What is Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)?

Search Engine Optimisation or SEO is the current 'in thing' for web sites? So what is it and is it important?

Search Engine Optimisation is a series of tasks some of which only need to be done once through to an ongoing series of activities to position and maintain a brand within the search engine and social media 'universe'.

At a simple level every web site should be constructed so that it presents its public content to search engines in the most effective way to raise the site's profile. This involves both the content of the site and the coding of the site itself.

If you have an existing site then a first step is to use the W3C Validation Service on each page of your site - see our blog post "Quality Check Your Website using W3C". This will ensure that you can get you site's coding into the required form to suit search engines.

The second stage is to make sure that each page of your site has two key metatags in place. Metatags are hidden instructions which search engines read when they crawl or read and record your site's content. The two key metatags are the Title tag and the Description tag. There is a third tag that is more widely known, but is now not used by search engines such as Google and that is the keyword tag. Arguably you can now leave the keyword tag blank, but keywords can be useful for some site search tools and so are probably worth completing. The title and description metatags should accurately describe the content on each page. That means they need to be different on each page! If your site's tags simply say "My Company - the World's best widget manufacturer" on every page then the search engines will assume that every page is the same. Not a great outcome!

Another tip is to spell check your metatags as well as your site pages - you will be amazed how many sites have incorrect spelling of titles, descriptions and keywords metatags - because you don't normally see them!

The third stage involves making sure that every opportunity to reflect the site or individual page's content is taken in image tags and links around the site. This is more complex and needs you to be in charge of or have direct access to the site coding, but it is another important step.

The next stage is to use the tools provided by Google, Bing and the other search engines to submit your site to the search engines. You should produce and maintain an accurate site map of your site and then submit this each time the site changes. Systems such as the cleartarn content management system automatically produce site maps and also notify the search engines each day of your site content has changed. That way the search engines come back when required to recheck your site's content ensuring news and other important information gets listed as quickly as possible. If you want to check that your site does in fact have a site map then you should be able to see it if you type into the browser address bar the site address map extension. So for the www.cleartarn.com site you should enter www.cleartarn.com/sitemap.xml 

If the sitemap file exists then this will provide you with a list of the site's pages and the dates they were last modified. You should check that this is correct and that it includes all of the site's pages. For large sites the sitemap file may contain links to other subset files. For example if you check the sitemap for this site at cmsdemo.cleartarn.com/sitemap.xml you will see that it shows several further sitemap files containing the information for the pages in the content management system, news, blog and video systems. If your site is modified regularly then the site map needs to be updated with every change and ideally the search engines notified of the changes. Much better if this is done automatically.

These first steps should be standard on every website - but they are often not done properly, because they take time and are not immediately visible to the user.

The final stage is to use social media to integrate with your website content creating cross links to bring increased traffic to your site and business to your organisation. This is time consuming to establish, but once in place can be actively maintained relatively easily.

cleartarn offers all of these services to its clients. We set up the original websites correctly and ensure that clients understand how to add content whilst maximising the new content's visibility. For clients requiring an ongoing input we manage site content, news stories, videos and their social media platforms. We have an active policy of bringing new ideas and suggestions to clients to enable them to continually get the best from their website. The 'best' being that it should be generating business!

if you have any questions about the type of service cleartarn can offer, or how we could improve your website, please contact us.

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