Best practice for search engine optimisation

Do any of these questions sound like ones you've asked or wondered about?

What is search engine optimisation?

How do I do my own search engine optimisation?

How much does it cost for search engine optimisation?

The list is possibly endless, however the answers to these questions are not as complicated as you may think.  Whilst search engine optimisation, or SEO for short, should not necessarily be considered as a one-off piece of work, the underlying aspects of it are no different whether this is your first attempt or your 10th set of SEO tweaks and changes to a website you are trying to get higher in Google or other search engine results.

So, what is search engine optimisation (SEO)?

SEO is the method of getting natural, un-paid traffic to your website, by affecting how it shows up in search results.  In most cases, the closer to being the first result in a search, or the more a website appears in search results, the more visitors it will attract - if you are using your website to generate business or sales, then this may translate into more customers, more sales and therefore more income for your business.

SEO can target a number of search result areas including local, national & international, image and video.

How do I do my own SEO?

If you have access to manage and edit your own website and images, then you should be able to make changes to a number of areas to improve your search engine results.

The first thing you need to do is decide on a small number of key words and phrases which are suitable for your business and make sure these bring up appropriate results in Google and other search engines - checking out your competitors and seeing what words and phrases they are found through is a good place to start.  It is usually 'easier' to improve your ranking in local search results than national ones as there will be a lower number of competitive and relevant sites (e.g.  for myself, 'Carlisle website design' is easier to improve than 'website design') for your chosen key words and phrases.

Google are one of the largest search engines and their guidelines are very clear - create excellent content for website visitors, not for search engines.  They continue to make changes to the way their search engine technology ranks websites, and have implemented many of these changes to weed out websites that use out-dated and 'cheating' tactics to try and improve their own ranking.  For more information on these 'black hat' tactics, read my Black Hat SEO article from a few months ago.

Once you have decided on the words and phrases, you can build these into a number of website areas:

How much does it cost for search engine optimisation (SEO)?

At Light Bulb Web Design, we cover all of the above within our pricing and design services as standard, however this is a one-off service as part of our initial setup of your website.  Sometimes this can be sufficient and we have had good results with some of our websites seeing page 1 results within a few days of going live, however SEO is usually something you need to consider as on-going work.  The Internet changes daily, with competitor websites being created and updated, and search engines themselves making changes to how they rank websites so one day you may be first, the next day you may have gone completely from page 1.

By regularly monitoring and tweaking your own website using the above information, and ideally linking your website to Google Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics, then with some research and effort, it is entirely possible to manage your own SEO.

If you want to involve experienced professionals then expect to pay upwards of £50 per month, often more, to have them do all the work for you.  Whilst no company can ever guarantee ranking results, if generating business and sales from your website is a critical part of your business needs, then sometimes it can pay to involve a company with the knowledge and time to ensure you make the most of your web-presence.

Final notes

Be aware that using your own computer to check where your website is on Google doesn't work by default - most search engines use cookies and store your website and search history, then use this to further determine the best results to show you.  If you visit your own website regularly, and try to search for terms related to your website, then the search engines will naturally rank your own site higher than it would to others.  The only way to avoid this is to choose 'Incognito' mode in your browser or make sure you logout of any Google services and clear your cookies and temporary Internet files before searching.  It may be worth installing a second browser (so Chrome if you use IE, or maybe Firefox if you use Chrome) and using this second browser as the one where you clear files and cookies from each time without affecting your main browsing experience.