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Where’s Wally*? Or how your website gets found on the internet


Written by simon Geraghty.

Dublin holds the record for having the most Wally’s gathered in one spot at 3,500 (and for those of you who live outside the county, aka the Pale, less of the obvious jokes please!).  See: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Chnui_Jqxb8 . If you’ve ever wondered why finding your website on a search engine feels like trying to find the aforementioned beanpole in the stripy jumper on a packed beach look no further….

The modern day fountain of knowledge that is Wikipedia defines Search engine optimization (or SEO) as “the process of improving the visibility of a website or a web page in search via the “natural” or un-paid search results”. In layman’s terms, when I type a search word or phrase into my search engine (Google, Bing, Yahoo etc.) how close to the top of the page do I appear once I hit the Search button? It goes without saying that the closer to the top of this list you are the more clicks and enquiries your website is likely to get.

Everyone wants to be on page one of Google. I’ll outline how Search Engines operate at a high level; to go any deeper you’ll need to find someone with more letters after their name than I do. Search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo use little robots called spiders which literally crawl the web to feed their search results. So far very sci-fi, think one part the Matrix and two parts the Borg in Star Trek.

These search engine robots are more likely to rank factors such as:

  • Volume of incoming links from related websites
  • Volume and consistency of traffic and searches
  • Time spent on your site, page views, revisits and click-throughs.

Social media is now driving this optimisation and ignoring this fact will negate any other search engine optimisation work you are doing on your site.

According to Twitter 25% of all Tweets contain a URL, by publishing on social sites such as Twitter, you are encouraging your network to not only read your content, but also share the link with their network in the form of a re-Tweet. The more often your content is shared, the more you drive visits to your site, and the more your site gets linked to by other sites the higher your site is ranked by search engines.

The aim of your social media activity should be to draw visitors to the mother-ship, aka your main website, for more information. Social networking is about connecting with people and the main aim of SEO is to deliver targeted traffic. So if both are working in harmony, your site should begin to see rising numbers of interested and engaged visitors to it.

So how can I make my site more search engine friendly?

  1. Create a “fan page” for your business on Facebook and start Tweeting. Promote your current offers, deals and create special deals for those who find or follow you on these sites. Make it easy for your visitors to social bookmark your website, creating important links that the search engines value. There are plenty of free social bookmarking widgets available (see: http://brightpinkstudio.com/pinkink/2010/01/social-bookmarking-widgets/).
  2. Starting a blog on your site keeps your content fresh and up-date it so search engines will crawl back frequently
  3. Cross link pages on your website to provide more links to your most important pages to improve visibility for search engines
  4. Build frequently searched keywords or phrases into content, but don’t stuff your website with key words. Try to focus on the top 20 for your sector, better still if you can incorporate them into your URL, but hurry as availability for your sector is already limited! Adding the right keywords to a web page’s meta data, including the meta description  will tend to improve the relevancy of a site’s search listings leading to increased traffic.
  5. List your business on Google Places. This means your business will show up as a Google map search result and it carries a lot of weight for local searches.

A caveat to the all the above if neither Joe nor Josephine Public search for or talk about what you sell, no amount of SEO can help you rank higher or sell more.  If you are still looking for Wally he’s behind the couple in the bottom left of the picture…..

Let me know if this has been helpful in taking any of the mystery out of how search engines work?

* Otherwise known as Waldo in North America