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What is Search Engine Optimisation?

Published: July 2011

Are you on the map?

As you know, your website is the online shop-window of your business.

It looks good, features some of your products and services, and you have invested a lot of time, money and effort into getting it spot on. So, just when everything is going great and you open the door to await the first online visitor, what do you do when you find yourself not on the high street?

Plan A: Stick a sign on the main road with an arrow to your shop (aka Pay Per Click advertising)

Plan B: Make sure all the roads are open that lead to your shop and as many people as possible know the directions (aka optimise your search engine and marketing capabilities)

How to ensure they find your shop window

Focusing your efforts on driving traffic to your website is crucial. Current research estimates that 80-85% of online users rely on ‘search’ to find what they need; therefore UK online advertising spend has reached £4 billion in 2011. That’s 25% of all advertising spend in the UK!

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The main aim of search engine optimisation (SEO) is to increase visibility in natural (not paid for) search engine listings and to ensure search queries relevant to your business and its products/services are easily found by shoppers passing your shop window.

Considering 2011 research shows that 84% of respondents use their mobiles to search for potential retailers, it is worth bearing in mind that your site should be mobile-friendly when they do find you! But don’t worry, we can help with that.

Each search engine measures different variables to rank listings (e.g. Google considers 100+) however the main factors are –

Content

Keywords or phrases require constant research – tools like Google Adwords and Wordtracker can help you find out what potential customers are searching for in order to find businesses like yours.

The typical focus has been on headings, sub-headings, link text, bullet points and text in bold so if you have any of these on your site, make sure they resound what customers could be looking for. E.g. if you run a hotel in a remote part of Northumberland, include headings which reflect your business – quiet? Family-run? Peaceful? Relaxing? Tranquil? Use these as site headings or bullet points so when people search for ‘Relaxing Hotel Northumberland’ you are ready to be found.

If all else fails, check your words and phrases compared to your competitors. Do your local rivals appear higher in the rankings even though they haven’t been in business as long or don’t have as many customers? This is a good starting point but make sure you mainly research what your customers will use.

Design and technology

With billions of web pages live today, technology helps to find and index your sites; using ‘spiders’ or ‘crawlers’ (i.e. Googlebot), newly added or edited pages are updated to Google Index so when keywords are searched, your page is found. For optimum results, ensure your site is regularly updated and the content is current.

Links and link popularity

Once upon a time, more links = better rankings. But nowadays, Google has grown wise to companies linking their homepage URL to every web directory going and has changed what they use to rank your website.

Google wants to understand if your site is trustworthy. Therefore, if your website links from a knowledgeable, reputable website, Google will trust your website too – time to embrace the power of online word of mouth!

The main message from Google is ‘quality over quantity’. However, links from trusted sites are harder to obtain (unfortunately it is not as simple as asking nicely) so try to resist the scattergun approach of using directories. They don’t add value to your SEO activity so it’s better to focus on obtaining quality, trusted links.

The ever-changing Google algorithms

Because Google is on a mission to provide the most accurate results for their searchers, the system (and algorithms) which create search rankings is constantly changing and improving.

It is sometimes hard to keep up with Google so be sure to enlist the help of trusted, SEO specialists who can keep on top of Googles latest algorithms so you don’t have to.

For more SEO and marketing guidance, advice on creating a mobile optimised site or other great ideas to help your business receive our words of wisdom, get in touch.

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