What is SEO?
Search engine optimisation refers to the process of improving the position that your website appears at in the “organic” search results returned by sites such as Google.
As a general rule of thumb, sites that appear higher up in the results will get more traffic to their pages, and so potentially more business.
Basic things you need to know
PageRank is a number scored out of 10 that is given to your website based on inbound and outbound links, and helps search engines to verify how trustworthy your site is. Linking between sites allows “link juice” to be carried through, so if your site is linked to by a site with a good PageRank, link juice will be carried forward to your site, improving your ranking.
While you cannot generally control the inbound links to your site (and Google disapproves of link farms and other artificial ways of linking), there are some steps that can be taken to improve your PageRank score. Ensure that your site is linked to from your social media content, most notably Google+, and attempt to get listed on free open directories such as DMOZ or professional bodies associated with your market.
Keyword rich content
They browse your website (and everyone else’s) to identify the actual copy written on the page along with things like use of key words and phrases. This data is then used to determine the relevance of your site when someone enters a keyword or phrase into Google, Bing or any other search engine.
With this in mind, you need to consider the search habits of your target audience, and ensure that the terms they might use to find your business are reflected on your pages. For example, if you offer physiotherapy services, your website content should include words or phrases that people may search for, such as “massage”, or specific problems such as “lower back pain”. Remember that text included in images cannot be crawled by spiders, although alternative text associated with the images is, so you may wish to revisit the design of some of your pages.
A useful free tool for identifying your keywords is Google AdWords keyword tool. This is designed to help prospective advertisers identify the most relevant keywords for their chosen market, but it is also very helpful when writing copy for your website.
Once you have identified your keywords, ensure that they appear in the body of your pages, as well as in metadata of your page, which is the unseen data that gives the spiders key information about your page. This can either be done by yourself, with a little knowledge of HTML and access to your server, or it can be done by your web designer.
The rate at which search engine spiders crawl your site is in part determined by how frequently the content of your pages change. With this in mind, you may want to create a monthly task to change text, images, or add or remove pages, in order to ensure that your content is regularly updated.
Alternatively, set up a blog on your site and allocate time each day (or week) to write or curate some content that is relevant to your target market. This might seem onerous or daunting, but once you get into the habit it becomes second nature and shouldn’t take more than about half an hour a day. For reference material – which should always be credited – Google Alerts to keep up to date with online content that matches your keywords.
The algorithms used by Google and Microsoft to determine the order of their results are subject to tweaks and improvements as they attempt to deliver ever more accurate search results. As a result, SEO is something of a moving feast and it pays to stay up to date. That said, these basic principles are unlikely to change significantly as they are key determinants of your ranking.