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Updated 13 Nov 2015

Search optimisation - top 10 tips

We've put together a list of what we think are ten of the most useful tips to get your site indexed by the search engines and then actually rated highly for what you want it to be
for the sake of this article we'll assume you want to get listed on Google:
Standing out from the crowd

1) Get your website indexed:

OK first thing you need to make sure of is that the search engines can actually locate your website in order to index the content on it.
One of the best ways to do this is to get a link on a site that is already active on Google as it will more than likely be visited frequently by the crawlers (imagine these as a set of programmes that literally scour the whole web following every link on every site and taking note of the content on that site) so chances are that if your link is on a listed site eventually these crawlers will follow the link back to your site and take note of your content.
If you can't get a link on another site don't worry - you can also get indexed by submitting your site to a directory, or Google itself, another good way is to post on a forum and have a link to your site in the post.(don't spam forums though it's not good practice and you may get banned!)
Submit to google here

2) Optimise your page title:

Now this is more important than a lot of people think and it carries a lot of weight when it comes to search engine placement.
Your title needs to be discriptive, and should ideally contain your main focus keywords - if you are selling pencils you need to let the search engine know this, a lot of people put their company or website name as the title and leave it at that!
Rather than have 'Bob's Pencil Shop' as a title you would do a lot better with something like 'Art pencils, coloured chalks, paints and craft materials from Bob's Pencil Shop' this contains some great key phrases and tells the search engines what the page is all about. If the search engines think your page is highly relevant for a certain phrase chances are you are going to be ranked highly for this phrase and your title tag is where the relevance starts.
Remember - sometimes different pages would be better with a different title to that of the home page

3) Website description:

This is another important one and follows similar rules as your site title.
You must be descriptive and tell the search engines and the customer what you offer/provide - your description is what appears on the search results under the actual link to a site.
You will notice most of the descriptions at the top of the search engines will contain keywords/phrases you just typed in to find them, good practice is to use around 20 words - dont just have the word pencil 20 times and think that will send you to the top, apart from looking strange (and apparrent that you are trying to trick your way to the top) you are also losing out on other custom you may have gained from someone looking for coloured chalk shops in London (that is if you sell coloured chalks and you are located in London).
Staying with Bob's pencil shop - here would be a good description:
Bob's Pencil shop, art and craft supplies from pencils, pens and colourd chalk to card, glitter and glue, Based in North London.   Descriptions can also be more beneficial when applied aptly to individual pages.
Standing out froom the crowd

4) Web Page Content:

This should be fairly obvious - if you are selling pencils and want to found for terms associated with your product then your page should at least have something to do with it, you dont have to blitz it with the same word a hundred times as this will do you no real long term good, try to keep a good balance of R.I.D (Relevant, Informative and Descriptive) doing this should naturally tell the search engines and more importantly your visitors exactly what they need to know.
There are certain ways to make desired page content stand out, both to the search engines and to visitors, this can be done using various tags such as bold, italic and header tags so use these wisely and you should be onto a winner.

5) Update your site content:

Here is another one that is often overlooked, too many people get a site up and running, then sit back and wait for the traffic to pour in, never thinking of offering fresh content for their users - search engines will notice after a while that your content has not changed and can sometimes get the idea that you are not offering content and information that is changing with your market or to suit your customers needs, don't get me wrong, the search engines don't know your market better than you, but they can make comparisons with sites of a similar nature and give other sites that do offer consantly changing/updated content a slightly higher priority, so to nip this in the bud it's a good idea to maybe add new products or a paragraph or two every week/month - this is good practice and will only benefit you and your sites ranking long term.

6) Getting backlinks to your website:

Getting decent backlinks can be a lengthy but highly rewarding task, in fact I rate this as possibly the most effective single contributary factor to whether your site is up there at the top or not.
So what is a decent backlink? - Firstly I must point out that a backlink to your site from another site is better than no backlink at all, but the best results are to be had from sites that are based on similar content to your actual website and the keywords you are optimising for. One of the best ways to get content relevant backlinks is to type in the word you want to be top on Google for as a search and then the top 50 sites that come up in the results are going to be your best bet - getting these sites to link to you is sometimes difficult but not impossible as most webmasters realise that if you link to them and they link to you (this is called a reciprocal link by the way) there is a potential benefit to be had by both parties, however you must also bear in mind that if you have a relatively new site with no visitors or page rank the chances of someone with a pagerank 7 linking back to you are slim to none unless you know them personally - try to go for sites that are of a similar age, page rank, profile and status to that of your own site. Remember to keep your backlinks as relevant as you can, 50 relevant backlinks are far batter than 100 links from random site - Oh, and avoid linkfarms and anyone or website that claims to get you thousand of links overnight - Google isn't stupid and only likes sites that are seen to be linked to for a reason, getting thousands of links in one go can sometimes do a lot more harm than good - so unfortunately the slowburn process is order of the day here.
There is also three way linking in which you link to a site of someone else's and they link back to you but from a third site - if Google were working on a points system (which I think it kinda' does) it would allocate you more points towards your ranking as the third site is seen to link to you for no benefit for itself apart from that pointing to your site would benefit it's users - therefore deeming your site a worthy one. (I assume Google sees reciprocal linking as a 'You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours' sort of thing, however for the time being it is still fairly effective but three way linking is looking like the way forward)
Edit: (8th aug 2013)
Google is now frowning upon artificial links and will now penalise or disregard any unnatural links - the best way forward now is to create unique, interesting content that will get linked to on a social media level or from blogs or sites that genuinely want to point you out to their users - therefore google now looks closely at anchor text too to assess if it is paid or a natural link.

7) Adding descriptions to text and images:

Or 'Alt Tagging' as I call it. This is the effect you get when you hover over an image and some text pops up to describe what you are looking at or where it will take you or what it does, this is a useful way to add some nice keywords to your site whilst keeping your visitors well informed, you do this by using the alt="" or title="" tags but remember this is not an opportunity to stuff your site with an abundance of keywords - this is called keyword spamming and at it's worst can get you banned from the search engines
A good example is the link below (hover over it):
Business web design
Standing out froom the crowd

8) Linkbaiting:

I suppose this could be a sub-section from getting backlinks as that's ultimately what it achieves.
Firstly what is Linkbaiting? - this is a term coined for the process of getting people to link back to you without you really having to constantly approach people regularly telling them how good your site is and why they should exchange links with you - you don't imagine YouTube or Ebay sending friendly emails out to people asking them to kindly add a link to their site do you! Yet people still link to these sites in their thousands - the reason, well mainly because these sites offer a service that's so good people are more than happy to point visitors in their direction usually as a service to their customers, such as 'Click here to view this funny video' - you get the point.
Ok so how do you get people to 'want' to link to you?

Obvious answer really, you must stand out from the crowd by offering a service that few others or no-one else offers, or something that's so good or interesting or popular that people are happy to send their hard earned traffic your way - such as great flash games for free, interesting blogs, articles or newsfeeds, virals, tips and advice, a great new concept or idea and so on and so on...
Once you have something good you will find people happily link to your site as you have become an invaluable source of information or a great useful service for them and their visitors.

9) Stay sharp and watch who you link to!

This is an important one because as metioned in one of the previous sections bad practice can get you banned from the search engines, so if you are seen to be promoting the bad sites that have already been banned it doesn't make you look too good does it!
You can use the tool below to check this.
(remember what I said about link baiting - I'm linking to them because it's a useful tool for our visitors)
Check if a site is banned from Google

10) Focus your content:

Spreading content too thinly can deplete it's relevance for a certain term - example: If you have a page that tells your users the history of the Roman emperors and on the same page you go to tell them that your uncle owns a pig farm and you also like onion soup, and you may be selling shoes on your site in the near future - the relevance for any term simply shrinks, what may happen is you may actually get users coming to your site after typing in the term 'Roman soup' or 'shoes for pigs' OK - it's getting visitors but probably not for what you want. What would work better is if you have seperate pages with seperate titles, descriptions and content - this then makes each page a lot more relevant for its actual content increasing the chances of this page working it's way up the search engines and actually being found for what you want it to be.

11) (Bonus tip) - Dont get smart! - dont stuff your site:

I had to throw this in because there's always someone who thinks they can get one over on the search engines by stuffing their site with hundreds of keywords that are all at the very bottom of the site in the same colour text as the background or hidden using CSS so their visitors don't see this mess of keywords but the search engines do - DO NOT BOTHER - google and other main search engines check the font colour, size and even crafty CCS now so it's just not worth it - if Google sees your trying to fool it, it will naturally assume it's for a reason that is not good so will not look kindly on you. Also if a site user or a competitor spots something fishy they can report you and get you banned!- you have been warned.

Ok - that about sums up this article if you've got this far, thanks for reading - I hope this information is useful, it would be great if you could share it with your friends :)
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