Finding Your Site Using Search Engine Optimisation

Apologies!  I included search engine optimisation (SEO) in my original article “How to Help the Right People Find Your Site” and then managed to omit it!   I missed what is possibly the most important way of increasing traffic to your site!

However, the other methods I’ve covered show seo is one of several approaches.  The key to seo is good content that people will link to from their sites, blogs and forums.  The other approaches feed into your seo strategy, so perhaps it helps for seo to come last.

I shall explain what seo is and some basic things you can do to optimise your site.  If you want me to write about anything at greater length, then ask.  There’s loads of material online about seo, so it’s also worth searching but beware; bad advice is probably as common as good.

What is seo?  When you search for information about a topic, you enter a query into the box on your browser, usually but not always labelled Google, and in a few seconds a page downloads with, among other things, the top ten websites the search engine calculates best match your query.  (There are actually more than ten but they’re on later pages and most people rarely visit them.)  The purpose of seo is to make sure your website features among those first ten sites for particular queries, ranking as high as possible.  Statistics show that the higher you rank, the more visits you get.

At the time of writing if I enter “Community Web Consultant” as a Google query, my site ranks at 6, 7 and 8.  It’s a new site and so this is not a bad result.  I could seek to improve this ranking.  I might do that, should I believe lots of people are entering “Community Web Consultant” into search engines.  But I don’t believe many people would search for that exact term, unless they have heard about my site and are seeking it.

I need to find the keywords people might be seeking that my site directly addresses.  So, if my site ranks for those keywords and someone clicks on the link, they’ll arrive at a site that meets their needs.  You will note my site needs to have good content as well as being optimised for those keywords.  There is no point getting visitors who immediately leave because they do not find what they are seeking.

So, you need to:

  1. Identify keywords and make sure your website provides high quality content that directly addresses those keywords.  This is not a one-off activity.  As you develop your site and receive feedback you will need to re-write it to find a better fit to your visitor’s expectations.
  2. You need to include the keywords in a variety of strategic places on your site.  There is a lot of debate about how important this is.  The way I look at it is this.  What your site says about itself may not be the most important thing in persuading search engines to rank your site, but if you don’t do it, the search engines won’t even consider ranking your site.  This is your entry ticket to the ranking contest!
  3. Back-links are more important and I’ve already covered them.  Their main purpose besides seo is for visitors to follow them to your site.  Search engines take a number of things into consideration.  The two main ones seem to be the authority of the site that links to yours and the link’s anchor text.  So, if you have a lot of links from rubbish sites this will not do you much good.  But a link from a site with good content will of itself increase traffic and be counted by search engines.  The anchor text is the text in the link on the other site.  If it says what your site is about, that will count.

If you’re just starting out it helps to understand some of this stuff but I wouldn’t worry too much until you have experienced how your site works in practice.  Certainly, be careful about the seo advice you receive.  A lot of it is poor because just about everyone has theories about how you can fool the search engines.  The best way to think about it is this:

Search engines are very clever programs.  The chances are they are much cleverer than anything you come up with.  So, focus on getting good content online and then optimise your website over time.  I can help you do that, let me know if you need any help.

What advice have you had about seo?  Would you say it was good or bad advice?

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About the Author

I've been a community development worker since the early 1980s in Tyneside, Teesside and South Yorkshire. I've also worked nationally for the Methodist Church for eight years supporting community projects through the church's grants programme. These days I am developing an online community development practice combining non-directive consultancy, strategic management, participatory methods and development work online and offline. If you're interested contact me for a free consultation.

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