Optimise your website for search engines

How to drive more internet traffic to your website by improving the ranking of your website on search engine’s organic search result pages.

So you’ve invested in a website? Your web designer talked you into all the latest bells and whistles, including a slideshow, a content management system and a little gnome popping up from behind. All good to go, right? Well, not quite. If you expect people to find your website, and to do what you want them to do – buy, book or contact you – you’ll need to spend some time, and possibly money, on the fickle beast called Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).

Looking for relevance

When the internet started growing in popularity, clever minds realised that soon we would need a kind of “filter” to find anything we want online. The Search Engine was born: it allowed to filter the growing online content via keywords typed in a box. But there was one problem: how do you decide who comes at the top of your filtered list, and who’s at the bottom. Google’s PageRank™ was the best answer – a mathematical system to order websites according to their relevance to the words you are looking for.

Spiders and bots

Search engine software (known as “spider” or “bot”) crawls the entire web, every second of the day, jumping from one website to another, and storing everything it finds along the way in its data centres – big buildings stacked with computers full of internet content {view Google’s data centres here}. When you search for, let’s make this easy and say, “women with beards”, the search engine connects to those data centres, analyses the stored data, and makes a shortlist of websites that contain content relevant to “women with beards”. How does the search engine know that these websites are relevant? Because these websites literally mention “women with beards” in their text. Not rocket science. Yet.

Keywords and inbound links

Let’s assume that 2 websites have been shortlisted for their relevance: both mention “women with beards”. Website A and website B. Who will be listed first? In its “keyword analysis”, the search engine will look at how often these websites mention “women with beards”, where on the page (top, bottom?) and how much weight is given to “women with beards”. In its second analysis – its most important – the search engine will ask the internet community how it values website A and B? Asking in a mathematical way: Google will count the number of websites that link to website A and B respectively. 99 websites linking to website A implies that 99 website owners have decided that they think website A is interesting (relevant) enough to link to. If only 3 websites link to website B, a hierarchy is easily decided on.

What we don’t know

Keywords and links, however, are just the start – there are many, many more factors taken into account, like domain age, keyword frequency and download speed. And even what we do know – or think we know – changes all the time. Basically, search engines keep hush-hush about how they rank search results. They claim to use objective, mathematical algorhythms, which they don’t manipulate in favour of their advertising clients or the products they themselves sell. They say. Google says “Content is King”, meaning that a website with relevant, well written content will stand a good chance in its search results.

A few SEO tips to get you started

  1. Start now. SEO is a long term exercise.
  2. Define 5 keywords. Think along these lines: “When people search for certain words, I want them to be given my website as a result. Which 5 words should lead to my website?”
  3. Write copy for your website around these keywords – make them appear often, and in all the important places, especially within your “title”, “meta” and “h” tags.
  4. Create links to your website, via a blog, social media and link exchange with other websites, and use your keywords in you linked text. E.g. If “Search Engine Optimisation” were my keywords, links from other websites to my blog could look like “The basics of Search Engine Optimisation explained, without the jargon“.
  5. Be “genuine” in the links you create and the content you put online. Search engines aim to offer relevant search results, and weed out the websites that aim for high rankings, but are less genuine. Stay away from copying content from other websites, link farms and keyword spamming.

* After applying these SEO tips still not happy with the amount of web traffic to your website? Instead of blaming me and threatening to set my hair on fire, read about the why’s and how’s of online advertising here

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