Silverfen Web Design

Search engine optimisation

Search engines, such as Google, are very important to most people’s use of the internet. What has to happen to enable a web site to make the best use of search engines? Search engine optimisation is the collection of techniques used to do this.

People often talk of “Wanting my site to come up first on Google”. That sounds a natural desire, but begs the question of what someone was looking for on Google. The question rapidly turns into “What are the things someone would be looking for on Google, which mean I’d like them to end up on my site?”

Over the years there have been many rumours in the web design community about ways of tricking search engines — and many rumours of sites being dropped by search engines because they seemed to be trying to trick search engines. That is an unhelpful game of cat-and-mouse.

Search engines are ultimately trying to answer people’s questions. They look at what is actually on a web site, and at the sort of links that imply other people finding that web site useful. Rather than trying to trick them, it makes more sense to ensure that there is relevant information on a web site.

In many ways, this involves a web site focussing on the unique selling point(s) of the organisation it represents. Imagine the web site for a string quartet. If it aims to come first when someone types “string quartet” on google, then it is actually saying that it is in the same boat as every other string quartet in the world. Putting things on the web site which articulate why it is not the same as every other string quartet may not help it come first when someone simply types “string quartet”, but they will help it come up well when people type in things where it is different — which are likely to include repertoire, location and personnel.

Relevant written can help. If your web site is selling health foods and simply lists their names, it will only come up when people type the names. If instead there is material talking about the health benefits of those foods, then it will also come up when people ask about those benefits.

The computing aspects of web design can help as well: some techniques can have the undesired effect of hiding things from search engines. Java, Javascript and Flash are three powerful techniques which can make sites look good, but inappropriately used they can also hide things from search engines.

Search engine optimisation is not something to bolt onto a web site when it is finished: instead what’s needed is to take search engines into account from the start of the the creation of the web site, so that those people who will find a site helpful are helped to find it.