SEO - Getting in Google's Good Books

SEO - Search Engine Optimisation. This is often seen as the ‘holy Grail’ of Internet design, the magic that suddenly makes you number one on Google for every possible phrase associated with your business.  It's something that people think easy to achieve. unfortunately it’s not quite that simple

What is Search Engine Optimisation?

The methods (and sometimes magic)  web-designers use to help your site show at the top of the page for a given search criteria. 
There are companies that specialise in SEO,  they range from the useless to the good - and have price tags to match.  Before spending any money you need to know two  things:-

You & your web-designer can do most of the things a SEO company can do.
You can't fool Google
SEO & Google Snake Oil

Why is Google Important?

Approximately 90% of people in the UK use Google to search the Internet. Google rewards websites that play to its rules and its rules are very simple. All Google wants to do is serve the most relevant sites to the ‘customer’ this keeps people using it.  If you search for an Italian restaurant in Cirencester you do not want a search engine that returns a British Restaurant in Italy.

What Does SEO consist of?

Search engines reward pages with the right combination of 'signals' or ranking factors. SEO is about ensuring your content generates the right type of signals. These are in two forms, on-page signals - signals that are on the visible page or built behind the scences of the pages / site, These are in the direct control of the designer.  The other are off-page signals, these are not under the direct control of the designer but rather external factors not built into the design and are often more powerful.

On-page Signals

These range from the very important such as the quality of the content, the ease in which the 'search-bots' can crawl and understand your site, good meta titles  and good meta descriptions.  Meta descriptions are HTML (the programming language with which your site is written) attributes that provide concise explanations of the contents of web pages. They are commonly used on search engine result pages (SERPs) to display preview snippets for a given page. These short paragraphs are a designer's opportunity to advertise content to searchers and to let them know exactly whether the given page contains the information they're looking for.

Off-page Signals

These are very important as they indicate to the search engines how users are interacting with your site.  They include things such as engagement, do users spend time on your site or just 'bounce' away?  History, has the domain been established and used for long?  Trust, are any links to your site from trusted and respected websites and Social Media, are you generating traffic from this avenue and are people sharing your content?

What you Shouldn't do

The Search Engines are clever, they pay the best mathematicians in the world to configure complex algorithms so thinking you can out-smart Google is ambitious. Although not a fully inclusive list avoid all the following 'stratagies' they will get you 'sand-boxed' (completely eliminated from searches).

Poor and short content  Sites with a larger amount of code than content.

Keyword Stuffing  Overusing the words you want your site to be found for can cause penalties, especially if other good practises are not being utilised.

Cloaking  Showing the internet a different page to the user, very bad.

Hidden Content  Putting white text on a white background, usually your keywords.  Sites are written in code this stands out a mile as bad practise.

Ad-heavy  Too many ads 'above the fold' lead to a bad user experience.

Purchasing Links.  Many companies offer purchased links, these will not improve your rankings they will harm your rankings.

So What Should I do?

Create a quality site for the people you want to attract as customers.  Make it relevant and update your content frequently. Employ a designer who understands the importance of SEO and will work with you to get it right.  Promote your site ethically and responsibly and in no time at all you will find yourself in Google's good books.

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