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What exactly is search engine optimisation?

October 6, 2011

SEO, or Search Engine Optimisation, is the art of fine tuning a website (via numerous methods) to encourage the major search engines to rank pages highly for target words or phrases.

Web marketing is an increasingly important activity for small businesses with a web presence.

Not only is it worth spending time optimising your web pages to increase the number of visitors you receive, but the fact that so many other sites will be embarking on SEO activities of their own is reason enough to invest in this area.

All the major search engines have complex algorithms to determine web site rankings, however Google is such a dominant force in the market that most web marketing people spend most of their time trying to ingratiate their sites with it rather than other search engines and indexes.

Some of the main factors Google uses in its ranking algorithm include: the use and frequency of keywords in various locations and tags within a page, the words used within internal and external links, the internal navigation structure of the page, and the number and relevancy of inbound links to the page.

Dozens of other factors are thought to influence the rankings of a page, including the domain age, site load speed, uniqueness of content, the frequency of content updates, and the number of pages in a site.

Key SEO Basics

Here are a few very high level tips to help small business owners make a start on their web marketing activities:

1. Before you do anything, you need to research the words and phrases people actually search on when looking for products or services in your industry area. The best place to find out this information is via the Google Adwords Suggestion Tool.

2. When writing content for your website, incorporate your target keyword phrases into each page, including the title tag, description and within section headings. Always write naturally with these keywords in mind, and do not overuse the chosen phrase in your page.

3. Links from other sites are very important in the ranking process. You should aim to get links from sites in the same industry area as yours, and if you are able to incorporate some of your chosen keyword phrases into the actual ‘anchor text’ of the link, all the better.

4. SEO is an ongoing activity. You should try to write good quality, relevant content on a regular basis, and build up links over time, rather than creating a surge of new links and content followed by long quiet periods.

5. Don’t neglect the user experience and don’t over-optimise your site. Write the content and design your pages for your potential readers, but use the search intelligence available to attract targeted, good quality users to your website.

SEO Resources

For in-depth ideas and help on SEO, we would recommend you start off at SEOMoz.org, and Google’s own SEO starter guide.