If you have anything to do with websites you will have heard of SEO – Search Engine Optimisation. This is the science/ art of making your website findable to search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing.
I always tell clients (and friends) that the launch of a website is only the start of your online project, not the end. Building a fantastic website is a bit like building a shop in the middle of the woods – it looks great but no-one knows it’s there. SEO is the job of going around putting up signposts for search engines and visitors pointing to the location of your shop.
There is no shortage of information about SEO online and you can spend years reading and learning – if you have time. although the likelihood is that you will be too busy looking after your core business. If this is the case you may want to outsource your SEO. This can be a tricky situation as SEO is seen as somewhat of a dark art (not to be confused with black hat, of which more later) and it can be hard to gauge what you will get for your money, the competence of a supplier and to understand exactly what they will do.
My recommendation is to get 2 or more references from reputable clients where you can verify that the work done was to the standard expected and that the client felt they got value for money. It’s very hard to guarantee results in SEO but a good SEO firm will win more times than they lose. It can also be very expensive and take time to see results – adding to the risk with a new supplier. If you are serious about trading online you must budget for SEO as a marketing cost or put serious time aside every week to learn and practice your own SEO techniques if you wish to do it in house.
SEO is generally divided into two aspects – on-site and off-site. You should plan your on-site SEO when designing and devloping your website as the actual build of the website can have a large impact on your SEO from day one and can be hard to change later. Things such as the site structure, quality of coding, speed of page-loads, meta data, address structure (of the home page and other pages) are all on-site SEO factors.
Off-site SEO generally refers to techniques used to build links back to your website from other websites. Search engines see these links as a ‘vote’ for your website which counts towards how high they rank your pages in their search results (SERPS). Depending on the popularity, quality and relevance of the websites linking to you, the vote can have more or less weight with the search engines.
One thing to be cautious of are SEO contractors that use ‘black hat’ tactics to attempt to game or trick the search engines. This refers to strategies that the Search Engines such as google frown on. If your website benefits from black hat SEO practices you can be banned by google – effectively closing a door to a massive source of traffic potentially indefinitely. This is the equivalent of the police shutting down your shop.
If you have any questions about SEO or SEO-friendly business website design please get in touch using the contact form or by leaving a comment below.