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Search Engine Optimisation (SEO): the search for the holy grail, or just not that complicated?

There isn’t much that hasn’t been written about search engine optimisation already so you may ask why I’m bothering? Well, we get numerous clients asking us to perform ‘search engine optimisation’ often not really understanding what this means. Some of them see it as a switch –
the site is either optimised, ‘on’, or not optimised, ‘off’. Others understand that there is a little more to getting your site recognised and highly ranked by the likes of Google, Yahoo and Bing. To paraphrase yet others, they ask “how can we beat Google and get to the top of the search results?”

In response I mis-quote Kennedy “ask not what your search engine can do for you, ask what you can do for your search engine”.

Yes that’s right, at Bread & Butter Marketing we firmly believe, based on 7 years working for Google, that you should not set out to beat, trick, cheat or otherwise fool your search engine into moving your way up the rankings. In the short term this might give you a temporary boost, but you will get found out. There is nothing surer. In the worst cases, this can lead to your site getting blacklisted, and no company is too big to fall foul of the basic search engine standards. The most notorious case is that of BMW who were blacklisted for breaching Google’s guidelines in an attempt to boost their rankings. In response Google simply manually adjusted their page rank to zero. Game over.

So having established that we are not going to try to fool the search engine algorithms into increasing our rankings, what are the rules for SEO and how do we implement them?

We start by asking two basic questions
1. What does a search engine do?
2. What does a search engine want you to do?

Google, Yahoo, Bing etc. are all private companies, they have shareholders, and they are in business to make money for their shareholders. How do they do that? By providing answers to search queries and selling advertising relevant to those search queries. That is the simple basis of the business. All of the companies have other sidelines, but the sale of advertising space based on search queries is their #1 core revenue stream. People use and reuse their favourite search engine because it provides relevant results, and displays relevant advertisements. There I said it, “relevant”. To use a familiar term, that is the keyword. In the world of search, relevance is king. I’m only surprised I managed to get so far into this blog before mentioning it. Fear not however, I have a feeling I might be about to overuse it in the remainder of the post.

A search engine wants only one thing from you, a relevant website with plenty of content. From their point of view, your website should provide the answer to a search query. The search engine is only the index that allows people to find your website amongst all the other ones that are out there.

Imagine it like having an encyclopaedia, turning to the index and looking up ‘global warming’ for example. You find the page number, dig out the relevant volume and turn to the page in question only to find that the page is all about ‘global economics’. No mention of climate, weather, greenhouse gasses, carbon dioxide, cows or anything else related to global warming. Would you use that index again? No, of course you wouldn’t because it can’t be trusted to bring you to a ‘relevant’ search result.

Web based search engines operate on the same principle and they want you trust them so that you return time and time again to search for whatever it is that interests you, in the hope that you will click on the relevant advertising that it displays alongside the search results. It is essential therefore that the results returned by that search engine are relevant.

From a web design and content perspective, what does this mean, and how is it achieved?

At Bread & Butter Marketing, it is not giving away too much to tell you that we employ the following principles. How we do it and what we do is something that we choose to keep between ourselves and our satisfied customers.

  • Make sure the search engine knows about you – submit your site to Google etc.
  • Make sure your site is searchable by the automated searchbots
  • Make sure you have a relevant meta description for your website
  • Make sure each page of your site is relevant to the keywords used
  • Make sure each page of your site has plenty of content
  • Change, tweak and update your site regularly
  • Try to employ different forms of media on each page
  • Try to ensure that your site has links to and from other related sites dealing with the same subject matter
  • Try to ensure that your content is interesting, well presented, and
  • Remember social media is your friend, you like it and it likes you.

Making your site attractive to search engines is an organic process, a little bit of this a little bit of that. There is no ‘quick fix’ to getting your website to #1 on Google, and anyone who promises you otherwise should be avoided.

That’s my tuppence worth on well-covered topic of Search Engine Optimisation, its simple really – give the search engine what it wants and it will look after you, it’s not in competition with you and it can’t (or more accurately won’t) be beaten.

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