What SEO can I do myself?

There are two types of Search Engine Optimisation – on-site and off-site.

On-site requires a good knowledge of HTML (the ‘programming’ language used to define what a web page looks like) or, if your website is a bit more complicated then I’d suggest leaving well alone and either getting your designer to optimise it (if they know what they’re doing) or employing an SEO professional to do the work.

However, you can help with the off-site optimisation.  As you probably know, one of the criteria that Google uses to rate your website is the number of links that are pointing to your site, and it especially likes it if the links are from a relevant source.  Therefore, depending on how much time you have and how well connected you are in the business sector you operate, you can try to contact some of your colleagues, friends, associates, trade organisations, publications etc to see if they would be willing to link to your website.  Ideally they would just go ahead and do it, but they may well as for a ‘reciprocal’ link which means that they would like you to link back to them.  This isn’t a major problem but you have to consider a few things:

1. Google will devalue your site if you have lots of links pointing out to other sites

2. You’ll still need to make ‘on-site’ changes to your website, since you’ll have to add a link

3. Depending on how popular their website is, they get more benefit from a link from you than you will from them.  To check how popular their website is, you can use a tool called a PageRank checker.  PageRank is the number from 0-10 that denotes how popular your website is.  Generally, the more links you can get from a higher PageRank site, the better for you (although lower PageRank sites that are relevant to your business are desirable, and may even be more heavily rewarded by Google).  Here is a PageRank checker tool to try out http://pr.blogflux.com/. If their site has a higher PageRank then it’ll be worthwhile linking to them for the reciprocal link.

One other thing you might want to do to get more links to your website would be to register with some of the online web directories.  Don’t go crazy – try to register with higher PageRank sites and choose carefully, but selective registrations (I personally wouldn’t pay to register unless it looked like a good site – rumours abound that Google penalises those that pay for links also) can be beneficial.

So, as you can see, it’s a bit of a minefield – but there are steps that you can take to increase the rating of your website without employing an SEO consultant.  But be careful – you may end up penalising your site – if in doubt then walk away.

Gregor Spowart is a partner in Mass Media Design, a website design and Internet Marketing company based in Reading (Berkshire), Swindon (Wiltshire) and Cardiff.  Gregor is an SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) specialist.