“Just Google it!” has become the standard response to any question posed in our modern age. It’s a simple action that involves a complex process. Without an effective search engine optimisation strategy, finding your website is like to trying to find a destination without directions – or a map.

SEO is a marketing technique that is used to increase the visibility of a website on search engines. In recent years, SEO has become synonymous with the elusive attempt to garner the number one position on Google’s search engine results page (SERP).

Google has made a point of updating its algorithm to prevent set SEO methodologies from being established but, there are still things you can do to make your website more search friendly.

How search engines work

Search engines essentially “crawl” websites using mathematical formulas, otherwise known as “search algorithms”. Website content is stored in index servers, which can be compared to the index at the back of a book – it tells you which pages contain the words that match the query.

When you Google something, the web server sends the query to index servers, and the query is then sent to the doc servers where the stored content is retrieved. Snippets are then generated to describe each result. This entire process happens in a fraction of a second.

A few years ago, a form of search engine marketing known as “Black Hat SEO” emerged, which focused primarily on keyword stuffing.

Essentially, this describes an unethical technique used to optimise a website’s rank on search engines by repeating keywords and meta tags. Unlike the days when keyword stuffing was rife, Google’s PageRank algorithm now analyses a website’s backlinks and assigns relative importance to the website based on the number of external pages that link back to it.

In other words, Google no longer gives good rankings to sites using the keyword stuffing technique. This is why relevant content is crucial for SEO purposes – external websites are far more likely to link to content of a high standard. If you are venturing into the unknown territory of SEO, here are three tactics to aid your website’s ranking on search engines.

1. Produce content that is worth sharing

In the field of SEO, content is still king. In fact, it is one of the most important factors for visitor retention and search engine crawling. Google’s Keyword Tool is an invaluable tool for SEO content creators but enthusiasts should beware of focusing all their attention on keywords to the detriment of their writing.

Good content has a way of spreading, because people like to share information that is valuable. If your content is useful, people will be inclined to share it on social networks, link to it in their blog posts and add it to their newsletters. This results in a brilliant chain reaction that can do wonders for your website SEO.

2. Ensure SEO-friendly website architecture

Much like the way you organise files and photographs on your computer by subfolders, grouping them according to date or theme, your website architecture should be organised for SEO purposes.

This is one of the more technical aspects of SEO, but it is certainly worth pursuing if you have a budget at your disposal. Your website’s sitemaps allow search bots to know which pages to index, the priority of pages and how often to index them.

Good site architecture is crucial if you want your website to rank well on search engines.

3. Utilise a link building strategy

Google assigns value to one page over another by analysing the quality and quantity of links pointing to a particular page, so using a solid link building strategy is crucial.

Some effective ways of increasing the amount of good-quality links to your website include partner linking, content distribution and listing on business directories. This is known as off-site SEO, and it remains one of the most effective ways to increase your website’s ranking.

Partner linking involves using your contacts and asking them to link back to your site in their content or under their resources section. Content distribution involves submitting articles to content distributors who then disseminate your articles through their networks, with links back to your website URL.

Navigating the SEO landscape can prove challenging at times, but the key is to persist and solicit advice when it is needed. At the end of the day, if consumers can find your website, they will be much more inclined to purchase your offerings.

The University of Cape Town Marketing short course and the University of Cape Town Internet Marketing short course are presented online throughout South Africa. For more information contact Anique on 021 447 7565 or anique@getsmarter.co.za.  Alternatively, visit www.GetSmarter.co.za.

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