Send out the search party

So you’ve got a sleek, shiny new website, packed with valuable information. But if the likes of Google can’t find it, neither will potential clients, warns Arthur Luke

The new website is done and dusted, the launch went well and the press release went out. Yes, it looks good, delivers all the right content, supports the brand beautifully and your existing clients love it – but now what?

Unfortunately, there are many designers, webmasters and marketers who don’t put enough effort into preparing their website for search engines such as Google, Yahoo and MSN. Many traditional Web design consultancies do not know how to implement an effective search engine strategy. Many, through a lack of search engine optimisation understanding, innocently build in elements during the site development that hinder and limit its chances of ever establishing good search engine rankings.

Search engine optimisation (SEO) can be best described as the practice of building Web pages that are both search engine friendly and user friendly. We have seen many second- and third-generation site redesigns that have, at a stroke, effectively destroyed search rankings and incoming links established over the lifetime of the original site. This throws valuable search engine collateral out of the window.

So what can you do about it? The easiest and quickest, but also most expensive, way to gain visibility on a search engine such as Google is to pay for sponsored links or Adwords.

These links are tied to specific targeted keywords. The problem is that without an organic (non-sponsored link search engine campaign), you are literally renting space and no more. Stop paying and you disappear without a trace. Add to that the potential for click wastage and click fraud and it can be an uncomfortable monthly pill to swallow.

It is important to stress at this point that optimising your site for good search engine visibility is not a five-minute task; it requires considerable time, careful crafting and a sustainable strategy.

It is important to view search engine optimisation as a long-term investment. There is certainly no point in optimising the site on one day and then walking away thinking that the site will perform well in searches forever more.

Optimisation has to be ongoing. Web access logs should be checked regularly to analyse traffic flow – if it is getting better or falling off, which content is visited often and why, which not at all, which other sites are linking in to yours and why.

Search engine optimisation involves a lot of different elements/ keyword research, meta tags, page titles, headings, word count, key linkage and careful log analysis, to name but a few. All play their part in an ever-evolving search engine landscape.

However, there are some simple quick wins you can put in place, which will certainly make an immediate difference. Google recommends a number of options on its website to improve your visibility on-line.

For a start, encourage other sites to link to yours to boost Web traffic. Also submit your site and a sitemap to on-line directories so they formally recognise you. Ensure each page can be accessed from its own Web link, and have a high level of information on the site describing your activities in depth, as this will be picked up by the search engines. Regularly trawl for links that have stopped working and check that none of the code needs validating – then things should run smoothly.

Your site has more potential than you might think, so don’t waste the opportunity to make it count. Unless your site delivers new clients to your door and visitor numbers increase, you’re preaching to the converted. The Internet isn’t a beauty parade – but it is all about being seen.

Arthur Luke is managing director of Moscovitch


Tips for getting seen on-line:

  • Get other relevant sites link to yours (but avoid link farms)
  • Submit the site to directories such as DMOZ and Yahoo
  • Keep no more than 100 links on any given page
  • Check for broken links and validate your code
  • Create a useful site that is full of information-rich content.
  • Make sure that your TITLE and ALT tags are descriptive and accurate
  • Use a text browser such as Lynx to examine your website. Most search engine spiders see your site in much the same way as Lynx would
  • Allow search bots to crawl your sites without session IDs or arguments that track their path through the site
  • Make use of the robots.txt file, which tells crawlers which directories they can or cannot crawl
  • If your website is redesigned, make sure you keep the link between all your old pages scattered across cyberspace and your new site – they are still very valuable

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