Guide

Search engine optimisation (SEO)

Search engine optimisation dos and don'ts

Optimising sites for search isn't hard, but doing it well can be a challenge, especially if you're making changes to an existing website, rather than creating a new one. Make sure the search engine optimisation (SEO) tactic you use follow search engine guidelines

SEO dos

White hat SEO tactics are those that search engines recommend. The following steps will help your website become more search engine friendly.

  • Picking your target keywords. Use descriptive phrases rather than generic terms. Search engines are more likely to give sites offering 'organic Armagh apples' a higher rank than one offering just 'apples'.
  • Keyword Placement. Place keywords on your pages - generally the higher in the page, the better. Put keywords in the page title and introductory paragraphs. Keywords should also be used as part of sentences, but avoid 'keyword stuffing' - the practice of using keywords indiscriminately. For more details, see search engine optimisation: keyword strategy.
  • Simplify page layout. Complex layouts don't work well with search engine crawlers. If it's easy for a human to read, it'll be easy for a search engine to work with.
  • Attract incoming links. Good quality, relevant content brings in links from other sites. For more details, see  search engine optimisation: links strategy.

SEO don'ts

Activities which attempt to manipulate search engine rankings are known as 'black-hat' techniques. Attempting to use any of these techniques will make a website look bad, and may lead to your website being de-indexed by search engines.

The best way to avoid this is to remember that websites are for visitors rather than for search engines. Things to avoid include:

  • websites that automatically redirect visitors to pages
  • hidden text on pages
  • buying or selling links
  • blog comment spam
  • bait and switch – allowing content to get a good ranking for particular keyword and then changing it 
  • pages with nothing but keywords and links to other websites - eg link farms
  • content intended only for search engines
  • links from websites that replicate content belonging to other sites

Any attempts to trick either users or search engines are considered ‘back hat’ tactics.