What is SEO or Search Engine Optimization?

Search engine optimization or SEO refers to the process of improving the position that your website appears at in the “organic” search results returned by sites such as Google.

As a general rule of thumb, sites that appear higher up in the results will get more traffic to their pages, and so potentially more business. Your goal is to get to page one and ideally to position one, but whether that is feasible largely depends on the market that you are operating in.

One of the key tools that search providers such as Google and Microsoft (Bing) employ to determine your rankings are “spiders”. A spider is a piece of software that crawls the web in a methodical, automated manner. They browse your website (and everyone else’s) to identify the actual copy written on the page along with things like use of key words and phrases. This data is then used to determine the relevance of your site when someone enters a keyword or phrase into Google, Bing or any other search engine.

With this in mind, you need to consider the search habits of your target audience, and ensure that the terms they might use to find your business are reflected on your pages. Text included in images cannot be crawled by spiders, although alternative text associated with the images is, so you may wish to revisit the design of some of your pages.

Once you have identified your keywords, ensure that they appear in the body of your pages, as well as in the metadata of your page, which is the unseen data that gives the spiders key information about your page. This can either be done by yourself, with a little knowledge of HTML and access to your server, or it can be done by your web designer.

The rate at which search engine spiders crawl your site is in part determined by how frequently the content of your pages change. With this in mind, you may want to create a monthly task to change text, images, or add or remove pages, in order to ensure that your content is regularly updated.

Alternatively, set up a blog on your site and allocate time each day (or week) to write or curate some content that is relevant to your target market. This might seem onerous or daunting, but once you get into the habit it becomes second nature and shouldn’t take more than about half an hour a day.

The algorithms used by Google and Microsoft to determine the order of their results are subject to tweaks and improvements as they attempt to deliver ever more accurate search results. As a result, SEO is something of a moving feast and it pays to stay up to date. That said, these basic principles are unlikely to change significantly as they are key determinants of your ranking.