Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the ongoing process of optimising a website to be found by search engines. Each search engine has its own algorithm for calculating how it returns its search results and well optimised websites will stand a better chance of ranking higher in search engine ranking pages (SERPs) than ones that are not as well optimised.
At the most basic level is the semantic HTML structure (underlying code) of your website. This requires that your web designer build your website using the appropriate HTML tags to signify relevant content to search engines. For example, in most cases, the title of any web page will most likely be wrapped in H1 tags (heading level 1). This indicates that this is the most important element on this particular page. When Google’s bots get round to spidering (indexing) your page, it then knows that this is the bit you want people to see in the SERPs.
There are hundreds of different factors that contribute to search engine optimisation, but it’s important to understand that nothing and nobody can guarantee you a certain spot in the SERPs. Search results are shifting and changing all the time, as are the algorithms search engines use to rank them.
Lots of people claim to be able to guarantee you a number one spot for a particular phrase or term. Though this may be possible for an undetermined amount of time, be aware that it can become an extremely costly practice to keep you there and is unlikely to be permanent. Lots of companies will charge hundreds and even thousands of pounds a month for SEO work, depending on the competitiveness of the area you are targeting.
The most important thing to remember about SEO is that while throwing money at it may result in higher rankings initially, if your content isn’t useful or interesting to anybody your visitors won’t stick. Content will always be king.