The last decade has seen a significant increase in consumers buying services and goods online and, in response, many companies have ploughed all of their efforts into search engine optimisation in a bid to improve where there website is ranked in search engine results. But, are they going about it in the right way and how can they be sure that an increased number of visitors are converted into customers?

SEO will sort it

Most existing or future customers will use a website as the first port of call to obtain information about any business, so first impressions count in terms of a website’s layout, design, content and usability. However, many organisations overlook this and are throwing money at SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) in the hope of getting their website to the top of the search engines. The main problem with this is that many people don’t understand the principles behind SEO and the importance of having high quality, relevant website content to achieve an increase in traffic and ultimately sales.

We’re seeing a spate of web marketing agencies touting the SEO buzz word, saying they’ll get more people to a company’s site, but then they fail to deliver the right content, break the rules by buying a number of unrelated domain names, dilute the user experience and fail to convert sufficient business. BMW went down this route a number of years ago when it used white copy on white pages to produce more content for the Google spiders to find, and was subsequently banned from Google. In addition, any company offering SEO cannot guarantee a number one ranking in Google or any of the search engines unless it’s paid for – but this isn’t natural SEO.

Using SEO sensibly

SEO should not be an “add on” service but integral to the design and build of any website. With this in mind, companies should steer clear of investing in SEO companies who write copy purely for the search engines with paragraphs crammed with an almost unintelligible repetition of key words. A website’s audience is its readers, not a search engine robot, so the content needs to be clear and engaging, not littered with keywords that don’t make sense.

Copy written just for search engines will get people to a website quickly, but they won’t stay unless they can engage and understand the content. The trick is to make the headlines appealing and intriguing, whilst also containing industry keywords.

Companies should also push their web developers/digital agencies to create more videos, images and relevant content that will attract more people to the site through search engines returning cross media searches. Developers can also make it easier for search engine robots to discover and index content by building the site foundations correctly, for instance, using semantic mark up, correct meta tags and headings and micro formats.

This will ensure the right people are visiting and spending on the site, without the need for expensive paid search that may produce instant results but won’t necessarily generate the number of sales a company expects in return for its SEO investment.

Good SEO is all in web design

The majority of SEO should fall under the common sense banner of web development and quality content. A website should have good copy, written without jargon with a human audience in mind and about a subject that people want to read. The old rule in advertising applies just as much to websites – the worse your product (in this instance, website content), the more advertising (Paid Search) you will need.

Usability, accessibility and search engine optimisation go hand in hand. The better built and considered your site is, the more accessible it is to everyone – humans and search engines alike. My advice to all businesses looking to increase hits and convert online business is – in the first instance, ensure your website is built properly and is search engine optimised, don’t waste money on an external SEO company, just fill your site with high quality content and your optimised site will attract the visitors you want. Once you know the site is optimised then work hard on Search Engine Marketing (social media, inbound links and paid for keywords).