Search Engine Optimisation

Every single one of my clients at some point ask the million dollar question “So how do I get my site to the top of Google?”. By Google they obviously mean search engines in general but in truth there are only two to consider these days, Google and Bing. I am writing this post to help answer this question.

The thing is with SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) it is an accumulative effect and there’s not one quick fix. Sure you can always pay and use Google Adwords (pay to be at the top) but even if you choose to do this you still need to have a proper SEO strategy in place for your website to rank well organically. Besides Google Adwords isn’t always the best solution and it can be very difficult to justify the costs especially if you are not selling online.

Consider SEO from the beginning

SEO should always be considered from the very beginning of a website. Many people assume SEO is something that gets tacked on at the end and all too often it is. This isn’t disastrous but you need to be thinking about SEO and your content right from the start.

The first thing to do in my opinion is establish what your keywords should be. By these I mean the words that users are likely to type into a search engine to find your website. You need to spend to time on these, look at your competitors, run searches, speak to your staff, this phase is crucial, never assume you already know what your keywords should be.

To help you with this you can use Google’s Keyword Tool which works much better if you are logged into Google so be sure to get yourself a free account. This tool allows you to see how many times your keywords have been used in searches and also offers alternatives. When creating your keywords don’t forget to consider your location. If this is especially important to your business, Town, City and County names should be included. Once you’ve established your keywords ensure that everyone involved with the website has a copy of them!

Content is king

To be successful with the search engines you must provide them with decent written content. Well written content should always be your starting point, get your keywords into this text and make sure there’s a decent amount of it.

Writing good text or copy is a skill and is so often massively under valued. Everything else to do with the website will be catered for, photography, videos, design and then the copy all too often gets written hastily by someone who generally doesn’t want to do it. If you have the budget consider a copy writer and if you don’t just ensure the copy is as good as you can possibly make it.

Linking to success

So you have well written copy, now you need to make sure your copy contains links. Links to other pages of the site, external sites, anything that will be useful to the reader. Links coming into your site are especially useful. Google will see these links and will assume that your website is of some importance if other sites are linking to it. The quality of these links matter though. Links from your mother’s crafting website are not going to carry as much weight as those from a popular blog for instance.

Google has become increasingly savvy when it comes to links though so don’t try to fool them by falsifying links and I personally wouldn’t recommend paying for them.

Decent web design

Hopefully if you’re reading this then your web designer is yours truly but if not you need to make sure that whoever you are using is doing their job properly. There are loads of companies offering cheap web design but web design is like anything else, you tend to get what you pay for. Besides what I have already mentioned each page of your website should include descriptive page titles that include pertinent keywords. All of your images should have decent Alt tags, these should describe the image to those that can’t see it and of course the search engines.

You may have heard of meta tags. There are three types of meta tag that pertain to SEO. The keywords, description and geo position. The keywords meta tag is no longer used by Google and I wouldn’t recommend that you include it. All it does is provide an easy way for your competitors to see your keywords. The meta description should definitely be included though and should describe each page of the website. I always include geo position tags too as this helps with location based search, more on this later.

Your web designer can also make his or her code much more descriptive to machines by using rich snippets. There are three types of rich snippets, Microdata, Microformats and RDFa. These snippets can be used to add extra meaning to all types of things, from recipes and reviews to contact details and calendar events. Your website should also have an XML site map and a robots.txt file. I won’t go into the technicalities here but I will say that I always create these and ensure that the sitemap is submitted to both Google and Bing using their webmaster tools.

Finally your web designer should also be using SEO friendly URL’s, AKA web addresses. Long URL’s with indecipherable numbers are not going to help you with the search engines or indeed your users.

Location based Search

I’ve already touched on this briefly but I didn’t mention Google Places and Bing Local. Make sure your business appears on these two sites and that your details are correct. You could also add your business to other registries, such as Yell and Applegate. These and many others have free options and they can help to make your site more popular.

Frequency of change

So you’ve done all of the above, can you just sit back now and watch your visitor numbers increase? NO of course not. Keeping your website fresh with new content is really important not just for the search engines but for your visitors. Sure some websites can’t change their core content too often but you could consider having a news section, blog, recent projects or case studies.

Social networks

This post has already become much longer than I anticipated so I won’t go into to much detail here. Suffice to say that the Social Networks play a massivley important role in SEO. It’s not just Twitter and Facebook, these are a good place to start but consider, Google+ YouTube, Vimeo, Flickr, Pinterest and the many others. Don’t open too many accounts and water your content down. You are far better dealing with two well than opening five or six and hardly ever posting new content to them.

Measuring success

You will probably already have a good idea how you are fairing but you should aways keep a close eye on things. Ensure you are using Google Analytics. I always set this up for my clients, it really is invaluable. Google Analytics is free and provides you with a wealth of information about your visitors to your website. How they found the site, what pages they viewed and for how long, their location and many other things. Woo rank is also a handy tool to see how well your website is optimised. Some of the things Woo rank list are not always relevant but it will certainly give you a good idea of how well you are doing.

Anymore you can do?

I’ve never been a fan of SEO companies, I’m sure there are good ones out there but many of the ones I have dealt with just seem far too sales focused and lack any real technical knowledge. So I would recommend working with your web designer, together keep and eye on all of the above.

Search engines are only becoming more advanced and their results are only going to become more personalised to the searcher so never take your eye off the ball!

If you’d like any more information or would like to ask me any questions regarding SEO please do leave a comment below or contact me via email or Twitter.

Thanks for reading and please let me know what you think.