How do the search engines work?
Basically, the two main search engines Google and Yahoo search using specially written programs called spiders or bots (robots).
These spiders/bots read web pages, finding keywords and new data that they add to their index. The index is then sorted by various means (each search engine has its own secret formula) to create a list of results for any search criteria.
These criteria can involve previous search history by an individual and their location. Each search engine will produce different results.
In essence the search engines try to put themselves in the place of the user.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
In simple terms search engine optimisation is the process of improving the volume or quality of traffic to a website from search engines via unpaid search results.
How does it affect your club's website?
The earlier or higher a website appears in the search results list, the more visitors it will receive from the search engine.
You will know from your own experience that you work your way down the results page, sometimes you will go to page 2 and if you are really desperate you'll look at page 3. Then you will redefine what you are searching for.
How can I make sure we come first on the results page?
Google SEO Starter guide advises "you should base your optimisation decisions first and foremost on what is best for the visitors to your website". They go on to additionally caution that "Focusing too much on specific tweaks to gain ranking in the organic results of search engines may not deliver the desired results".
Yahoo notes that pages should be "designed primarily for humans, with search engine considerations a secondary concern"
MSN simply says "The best way to attract people to your website, and keep them coming back, is to fill your webpages with valuable content in which your target audience is interested."
The two most important factors which are essential for good ranking positions are website optimisation (content) and link building.
Link popularity is the main factor major search engines use to rank web sites. This makes link building an integral part of any effective search engine optimisation strategy.
A few simple recommendations
Firstly, secondly, thirdly, always, always... think of your reader!
Choose a title for each page that accurately and succinctly describes the content - try to keep within 6 words.
Use menu names that are logical and describe in one or two words the content.
Provide a description for images or new menu options, write a short succinct phrase describing the page or image.
When you are saving an image ready to upload to your website, take the opportunity to rename it to something that describes the image in one or two words - rather than uploading an image called DSC00234.jpg why not call it sailing-day.jpg? Make sure you add a fuller description in the ALT tag. Apart from the search engines preferring a proper name for an image it will make it much easier for you to identify an image in your library.
Introduce your website to the major search engines. They won't find you if you don't tell them that you exist.
Check your links - a dead end frustrates the reader and so it will frustrate spiders and bots.
Take every opportunity to update your website, add new information, tell people about a recent event and promote each new event. Regular fresh content is rewarded by visitor loyalty and search engine ranking.
Don't get too bogged down in SEO. If you always remember your reader and that they are just interested in what, where and when, you will be a long way to achieving a useful ranking.
Submit your website to popular search engines:
- Google - Has to be number one.
- Yahoo - Still widely used.
- Bing - was MSN - Number three.
- The Open Directory Project - The Open Directory Project is very important because it is a feeder for hundreds of search engines including the 'big three'.
- Submit Express - Free submission to several search engines and some useful tools for checking your website.