As a search engine optimisation (SEO) professional, I naturally believe the best way to secure good placement in the search engine results pages (SERPs) is to invest in the services of a good SEO agency. However, that does not mean there are not a number of steps a company can take on its own.
What can a company do by itself to help it rise in the results? Here are some simple SEO strategies you may wish to employ as a starting point for your site...
As always, existing experts, you know the drill. Add your own below if you feel I have left out anything you would have included in an SEO starter pack.
Rewrite your site
Make sure you are clear on what the search engines can do. They are not mind-reading devices (although Google Mind might be less controversial than Street View…) and they return results based on what users search for.
So, work out what your customers are most likely to look for (and there are tools such as Adwords which can help you with this) and use them naturally but frequently throughout your pages.
This is an essential part of ensuring good rankings; if a search engine doesn't know your site is relevant, it will not rank it.
Pay for passers by
Okay, so this will not aid your organic ranking but it will help increase visitor numbers and, if used correctly, conversions.
Paid search allows you to guide relevant traffic to your pages and is an excellent way to see the benefits of marketing through search engines but with a very controlled budget.
As before, carefully choose the keywords and phrases that interested and relevant parties may be searching for and then buy advertising space above and to the side of the page.
If you're thinking that many people do not click on those ads then you are right. However, as you only pay for those who do click, you don't have to worry about wasted budget. Ideally, though, you will want to rank well naturally too, so make sure you still spend time on your website's copy.
Look for links
Back in Google's early days, the thing that made it great was its algorithm's ability to analyse links, a system named PageRank.
It allows the search engine to look at how popular a site is, i.e. a website filled with the keywords 'car insurance', that is linked to by 1,000 other sites would rank more highly than a similar site with just 50 inbound links.
The real genius of PageRank is that it perceives some pages as being more authoritative – so a link to your site from the BBC news page is more valuable than 50 links from scraper blogs.
So, use your contacts and content to encourage other sites to link to you. My advice is that you stay away from paying for links, though. They are unlikely to be valuable and may get you penalised by search engines.
When building your site, use unique title tags for pages, don't repeat yourself. Also, don't cram keywords into title tags – search engines are on the lookout for unethical optimisation methods such as keyword stuffing and can punish you with plummeting placement.
It is also worth taking some time to make meta-description tags as accurate and descriptive as possible, while still avoiding simply filling them with keywords. If you can manage to strike this balance, this is a useful way of reiterating your site's focus and relevancy to the search engines.
Walk the line
One of the biggest dangers to a website is for an enthusiastic amateur to try and outwit the search engines and unknowingly cause it to be massively penalised.
If you are new to the world of SEO, remember that this industry has been going a while and the tricks you may think of – like hiding keywords or using link farms – have been thought of and used before. They have also caused many pages to be kicked to the bottom of page ten by search engines.
When undertaking any SEO work, adhere to best practice and do not risk damaging your firm's site when you are trying to do it good! One good tip for starters is to read Google's own SEO guide. This tells you pretty clearly what sort of tactics the search behemoth considers suitable and which it does not.