Search engine optimisation (SEO) involves taking steps to improve the volume or quality of traffic to a website from search engines such as Google via natural or unpaid search results.
The higher your website appears in the search results list, the better its chance of attracting visitors – and converting that interest into a sale, of course.
If you have recently paid an agency or freelance to create a website for your business, they should know all about SEO and it should have been a key deciding factor in the finer detail of the work they did for you.
If your website is many years old or if you are planning to create your own website, then you will need to get to grips with a few SEO basics, if your website is to be fully optimised for search engines.
Where to begin? Buy or (better still borrow) a good introductory guidebook. I recommend Getting Noticed on Google by Ben Norman. For more detail, try Search Engine Optimisation for Dummies by Peter Kent or When Search Meets Usability by Shari Thurow and Nick Musica.
If someone else has designed or maintains your website, check with them that your site has been fully optimised for search engines. This applies to headings, alt tags, meta tags, page structure, page titles and meta descriptions/keywords. Each is essential to improving your SEO results.
Keywords must appear with sufficient frequency in main copy on each page. For example, if you are offering plumbing services in Wiltshire, then the words 'plumbing' and 'Wiltshire' should make up about 5-10 per cent of all words used. The trick is to be natural in use of language, as (apart from reading badly and so putting people off) deliberate/ham-fisted repetition of the same words (or deliberately hiding keywords) will make search engines ignore your site.
Submit your site to the major search engines. Make sure you register your website with Google Analytics, so that you can measure your traffic. Check out Google AdWords if you want to pay to advertise, they have a starter package that is very easy to use.
Try also to source appropriate websites that can link to yours, but avoid those that promise to put your link on 600 other sites (most of which are often totally irrelevant), it will just look as though you're spamming.
Google your keywords and check which sites come up in the results. If there are directories on the list or websites open to having relevant links (sometimes linking from yours back to theirs in return), contact them.
Analyse your results carefully and learn from them. Check Google Analytics, search on the major search engines at regular intervals to check your position in the results and keep your content fresh and up to date.
By following this simple advice, you should be able to make your website more likely to appear in search engine listings. If reading this has left you none the wiser about SEO, then you should probably seek the services of a specialist, otherwise you could be left counting the cost in disappointingly low visitor numbers to your website.