Seen by some as a bit of a dark art, search engine optimisation (or SEO) is vital for any business in a world where pretty much everyone searches online for whatever they need.
Think about it. If you’re looking to buy something, you will usually look online to find what’s available, price, options etc. When you do that you will type the first phrase that comes into your head, and then refine it as you go along until you get what you want. It’s really frustrating when you get all sorts of irrelevant websites coming up.
Search engines want to help you find what you are looking for because that’s their job. The better the search engine, the more people use it, and the more they can charge for advertising. Google, Yahoo, Bing and Ask are all examples of search engines competing with each other.
In its simplest form, SEO is simply ‘labelling’ or ‘signposting’ your website so that the search engines (like Google) can find it.
The big companies can afford to throw thousands of pounds at SEO and advertising campaigns to make sure that their products are at the top of the listings.
So how can you compete with them?
It’s basically about keywords and key phrases, and using them effectively. A keyword is one word that describes your product. A key phrase is a collection of words.
Let’s imagine you’re selling bags. If someone types ‘bags’ into a search engine, there will be hundreds and thousands of results and yours might (very unlikely) or might not (very likely) be amongst them.
But if you’re selling a certain type of bag e.g. blue handbags or spotty satchels then you can get a bit more specific, and the competition will be less. The more specific you can be, the more likely you are to come up in the search engine results.
There are various free tools available that enable you to look at how popular a phrase is, and similar phrases that are typed into the search engines. For example, spotty satchels might be related to satchels for school, spotty school satchels, satchels with spots etc. Google Adwords has a Keyword Tool that you can use that will suggest alternatives.
Once you know the key phrases your potential customers might be typing when they go online, you can ‘optimise’ your site accordingly. You need to make sure that your pages and the titles of the pages include these words, as well as the behind the scenes labelling.
This does take some technical know-how so it might be best to employ a professional to do it for you, but if you want your website to be found, it’s a vital investment.
I am NOT a SEO professional, but I do know some, so let me know if you want their details.