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Search Engine Optimization

Provided your products or services are suitable for marketing or promoting on the web, professional Search Engine optimization is liable to be the most profitable investment you can make.

Let's say your unique selling point is that you provide fresh-caught fish to deprived areas such as Bearsden and Milngavie (near Glasgow). As a potential customer, I might type fresh fish bearsden into the Google search box. Because I didn't use quotation marks around "fresh fish," I get nearly 13,000 results.

In my peculiar case, being somewhat desperate, I might be quite happy to trawl through all 13,000 results to find what I'm looking for but, mostly, people will follow the links they find on the first or second pages. If your site has been properly optimized, it will have the potential to come up at or near the top of the first page. That's the theory.

SEO focuses, therefore, on the keywords (the search terms) that your customers might type in the hope of finding your site but the Search Engines have their own agenda and it's in understanding and anticipating that agenda that the real expertise lies.

Relevance and "Importance" Consider the problems facing the search engines. If Google fails to return pages that are really relevant to our searches we won't waste any time moving to a more reliable search engine. Google uses a complex algorithm to determine both the relevance of the page content to the keywords (the search terms) and its "importance" in the great scheme of things.

Broadly speaking, if the page text content is genuinely relevant to the page title, keywords, and description meta tags (which should be found near the top of every web page HTML code), then the page gets some brownie points. The "importance" of the page, however, is a more difficult thing for a machine to evaluate.

Google gets around this by making an assumption: if an important site such as, for example, NASA or the Whitehouse links to your site, you must have something interesting to say (actually, strike the Whitehouse; let's keep this on a more serious level... Disney.com). Likewise, if a very large number of indifferent sites are linking to yours, there must still be something there of general interest. Think on a bicycle wheel with the spokes radiating from the hub.  An important site is treated like the hub with its spokes representing the links to other sites, and to each site that it links, it transfers a small amount of its own "importence," it's own importance (or Page Rank) being determined by 1) the great number of sites which link to it 2) the importance of these sites.

Targetted Traffic If you can persuade a few important sites to place a link on one of their pages, pointing to your site, you will raise Google's opinion of the "importance" of your site, especially if you can persuade them to use your main keywords in the link. Any link on NASA leading to your fish shop "Mr Fillet's" is good but even better is a link which says "Fresh Fish Bearsden"  If you download the Google Toolbar, you will be able to see how Google ranks your site in terms of its importance but the most valuable indicator of your SEO success is the volume of targetted traffic you get, and that brings up another factor which matters so much more than you might realize: targetted traffic means not only that people are coming to your site but that they're coming for your product or service.  There is no point in optimizing your site for keywords which bring you huge traffic but not targetted traffic.

What Every Search Engine Wants In the early days of SEO, the phrase "Content is King" was coined and it's still true today. If your site has very little in the way of text content or if you have only a few inbound links, it will be difficult to achieve a good position in the Search Engines. SEO expertise, therefore, involves an understanding of what the search engines want.

At its best, good SEO doesn't try to trick the search engines into placing a false value upon a site. It "optimizes" the site's potential to be recognised by the machine in terms of both the site's intrinsic and extrinsic value so that, when I type "fresh fish" bearsden, Google helps me find what I want (and saves me the expense of moving house to Inverbervie which, incidentally, has one of the best fish and chip shops in Scotland so all options are still on the table).

Search Engine Optimization for e-commerce

Optimization of a static HTML page is a more direct and controlled business than that of bringing SEO to an e-commerce site simply because the pages on e-commerce and content management system web sites are not static; they're dynamically generated from content held within the database.

A Masonhost-installed e-commerce site comes with some SEO features implemented, as standard, such as search-engine-friendly URLs and dynamic meta tags, but it is good practice to have at least one professionally-optimized static html index page on the top level of your web site.

[The 'top level' web pages are those that do not reside within folders in your home directory. For example, www.masonhost.co.uk/index.html is a 'top level' page, whereas www.masonhost.co.uk/shop/index.html resides inside the shop folder.]

The top level page, being plain html (rather than dynamically generated from the database), can be designed with 'cleaner' html code and with a professionally arranged distribution of appropriately tagged keywords and links to pages within the cart.

Search Engine optimization is a specialist field and I would highly recommend budgeting for between at least £300 and £600 for professional SEO work. Assuming your products or services are suitable for marketing on the web, professional SEO is the most cost-effective investment that you can make.

Web site of Middle of the Road

Another recommendation, if you're serious about making your web site work for you, is to take an interest in SEO. SEO is not just a matter of paying for an expert to optimize a site then sitting back to reap the benefits. If you can make the time, it's something to which you, the site owner, can make an immense contribution, and on an ongoing basis. The first step is to acquire an understanding of the fundamentals and I can't think, offhand, on a better introduction to SEO than Google's own Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide. Assuming your site has been constructed for optimal SEO potential, you can continue to improve its pulling-power by acquiring more inbound links. As more sites link to yours, the potential for an increase in your site's Google Page Rank will increase while the possibility of cutting your company's advertising and marketing budget will become, increasingly, a reality.