Natural SEO hints and tips for beginniners

A fellow web designer at a networking event once described natural search engine optimization as a 'Dark Art', and I really felt he summed up what I had suspected all along. Google are often cagey about what you can do to get to the top of their rankings, and not without reason - spammers will abuse any information they can get.

What should get you into number one position is providing a quality service or product for humans and a good website that is accessible to most visitors, and easy to read and use. Not stuffing the website full of keywords, building networks of pointless robot oriented directories and generally making sites which are unpleasant for human users.

However, there are some things you should be doing to take advantage of the search engine robots methods of figuring out the best time to display your site; because if you don't, even if you have the most beautiful site in the world, with childsplay navigation and heaps of free useful information - Google, Yahoo, ASK etc might not realise.

One of the most important things is the domain name. Using relevant keywords in picking your domain name makes a huge difference to how Google views your site. Some forums claim this is not the case, but research done by ourselves and other SEO experts offer evidence that keywords in the domain name have a big effect. Please note though - this does not mean you should abandon your company name and opt for a long string of keywords as your domain - it's all about balance. If you can get a domain name that contains keywords and still looks and sounds good to humans, great. But none of your SEO should sacrifice human users, or you're missing the point.

A second point of major importance is header tags: <>, <> etc. Google's robots use these to understand the content of the site. Try to make sure these are relevant and logically used, and contain keyword phrases where possible. The higher up the page, and the larger the header tag, the more importance Google will assign to it. Don't overdo it though, it's about relationships within your page. Put all of your text in header tags in an attempt to make Google think it's all important, and it will just dilute itself as Google will ignore all the header tags, taking you back to square one.

Another important factor is internal links. Make sure your links between pages include meaningful words and a logical structure. I.e. 'bookkeepingservices.html' is better than 'services.html' for obvious reasons.

That's enough to be getting on with for now. Add us to your feed reader and check back often for more web design hints and tips for an effective website.

Should I use music on my website?

Not unless you like making enemies.

Embedding music that automatically plays in your website is a fast way to irritate a huge chunk of your visitors, making them click the back button faster than you can say Arctic Monkeys.

Reason number one - lots of people surf the Internet at work, and the last thing they need is your music blaring out their speakers unexpectedly while the boss is chatting at the next desk. It's embarrasing and makes them look unprofessional.

Reason number two - many people are already listening to music while surfing the Net. So if your music starts playing over theirs, both sound awful.

Reason number three - what makes you think they like your music? Do you know your visitors that well, that you can be sure they have the same taste as you? And are in the mood for that choice at the time?

'But I give them a pause button!'
Even if there's a pause option, you'd better be sure your site really is special enough for them to take the time to search for an often fiddly cryptic little button, instead of just hitting the back button, which after all is huge and they already know where it is. Why bother when there's a million other sites out there?

The exception - if you're a band, you may have the closest thing to an excuse to having music playing automatically when someone hits your site, but in my opinion, it would still be better to confront them with a big play button, and give them the choice.

Arbitrary surveys of the individuals in my circles who use the Internet the most overwhelmingly suggest that they find automatically playing music intrusive, offensive and most will leave the site instantly on principle.

So, the negative effects far ourweigh the questionable benefits. You embed music in your website at your own risk.