By Andrew Philips, account director at Sequence digital marketing agency

Search Engine Optimisation or SEO, can seem like a scary concept to anyone approaching it for the first time, but in fact, it is a relatively straightforward process, which can be conducted in house with the right advice if you are just starting up.

In simple terms, SEO is the process of improving the visibility of a web site or page in search engines using natural or algorithmic search results. The higher up the page a site appears, the more visitors it will have in theory, which is why the ‘dark art’ of SEO, as some call it, has become so prolific in recent years.

The process of Search Engine Optimisation involves spending time researching, learning and improving your SEO processes, and there are plenty of on-line guides which will tell you how to go about it yourself. Google help is a great place to start for some simple pointers.
However, dependent of the amount of time and money you have available, you may wish to employ an SEO specialist to assist you with this.

Don’t be sucked in by any companies that tell you they can get you to the top of the Google rankings for a one-off £100 payment. This is simply not true, as the process is one which is ongoing, and requires more time and attention than a single transaction to maintain good rankings.

Also, never be tempted to employ an SEO agency which may use questionable or underhand SEO methods. Google is extremely stringent at checking things like ‘black hat’ SEO — embedding camouflaged keywords within the background colour of a homepage, and other commonly attempted tricks, and will detect these methods and send users right to the bottom of the rankings if detected.

Think of SEO as similar to car maintenance, you get in what you put in, and you can do it yourself, but you need to research the process properly to ensure you are doing it correctly.

As a general guide, if we are working with a client on SEO, we recommend choosing around five to ten key phrases, and we will then spend four or five hours a week optimising these phrases and making the home page ‘SEO friendly’. Working on word proliferation on a regular basis to optimise these phrases will keep the content fresh and prevent the site becoming stagnant and sliding down the rankings. As the common adage goes....content is king!

[b]Top Tips for SEO /b]

1)Identify the best keywords for your business and in turn, website

2)Analyse your competitors and what they are doing

3)Content is king, make it relevant and embed your keywords within the text. This should happen naturally and the keywords should not be shoehorned in

4)Optimise your page and browser titles

5)Optimise your page headings and sub-headings. Use correct web format H1s, then H2s etc

6)Use titles and ALT tags for embedded content (images, videos) so they can be indexed

7)Submit an XML sitemap to Google

8)Use 301 re-directs to reduce what search engines will perceive as duplicate content (same page, two URLs)

9)If redeveloping an existing website or launching a new one, ensure that 301 re-directs are used to direct old URLs to new URLs, otherwise the search engines will see dead links.

10)Begin to develop a link build strategy with partners around the web.