After the excitement (and cost) of launching a site, most companies – yes most – allow their site to atrophy away, gasping for oxygen, at position 2,394 in Google listings. The oxygen they need is called search engine optimisation (SEO). The good news is most of your competitors will be in the same boat, so put on your SEO hat and you should fairly soon be top of the Google pile. There are two ways to optimise your site. Spend around £1,000 a month with a company that specialises in optimisation services, or devote a few hours a week yourself. If you opt for the latter, remember that search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Ask make extensive use of "spiders" – highly sophisticated software routines that scurry all over the web, assessing each site. These are the things the spiders “look” for: Domain nameLet’s take an imaginary company, Bartrak and Co, a plumbing company in Bradford. They have no desire to extend geographically, but do want to be found on the web by local households and businesses. The most obvious domain might be www.bertrakandco.co.uk is available for £5.58 from companies like www.123-reg.co.uk. But would that make sense? No it wouldn’t. No householder in the area looking for a plumber would do a search using the term "Bartrak" -–they would most likely key in "Bradford plumbers". Try doing that in Google UK and it will list over three million web pages! If, however, Mr Bartrak had chosen www.bradford-plumbers.co.uk (also available for £5.58), he could almost guarantee a listing in the top ten of those three million pages for anyone using that search term! Page titleEvery web page has a title. It’s not part of the site, but it does appear top left of the screen. Check yours right now! On my own site, I have a section called “Winning”, but the page title is "Business-success-articles-and announcements". Google loves it. Content, content, contentSpiders use fiendishly clever mathematical algorithms to assess your website copy. They can’t read pictures and they can’t read all those clever animations. They read words. Each page should have at least 200 words. Spiders are even clever enough to assess the relevance of the content. Keep it freshGoogle also loves active sites – ones that keep adding new content. The spider will visit your site once a month so, at a minimum, you need to add/change content with the same frequency. The easiest way to do this is with a news section. Surely your business has something worthwhile to announce every month? Weave keywords into your webA lot of search engine optimisation is about anticipating the words that prospective customers/visitors to the site might use when they make a search on Google. The first terms that spring to mind may not be the most useful. For example, if our fictitious Mr Bartrak selected the most obvious word “plumbing”, he would be competing with over four million other sites! Rather than single words, it can be much more effective to weave whole phrases through your site. These are known as “long tail” search terms. The long tail term “household plumber in Bradford” would compete with a more manageable 13,000. Simply by adopting the tips I have already outlined should easily get Mr Bartrak into the top ten out of 13,000. Inbound linksThis is the harder bit. You will need to take time out, finding sites willing to link to you. Get your site listed in as many online directories as possible, such as FreeIndex, Small Business Directory, Thompson Local. Suppliers or agents may also be wiling to link. Aim for at least 100 links. Don’t be fooled by spamYou’ll receive lots of spam emails offering guaranteed top listings for a small fee. Don’t do it! Either they take the money and run or they use what are known as “black hat" techniques, like having hundreds of spurious websites they will link to yours (these are called Link Farms). Google is much too sophisticated to fall for black hat techniques and punishes sites that use them. One of the big European car manufactures was removed from Google for a few weeks last year as punishment for questionable practices. Obviously, this has been a whistle stop tour. There are lots more things you could do to promote your site but what I have described is practical – and it really will deliver page one rankings. So much better than a website lost at the back of the storeroom! Picture source
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