By Deborah Pearce
Search Engine Optimisation
Basically, Search Engine Optimisation or SEO as it's commonly known, is the art of getting your website as high as possible on search engines. Obviously the higher up the search engine listing your site appears, the more potential clients will view your site.
There are a huge number of SEO companies out there, some of which charge reasonable fees for optimising your site and some who don't. There are also companies who 'guarantee' they can get you to the top of the Google rankings (page listings). Please don't get fooled by this one, no-one can guarantee anything when it comes to Google and Nic relays a story in our DVD of how one such company approached her partner to say they could guarantee getting his site to the top of Google for their local town of Cheltenham. Now bearing in mind he has many tens of competitors in that area, as Nic pointed out, what are they saying to all the other companies they are no doubt phoning?
The criteria for optimising your site can change as and when Google changes its rules. However, as a rule of thumb the following guidelines are pretty static and can help elevate your site within Google and other search engine rankings:
You must have the website set up correctly with what are called 'meta tags'. Your website builder might have put these in place for you when building the site if you asked for the site to be optimised (Search Engine Optimisation). Meta tags are basically the key words that people search on, such as hypnotherapy or insomnia etc. These need to be placed within the back of the site under your meta headings. This is important so you need to ask your website builder if these are in place.
A catch 22 here, but the more visitors you get to your site, the more search engines like your site. So adverts, leaflets, business cards and word of mouth are all important to get people to your site.
In order to increase visitors it is recommended to create back links to your website. Back links are simply your website address appearing on other websites as a hyperlink to your site, a sort of sign post that once clicked on allows the visitor to arrive at your site.
If you register with online directories this will help drive traffic to your site and create the back-links which search engines like. So Google the name of your therapy and geographic area, e.g. 'hypnotherapy in Cirencester' and see what directories come up e.g. Natural Therapy for All; Cylex Business Directory etc.
Don't pay for directories, unless you know it's a reputable one (ask your colleagues if they use it/how many leads they get if you're unsure). Google will blacklist you if they see you paying for links as these can sometimes be link-farms which are now frowned upon.
The more popular the site that links through to your website, the more the search engines like your site. So if you can get links from reputable organisations such as your governing body or better still, someone as huge as the BBC then great!!!
Another way to create back links to your site and to encourage visitors is to issue press releases. If you send these into your local publications (all of them!!) then hopefully they'll load the press release onto their online website if they have one which then creates a back link. Even if they don't publish it online, they might publish it in the newspaper!
Make your site ripe with relevant information. Some people write their own articles for their websites, but don't fall into the trap of copying someone else's in its entirety as Google doesn't like this. You can always get a copywriter to produce something for you, but you'll still need to research what you want them to write. So look at competitor websites, see what sort of thing they're writing. Maybe copy and paste a couple of good paragraphs into a Word document and then change it round so it's in your style. If you look at Nic's site www.nicolagriffiths.co.uk you'll see there's a few articles that she's added over the years. This all helps with search engines but remember you don't have to do it all at once, small steps gradually adding bits and pieces are very beneficial.
Change your site
Following on from the last paragraph, if you add little and often this lets search engines know that your site is 'live' and not laying dormant. This is another big plus in your favour. Not every day or every week, but if you can slightly alter the text every 3 or 4 months then Google recognises this and that will encourage movement up the rankings.
Finally, search engines love visitors to your site from social media such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and now of course Google+. Don't over do it, you'll sink, but if you can get one of these off the ground (from a business perspective) then that will help. The importance of Social Media is in being 'Social' i.e. going onto other people's pages and interacting. It's going to take a bit of effort but believe us, it works!