On Top of the Web
by Jules Kay
Have you ever wondered why is is that you find certain websites and not others when you do a search? Even if your search criteria is quite narrow, the number of possible websites on offer is vast, so how do search engines like google decide which ones to list on the first page? The answer is not luck, it's SEO.
Search Engine Optimisation is one aspect of online business that has developed almost as fast as the web itself. Engines like Google, which now accounts for around 70% of all searches, work hard to provide the most accurate, useful websites that match your criteria, but with so much competition out there that's not an easy task. Not so long ago, the name of a website was the primary source for search engines, and although this still has a bearing on where they end up in the google list, there is now a whole host of factors that come in to play when people perform the simple task of searching the web.
Adding key words was one of the first tools that web designers developed to help their clients get seen online. By adding relevant words in the website code, they were able to increase traffic to the site and the more they added, the more it worked. But Google soon realised this was damaging the quality of information they provided because anyone could add these keywords behind their website, no matter how useful the actual content was to the end user. In a stoke of moral and commercial genius, they began dropping websites that relied too heavily on key words down the list, and then introduced their own, paid for keyword packages, highlighting companies as advertisers above and to the right of the main search listings. But web users soon caught on that by clicking these new links, they were basically choosing an advertisement rather than simply looking for information, which opened the flood gates for what is now often called Organic SEO.
Organic SEO is all about real information. Whether it is text, images, video or even maps, the more valuable and fresh the content included in a website, the more chance it has of finding the holy grail - Page One. If you take quite a specific example, say 'Weddings in Thailand', you will see that most of the sites on the first page contain the actual term (or part of it) in their domain name, but you will also find the sites themselves include plenty of information and free advice regarding the topic, with pictures, videos, testimonials and links to other sites that might help you in your online research (see www.thesignatureweddings.com). This shows that valuable content is king when it comes to Search Engine Optimisation, and Google's incredible success is testament to their commitment to providing it.
But content alone is still not enough when it comes to the technical complexities of the world wide web. Even if a site boasts a stunning design with plenty of interesting text and nice photos. This must also be optimised in order for the search engines to recognise it. What's more, the information has to be updated regularly to keep visitors informed of the latest developments and information. Links are also very important as they connect websites with similar themes and offer users a broader spectrum of sources for the information they see. You Tube videos have also recently become a major factor in search engine optimisation and it's not hard to see why.
If you take the above example of weddings. What better way to plan your special day than by viewing someone else's online before you decide. "A lot people still think SEO is just an added extra for their website," explains Mark Currie from Deckchair Asia Ltd, a specialist in the field of Organic SEO who has helped a number of companies in Asia and UK make page one. "If you don't focus on fresh, quality content and have it optimised by a professional, your wonderful, all-singing, all-dancing website my only be seen by a fraction of its potential visitors online."