SEO: how to get into Google's good books

SEO (search engine optimisation) is the art of getting Google to like you and approve of your website. I learnt all about it on a day course at Silicon Beach Training in Brighton by the personable Pat Kelly that I won in a competition. I thought I'd won some Top Trumps cards (and I did) but also won a course of my choice, so I chose SEO, something I knew little about except perhaps for the myths everyone knows, such as it's all down to the number of other sites linking to yours that will put you on the desirable page one of the search engine's results.

Before the course, I would have started this blog with something like 'Can you teach an old dog new tricks?' But one of the secrets I learnt was to put your primary keyword (in this case SEO) first both in your postings title and in the first paragraph of your body text - and preferably in your URL, file name of any image and its alt text too. But don't overdo it! Too many mentions of a keyword will alert Google's penguin and you'll be penalised if not blacklisted for daring to use cheating 'black hat' techniques. The idea is that you become not only popular but also authoritative. I won't give away any more secrets!

It's all common sense really. You need a well stuctured, W3-validating site, with compelling content! Publicise it on your Google+ page so it'll get indexed sharpish and Bob's your Uncle. One thing I need to sort out is that because I use masked web forwarding from my domains to my free hosting service, the tools Pat showed us how to use don't go directly to my sites. Not such an urgent problem in that they're so specialised I've never really had to think about SEO before, but that's a job for the future, as well as keeping my Google+ profile up-to-date. This blog covers all kinds of topics, so choosing the primary keyword is always going to be difficult.

I did get my compo Top Trumps cards in the end, and countless cups of tea, and whilst dreading going back to school at my age - and initially forgetting to bring my reading glasses - I thoroughly enjoyed it, as did I think the other seven participants. The last time I was in those offices on Gloucester Road, by the way, it was Joti's DTP bureau, where you could use a cutting-edge Mac SE to type up your CV and get it printed out pristinely by a laser printer - no internet back then, just expensive computers for hire. Seems so long ago!