A Beginners Guide to SEO

5 September 2013 Staff

SEO has been creating a buzz on the web for over a decade and if you have your own website, there is a very good chance you will have heard of this term mentioned before. This blog post will explain some the basic concepts of SEO to those that are new to the practise. Whether you are searching for new domain names for your products or are already using UK hosting – these tips should prove useful.

What Exactly is SEO?

SEO stands for ‘search engine optimisation’. In a nutshell, this means that your website has been configured to be more accessible for search engines, making your website easier to find and therefore increasing the number of visitors to your website.

Why Does My Website Need SEO?

Search engines such as Google, Bing or Yahoo are often the first port of call for a any user looking to find out information on the web. While social media has more recently become an important asset in online marketing, search engines still drive the vast majority of online traffic.

The unique and brilliant thing about search engines such as Google is that they drive highly relevant traffic towards your site, meaning a user who discovers your website via a search engine is very likely to be looking for services or products similar to the ones you offer. Search engines will rank your site on how relevant they think it is, compared to the users search. Websites that rank highly in Google are likely to to get considerably more visitors than one which does not, making SEO an essential ingredient of running a successful website.

How Do I Improve My Website’s Ranking

The first step when undertaking search engine optimisation is identifying keywords or phrases that you want your website to rank highly for. This is a vital part of the SEO process and requires some careful consideration. Initially, the primary consideration is what keywords or phrases your potential customers are likely to type into a search engine when looking for a business like yours.

If for example, I was running a plumbing business I might want to rank highly for search terms such as ‘plumber’. Such a vague and broad term however, will mean I would have to compete with every other plumbing website on the web, which isn’t practical or realistic. In order to get a good ranking, I would need to make my search terms more specific to my own business by adding keywords related to my business. So instead of optimising my site around a term like ‘plumber’, I would instead use the phrase ’24 Hour Plumber Manchester’. By including both the type of service and location of my business, I’ve made sure that the traffic that comes to my website is targeted to the right people. Its also much easier to rank higher for a specific term (also called a ‘long tail’ term), which will be far less competitive than a generic term like ‘plumber’. Ideally I would want to repeat this process a couple of times, so I have 2 or 3 search terms to optimise my site around.

If you are uncertain what keywords you want to optimise your site around, there are a variety of different keyword search tools that you can use (see further down the page) to gauge what keywords will produce the best results.

Optimising Your Website

When Google indexes your website, it analyses your website pages and looks for specific bits of code and information that it considers to be important. These bits of code we are going to look at are largely accepted to be the cornerstones of any SEO campaign.

Title tag
The <title> tag is required in all HTML documents and it defines the title of each page. The title tag has been, and probably will always be, one of the most important factors in achieving high search engine rankings. When editing your title tag, try and include the keywords you are wanting to rank for. It is recommended that your title is no longer than 70 characters long and try not to use each keyword more than once. Variety is important, so each page on your website should have a different title tag, related to the content on each individual page.

H1 tag
The <h1> to <h6> tags are used to define HTML headings, with <h1> defining the most important heading. Using a heading that contains keywords is a great way to optimise your site and works in a very similar way to the title tag. Please only use a single H1 tag per page, as Google will only index the first one. Again, be careful not to stuff your headings full of keywords as its important that your headings make sense to any humans that are reading your site.

Keyword links
Links are another essential part of SEO. If you want to increase the ranking for one of your pages for a specific search term, simply link to that page using the word or phrase you want to rank for. This link will be indexed by Google and will increase the ranking of the page you have linked to, for the term you have used inside the link. As well as setting internal links on your own site, you can also link to content on your website from other websites. Links from external sites can be a very powerful tool, links from large and popular website can make a huge difference to your SEO rank.

Its worth remembering that any changes that you do make to your website will not have an instant impact. Sometimes it can take several weeks for Google to re-index your site, so please don’t worry if you don’t see immediate benefits of any changes you decide to make.

Adding a Google Sitemap
The final step of this tutorial is adding a Google site map. Unlike traditional site maps you may have seen on other websites (or even on your own website), a Google site map is not a page you can visit. Instead a Google sitemap is an XML file that lists all the pages on your website. The purpose of this list is to make life easy for Google, if you have one of these on your website Google will automatically use it when indexing your website. For Professional Hosting customers, setting up a Google site map couldn’t be easier. Simply head over to our installers page and choose ‘Google Sitemap’. Follow the on screen instructions and your sitemap will be automatically generated and installed.

A Few SEO Tips….

– There are lots of SEO experts on the web, some of whom will promise to get you number 1 on Google for your chosen keyword. Unfortunately the truth is nobody can promise you that you’ll be number 1 on Google, not even staff at Google can make those sorts of guarantees! The only way to guarantee you’ll be at the top of Google search results is to advertise via pay-per-click.

– Don’t forget humans. You can optimise your site as much as you wish, but don’t forget the end game is to get as many humans on your site as possible. There is no point in ranking highly for your chosen keywords if your website is not easy to use, or even worse, if it is not working properly. Any user that discovers your website via a search engine can easily click on the ‘Back’ button in their browser, and return to their original search, so make sure your website is welcoming.

– Don’t try and and out smart search engines. There are many ways people have tried to fool search engines into indexing their site, this is called ‘Black Hat’ search engine optimisation and is considered unethical. A popular trick in the past was to cram as many keywords onto your home page as possible. Another was to have a list of keywords at the bottom of your site, in the same colour and your website’s background (these keywords would be invisible to users, but would still indexed by search engines). Be warned when trying to take short cuts like this, companies like Google strive to provide the best search results possible and trying to fool them will end up with your website being blacklisted and removed from the search engine all together. Its best to play by the rules and resist the sort of quick fixes that could end up causing irreparable damage.

Some Handy SEO Links

Helpful Guides

Keyword Research Tools

Analytics & Stats