SEO or Search Engine Optimisation is the phrase used to describe the process of improving your sites visibility in the results pages of the internet search engines. There's a wealth of information on the web about this topic and you could spend weeks trying to find what works and what doesn't. Based on my own experience I've complied a few tips which I have found to be useful in improving the visibility of sites that I've worked with in the past...
How do search engines work?
Search engines use specialist software, often referred to as search bots or spiders which crawl the web following links from one page to the next and externally between sites. They gather information about websites which is then used to index the pages. You can either submit your site to the main search engines or you can allow the software spiders to find your site naturally through external links.
How is your site ranked?
Noone can be sure exactly how the search engines rank your site as they like to keep their search algorithms top secret but what we do know is that the main 3 engines Google, MSN(Bing) and Yahoo all use different mechanisms to decide how important a site is. This is why sites that rank well in Google may not appear as high in Yahoo or Bing and the same vice verse. However, there are correlating factors which can be used to improve your site across the board if you know where to start.
How can I improve my ranking?
There are lots of tips and techniques you can employ to improve your visibility in the search engine results. Here are a few I can recommend from personal experience:
1) Micro Data
Micro Data, schema or rich snippets are used to highlight and format data within your site which can then be picked up more easily by search engines such as Google. You can use the schema to list items like business contact details, events, news, testimonials and more. In the last few years Google now blends these items into the search result pages so having your data properly formatted is essential.
2) Title tag
The title tag is the wording that appears in the top of the browser page and also as your heading in the search results. It is very important and should summarise in a few words who you are and what you do. An example would be: Alistair Whiteley - Creative Web Design Specialist.
3) Social Media
Social Media sites like Facebook and in particular Twitter are now playing a more important role in the search engine listings than ever before with content being blended into results and used to highlight the value of your site. This means content originating from your social media pages are playing a vital supporting role in your SEO strategy. Keeping your tweets and posts fresh and relevant are vital.
4) Domain name / Page URL
The domain name is the web address you have registered for your site www.YourCompany.com. However, if you have your service or keywords as part of the domain name then this will give you an advantage. A good example would be www.theelectricgateco.co.uk. Here you can instantly see the keyword is part of the name. The age of a domain is also an increasingly important factor in determining domain authority.
5) Sign up for Google's webmaster tools
Google's Webmaster tools offers website owners and designers some really useful tools for submitting your sitemaps, reviewing keyword performance and checking for errors when Google's software checks your site.
6) Check for Broken links
Check for broken links on your site which contain spelling mistakes or point to old pages. You can us a free online service like: http://www.iwebtool.com/broken_link_checker . If you find any, get your web designer to fix them.
7) ALT Tags and Image Optimisation
ALT tags are text labels which appear when you hover over an image on a web site to describe the picture or photo being viewed. Their main benefit is that they Improve the accessibility of your pages for people with impaired vision who use screen readers to interpret pages. Without an ALT tag, an image would have no use or meaning to a screen reader. Search engines don't index images and can't recoginise text in a picture. ALT tags help to describe the image and can be used in conjunction with keywords to add value to you pages. Your web designer should Always add ALT tags to your images to make sure search engines recognise all the content on your site.
7) Link Strategy
Link strategy - Building a collection of inbound links to your site should be an ongoing process. One method to achieve this is by using link exchanges with sites which contain quality related information. This can make a significant difference to your search engine placement. This is because Google views a link to a site as a vote and the more votes you get the more popular you appear. Combine this with specific anchor text (this is the text that is viewable on a link e.g. Alistair Whiteley - Web Design) to ensure you get the best links for your site.
8) Quality content
You'll often see this tip on other sites but it is difficult to guage because there are no individual rules which say what quality content should look like. But it is important and my advice is to make your text unique and compelling to read. Offer your own point of view or personalize the content for your company wherever possible. Using unique content will help to distinguish you from the competition and the search engines will reward you for offering them something that's not already in their index.
Article by Alistair Whiteley