Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) works in a number of different ways, and the more boxes we can tick on the SEO checklist, the better. First and foremost, you can’t get better than brilliant content. Content that is well-written, easy to understand, relevant to the topic, and current, is key in achieving SEO success. Partnering with a talented and focused web content writer such as aXent Web Services or Word Sense will make sure that your content drives visitors to your site to perform in the way you intend them to.
The next thing that is necessary is a well-constructed site. In this respect, a content-managed system (CMS) such as Joomla or WordPress is a very good start, and scores well with search engines. However, a CMS is not enough. Images need to be accurately tagged (this is important for usability, as well), and headings and emphases need to be relevant and thorough.
Thirdly, it is important that every page has a relevant and clear description and title. This makes the search engine’s job easier by making it possible to render websites that answers searchers’ questions quickly and accurately. (People will soon stop using a search engine that delivers irrelevant content). Specific keywords are also chosen using research that demonstrates which keywords, relevant to the subject matter of the site, are used most frequently globally and locally. These keywords are then strategically embedded into the appropriate pages to allow the site a wide spread of relevant keywords, and to improve potential search engine rankings.
Once the site has been brought up to SEO standards with the above on-page SEO, it is submitted to search directories locally and globally. While most modern search engines automatically index websites within variable time frames, submitting a website manually to a search engine can in many cases speed up this process.
Finally, we install Google Analytics to monitor the success (or otherwise) of our efforts, and make adjustments where necessary.
All of the above is not enough. A website is scored by complex search algorithms on each of the search engines, and a number of factors come into play.
First and foremost the above are important for rankings. But other factors also count. Of particular value is links to the site from other websites. While links on a site to external websites can decrease the website’s score, links to the site from other sites can increase the score IF the sites linking to the site are of a high value. In addition, links from your site to others can increase your site’s search rankings IF the site linked to ranks well on the search engine’s checklist. Sites that rate most highly are social media sites, since these are deemed to be “real world referrals”.
Second on the value list is a blog that is current, up to date, and relevant to the content of the site in question. Again, blogs are deemed to be “real world referrals” since they are typically created and maintained by individuals for the purpose of providing commentary on the world around them.
Links to your website are referred to as “backlinks”. The correct way to achieve backlinks to your website is to send a polite letter to the webmaster of the site you would like to link to yours, requesting a link to your website. The more detail you can provide, the better. This makes no change to your website itself, although it does improve traffic over time.
This kind of campaign can take up to 6 weeks (and occasionally even longer) to propagate across the web and deliver results, so patience and careful monitoring are key.
I cannot overstress the value of social media. A Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace, Netlog and Google+ presence, as long as these are kept rigorously up to date, will be a source of a tremendous amount of traffic, and this traffic will grow exponentially with time. Furthermore, a blog on the website itself, that is updated at least weekly, will improve the site’s value as search engines will recognise the fresh content and assign a higher value to it.