If your website hasn’t been updated for years, if it has static content and pages full of old news, and if your customers aren’t visiting like they used to, you might be considering employing an expert to give it a new lease of life and attract those people searching for your product.

Sad computer

Tired old website?

But before you do that, it would be wise to invest a little time to understand how search works, what Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)  means, and some of the areas to include in your specification. Utilising SEO techniques has the potential to increase the ranking your website achieves with Google and other search engines.

“Organizations need to view SEO as a by-product of good website design that is part of an evolutionary organizational process, not an afterthought.” (Gudivada et al, 2015). But I know SEO is an after-thought for many company bosses who may be thinking about re-designing and updating their website for the first time.

There has been a boom in website creation since The Winehouse’s site was created in 2006. In February of that year there were 35 million active websites; ten years later there are 171 million (Netcraft web server survey, March 2016).

Netcraft survey

Netcraft server survey March 2016

These days the wealth of information widely blogged about or available on YouTube has unveiled the mysteries of web design, so that what was once a different language only understood by webmasters, is there for anyone to read about in lay terms. You certainly don’t need to be an HTML expert in order to understand the basics of good website design and get an idea of what the Googlebots are looking for on your website.

A good starting point is this video Maile Ohye video by Google’s Maile Ohye, which has some excellent advice for start-ups that transfers to re-design too. Maile recommends thinking about who your customer is, what they need from your website, content of your web pages, and navigation around the site.

My example website, The Winehouse, has target customers who are discerning wine-lovers, aged in their late twenties and older, and are likely to be professionals, self-employed or retired/semi-retired. Knowing your customer defines the content of your website’s pages and what you will include on each page to achieve that conversion – from a browser to a customer.

Keywords are the words and links that the search engine will scour your site for. The results of the search determine how near the top of the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) your website is placed. It is here that your page titles and content play the key role: the page titles might be embedded in your website’s code, but headlines can be changed, descriptions added and content updated regularly. This useful video on Google’s Search Ranking Tool explains how to check which keywords are working well, i.e. they are searchable and indexable. Include words in your content that, whilst properly describing your product, are the phrases that a customer might search on. These descriptions might become the snippets that Google displays in the search results:

Example of snippets

Example of snippets that Google displays for ‘The Winehouse’

Make sure your web pages contain a call to action – enticing the customer to look at a price list, take up an offer, fill in a form or read the latest blog. This video from Google (yes, them again) gives tips on how to keep customers on your website and make it easy for them to navigate your site, search for the things they are looking for, and find out how to contact you, too.

A site such as The Winehouse is very small, and for this reason the lovely Google people suggest submitting a site map, this will help those Googlebots find you. This pictorial representation of a basic site map shows how an e-commerce site might be laid out:

Site map

Basic site map for an e-commerce site

Source: Daniel Lv (2010)

As your site grows, you will want to consider using breadcrumbs for ease of navigation around the site. These are the horizontal trails that appear at the top of the web page you are viewing, like this:

Example of breadcrumbs

How Majestic uses breadcrumbs

They enable your visitors to find their way back to higher level pages, so is a vital tool to add if your site is hierarchical and growing!

The Googlebots like new content and they also like links to other websites – make sure your links are relevant and use descriptive anchor text for each link.

Updating your website needn’t mean starting from scratch, but there are basic things that should be addressed when a website is re-designed, and there are tools to help even the most technophobic business owner understand how to maximise their tired old websites. Use Google’s Search Console tool to check current your current website (you will need to be able to verify ownership first) or try out WooRank for similar, comprehensive results. This should give you a heads up on the areas to concentrate on initially – surely it makes sense to approach an expert with a good idea of what you require rather than pay for consultancy time; after all, you know your business (and your customers) best. Your SEO expert will be able to do all those techy things such as checking URLs and speeding up the loading of your pages, but you need to know what to ask for in the first place!


Boag, P. (2009). 10 techniques for an effective ‘call to action’. [Online] <https://boagworld.com/design/10-techniques-for-an-effective-call-to-action/> [Accessed 15th April 2016]

Google (2015). Build a website that delivers results. [Video] <https://youtu.be/AyXy9jY_QLQ> [Posted 13th May 2015. Accessed 27th March 2016]

Google (2016). Learn about site maps. [Online] <https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/156184?hl=en> [Accessed 25th March 2016]

Google (2016). What is Search Console? [Online] <https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/4559176?hl=en> [Accessed 15th April 2016]

Gube, J. (2009). Breadcrumbs in Web Design: Examples and Best Practices. [Online] <https://www.smashingmagazine.com/2009/03/breadcrumbs-in-web-design-examples-and-best-practices/> [Accessed 10th April 2016]

Gudivada, V. N., Rao, D. and Paris, J. (2015). Understanding Search-Engine Optimization. Computer. October 2015, vol. 48, issue 10, pp 43 – 52

Lv, D. (2010) Final Projects-Site map and Wireframes. [Online] <https://www.bing.com/images/search?q=+Image+Sitemap&view=detailv2&&id=20A3E572F4D7225962A10E36A8BD46C6EF8F11D8&selectedIndex=174&ccid=d7rDNtkc&simid=608021628947792010&thid=OIP.M77bac336d91c3179edaa0537aad6766co0&ajaxhist=0> [Accessed 10th April 2016]

Maileohye.com (2016). [Online] <http://maileohye.com/> [Accessed 15th April 2016]

Majestic Wine (2016) Champagne gifts. [Online] <https://www.majestic.co.uk/champagne-gifts> [Accessed 11th April 2016]

Netcraft (2016). Web server survey. [Online] <http://news.netcraft.com/archives/category/web-server-survey/> [Accessed 25th March 2016]

Ohye, M. (2012). SEO for startups in under 10 minutes. [Video] <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=El3IZFGERbM&nohtml5=False> [Posted 25th June 2012. Accessed 10th April 2016]

Red Revolution (2016). What is SEO? [Online] <https://www.redevolution.com/what-is-seo> [Accessed 15th April 2016]

Sexton, P. (2015). The Googlebot guide. [Online] <https://varvy.com/googlebot.html> [Accessed 15th April 2016]

Wall, A. (2008). Google Rank Checker Tool. [Video] <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X__ngJcrOYU> [Posted 31st March 2008. Accessed 25th March 2016]

Wall, M. (2016). Use Keyword rich descriptive Anchor text. [Online] <http://www.codefixersoftware.com/seo-articles/use-keyword-rich-descriptive-anchor-text/> [Accessed 15th April 2016]

Winehouse (2006). [Online] <http://www.thewinehouse.co.uk/> [Accessed repeatedly]

WooRank (2016). https://www.woorank.com/

Wordstream (2016). SERP 101: All About Search Engine Results Pages. [Online] <http://www.wordstream.com/serp> [Accessed 15th April 2016]

Yola (2013). What are keywords and why are they important? [Online] <https://www.yola.com/blog/what-are-keywords-and-why-are-they-important/> [Accessed 15th April 2016]

Other useful resources:

Clapperton, G. (2010) How can I build my own website? [Online] <http://www.bbc.co.uk/webwise/guides/building-websites> [Accessed 10th April 2016]

Google (2016). Build and submit a sitemap [Online] <https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/183668?hl=en&ref_topic=4581190> [Accessed 25th March 2016]

Google (2010). Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide [Online] <https://static.googleusercontent.com/media/www.google.com/en//webmasters/docs/search-engine-optimization-starter-guide.pdf> [Accessed 25th March 2016]

Google (2016). Understanding landing page experience. [Online] <https://support.google.com/adwords/answer/2404197> [Accessed 27th March 2016]

Google (2016). Webmaster Guidelines. [Online] <https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/35769> [Accessed 10th April 2016]

Wall, A. (2008). Is SEO worth the cost & effort? [Online] <http://www.seobook.com/seo-worth-effort> [Accessed 25th March 2016]