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Search engine optimisation (SEO) - a brief guide.

by  David Dwyer on  09/02/2015    1821 Reads

An easy to understand intro to what SEO is & how it can help you

To many people SEO is something of a black art.  All sorts of stories and theories circulate about the best way to get your site to number one on Google.

Actually, there's no way to guarantee you'll get to number one on Google - and that's straight from the horse's mouth (see Sources below).  Google look for relevance, period.  There are ways of making your website more visible to the bots that do the searching, but relevance across different content types is king. Keyword-stuffing used to work and you'll still see sites with a "cloud" of keywords somewhere on the page; it looks quite interesting, but it won't help your ranking now.

Nor do Google rank sites according to how much you spend on Google ads.  The search facility and Google ads are separate parts of Google's business.  So don't pay an SEO "expert" who says he'll help you rank number one by increasing your ad spend: it won't work.

What Google look for (yes, there are other search engines, which work slightly differently, but Google dominates the Search providers: the latest US stats from StatCounter last week show Google had 75.2% of search traffic in December 2014) is website content relevant to the search terms your customers would use. As they put it, "Create a useful, information-rich site, and write pages that clearly and accurately describe your content".  Note, content is not restricted to text and it is not only what you place on your website. Content covers text, yes, but also imagery, video and podcasts. In essence, think of the ways we learn: reading (text), visual (imagery), audio (podcast), video (audio/visual/text) and kinaesthetic (ie touch) e.g. mouse actions. I've not yet seen kinaesthetic as a variable in Search but it'll come.

Google add: "Think about the words users would type to find your pages, and make sure that your site actually includes those words within it" (aka keyword research).
So the key to SEO is to understand your customers and create content to cover the issues they need addressed.  If you sell widgets in Birmingham, mention both widgets and Birmingham.  If you market international real estate, think about what your average buyer would be looking for.  Second home?  Holiday home?  Ex-pat living?  Buy-to-let abroad?  Villas in France?  All of the above, perhaps.  The better you know your ideal client the more likely you are to choose relevant keywords and the higher you will rank for those keywords.  Simple.

The other thing googlebots like is thematic links. "Thematic" means that the inbound site link is related to your subject. Google say that "Every page should be reachable from at least one static text link".  But they go on to warn that you should keep the number of links per page reasonable: like keywords, you shouldn't stuff them in.  So  if you have a "parent" page covering four or five services, it's reasonable to have links to the relevant four or five "child" pages from it.  It wouldn't be reasonable to have links to every single other page on your site.

Google also have quality guidelines for SEO, to avoid the worst practices of unscrupulous "experts".  These are mainly common ethics, such as "don't deceive your users" and asking yourself "Would I do this if search engines didn't exist?".   
Probably the wisest advice they offer is "Think about what makes your website unique, valuable, or engaging. Make your website stand out from others in your field".  Apply that to your whole site, not just the SEO elements, and you'll be onto a winner.

David Dwyer is Managing Director of Inspire Web Development. He has years of experience in a range of web and IT roles plus seven years in sales and marketing in a blue-chip FMCG company. David's academic and professional qualifications include a BA (Hons) in Business Economics (Personnel & Ergonomics) from the University of Paisley, an MSc in Information Technology (Systems) from Heriot-Watt University and PRINCE2 Practitioner-level certification. He is also an active member of the British Computer Society, Entrepreneurial Exchange and Business for Scotland.

Follow Inspire on Twitter @inspireltd and @developersos

Sources:

https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/35291?hl=en

https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/35769?hl=en&ref_topic=6002025

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