Search engine optimisation and marketing

Search engine ranking can be key to the success of a business. Everyone wants their company to be listed first on Google when someone types in the name of their product or service. And that’s the problem – everyone want this, but only the sites which get the most traffic, and have the most links back to them, are ever going to stand a chance of getting a number one listing position.
You’ve no doubt come across the terms ‘Search Engine Optimisation’, and may have been targeted by people trying to scam you out of quite a lot of money with the promise of giving you a top search engine ranking for your web site. While there are many things which can be done to improve how search engines see your web site, there are no ‘magic bullets’ to push you to the top of the list – in fact, Google now actively seek out web sites which try to trick them into giving a better search ranking, and penalize those sites heavily. So it is wise to be cautious before parting with any cash for a quick fix, especially when you are promised a guaranteed top ranking with Google. What you will probably get is a good ranking for some obscure search term, or just a few minor changes to your keywords and no noticeable improvement in Google searches. But you might also get penalised, as a lot of the old tricks that SEO’s used to use are now regarded as spam by Google.
I mention Google a lot, because it pretty much dominates as the UK search engine. Google provide a lot of tools for you to improve your search engine rankings, so if you want to do something yourself, set up a Google webmaster account and then you can get an idea of how Google ‘sees’ your site, and some suggestions on how to improve it and get a better SERP (Search Engine Results Page) placement.

Do’s and don’ts of search engine optimisation

What to aim for:

First, the most important thing to do is have good quality, original, and regularly updated content in your web site. Don’t just copy from other sites – that can and probably will hurt you, even if the sites are popular. Try to go for content that is relevant to your business, not just personal and unrelated things which would be better left on Facebook. Google understands popular content, so try to follow what is trending in your text, but keep it relevant to your business. Headings should be page-relevant and keyword-relevant. A blog is a good way to keep your site content fresh.

Next, incoming links – the more sites that link back to yours (providing they are not poorly ranked in themselves), the higher page rank – or domain authority – you are likely to get. Of course, when I tell people this, they often don’t understand this is not something that you can achieve overnight – it takes work on your part, to put your name out there and get people to link back to your web site. But if you have original, useful content in your site you’ll probably generate incoming links from that.

Internal links – where possible, put links in your site to other parts of the site, but again, keep them relevant and don’t try to use text in the links to get Google’s attention – that can be penalised. Links that are relevant to your keywords are a good idea.

Outgoing links, to other sites, will help – but make sure you link to relevant, good-quality web sites and not just to ones you think are popular. Also, be aware that your links may break when other sites change, so check regularly that your outgoing links still work.

A sitemap – this, along with keywords, is often touted as the most important thing a search engine looks for. Actually, it is only important if there are pages which are not linked from somewhere in your site, so Google can’t find them when it crawls your pages. A sitemap also allows you to keep search engines from crawling certain pages, so use one if you need to but they are not always essential.

Keywords and description – these must be relevant, and not overloaded. Keywords should be individual or short phrases, and try to avoid generic terms like ‘restaurant’ or ‘plumber’ – go for something relevant to you or your business.

Page internals – things like alt tags for images are important, but so is how accessible the page is generally – the text must be readable (not tiny), site layout must be clear, and you must have a responsive site that works across all platforms and devices. Page load times are also important, so keep picture sizes down – just because it flies along on your high-speed internet connection does not mean the site is actually efficient. Google Chrome (browser) has a throttling feature in the developer tools you can use to see how fast your site is on slower connections.

Make sure you have a contact page, as that will often show up in the search results.

What to avoid:

Steer clear of any service which offers a quick fix, many of which will:

  • Load your site with keywords and links (Google regard this a spam now).
  • Add ‘popular’ and irrelevant content which is hidden from the user but visible to Google (spam, again).
  • Add large numbers of incoming links from sites set up just for that purpose, which Google will have already marked as spam sites.
  • Claim they know how Google works – actually, no-one does outside of that organization.
  • Create a sitemap which adds nothing to the visibility of your site.
  • Avoid the difficult work of addressing site layout and responsiveness.
  • Add just a few keywords and claim that’s going to help.

Remember, content is king – an old site, which is hardly ever updated, will never rank highly – there are no tricks or quick fixes. So if you want your site optimised, always choose a reputable company to do it, or have a go yourself!

Please telephone, email, or click the ‘quote’ link below if you would like to discuss further how to improve your search engine rankings.

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