What is SEO? It’s a way to move your website up the search ranks, so when someone types a keyword or phrase related to your content, your site will hopefully pop up on the first page, if not the top of the list. It makes it much, much more likely that someone will find your website, and so read/sell/interact or whatever it is that the purpose of your website is.

Anyway, down to the basics. The key things you can do in terms of search engine optimisation, whether you run a business or a personal website, are as follows (in no particular order, simply numbered for clarity):

1. Have your website address linked on as many other sites as possible

This will push you up search engine rankings, as it’s a suggestion that your website is popular and therefore useful, and therefore something people might consider a successful search result. You can see my page about promoting your website, but basically it boils down to posting (but not spamming) your link, especially in more permanent places e.g. link directories rather than tagboards.

2. Friendly URLs

This basically means that the URL of your pages has relevant meaning to the content of your pages. If you’ve ever used something like WordPress, you’ll notice this is done automatically based on the title of your blog post or page. For example, a page about online marketing is better off being called http://byjenni.com/online-marketing.php rather than http://byjenni.com/483748.php. If you can do this for as many pages as possible across your website, you will make life easier for you and your visitors.

3. Keywords, Meta Tags and Page Titles

You can read my tutorial on using keywords, page titles and meta tags for optimum use. Basically, you want to list hidden or semi-hidden words that describe your website – brief, to the point and not misleading. This will help push you up the ranks. Tag clouds are also a great way to get keywords on your page. Remember to integrate keywords into your site content for maximum impact.

4. Visitor numbers in general

The more visitors you have, the higher up the searches your blog will be ranked. Yep, it’s a catch-22 exactly like jobs requiring you to already have experience to gain experience. Get yourself out there and known. Try swapping links with other people, ask for affiliates, even buy banner adverts to get you started. And make sure you’re giving people a reason to come back to your website – you want to be more than a one hit wonder!

5. Active and Updated Content

Ever noticed that there’s an increasing number of websites displaying news articles and content even though the rest of the site is completely unrelated? This is because search engines like dates and times, especially regularly updated dates and times. This signals the fact that your website is getting updated regularly with new information. Be warned, however – if you try to cheat simply by placing a news feed on your website, it can impact your SEO negatively. Repeated content is a strict no-no. So invent your own, and try to update regularly. You can even hire companies now to write news articles for you specifically for this purpose. Forms of interaction such as message boards and guestbooks also mean your visitors can do this job for you. And, of course, active content will keep your visitors coming back too!

6. Think twice about sponsored posts

This has been quite a contentious issue with search engines, and the general consensus is that websites such as payperpost.com can cause the search ranking of your website to drop considerably. Whether this is because of advertising competition, ‘false content’ issues or just general snobbery, who knows? Many shrug it off, though it can be denied that having someone like Google as your friend is far better than as an enemy. I suggest carefully considering the potential impact of this, and gauging the short and long term goals of your website in order to decide whether this is worth it for you.

7. Friendly Coding

If your coding and layout are awkward, this may prevent keywords and search terms being properly visible, and even if they are fine, will definitely put visitors and sponsors off. So make sure everything is working, easy to access, consistent in terms of layout and typography, and easy to navigate.

8. Keep track of internal searches

There are both personal and commercial tools to keep track of who’s searching for what on your website. This way you can tailor keywords to your visitors’ needs and expectations, help them find what they are looking for, and even gain some insight into who your actual audience is. Monitoring searches can tell you what people want to see on your website (failed searches, common keywords) and help you see what the most popular pages are (great for cross-linking and providing you with ideas for related content).

9. Invest time

You need time and dedication to put these ideas into practice, so don’t expect overnight results. It can be a long journey, and one of the worst things is that progress is likely to be made slowly – try using site monitoring tools like stat counters with graphs, or compare numbers yourself on a weekly or fortnightly basis so you don’t feel too disheartened! Setting small targets or at least small to do lists and challenges along the way may give you more motivation and satisfaction.