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People often underestimate how big a part search engines can play in a website. Despite my best efforts, I often find clients wait until the site is launched and then start asking me about getting traffic from search engines. Other are surprised to find out that some people spend far more on search engine optimisation (SEO) than the design and build of the site itself. It’s a confusing subject to the newcomer so in the post I am to describe how to effectively use search engines to promote your website.

Do you need to rely on search engines?

First of all, search engine traffic is not for everyone. If you work in a highly competitive industry (mortgages or insurance for example) you’d be up against so many other websites you’d be better off exploring other marketing channels. You may also want a website that serves as a reference point and relies on getting traffic from people who are already aware of your business. If you fall into either of these categories you may not need search engines.

Forethought not afterthought

Contrary to popular a site should be built to be search engine friendly at its foundations; it’s not something you ‘plug’ in afterwards. The site’s contents and its structure are often dictated by the keywords you wish to be found under. So let your web designer know as soon as possible about any keywords before they start to design/build the site, not after.

Be careful of content management systems

Content management systems allow those without web design knowledge to update areas of the website yourself. A good content management system will only allow clients to update transient content such as news and events. Letting a client update pages that are meant to be optimised for search engines is never a good idea.

Be patient

Getting results from the search engines is a long term process; your site won’t start appearing on Google immediately. Once your new sites goes up leave all optimised pages as they are for at least three months and monitor their progress. One of the great search engines myths is that Google et al like frequently changing content. A page that changes all the time can make the search engines index the page more regularly but if you keep changing the keywords it will have a negative effect, not a positive one.

Be prepared to spend money to make money

Sometimes to get a really good result you need to spend money to make money. Some SEO campaigns may require you spend thousands per month. This makes people nervous but this is an exercise based on return on investment, not price. If you get a good return the price becomes irrelevant. A £100 per month project that make £50 is more expensive than a £5,000 per month project that makes £50,000.

I always ask clients what their expectations are as to search engines from the outset of the project. My ethos is usually to build the site to be search engine friendly as a matter of good practice (at no extra cost). I then recommend they leave the site for around three months to see how the site hatches out. It’s not uncommon for my clients’ sites to perform well without them spending a penny on search engine traffic. Of course, this approach doesn’t work for highly competitive keywords. Such projects require an ongoing link building campaign; in these cases I collaborate with a Leeds-based search engine company.

If you’d like to use the search engines to promote your website call me now on 07843 483 078 or get a free quote online.

Tim Bennett is a web designer and developer. He has a First Class Honours degree in Computing from Leeds Metropolitan University and currently runs his own one-man web design company, Texelate.