not be linked to and used as an authority by other sites. Long-lived sites are more likely to have found acceptance within their internet neighbourhood, and to have found a formula for developing in step with its needs. Search engines therefore automatically rank older sites higher than start-ups.

SEO practitioners need to take this into consideration. A client may think 'it is time for a fresh start' with a brash new domain name. If a domain has a pedigree (older than 5 years, say), that value is not to be discarded unless there is a good reason (and these exist).

Benefits of SEO

SEO is now a primary focus of web design. It meshes with the overall corporate strategy, and is already an integral part of mainstream marketing. There are three principal reasons for this:

  1. SEO provides large quantities of relevant and purposeful traffic to a site - traffic that is more likely to complete the goals of the site (direct sales or lead generation).
  2. High ranking in SERPs carries the implication (justly or not) that the site has quality, relevance and trustworthiness. A major league company should not allow itself to be pushed out of top rankings by smaller companies, if only for a question of prestige. SERP ranking is the new bricks and mortar of corporate identity.
  3. The reality of the new economy based on customer vertical search behaviour online means that traditional marketing is failing to provide new expectations. Organizations need to strive to lead in their sector's online environment, and cover areas of vertical search (video, news, social media) which they had previously disdained.

When should SEO be implemented?

Site optimization is not a single one-off project, but an iterative process. It is fundamental to all aspects of a site, and should be continuously revised as internal interaction with the site develops, and as the external ecosystem adapts to the site's growing dominance.

For best results, SEO would be the guiding basis for the site's structural design, as well as the content development. In this way, considerations such as ensuring backlinks will develop will be hardwired into the site. People do not respond favourably to something which they feel was not designed for them. Asking them to become involved as an evident afterthought will hinder the development of the kind of market interaction SEO thrives on.

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