There's no point forking out hundreds on a website or teaching yourself how to knock one up on the cheap if no one can find it. Most people will be looking for a business like yours through Google. It's the most popular website in the world. You need to know how to get your website listed on Google - and as near the front page of results as possible. This is what search engine optimisation (SEO) is - ensuring that search engines like Google find your website and put it near the top of search results.
First, you need to decide what your keywords are. Keywords are the words people will type into Google to find your site. A lot of these will be common sense. You can then check which ones you expect to work using Google's Keywords tool, which will also suggest other similar phrases and show you which phrases are the most popular.
You want phrases that are highly searched for, but have low competition. This will probably mean choosing ones that are not the most highly searched for but still get a fair amount of traffic. Choose about 10 for each page of your website if each page is selling or advertising different products. If you only offer one service, just focus on the same 10 throughout the website.
Meta data is words describing a web page that aren't visible when you're looking at the site but either Google or people searching on Google can see. It helps Google understand what your website is about. You can access it from your website's CMS or wherever you edit your content from. Ask your hosting company if you're unsure.
Your 'page title' and 'page description' are the bits that appear as results on Google. Make sure your title makes sense and has at least one keyword in it, and your company name. Don't go over 66 characters or it won't disply in full. So if you're a garden tools retailer, for example, try something like: 'Buy garden tools and cheap garden forks: Green Gardens' for your page title. The keywords are in bold. Then in the description underneath list even more keywords. Don't go over 159 characters. You also need to fill in meta tags - just put in five to 10 of your keywords.
Right, that's the complicated bit over. Now you just need to make sure the text on each page matches up with your keywords and meta data. Make sure any headings have keywords in and aim (very roughly!) for a density of about 2% keywords in text on the page. Make sure everything is in normal sentences, too - Google likes this. An extension of this is aiming to make sure you repeat the title of a page in the main text. So if your heading says 'Buy garden tools for less than £20', make sure you have a paragraph somewhere saying, 'We want to make gardening fun and easy, so here you can buy garden tools for less than £20'.
Google likes knowing that you're putting lots of new information up regularly, so either update offers on your homepage or start a blog that shows new titles on your homepage to keep things fresh.
The more other websites link to yours, the more Google trusts you, so the higher it will rank you in search results. Ask any relevant websites to link to yours (you'll be surprised at how obliging they are!). The bigger and more-used the website is, the more Google is impressed. So go for quality links, not just quantity. You can track how many sites are linking to you on Alexa.com. Set targets to improve this figure month by month.
Find out more from our advice on SEO.