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How to get started with SEO

Put simply, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is a technique which boosts your position on search engines in response to a search query. As users generally only visit sites on the first few pages of results, making sure that your website ranks highly is very important for increasing, and sustaining, web traffic.

Search engines use a range of factors to analyse results and different search engines regard different things as most important. For instance, for Yahoo! And Bing, on-page keyword factors are of primary importance, whereas Google looks more closely at links and the age of the site.

Here are some simple ways of ensuring your website is included:
1.    Don’t rely on design.
Search engines are text-driven: crawling the web looking at particular site items (mainly text) to get an idea what each website is about. Search engines often cannot ‘see’ images, Flash movies, JavaScript, frames, password-protected pages and directories, making content of paramount importance.

2.    Choose keywords wisely.
‘Keywords’ is the name given to the words and phrases typed into search engines when people are looking for relevant websites. Using the right keywords on your website is vital for effective SEO.

The first step is to think of keywords that describe the content of your website. Think about what your audience is likely to search for; both single words and 2-3 word phrases. Although single keywords may appear more useful to include as they are searched for more often, your competitors are likely to be optimising their sites for these as well and single words are less likely to deliver customers who are interested in what you specifically have to offer. Look for longer phrases that closely match what your target market want, and where you have a competitive edge.

3.    Make your site keyword rich.
Start with adding your keywords throughout your copy, aiming to achieve a good ‘keyword density’ for your target keywords. This doesn’t mean including every keyword in every sentence. Ideally, you should choose between 5-10 keyword phrases. Each page of your website should use 3-5 of these phrases, which will be specific to that page. Trying to ‘stuff’ lots of keywords into the text will lead to poor quality copy and search engines may penalise you for trying to cheat the system.

As all webpages are indexed, keywords should be used throughout your website. They should not just be in the body copy, but in URLs, Meta tags, page titles, navigation buttons, files, folders and links. This is a good way of getting repetition of keywords on your site without compromising the quality of the copy.

4.    Use plenty of links.
Search engines, particularly Google, look for websites that have other websites linked to it. As a general rule, the more good-quality inbound links to a website, the more popular it looks, and therefore is more likely to appear on search engine rankings. Good inbound links also impact web traffic, by directing more visitors to your website.

However, Google have recently released an update called ‘Penguin’, which has attempted to clamp down on sites posting links that have no relevance to their site in order to boost their search engine ranking.

Therefore, it’s more important than ever to build up quality links. There are several ways of doing this. You could have a links page on your website, and encourage reciprocal links from related sites – for example listing the websites of the other sites in your leisure trust, and having similar pages on their sites.

Posting your press releases (with website link on) online is another way to build presence on search engines as it links your site to an ‘authoritative’ site, as well as adding further pages about your company which link to your site. Similarly, keeping a blog is a way of adding web presence and you can easily link between your blog and your website – boosting results for both sites. Social media is also very important when it comes to building links. Encourage your followers and friends to link to your site when they post.

As far as possible, try to manage inbound links by suggesting what the other site has as their link text – this should be descriptive, rather than simply the name of your website. This will make it more attractive to both search engines and potential website visitors.

5.    Monitor your traffic.
Use a tool such as Google Analytics to monitor how many visits your website gets. You can see what search terms have been used to reach your site, as well as the statistics for how many visits have come from links on other sites, as well as which sites they have come from (referral traffic). This can be very helpful in deciding which keywords work most effectively and which sites to focus linking with.

It’s important to remember that the search engines are not your audience, your customers and members are. There’s no point manipulating your website so it appears high in search results if the content is not relevant to what your audience is looking for.

These are very basic tips for improving SEO on your website – Bigwave Media offers a specialist SEO service to help businesses get the most out of their website. For more information contact Simon Beer @ [email protected]

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