Search Engine Optimisation

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is an approach to web design that aims to position your web site as high as possible in search engine results pages (SERPs). Successful positioning is usually achieved by adhering to the guidelines of each search engine and ensuring that the web site is web standards compliant. However, it also requires a bit of intuition on the part of the web designer to be effective.

For example in the title of the web page we have used the words “Search Engine Optimisation”, and this is repeated in the main heading for the web page and again in the first paragraph. It is repeated once more in this paragraph. Therefore a search engine is likely to assume that this web page is about Search Engine Optimization. However, if you read the previous sentence carefully you may have noticed that we also sneaked in the Americanised spelling of the word optimisation and used a ‘z’ instead of an ‘s’. One of the first steps in optimising a web page is working out which keywords and search phrases are likely to be used with a search engine by your intended audience, including variations and misspellings. It usually helps to draw up a list before starting out with the process of writing the text for a web page. The list for this page might look something like this:

  • search engine optimisation (4)
  • search engine optimization (1)
  • search engine optimising (1)
  • optimisation (1)
  • optimising a web page (1)
  • optimising a web site (1)
  • optimising web pages (1)
  • how to optimise a web page (1)
  • search engine position (3)
  • search engine results pages (2)
  • search engine (3)
  • search engines (3)
  • keywords and search phrases (1)
  • keywords meta tag (1)
  • keywords meta tag (1)
  • description meta tag (1)
  • creating gateway pages (1)
  • improve serps (2)
  • serps (3)
  • seo (2)

We’ve italicised the above words when they are used on this page however the list isn’t exhaustive. Unfortunately just providing lists of words isn’t sufficient. Search engines attach lower priority to words in lists and prohibit ‘keyword stuffing’ so you can’t just list the words at the bottom of your web page and expect to improve your search engine position. But there’s nothing stopping you from writing what most people would call blurb - text that includes your keywords and meanders around the topic to include all the various phrases.

Keywords are then reverse engineered back out of the page (i.e. your original list) and placed into the Keywords Meta Tag. These Meta Tags are hidden in the web page and used by some search engines to identify the important words and phrases of each page. Many web designers now skip this step because search engines have stopped using them due to abuse but a few web services still use them so it makes sense to include them. The same keywords should also be used with links from other web pages, especially those from other highly ranked web sites and used as both the text that forms the link and within the alt tag label. Getting incoming links to your web site plays a large part in improving your overall search engine position. Keywords should also be included in the Description Meta Tag which is used by Google as the snippet of text shown underneath each web link unless more relevant text is quoted as an extract from the page. Search engine optimising is often an accumulation of small tweaks to the code of the page and any advantage available is worth taking.

Another relevant factor is the web address for the page including the filename of the page itself (in this case seo.php). The domain name is often used as a keyword hint which is why you can find domain names registered with lots of keywords in them. The choice of domain name is often determined at the outset and web hosting costs usually limit the impact of multiple registrations but having more than one web site is sometimes an option worth considering. For example we have registered for The Railway Consultancy to help them with their search engine position for the words ‘railway consultant’. It is usually quite straightforward to improve SERPs by optimising web pages from an existing site and setting them up with their own domain name. It is also a way of getting better value for money out of additional domain names that have been registered to protect an online identity especially since mirrored domains (domains that share the same content) are often amalgamated into one listing on search engine results pages. However creating gateway pages that are misleading for the purpose of attracting traffic on certain keywords may prompt a search engine to remove all your sites from their listings. It is not enough to know how to optimise a web page because you also need to know how to stay within the rules of the game.

Quotes does not offer search engine optimisation as a standalone service because it goes to the heart of how a web site should be designed in the first place. However we can take an existing site as a starting point and work our way through the web design process and use our skill in optimising a web site to improve SERPs.