Improve your search ranking

Search engine optimisation may help to bring more visitors to your website.

 

Searching is one of the most frequent activities people do online. Many people will find your site by typing your organisation’s name or words describing the types of services that you offer into a search engine.

To attract new customers who are interested in what your organisation offers but have not yet heard of your business, you may wish to consider search engine optimisation.

What is search engine optimisation (SEO)?

Search engine optimisation (SEO) refers to methods for designing your website to increase the likelihood of  search engines finding it and giving it a prominent rank in their search results pages.

If your website is ranked within the first couple of search results, you are more likely to attract visitors to your site than if your website appears on the second page of results.

SEO refers to improved positioning in ‘organic’ search results. That is, search results based on the content and related information about your site as opposed to paid advertising (see search engine marketing).

The core purpose of a search engine is to provide the most relevant results in response to a search term. The methods that search engines use to rank websites in response to search terms are not generally made public. However, some of the more generally accepted factors which could assist with a high ranking for your website based on relevance are listed below.

Content

Your website’s relevance.

Focus your energy on telling the world who your organisation is and what you have to offer. Consider sticking to your key messages and incorporating keywords in your writing. The frequency and location of keywords matters.

Text-based design

Use of text-based web design.

The  search robots that crawl the internet to find and index websites cannot read text incorporated in images or Flash. When you use images consider writing an  alt attribute to describe the content.

Meta tags

Metadata.

Assist the indexing of your site by providing a relevant  meta title, description and keywords. Make sure the keywords are relevant to your site and do not overdo the number of keywords. Consider including the primary keyword in the title and description.

Headers and links

Consistency is key.

Try to keep the text in all headlines, links and menus consistent with the keyword. Use correct  HTML tags for your headlines (<h1>, <h2>) and aim to use descriptive text.

HTML coding

Check and correct.

Try to eliminate HTML coding errors from your website. The  World Wide Web Consortium provides a validator service for checking for coding errors.

Links from other sites

Building a network of incoming links.

Attracting links from other sites shows the search engines that your site has relevant content. Getting external links is, however, the most difficult of the SEO techniques. It generally requires strong content that people are prepared to link to from their own sites, social media pages, blogs, forums, and so on.

 

While you can employ some of these techniques yourself if you are designing your own website or content, you can also engage specialist SEO providers to help maximise the ranking of your site. Some open source web content management systems (like WordPress and Joomla) also provide a step-by-step guide to completing effective SEO strategies.

 

For further information on SEO you can explore:

external linkBing webmaster tools

external linkGoogle search engine optimization starter guide [PDF]

external linkYahoo!’s guide to getting a higher rank for your website

external linkSEOmoz’s Beginners Guide to SEO

An effective SEO strategy can be good for providing a consistent and a long-term position in search engine results; however, it takes time. If you are running a campaign and need instant results then you may need to think about other strategies like search engine marketing or banner ads (display advertising).

Can you buy search rankings?

The answer to this question is ‘Not really’. Search engines tend to pride themselves on the integrity and independence of their search results, which means that trying to buy a good search ranking is generally not possible.

Using web directories

You can consider paying to get listed in web directories. This helps you build up the network of links pointing to your website, which can boost your search ranking. These web directories contain links to various websites, sorted by category and typically accompanied by a brief description.

Some of the biggest paid web directories are:

external linkYahoo! Directory

external linkBest of the Web