It is an incredibly common situation to find yourself in; you have created your first website and you are very proud of how it looks and what it does, you have lots of great information on it, or products to sell, but there is just one thing missing…visitors!
You are not alone, and all is not lost. What you require is a basic knowledge of search engine optimization, or SEO for short. SEO is a huge subject, which cannot be covered in detail in any one article, but I will highlight some of the most fundamental points that you need to be aware of in order to drive traffic to your website.
Unless you are prepared to pay for traffic to your website by using adverts on other websites and on search results pages, you need your website to show up in the results pages when someone uses a search engine. This is the only way to get a constant flow of visitors that you know are looking for what it is you can offer.
The best starting point is probably a rough overview of how search engines work, which will help you understand what it is you need to be doing to keep them happy. While you must understand that this is a drastic simplification, what a search engine such as Google does when someone searches for something, is along the following lines. It will sift through all the records it has of every web page it knows about, and see which ones are most relevant to the term being searched for. It then presents them in an order with the sites which it thinks are the most authoritative sources for that subject at the top.
What SEO involves, therefore, is doing the things that will let Google know what search terms your site is relevant to, and demonstrating that your site is an important and authoritative one on that subject. The slightly more complicated part is how exactly you do that! Google judges the importance or authority of a website to a large extent by looking at the number and type of other sites that have links to it. Google sees a link to your site as a vote of confidence in your website by other webmasters.
You can roughly divide SEO activities into two main areas. There are the things you do to your actual site, which you clearly have direct control over, and then the things you need to do which are off-site. Building links is the main off-site activity that you will need to engage in. As it is not possible to go into all aspects of SEO in one article, I will focus on link building as this is the main activity that will help your site rise up the search engine rankings.
Without lots of links from other sites to yours, your website will never appear at the top of the search engine results for any search phrase for which lots of other sites are competing. It is fair to say that if your site does not appear in the top thirty results of a search, it may as well not exist. In addition to that, I would say that the difference between being number ten and number one can make an enormous difference to the amount of traffic you get. A huge number of people do not look further than the top three results
All links are not equal, and links from other sites that Google does not think are important will not count for much. Neither will links from sites which are about a completely unrelated subject matter. By far the most useful links you can have are those that come from sites which are about the same subject as your own, and which Google already considers to be an authority on that subject. One good link is worth dozens of bad ones.
SEO is a vast subject, and the first thing you need to do is read up on it. It involves a lot of work to get your site to the top of the search results, but it can be done, and there are various useful tools available which can help to speed up the whole process and guide you through the steps you need to take.