bCentral Home
Your Online Business Center

Search engine optimisation

Make your website easier to find and get to the top of results lists

Search engines are the main generators of traffic to websites, so everyone wants to get their websites listed near the top of results lists. So how can your business achieve good search engine rankings without breaking the bank?

The myths

"My favourite myth is 'We can guarantee top positions'. No company can do that, especially before knowing in what market they are going to be competing and with what budget," advises Alex Masip of LingoNotion.

Another myth is that search engines just require the hidden information contained in meta tags. "Search engines are a lot cleverer now, and some even ignore this information," says Paul Johnston of PJ Net Solutions. "They often go on the actual text content of the page so, if this doesn't say anything, the page won't get indexed properly. This is especially true if you use images to display text."

The truths

Plan and design your site with the search engines in mind.

"Have SEO on mind already before starting developing your site," advises Alex. "It is very common to develop the site fully and only then think about SEO. That makes everything more expensive and less effective. The site should be technically as SEO friendly as possible, through the use of good information architecture and keyword-rich content."

"Make sure your web development team knows how to create an indexable website," says James Suddaby of ilikemusic.com. "When the second revamp of our website caused our Google ranking to drop (and our website to virtually lose its previously high web presence) we discovered that our web development team had designed the site using frames and had poorly coded it. Shortly after we changed the site architecture, our Google rank leapt up again and has remained high ever since."

Keep your site content fresh and relevant.

"Frequent change in the website is a significant measure of importance when it comes to achieving a good rank on Google," says Graham Jones of InfoSelling.com. "Updating our content daily has also been beneficial."

As well as updating content regularly, you should make sure the words you use in your content reflect the topic of your site. As Google advises: "Think about the words users would type to find your pages, and make sure that your site actually includes those words within it."

Focus on the quality of your onsite and inbound links.

Work on to build up quality links to your site. As well as developing a link strategy where you swap links with useful targeted websites, Alex Masip recommends "writing and submitting articles to websites on your area of expertise, making sure to include a link back to your website."

However, definitely avoid link farms (where you add your links to multiple sites). "Search engines are beginning to avoid registering links from known link farms in their rankings," says Paul Johnston.

��Like what you've read? Try our free newsletters.

As well as quality inbound links, you should also pay attention to the quality of the links within your own site navigation.

"Use appropriate anchor text," advises Graham Jones. "Anchors are the words that people click on to get to another page. Keyword anchors are highly valued by many search engines. This means the end of 'home' and 'click here' anchors. You need keyword anchors, in context, which direct to keyword-relevant pages. Links are worth less to you if they do not have keyword anchors."

Finally, avoid using flash or image navigation without alternative text support. For example, one of Paul Johnston's clients, who runs a business consultancy, was getting no hits from their SEO solution.

"The website had Flash animation as the navigation and no other way of getting around the site. It looked great, but this wasn't getting indexed (or followed) by the search engines, so only the front page was getting indexed. Fixing the navigation so that it was visible to search engines increased the number of hits dramatically" Paul explains.

What next?

Did you know that buying advertising on search engines can be an effective way of getting visitors to your site? Find out more with our guide to keyword advertising.

Whole books have been written about search engine optimisation. If you want to learn more, a good place to start is Search Engine Watch.

Sign into Microsoft Small Business+ for free web-based training and software support.

sign in
Security information

Find a local Microsoft Small Business Specialist to help with your IT needs

Microsoft Small Business SpecialistMore info >

What do you want your PC to help you with?

What do you want your PC to help you with?

Free business newsletters - subscribe now

Our free newsletters are packed full of business advice and ideas - plus all the latest news

Security information

Get the latest bulletins and updates direct from Microsoft