What is Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and how can it be achieved

The concept of good SEO is for your website to appear well in the natural rankings of Google/Yahoo/MSN/etc as opposed to the paid for listings (which cost money and don’t perform as well).

There are 2 ways you can do this:

  1. Create a good website full of good content/products at good prices
  2. Construct your website in such a way that works well for search engines

How to create a good website

This is the hard part, if you’re completely starting afresh, because no-one else will link to you at first. By default, a popular business in the outside world e.g. British Airways will always have people searching Google for information about it and having people online talking about their services whether that be the BBC website or John’s airplane blog. So when British Airways launch a website it won’t be long before it turns up for searches on the term ‘British Airways’. But why?

Most probably the URL of the website would be www.britishairways.com which is easy to guess for people looking for the BA website. That in turn will lead to webmasters finding the British Airways website and linking to it when they mention BA on their website and those websites will most probably link to the BA website using the text British Airways or BA.

At the stage when you have a good domain name, a good offline reputation and people linking to you with your company name you will more than likely come at the top of the search rankings for the search term ‘your company name‘.

The more websites that link to you, the higher your PageRank which means the higher up you’ll appear for other terms in the search engines. This is not an overnight process – it takes months and sometimes years for vast amounts of people to add links from their website to yours – but this process is much quicker if you have a huge offline reputation because your brand is always in people’s subconscious. The quality of the sites linking to you is also important. If a high traffic website links to you that will bump up your PageRank more than if a few really small sites link to you.

If you’re not a well-known offline brand your website will have to have great content and spread by word of mouth or advertising. People won’t link to you if they don’t know you exist or don’t have great content but if you create a good website and a few people go on it eventually people will learn that it’s good via word-of-mouth, or links in emails to and from friends, websites will link to it and your traffic will increase – it’s not rocket science but it is labourious and it takes a long time.

How to construct a website for search engine consumption

This is the easy part (or at least it should be). If you read up on HTML a little and construct your website with a correct approach then you’ll go far and if you hit the nail on the head with producing a good quality website then not only will you appear highly for searches on your brand but also for searches related to items you sell or topics you talk about on your site.

the title tag

HTML has a <title> tag which as you can imagine is for the title of each webpage. Don’t make the mistake of giving all your webpages the same title. They don’t all have the same content so if they all have a title of My Company Name then it will look silly and not help you out much. But if the title correctly mentions your brand and the topic of each webpage you’re onto a winner. A homepage title should resemble something like this:

My Company Name – What we do
e.g.
British Airways – Full Service Global Airline

and subsequent pages could look like this:

This Page topic – My Company Name
or
My Company Name – This Page Topic.

The word order isn’t massively relevant and can be experimented with to find the best solution for your website.

This will not only help you to appear in google for the searches ‘this page topic‘ but also will increase the likelihood that people will click on your link because they’ll quickly see that your website is related to what they were searching for.

heading tags

A website should be constructed in such a way that the main heading on the page is a <h1> e.g.

<h1>My Company Name</h1>

There should only be one <h1>, per page. The secondary heading should be a <h2>, and should detail what the individual webpage is about. You can have multiple <h2>s as your page will may be about multiple things. A <h3> should only exist if it’s relevant to the heading above it e.g.

<h2>About Roger Rabbit</h2><br />
<p>Roger is a caring bunny and also a movie star<p> <br />
<h3>Where does Roger live?<h3> <br />
<p>in a house<p>

In the example above the <h3> is obviously related to the <h2> and it’s content above it. Otherwise you would use another <h2>. Headings should always follow a 1, 2 ,3 4, 5, 6 pattern. You shouldn’t have a <h3> without a <h2> and you shouldn’t have a <h6> without a <h5> because if you think about it that doesn’t make sense.

Many websites don’t use the headings tags HTML provides and instead simply change the font settings e.g.

<FONT size="4">Checkout my heading it's big and looks like a heading </FONT>

to make certain terms bold and look like headings – if you do this Google won’t know that it is a heading and won’t add any significance to the terms in your heading.

The whole jist of HTML is that it describes the content of your site. By following HTML guidelines and knowing how it works you’re far more likely to create websites that follow SEO best practice.

Keywords

So you’ve got your website that people are linking to and the page has a good heading structure. Now you need to make sure the keywords are right. The first rule of SEO is to write your web content as though you were searching for it through google. Therefore if you run an ecommerce website refer to your product as people will search for it.

If you’re selling a pair of X-ray specs – make sure the term X-ray specs‘ appears on the actual webpage where you can buy the product. Make sure that that term appears in a <h2> or <h3>, the page title and in the general sales copy. Preferrably make sure it appears in the URL e.g. www.mycompanyname.com/products/x-rayspecs would be perfect.

These techniques should simply be done as standard. Don’t flood your pages with keywords in headings and go over the top. Do it in a natural way and construct you page in a way that works.

Summary

One of the reasons why blogs do so well in search engines is because they are constructed in a good way by people who understand web design. A lot of Content Management Systems in enterprise are downright awful and have been built by people who haven’t thought past making the site functional.

It’s also worth noting that if you get your SEO right and you’re appearing in the top 5 for some search terms people will go to your site but if the site is unrelated to their search they’ll simply leave. So it’s imperative you only optimise for the content/products available on your site.

One response to “What is Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and how can it be achieved”

  1. 5 minutes after posting this article I received yet another phone call from yet another clueless SEO firm.

    The sales guy tried to impress me by showing me high rankings for a couple of obscure 3 word phrases in google.

    One of the pages had an extreme tracking account (for shame) which I checked and saw that this SEO firm had managed to optimise the website in question for a search term that produced 1 visitor a day!