A huge chunk of my life revolves round the Internet and its myriad of websites. And what’s fascinating is how you keep on learning about this online world, even when you think you are well informed. I’m into SEO, or search engine optimization, at the moment. It’s the process by which traffic to, and through, a site is increased without using direct advertising. And all brands need to know how to use it well.
It’s obvious that companies simply won’t advertise on sites which have a low number of page views. But these sites need help, desperately. So, how can they be helped? What they need is to be pushed up the pages of the search engines, so more people will visit them, and then, because they are at the top, hope this becomes self-fulfilling. That would be a win-win situation, and it is possible. But to get there, you need to use Search Engine Optimisation.
All brands trying to break into competitive markets and increase traffic to their sites should try to get their site listed on the top page of the search engines under their key search terms. Having your website on the top page puts you a mile ahead of the chasing pack.
It’s like the Premier League. Arsenal (and Manchester United, and more recently Chelsea) remain at (okay, or near) the top, season after season. This is partly because being there (and entering the Champion’s League, for example) increases their revenue. They can then keep investing more and so retain those high positions. The same applies to SEO. Those pages ranked at the top of the search engines gain higher amounts of traffic and that keeps them there.
This all sounds like common sense, and it is. But actually doing it – and doing it right – is crucial. Keywords need to be placed strategically on a website so that they are noticed by search engines – this is how they determine whether the website has genuinely relevant content focused around its key search term. For example, if you had a page about Arsenal Football club, then those three words “Arsenal”, “Football” and “Club” must be included within the content, page title and URL. This way search engines automatically pick them up and then know what your page is about.
But it’s not that simple. Every key search term has masses of competing terms on other websites all trying to reach the top too. To make your website stand out, you need to do more – and I believe that link building is absolutely essential.
Links are seen as ‘trust bands’ by search engines, and they use these to show that your site can be relied upon. Your website should be linked with highly ranked or ‘trusted’ sites because search engines will then assume that your site can be trusted too, and push it up the rankings. The more of these links you can build up, the better for your site, while if your website links to ‘unwholesome’ sites or sites which aren’t trusted by search engines, they won’t trust your site either.
It’s a bit like being at school: if the teachers trusted your group of friends, they trusted you too. But if they thought you hung out with a less appealing gang, they’d probably be less inclined to give you the benefit of the doubt.
Here at Halpern Cowan, we have specialists working on SEO, and are using them to excellent effect. For example, eighty percent of Supernanny’s pages have improved their position on Google since we started our intensive SEO work. Over half of the site’s pages now appear in the top 40.
But while the results can be remarkable, I’m not recommending simply packing keywords in. For your site’s ranking to rise, keywords must be inserted strategically and with caution. Too many and your page will appear as spam. Too little and it will not be recognized. But get it just right and your website’s fortunes can be transformed.