GETTING your website to the top of the search engine rankings is “no longer something you can manipulate” by paying to be noticed, an expert told a Bournemouth event.

Jeremy McDonald, director of search engine optimisation (SEO) for 360i in London, said “writing good content” was the key to being found online.

“It used to be, seven or eight years ago, something you could manipulate,” he said.

He said buying links from editorial content used to be a way to improve a site’s position in search engine rankings.

“You could see the content you bought and the impact that would make. It’s no longer something you can really manipulate. It’s become part of a marketing plan,” he said.

Mr McDonald was speaking to the You Are the Media lunch club, hosted by Mark Masters of the ID Group at Media Lounge in Bournemouth.

The former Corfe Hills School pupil began his SEO career with Beetleweb in Poole, before moving to London to work for the agency iProspect.

He now leads a team of 13 people at 360i Europe, an agency whose clients include Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Eurostar, Converse and the National Lottery.

He said there had been a shift to “organic” traffic to sites – which was good for smaller businesses.

“You need to be writing good content,” he said.

This included having the right key words in URL addresses, the content of pages, the tags for images, page titles and meta-descriptions – the snippets in a page’s code that summarise the content.

“The thing you have to start with is, what’s the demand in your space? How do people search for relevant things?” he said.

He urged businesses to use commonly available tools to find out what search terms people were looking for in their fields.

“Understanding how people search for your product is the most important thing you’ll ever have,” he said.

“You have to find something that people search for around your product.”

He also spoke of the importance of having mobile-friendly websites, with Google introducing “mobile-first indexing” so that sites optimised for phones and tablets ranked higher.

“More than 50 per cent of searches are done on mobile. For some of our clients, we’re seeing more than 60 per cent of conversions are done with mobile,” he added.