What is Search Engine Optimisation?
The days of “I want my site to appear on page 1 of google so I need some search engine optimisation” have gone.
Many people still think SEO is nothing to do with their actual website but something mysterious that is done in the background. There may have been some truth in this a few years ago but Google has made lots of progress recently in better understanding the quality and popularity of website content so thankfully SEO has become more transparent and much less of a black art. Now it is about how good is your website and how good is your marketing.
Search Engine Optimisation is basically about 2 things:
- ONSITE: The quality of your website – A good website with lots of interesting, unique (ie different to your competitors) and useful content from your target audiences perspective, that is regularly being updated. We are talking about how you present your offering, what you say, does this appeal to your target audience, are you answering their questions and meeting their needs, what differentiates you from your competition – this is serious stuff about your image and your brand. I cannot stress enough the importance of good quality copy – without this you are wasting your time and money on SEO for a poor website. Read more about website copy here. This isn’t just search engine optimisation anymore.
- OFFSITE: Presence and popularity around the web – So lots of offsite ongoing marketing, primarily social media based these days.
So not building Search Engine Optimisation into a web site from the start is going to severely handicap search results and that is why people like me come along and tear websites apart (often very recently built ones) to rebuild them properly with SEO built in.
But isn’t SEO just a normal part of the Website Design process?
It should be shouldn’t it! It is with some good web designers but is not the norm. The norm is to treat web design (mainly focussed on how a web site looks) as one thing and SEO as something completely separate. Worse still many common web design techniques hinder the search engines rather than help.
How do you get good Search Engine Rankings?
Well firstly your website needs to have content that appeals to human visitors and is optimised for search engines. Basically a search tries to rank the relevance of web pages by examining the visible text on each web page then makes numerous adjustments for quality of coding and popularity around the web.
Onsite Search Engine Optimisation = Search Engine Friendly Web Design
There are a number of things that contribute towards good search engine ranking for a web site. The concepts are actually very straight-forward and logical (although the exact methods the search engines use are complex, constantly changing and are not made public knowledge). Factors include:
- The content of your website this needs to be better than the competition, unique and focused on what people are likely to be searching for (ie Target key word phrases). If your content is not focussed on what people are searching for then SEO is a waste of time.
- Good, well written, error free content. Read more about How to Write Appealing Copy.
- Search engines prefer websites that change regularly, it shows the site is active.
- Good Meta tags (Title and Description), they should fairly represent that pages content and focus on your target keyword phrases.
- Page URLs – descriptive page urls and logical structure to the site breaking down the pages into sensible groupings based on your target keyword phrases.
- Effective navigation that makes everything easy to find for people and search engines.
- Search engine friendly (semantic) coding ie coding that provides structure to the content of a web page.
- Responsive design to suit small screen smart phones, tablets and large screen computers.
- Fast and efficient coding that meets current standards and loads pages quickly.
- Media and images optimised for the web – so descriptive file names and optimised down to the minimum usable file size.
Any thing that may be regarded as an attempt to mislead the search engine (about what is actually on the page that you see) is actively combated and is regarded as spamming and you may find your website penalised or worse – excluded from the search engine listings.
And separate from the actual website itself:
Offsite SEO = Search Engine Marketing
- The overall web presence related to your site, so relevant links and references to your site elsewhere on the web, related websites, social media, marketing etc.
- The age of your website domain, sites less than 6 months old tend to be ignored, sites less than a year old tend not to do very well if there is strong competition.
- The popularity of your site, the more people visiting the better.
- The competition.
Our Search Engine Optimisation Services
Our SEO services can be on a once-off basis if you prefer or a regular effort to improve the search engine performance of your website. Successful Search Engine Optimisation projects tend to be based on a long term effort to establish and build a good presence in the search engines.
To Optimise your website for the Search Engine we:
- Work with you to review the main themes of your website
- Establish suitable key word phrases to target
- Help you review and refine or build your copy to support your target key words
- Review and amend the design and the code behind your web pages to ensure that the common problems are removed or minimised
- Review the ranking of your web pages in the most important search engines for your target key word phrases
- Look with you at the opportunities to build relevant and helpful links to your website and consider other marketing opportunities to build on the popularity of your website mostly by using social media
It is more straight-forward if we can have direct access to amend your web pages, however if you prefer we can guide your web designer.
- Usability – We can also look at the usability of your website to see if there are improvements that can be made to increase the likelihood that visitors will stay with your website once they have found it.
- PPC – Pay Per Click, Google Adwords – We can review pay per click (Google Adwords) schemes that may be useful to your marketing campaign if you wish to go down that path.
It really depends on how much search engine optimisation is required: Search Engine Optimisation is one of those things that you can spend as much time as you have available on. We therefore approach these projects from the point of view of limiting the effort to match a budget.
It usually takes several months for the search engine optimisation efforts to take effect and there is quite a lot of trial and error involved and there are no guarantees that top ranking can be achieved.
However experience allows us to make a best guess at what it might take to get good search engine rankings for your website and often we can achieve good rankings with a one-off SEO upgrade to your website. Therefore we normally recommend:
- Stage 1 is to sort out what keywords and phrases you want to target, bench mark current search engine performance, evaluate and perform a one-off optimise of your website pages. Then review search engine rankings after 1 or 2 months.
- Stage 2. If resulting search engine rankings are not as good as you would hope we then move on to Stage 2 – a monthly review of performance and web site optimisation. This will usually involve adding new copy to the web site and marketing that on suitable social media channels, as well as further adjustments to existing copy and code. There would be a brief monthly progress report provided. After 6 months we would then do a further review with you to decide if there is any further benefit to continuing.
Guarantees: We cannot provide any guarantee that any high search engine ranking can be achieved (no one can – unless they are talking about pay per click) – this depends on how good the competition is but we can show you how to get the full long term search engine potential from your web site.
What we will not do – Search Engine Spamming:
Some Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) companies offer various techniques that claim to place your website at the top of the search engines by exploiting loopholes, tricking or cheating (collectively referred to as spamming) the search engines into artificially ranking your website high. Sometimes these involve hacking other websites and hiding links within their websites to steal their good reputation. These techniques are called Black Hat SEO.
Spamming the search engines can work in the short term but the search engines are wise to all the spamming techniques and are constantly refining their algorithms to beat the cheats. If your website is spamming the search engines it is likely that it will be penalised or even worse banned from the search engines at some point.
We promise that we will not knowingly involve your website in any activities the search engines consider to be spamming.
We aim to be friendly and informative, providing all the support and guidance you need to steer you clearly and effectively through the web design process and ensure that you end up with a great website.
If you need help with your website please feel free to give me a ring. Regards
Michael Spencer, Web Designer and WordPress Specialist.
firstname.lastname@example.org – 01462 674840
Epsilis Website Designers – Letchworth Garden City, Hertfordshire