If you have a website, sooner or later you’ll get interested in search engine optimisation.
It’s the art (or is it a science?) of tweaking your website copy and links, so your site ranks higher in the search engines.
There are many professional search engine optimisation firms (commonly known as SEOs) who will charge you substantial amounts of money to improve your website’s rankings for certain search terms.
It’s tempting to go down the SEO track, particularly when you find your precious site languishing far, far down the rankings on Google.
But I would never put my faith in the SEO industry, and I recommend an alternative, more reliable method of achieving a top search engine ranking in the long term.
The truth is, search engines are getting smarter and smarter at recognising sites that have been “SEO’d”.
The engines are constantly getting more sophisticated, to avoid some of the unethical SEO practices being used to trick them into giving a site a good ranking.
So SEO experts are on a continual treadmill to keep up.
Initially, SEO revolved mainly around keywords. Now, it seems to centre around building inbound links to the site, to get a higher ‘page rank’ on Google.
But I believe website owners are wasting their time and money by becoming too focused on either of these SEO techniques.
You’re better off simply adding more and more quality content to your website, to provide visitors with what they really want on the Web.
In other words: Make your content so good that others will want to link to you.
Certainly, bit of a push start by a solid, simple inbound link programme is a good idea but this doesn’t have to become an all-consuming pre-occupation.
All you need are a few popular sites, in your market sector, linking to you.
There are several ways to achieve this, including contacting the owners of sites you would like linking to you, and asking if they want to exchange links.
Once you have a few quality links to your site, that’s enough.
From then on, concentrate on adding more and more content to your site.
There is an important place for keywords on these new content pages. It helps to focus each page on one or two keywords (actually, it’s better to use key phrases, because these are what Web searchers typically use) sprinkle these keywords and phrases throughout your page.
You can find the best keywords by using a service called Wordtracker. This is particularly useful because it saves you from simply guessing which words and phrases people are searching on, and gives you the actual search terms being used and how much competition there is for these terms.
I won’t go too much into keyword analysis here. Suffice it to say, if you focus mainly on writing content-filled pages that are of genuine value to your prospective customers or clients, you’ll be on the right track.
As the search engines see the content on your site continually changing, they’ll return more often. They’ll spider new content on your pages faster and faster. This is good news and helps your search engine rankings.
The only downside of this approach is that it does take time and commitment to keep adding content to your website. It may seem easier to pay an SEO expert.
But consider this. Even if you do achieve a good ranking in the search engines through SEO, if a visitor arrives and finds mediocre content, what’s the use. They’ll simply click away.
For most small businesses, with limited financial resources, the key to getting your website noticed in the search engines is a slow, steady approach of adding more and more pages with great, relevant content for your marketplace.
Then you can forget about SEO and every other trick.
Focus on building content and everything else will take care of itself.