Search engine optimisation (SEO for short) is the name we give to a broad range of techniques where the ultimate goal is to get your website listed higher in search engine results for a particular keyword or key phrase (or a bunch of them!) that are relevant to the products that you are selling.
There are two types of SEO:
i) Onsite optimisation where you optimise your actual website
ii) Offsite optimisation where you get other websites to link to you. Search engines count these links as votes for your site.
A quick introduction to onsite optimisation
Onsite optimisation is conducted by optimising your websites and making sure that search engines, when looking at your website, look at your website and see it in a 'favourable' light and find it particularly relevant to certain keywords/keyphrases.
A lot of this onsite optimisation is actually done automatically by our system. That's things like:
a) Making sure the website conforms to the latest coding standards
b) Making sure it loads quickly (search engines hate slow sites)
c) Making sure all the necessary, hidden, information is present in pages
But some of the stuff isn't done automatically. That's things like making sure that content you add contains keywords in the actual text. Search engines can then pick up on these keywords.
We've produced some articles on onsite optimisation that you can read here.
A quick introduction to offsite optimisation
Every link coming through to your website is treated as a sort of vote by search engines. Simply put, the more votes you have the more popular your site is seen as and so the higher up the rankings it will travel.
BUT, all votes are not equal. If you're selling shoes and you have a link from a car garage then it doesn't count for as much as if you have a link from a fashion blogger. So just going out and getting a load of links isn't the answer.
You need links from sites that are relevant to your site, and links from sites that are seen as trustworthy. Sometimes people setup special websites to just act as linking sites, so they host a whole bunch of links to other sites and nothing else. These techniques may work for a while but search engines soon catch on to them and punish those who use them.
There are other types of links too, such as 'social' links. These are links from social networking sites (like Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest). Search engines like these kind of links because they're seen as giving some kind of 'social authority' to a website. If a website has a lot of links from Facebook, search engines think it must be popular. But again, there are good links and bad links so there's not much point in paying $10 for 1000 links - search engines soon catch up with the latest trick and will punish you for it.
Getting help with offsite SEO
Offsite optimisation is quite a labour intensive service, it requires a lot of skill and work in order to get right so, depending on your skill level, it may not be something you can do by yourself. You may need to hire an SEO company - we'd advise that you only hire a company that can;
a) demonstrate that they have a high ranking their own website
b) demonstrate that they have had good success with their clients websites
For both of these you should make sure that the ranking that they have is for a worthwhile competitive keyword. Anybody can get a ranking for 'discount shoe shop in chipping sodbury' but a ranking for 'buy shoes' is much more difficult.