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The process of getting your website to the top of the search engine results is known as Search Engine Optimisation, or just 'SEO', and is generally regarded as a black art!
Over 80% of web searches are done on Google.
Most searchers don't look beyond page 1.
So that's where you need to be if you want your website to bring in new customers.
Search engine optimisation is divided into two parts: what you put on the pages of your website and what else you do on the web - link building, social media activity, blogging etc.
On-page SEO is concerned with finding the right key words and phrases for your business, those by which you want to be found in searches, and putting them into the right places on your website: page titles, meta tags, headings and body text. As ever it's not quite that simple and your web pages must have correct HTML code and contain good quality, original writing rather than just be stuffed with key words.
We do this as a matter of course on every website we build and it always surprises us how many websites we see that show no signs of search engine optimisation at all.
Off-page SEO is about getting your website networked. This includes getting links from other websites in a similar or complementary line of business to yours, getting your site mentioned in social media sites - likes, tweets, pins and all the rest!
Because many of these links, especially those from social media, are quite short lived, off-page SEO is an ongoing process. If you want to stay at the top you have to keep at it!
There's no doubt that Google makes the rules in the web search business and changes its search algorithms frequently in an effort to stop website owners from cheating. Tricks that work one day may not work the next and anyone using under-hand methods to get to the top of the search results will get caught sooner or later!
A prime example is the keywords meta tag. This was intended to inform search engines what a web page was about, but it was so abused that it's now almost universally ignored. Google also penalises content copied from other websites and blatant 'spammy' links from irrelevant sites and poor quality directories or 'link farms'.
Google's stated intention is to make the search engine look at a page in the same way as a human visitor. Big bold headings (in HTML heading tags) stand out and original, up-to-date content gets you search engine brownie points too. Google likes to see websites that are regularly updated and optimised for mobile phones and tablets as well as conventional computers.
Their latest trick is to mimic the way a person would interpret a search request - looking for the meaning of the search rather than just blindly searching out word combinations. Searching for 'web design' might mean you are looking for a web design company or, perhaps, instructions to build your own website. Searching for 'web designer' or perhaps adding 'in Sheffield' to your search makes the meaning clearer.
On the technical side we ensure that your web pages are correctly coded in HTML (of course!), load quickly, and contain the relevant meta tags, those that search engines still use. We build most new websites with a technique called 'responsive design' which means your web pages are mobile optimised, and we always include site maps too - both for search engines and for human visitors.
Very recently Google has decided that secure websites are a 'good thing' so a secure certificate and the 'https' prefix to your website address will help a little too.
Choosing your search key words, carefully helps - a lot. There's much less competition for 'web design sheffield' than for just 'web design' for example, so if you're a small business trading locally then all your search terms should include location names too.
As well as using on-line search tools, we'll try to get inside your potential clients' heads to figure out how they will search for a business such as yours. What terms will they start searching for? What will those terms bring up? And what might they try next to sharpen their search - to find just what they're looking for?