Scribble Designs: Web Design Northern Ireland

Client Guide: Introduction to Search Engine Optimisation

By gerardmcgarry on 28th February 2007, filed in Client Guides, Search Engine Optimisation. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

This guide is intended as an introduction to search engine optimisation for clients who have little to no previous knowledge of the topic. It’s a fast-moving field, and increasingly competitive, but I often find there is a lot of unreliable information given to clients about SEO and they in turn loose money and waste time on ineffective optimisation strategies.

In this guide, I’ll explain briefly what Search Engine Optimisation is, why it’s important, what your goals should be for SEO and the two main types of SEO techniques that exist. I’ve tried to make things as simple to understand as possible, but if you’ve any questions, please leave them in the comments section and I’ll respond to them there.

What Is Search Engine Optimisation?

woman looking through magnifying glassSearch Engine Optimisation (or SEO) is the process of fine tuning your website so that it can be found more easily on the Internet. The goal is for your pages to appear on the first page of search engine results for keywords related to your business or topic area. In an ideal world, your site should show up in one of the first three results shown.

Why Is SEO Important?

The vast majority of visitors will arrive at your website through a search engine. For example: on one of my sites, Google, Yahoo! and MSN account for over 80% of traffic.

Many savvy website owners recognise that being easily found on the web is essential to the success of their site. It’s certainly critical if your business is web-based. It’s as simple as this:

Better Search Engine Positioning = More Visitors To Your Site = Increased Sales or Business Opportunities

What’s A Realistic Search Engine Goal?

Many people think that it’s acceptable to have a good position for their company name. In reality, that’s not a very difficult task to achieve unless your name is fairly common. Besides, most people searching for your name probably already know about you.

The bigger challenge is to be found for each product or service you provide, or topic area if you have an information website. If you’re an accountant from Co. Antrim, you’ll want to show up each time someone searches for “accountants co. antrim”.

In terms of positioning, the first result that shows up will attract the most visitors. The further down the page you are, the less likely you are to be found. If your site doesn’t appear on the first page of results, the chances of traffic diminish further. Think about how you use search engines – how far are you likely to look, especially if the first couple of websites have the information you’re looking for?

I’d advise that you set a goal of ranking for a particular set of keywords. Think especially of the words people will use to look for you.

Are There Different Types Of Search Engine Optimisation?

Yes, there are two traditional types of search engine optimisation – on-site and off-site. The on-site optimisation involves making sure all your pages can be found by search engines, and optimising the layout and content to improve keyword relevance. You (and your web designer) have control over the on-site content and layout, so changes can be made easily.

Off-site optimisation is more time intensive, as you’re essentially trying to build links back to your site. The logic behind this is that the more sites that link back to you, the more authoritative a resource you seem to be (to the search engines). As a result, they are more inclined to list your site higher in search results.

I should also mention that both types of optimisation can be assisted by good keyword research and competitor research. I won’t go into those areas in this guide, though.

What Should I Watch For?

In the SEO industry, there are two major groupings – White Hat and Black Hat. You need to be careful of black hat SEOs, as their techniques are not supported by Google and the other major search engines. Black Hat techniques are generally considered illicit and while they may work for a period of time, the search engines usually find a way to remove this type of content and your site will be penalised.

White hat practices generally focus on building quality content for your website and attracting quality links to your site. I have always found that white hat techniques work well in the long term and generally result in good listings.

Also, before you embark on any type of Search Engine Optimisation make sure you have reliable statistics about your current website traffic. You’ll want to compare performance of the site before and after the optimisation has been carried out. I will cover website statistics in a future Client Guide article.

Thanks for taking the time to read my guide. If you have any questions, leave a comment below or contact me directly. If you liked this article, please consider linking back to it from your own site!

(Image courtesy vivalibre547 on Flickr)

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