Put simply, Search Engine Optimisation (or SEO) is about making search engines such as Google and Bing rank your site higher in their unpaid or ‘organic’ search results than your competitors. There are two main strands to this – onsite and offsite. Both are important and should be considered at the point of design, not as an afterthought.
1. Keyword Research
Know who your competitors are and work out what keywords you should be targetting. There’s no point trying to come up on the first page when someone searches for ‘cat food’ when you actually only sell dog food, so this part is crucial.
2. Website Optimisation
Make sure your website is search engine ‘friendly’. Your web pages should, amongst other things:
- be coded well (the W3C standard guidelines are a good marker)
- have relevant content
- have appropriate titles and meta tags based on your keyword research
- have relevant URL’s which incorporate your keywords
- have a clear hierarchy and well defined use of heading and paragraph tags
3. Link Building & Social Media
Most of us choose which businesses we want to work with or buy from based on good experiences and recommendation. It makes sense. Search engines work on the same principle. A site which has been linked to many times will be placed higher on the basis of recommendation and authority. There will be many different sites, all well built and researched, which need to be returned for each keyword so search engines need something to differentiate. That’s where link building and social media become your best friends.
This is often the last thing people think of but it is actually extremely important, otherwise how do you know what you’re doing is working? Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools are widely used and highly recommended.
The most important thing to remember about SEO is that it isn’t a one off action. Very few companies will do some keyword research and find that they are already achieving top ten results, let alone that coveted number one position, for relevant search terms. Besides, the algorithms used by search engines are constantly changing and evolving. Success relies on regular refinement of your website and an investment of time in other areas, such as social media. You should of course, also be wary of any company or individual who promises to achieve this for you straight off or simply through a redesign of your website.