Search Engine Optimisation – A Black Art or a Piece of Cake?

If you have a website (or need one built) then it’s a natural for you to want to know how to get people to visit it. The best looking website without traffic is no more useful than a printed brochure that’s never sent to anyone.

It’s very rare that I have a conversation with a new or existing client without spending quite some time discussing what can be done do to increase traffic to their website. In many ways it’s the most important topic to cover – and the hardest to nail down. Although it’s possible to get good, valid results by using common sense (and not attempting to trick the search engines), it’s a combination of activities that need to be carried out in order to achieve this. There is no single big green ‘put my website at the top of the list‘ button that can be pressed – unless you’re willing to pay for the privilege.

If you register, build and upload a website, it doesn’t automatically follow that Google will add it to its list of searchable websites, or that when someone types in the perfect phrase, your site will appear at the top of the list of results. It’s easy enough to add a URL to Google – the problem is that millions of other people are doing the same thing every day. And lots of them are going to be in competition with your site to get to the first results page.

SEO Best Practice – What can be done to make search engines happy?

Include useful, worthwhile content

Search engines like Google are essentially trying to make the Internet a worthwhile, useful resource. How many times have you searched for a piece of information, only to be presented with a website full of links to other vaguely related sites? I find this to be worse than useless and very annoying. Google doesn’t want this either – it wants to be able to return the results you actually want – because the more relevant its results, the more people will use Google. That’s why Google is always striving to adapt its algorithms to ignore the rubbish and include the useful.

So it follows that if your site contains useful information (not just a ‘here’s my product, please buy it message’) it has a better chance of doing well in the search engines. The Internet was, after all, invented primarily as a means of sharing information; not as a new way to sell merchandise. This is still the primary function of the Internet as far as the search engines are concerned.

Standard procedure – META tags

As a matter of course, when we design and construct a new website, we includes appropriate META tags in the page header, including a unique description. This is information that helps the search engines to identify what the page is about, and what to display in the listings summary.

META tags are not the only thing the search engines look at when assessing a page’s relevance to a search query. They also (to varying degrees, depending on which search engine is being used) look at the title and body text to get a more rounded picture of the content. So the text on a page must relate to the description.

Keyword research

It’s a very good idea to do as much keyword research as possible for every page on your site – rather than dumping in a load of keywords (the same on every page) which are generally relevant to the site, and specifically relevant to none of the pages individually. Niche is better than broad. The more ‘niche’ a page’s content, the better the chance it will be found.

Keywords or key phrases can be researched in numerous ways, but a great (and free) starting point is Google’s Keyword Planner. By typing in a key word or phrase, the tool will return a list of similar phrases based on the previous month’s actual searches. It’ll show roughly how many people searched for it (demand) and how much competition there was for that word or phrase based on Google pay-per-click advertisers (supply). The trick is to write a page which is high in demand but low in supply. It’s a time-consuming but useful exercise. It’ll help you come up with ideas for pages which will be informative and will therefore draw in relevant visitors from the search engines.

Take an active interest in your content

If you spend time considering what text to include in your website, and then take an ongoing interest in adding to it and updating it, you’ll be streets ahead of your competition. Sites that tend to do better online are the ones regularly updated with useful and contributory content. This could be news about your company, industry news or useful articles or tutorials.

A graphic design website, for example, should not only contain graphics from a portfolio (vital as they are), but also information about, say, how to improve rankings in search engines…

A very popular, effective way of updating content is with a blog (web log). This can be a single page of regularly updated company news, forthcoming events or general industry information.

Other (free) ways to build qualified traffic

There’s no denying that relevant, high quality inbound links are a good thing as far as Google is concerned. This means that you have to persuade owners of websites relevant to yours to add a link from their site to one of your web pages. It’s good practice for you to same the same, offering useful, contextual links from a page on your site to external websites. The more relevant sites that Google sees your site linked to and from, the better.

With the above in mind, it’s a good idea to submit your website to relevant free directories such as the Open Directory Project. This is a human-edited directory, and is useful because some major search engines spider it for results. The theory is that because it’s human-edited it will probably contain more useful, vetted websites than directories which use computers to add sites rather than people.

You know your business better than anyone

We encourage our clients to undertake as much keyword research and content updating as possible themselves for two reasons:

  1. You know best the ins and outs of your company and are therefore better placed to write the right kind of content for your visitors and potential clients.
  2. It’s a time-consuming process, and time costs money – so the more you do yourselves, the less you’ll pay others to do it for you.

We understand, however, how few hours there are in the working day, and often the company website’s content (and marketing in general) is the first to suffer as a result. This is why, if you need us, Tinstar Design will gladly undertake keyword research and copy writing on your behalf, drawing on our experience to promote your site and improve its rankings to the best of our ability.

If you’d like to talk about your requirements, find out more, or would like an estimate of cost, please give us a call or submit an enquiry. Alternatively, pleased don’t hesitate to call us on 01590 679490.

Article by Nick Beresford-Davies, Director of Tinstar Design Ltd