Search Engine Optimisation, or ‘SEO’, is an online marketing activity that aims to get your website nearer to the top of the results pages on search engines such as Google.
It’s important because the higher your site appears in the search results, the more visitors it’s likely to receive from that search engine.
So how do you optimise a website for Google?
The first thing to say is that since, according to Experian Hitwise, over 70% of all search traffic (USA) goes via Google, everybody in the world wants to know the answer to that. It’s the ’64 million dollar question’ of the online world and Google keeps the exact answer to it a closely guarded secret.
Partly because of this secrecy, different people will give you different answers and the reality is, there is no single thing that you can do.
Google uses a complex and continually evolving algorithm to work out its results. Amongst this complexity, what we do know is that Google rewards web pages that are:
- highly relevant to a target set of keywords
- regularly updated
- easy to navigate
- trusted by other websites
Start with keywords
The starting point of any exercise aimed at getting nearer to the top of the search engine ranking, and thereby driving more and better traffic to your website, is to develop a list of ‘keywords’ relevant to your business. Keywords are the phrases that people type into a search engine when they are looking for something.
People new to keyword research often start by thinking “what keywords do I want to be number one for, on Google?” But a more pertinent question might be “what phrases would people type into Google when they are searching for the goods or services we provide?”
There are some good tools available to help you define a list of keywords, such as Google’s free keyword tool.
Having identified your list of keywords, making your website more relevant to them is achieved through actions both within your own website, called ‘on-site optimisation’ and on other websites that link into yours, called ‘off-site optimisation’.
On site optimisation
The list of requirements for a well-optimised web page is long. But the good news is that a number of them come as standard with a modern web platform. These include the way the code is written and structured, compliance to global standards and ease of use by vision-impaired visitors.
Taking these as given then, the key activities for on-site optimization are:
- generating web-pages themed around your keywords, and
- ongoing editing and organizing of pages to increase their relevance to specific searches.
A web page’s theme includes its title, its web address, the headings, the way images are presented (using meta-data), the amount of copy (not too much… not too little!) and the way that links are written (use meta data!).
On-site optimization is an iterative and ongoing process. This is because the position of your website on Google is achieved relative to other websites that are also optimising and competing with you to be the most relevant site for a specific set of keywords.
Off site optimisation
Websites do well on Google when they are trusted by other websites. Sites that link into yours could include directories, your business partners, news and press release sites, social networks, blogs and other information portals.
Search engine results can therefore be improved by building the number of well-written (using descriptive text) inbound links from websites that are:
- Relevant: making use of similar keywords
- High quality: also do well in natural search
- Popular: gauged according to Google’s PageRank algorithm, or domain authority
Anything else I need to know about?
Optimizing your website to better support your business can be a time consuming process. However it goes hand-in-hand with “Pay Per Click’ (‘PPC’) advertising which can often be quicker to get up-and-running.
For companies that are operating in a very crowded market and for those that want a quicker return on their investment, PPC is well worth considering. The cost can be surprisingly low: as little as £10 per day and you can switch it off at no notice. And because you get immediate feedback on what works and what doesn’t work, it’s a great source of information for your list of SEO keywords.