Search engine optimisation is something you’ve no doubt heard about numerous times. Companies promising soaring ratings, high click-rates and a massive boost to your business are best approached with caution. Here are some things to keep in mind when it comes to the SEO basics.

Keep your goals realistic

We’ve lost count of the amount of people we’ve heard proclaim, ‘I want to be on the first page of Google!’

Now imagine if everyone could accomplish this with a little money – suddenly the web would be a useless mess of third-rate companies appearing before trusted suppliers. Know that it can take time and effort to climb the rankings, and you certainly shouldn’t expect big results in 24 hours. That’s just unrealistic.

Consider your content, keywords and URLs

The written word is a great friend to search engine optimization. Having a strong set of well-written paragraphs will do more for you than any of those self-proclaimed ‘guru’s’ every will. Know your message, be clear, be concise and work in relevant words where you can. Meta-keywords may not hold the sway they once did, but they’re still worth including for various reasons. A strong meta-description for each page is important however, so make sure your opening lines hit a home run. Also ensure that the URL for each page is in basic English and readable, uses hyphens and includes the keyword when possible.

Include images and outbound links

Google loves a mix of content and imagery. Ensure your images have alternate text and are titled appropriately. Outbound links to other sources are also known to help push your pages, as are inbound links as long as they aren’t ‘to and from’ one another. Tit-for-tat linking can actually cancel itself out thanks to the Google panda update. You can suffer the full wrath of the panda by including the exact same content in multiple places, so keep things unique on-site where possible or you might just get knocked down the rankings.

Verify your site with Webmaster Tools / Google Analytics

Your site will be ranked much quicker once it’s verified with Google. You can also do the same for other search engines such as Yahoo and Bing if you wish. Both Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics can give you an idea of traffic and how often your site is appearing in search engines (always a plus). This process involves adding a chunk of HTML or a meta tag to the back end of the site.

Make use of social media channels

Not only is it an idea to use social media as a means to promote your business, but there’s real value in every ‘like’ and ‘share’ you get too. What begins with you gets seen throughout a network, spreading the word even if it doesn’t translate into immediate sales. Set up a facebook page, a twitter account and get sharing. An especially effective (if time consuming) idea is to start blogging, allowing you to advertise, discuss ideas and share content across platforms in a way that avoids problems from the Google panda.

Free listings

This can take a while, but it will be worth it in the end. Although most listing directories have a paid-for service which will put you at the top of their searches, you can still do well for free by filling out some company info, adding a few images and making sure your contact details and website links are up-to-date. If you haven’t already, do a search for your local business listings and request to be added now!

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