Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is something of a dark art. When people say search engine these days they really mean Google, who now control around 90% of the UK search engine market according to Hitwise. Since Google don't publish details of how they return their results, an entire industry has sprung up to help companies push their websites to the top of the results.
White hat vs black hat
Such is the mystique surrounding SEO that two of its most important terms sound like they've been lifted from Spy vs Spy. White hat techniques are legitimate methods for improving ranking such as writing content with keyword use in mind, using keywords in the page title, and proper use of heading tags. Black hat techniques are more dubious 'hacks' that may improve ranking today, but may lead to your site being removed from the results altogether tomorrow.
We only use legitimate techniques to ensure that your site is placed as high as possible without risking a blacklist.
Put simply, keywords are those words and phrases that your visitors will be entering to find your site. For example if your company makes spoons, potential customers who are looking for a company like yours will probably enter search queries like spoon manufacturer, cutlery wholesale and tableware supplier. You need to make sure that the pages on your site are liberally sprinkled with phrases like these so that you are placed as high as possible in the results. These keywords should be used in your page title, page description and main headings on your page.
A useful tool for determining important keywords in your business area is Google Trends. It has a wealth of features, but we find it most useful for finding the relative importance of different keywords such as for solar power.
Google's recent updates give priority to those sites that load quickly, so page size and page load time are more important than ever. If your competitor's site loads quicker than yours, they're likely to be pushing ahead of you in the results page.
Getting links to your site
This is the number one method of improving your ranking in search results, and perhaps the hardest to achieve. Getting high-quality sites to link to yours makes a huge difference to your results placement - but conversely, poor-quality site links can harm your placement just as much.
Issuing periodical press releases featuring your web address can be a good way to get news sites to link to you, which are typically highly-placed themselves. Posting messages on well-respected web forums is another tried-and-tested technique, especially since you can control the text of the link itself. One of the most important factors is the text used on the hyperlink, which Google uses as a keyword indicator.
As an example, we include a link to our own site on every website we build, varying the link text from site to site but usually something like Web Design - Iteracy. This improves our search results placement and associates Web Design and Iteracy in Google's index.
Common SEO techniques
Here are some of the techniques we use to make sure your site is placed right where it should be - at the top!
This is one of the most important factors for placement in search results. Your page title should sum up the page, giving search engines and users a quick summary of the page. The title of this page is Search Engine Optimisation : Iteracy which gives the user and search engine a four word summary of the page. Each page on your website should have a descriptive and unique page title.
The page description field isn't essential, but where you include a description it should be unique. Google will usually display your page description instead of a snippet of the page if you include one.
Body text and headings
The text of your page should be written in clear, correctly-spelled plain English, but written with your keywords in mind. Note that repeating your keywords over and over has been proven to actually lower your ranking - the important point is that your content must be written in complete sentences.
Another important factor is the use of page headings, especially the H1 (Heading 1) HTML tag. This page uses one H1 and a dozen or so H2 headings. Your page should contain a reasonable amount of text on the page - some studies suggest that very short pages are penalised. Finally, all images should have alt (alternative) text or deliberately blank labels.
The page URL (web address) is an important tool in improving your search result placement. Google looks at your page URL for search phrases, so a page like
will be placed lower than
In addition, your visitors will find it a lot easier to understand and remember!We recommend that your site doesn't have more than three levels of pages, that is more than three slashes in any URL.
The code behind your website pages should validate to the agreed standards. As a technical feature this is often overlooked by site owners, but every page should be accessible to disabled users and meet the W3C guidelines for standards. You can validate any page by going to the W3C Markup Validation Service. Naturally, all our websites have well-written code!
Links out to external sites
Not as important as links in, links out to external sites can make a difference to your search ranking. Linking to poor-quality sites, or selling links on your site has been shown to negatively influence search results, and links out to high-quality sites may improve your rank in the same way. This page contains a number of links out to high-quality sites.