Search engine optimization

Sounds quite technical but its simply making sure your web site and its pages can be seen by the search engines, good web designers will build your site with this in mind so you shouldn't need any other specialist to do it, a bad designer will give it little attention and this is surprisingly common, there seems to be a demarcation point for some designers so its worth asking about it before they start designing, at its most basic its making sure the content is visible to the little search engine programs that travel around the web collecting information about websites and their contents. Some of these issues revolve around the quality of the code and the type of documents/file formats some being easier for the programs to read than other, for example pictures look good but search engines cant see what's on your pictures so you need to make sure that pictures are complete with titles and appropriate tags that can be read by them. The same problem can occur with 'flash' formats, this is a type of 'movie' file that you sometimes see as intro's on a website, they look good but can't always be seen by the search engines, so if your content relies heavily on the flash format it probably can't be seen by the search engines, you will then need to create alternative content for the search engines to read.

Good content is your best way to optimize your site

CONTENT is the keyword here, its no good having a few lines of text a few pictures and a flashing banner if you want to appear high up in the search engine rankings and unless your a large well known company or are prepared to spend loads on offline advertising to point people towards your site, search engines are the only way your site is ever going to be seen, so this is important.

Write good content that is both informative and contains the keywords people will use in their searches, for example if your selling Bananas, then having a picture a price and a description of a banana isn't going to be enough, you need to make your site appear to be an 'authority' on bananas, so maybe articles on the history of banana imports, growing techniques, varieties, storage, in fact if there is an aspect of bananas that exists it should be on your site. The point is you need to make your website the most complete banana resource there is, the search engines will then see your website as a good resource to present to their users. An essential byproduct of producing good content is that other websites may choose to link to your articles/pages as a way of supplimenting their own content, the search engines look well on this and to some extent the more links you have pointing to your site the better it is, this adds value to it as being a worthy resource, some site owners activley search for other sites and request link exchanges (you link to mine and I will place a link to yours). This link building is considerd a legitemate optimization technique but try to keep links to sites with relevant content.

Off site promotion through articles, facebook, twitter also plays a role in building your sites reputation with the search engines as it can all carry links into your web pages making it seem an 'authority' site for your chosen phrases and keywords.

A website that has good content which can be seen by the search engines will have a natural inclination to rise to the top of the search engines listings but this will not happen over night so although its essential it probably wont give you quick results.

'Guaranteed top position on google'?

This is a phrase you will see in some company adverts, can it be done? Well yes and no, you could get your website at the top of google listings in one hour if you pay google for an advert and for some companies touting this claim that is all they do on your behalf, this is pay per click advertising and is dealt with in the next section, but there is another way, not so guaranteed but does work, however it will take longer than an hour. The idea is that you look closely at the sites that are at the top of the listings and you try to replicate things like the number of times a particular keyword appears, the type of content, in essence your trying to find out the criteria or 'algorithm' google use to rank sites by looking at the sites it has ranked the highest then reproducing that formula on your own site, simple! But definitely not guaranteed.

Caution

Once you have a website you will become potential prey to the many seo companies that roam the web, you will get emails and telephone calls offering to optimize and promote you site. The tactics of some of these sales people will be familiar to anyone who has sat through a 'timeshare' presentation. I was recently offered a deal by a cold caller to promote my main website on two mediocre keywords for £7,500 a year. Try to use these cold calls to gain insights into current trends and to give you ideas to add to your own optimization efforts but be very wary of signing up for anything over the phone. If your offered a deal like that I would just say no thank you.

Its my opinion that the world of seo is a world of rumours, halftruths, best guesses and outright lies. The search engine companies don't share their ranking criteria and are constantly updating it anyway, this has been refered to elsewhere as the 'google dance', google anounces or is percieved to move in one direction with its ranking algorythm and the seo world tries to match it.
If your going to seo and promote your own site you are bound to get drawn into this but remember, search engines have an interest in keeping their results relevant and of good quality so are bound to monitor the efforts of seo companies, not least by the results produced on their search pages. So if your going to sign up with an seo company or diy it by following the latest trends and techniques you may find yourself on a rollercoaster of up and down the rankings, in the long run it may be better to focus on good content.

Pay per click advertising: what is it?/do I need it?

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