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Search engine logosOnce a website's created it needs to be 'tweaked' to maximise its exposure to potential visitors. Some of your visitors may find you because they've seen the site address on your marketing material, such as in a newspaper ad or on the back of a van, but search engines have the added potential to attract visitors from all over the world.

I often tell new clients that having a website's a bit like having a brochure in everyone's living room or office and getting it right with search engines simply ensures that you point people to it. Simply, however, is the wrong word because getting the best from search engines is a complicated business. But, if you break down any task into manageable pieces it's much easier to achieve. Here are Thisonly's golden search engine rules.

Rule One
Whatever you do, don't succumb to the ads and other approaches you'll receive guaranteeing a listing in thousands of search engines worldwide. Once you've a website address these people will seek you out and make impressive offers. Ignore them all because, actually, they can damage your chances (see also the importance of links).

Some are so-called link farms, where hundreds and hundreds of unrelated websites are listed just to build up links, which in themselves are important but which, if done wrongly, can lead to search engines penalising your site and removing it completely.

Don't even bother to reply to the emails in which these offers appear because many are also so-called 'spam harvesters' and, if you reply, they'll add your email address or sell it on to lists and you'll be bombarded with further offers for online medications, financial deals and lots more. More info on the importance of links and the perils of spam can be found in the help section index

Rule Two
If possible choose a domain name that reflects the kind of search term that visitors will use to find you. For example, Thisonly created a website for an Exeter area trader in firewood. Registering the domain name helped to ensure that anyone using the search term 'exeter logs' would find the site, which is currently the first unpaid for listing on Google. It's also ensured that he's selling loads more logs.

Google, incidentally, is the search engine used by the majority of people and the most important search engine upon which to focus your efforts.

Rule Three
GoogleAdd appropriate keywords to the site. As well as a good address, keywords are essential. Joan Kinnane's site is a good example. She is an architect in Cornwall and, rather than attracting visitors close to home she aimed for the whole county, thinking that there were hundreds of potential clients who might use the search term 'cornwall architect'. She was right and Thisonly added these keywords to her site in important places. As with Exeter Logs (see above), anyone using the search term 'cornwall architect' finds her site at the top of the list as the first unpaid for listing on Google.

Business for Exeter Logs and Joan Kinnane increased significantly as a result of their website's search engine positioning, so having a website can be the best outlay you'll ever make. Check out this page of the help section if you need convincing.

Rule Four
This isn't really a rule; rather something of which you need to be aware. Getting to the top of a Google listing is hard work and won't be achieved overnight. If your site is called or similar, you may be lucky because there won't be many other sites competing but for most sites it will take several weeks if not months to achieve a good position.
So, if this is a rule, it's be patient!

But please don't rely solely on Thisonly's thoughts
There's loads of stuff on the internet about search engine optimisation, so don't just take our word for it. Google the term and you'll find what other people have to say. Take some of it with a pinch of salt, some with a bucket load but in amongst the rubbish there is good stuff too. This page on Wikipedia is pretty reliable and informative. If you've any questions, just ask.