Right then, just a few words on something that I see a lot of, see it charged for, yet never explained to those that pay. Search Engine Optimisation (for the purposes of my arse typing SEO will now be used). Before I go any further please note I’m not giving away trade secrets, just some general info/help. I will not go into detail, reading this does not bind you contractually to use me. Reasons for writing this include education, bitterness and time to fill. Losing a website contract because another company was charging considerably more just by mention SEO is something that will never happen to me again, I hope. Even if you take this and use it to ask questions of your chosen web designer to get an informed answer then it’ll have justified it’s writing. So read it, don’t read it. Believe it, don’t believe it. It’s up to you.
For the purpose of this rant/infomercial, I’ll mention Google a lot no doubt. No real reason other than personal preference and ease of writing. They do not pay me (more’s the pity) but I use them, tho I won’t go into why (unless someone from Google is reading and wishes to send some form of donation my way…). You’ve all seen the ad, received the email been given the speil, “We can get you #1 on Google rankings” “up your sales turnover with our guaranteed success” and so on and so forth. Firstly (and quickly) the claim that anyone can get you number one in Google rankings needs to be taken with a pinch of some salty substance. I myself have got my website to number one in the google rankings, fact. I am not a SEO trained genius, fact. I do not, have not ever worked for Google (who out of interest, are the only company I would believe if they said they would guarantee me any position on their rankings, after all it’s their rankings, if any one knows how to beat their system, it’s them). No, to get my site (a small modest site of the freelance graphic and web designer) top of the rankings* I followed some basic rules of SEO that all web designers should employ. Oh, and I didn’t spend thousands on it…
#1 Search engines hate flash sites.
I love them, they look better and behave more fluid than HTML etc. Before any coders turn away from their World of Warcraft avatar and proceed heckling me from their domain/lair using a hands free dictation device which they got on a special pre-sales order because ‘they know a guy or lady (slim chance) in the guild who knows a guy’ I am stressing a personal opinion here, and I don’t think I would ever do a flash only site for a client (as much as I’d like to), it wouldn’t be right for the reason of SEO. The reason search engines hate flash is there is no content to read as it is all in the .swf file.
#2 Keywords, love them.
You need these like your PC/Mac needs the internet. No point in having an awesome system if you can’t share it with the world. Search engines look for keywords, use them:
a) regulary in content (don’t go crazy or stack words, you will either look like a berk or be penalised by the search engines)
b) in links
c) in headings
d) as near to the top of your code as possible
#3 Choose your keywords carefully.
This is where the money can come into it a bit more. I know of a few sites that will help you discover what your prospective clients are actually searching for (it may differ from what you think), though as I won’t get paid for advertising them I shall not write their names.
#4 Links in are invaluable.
The more links to your site the better really, though be careful how you get them. Paying for a space on an ad site may not be to your advantage, a ‘here’s some of our friends’ page might never get used. Also one to avoid is those software solutions that spam the hell out of people’s comment boxes with some generic message followed by your web address, will be noted, ignored and sneered at. If you are selling viagra or busty russians a word to the wise, many companies are already employing this tactic so you may be better of coming up with a different marketing strategy.
#5 Site Maps are good.
Search engines like them, have one.
#6 Site submission a must.
Just do it.
#7 Content, without you’re lost.
Seems like an obvious one, but I’ve left it last on my list so that you’ll take note. Without some content to read, your pages will be invisible to search engines. If your site is basically made up of pictures (then shame on you) make sure they are named appropriately and have an alternative name that also bears some relation. Words however are really important, seriously, think about what you’re writing.
Right, well there’s my two pence worth. Like I say, just a guide, something to think about, I don’t like people getting paid for work they’re not doing, so this is my way of helping combat this. Bitter.
(*but I never said which search I was top of mind did I?)
Since I wrote this article initially there have been a number of things change and added to the mix, such as social media integration which has taken off exponentially and the need for a responsive site to name two. The main crux of the article still holds true which is something I’m happy about, as is the fact that I have been able to implement what I say to get my clients to very high rankings. I don’t offer myself as an SEO specialist but what I do have is a good grasp of the fundamentals which is all you need to get yourself started. (tho on the subject of flash sites, what can be achieved using HTML5 now is amazing, may be eating my words there.)
Also having to re-evaluate my top of rankings boast, since I moved the office away from North Shields and into the Newcastle city limits I’m reworking my strategy to get back up again, curses.