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How to Optimize a Web Page for Search Engines

by AIMM MAITD

Optimizing a web page for the search engines involves working on both visible and invisible factors. The visible elements of your web page include all of those things that a visitor visiting your web page can ordinarily see with their web browser. This includes your images, headings and text. The invisible elements include the metadata contained within the head tags of your page, and these are normally only seen by search engine robots and web masters.

Optimizing a web page starts with researching keywords relevant to your page and then applying these keywords to both the visible and invisible elements of your web page. It is vital that you optimize each page individually and not treat all pages the same. Applying a blanket solution across your site will see you gain little to nothing in search engine visibility and attracting visitors to your website. Let's look first at selecting keywords, then move on to optimizing visible factors and end with optimizing invisible factors.

Selecting Keywords

  1. Do a keyword analysis to find the most effective keywords for the subject of your web page. Sign up for our web business e-coaching program and get a list of the available free keyword analysis tools. Keywords consisting of only one word will seldom be of benefit to you as single words, such as "flower" will have stiff competition amongst many other websites. Target key phrases consisting of two or more words, such as "flower arrangement" or "Seattle flower show".
  2. Select two, or at most, three keyword phrases to target on your web page. Your keywords should balance the demand for particular phrases with the supply from your competitors. So, for your key phrase, there needs to be a reasonable number of search engine searchers actually searching for that keyword (demand). At the same time, you will want to target keywords that are not also targeted by hordes of competing websites (supply).
  3. At the same time, take note and mark other keywords and phrases that may not be as significant but do draw some web enquiries. These you can place here and there on your web page to draw even more traffic to your page.

Visible Page Factors

  1. 4.
    Once you have selected your two or three key phrases, add them to your <H1> to <H6> headings. Put the key phrases as close as possible to the beginning of each heading. And ensure that your document is well structured with proper HTML headings.
  2. 5.
    Put your key phrases throughout your body text. Your main key phrases should appear at least three times in the body of your text. In addition, use semantic variances where possible. Semantic variances include, for example, "win", "winning" and "winner". When you write naturally, this will occur without you having to try.
  3. 6.
    Ensure that your key phrases occur within the first 50 words on your web page and within the last 50 words. If you are struggling to achieve this within the last 50 words, a good way to do this is to write a one or two sentence summary of your page. This is also a good place to put your "call to action" to your readers.
  4. 7.
    Bold each key phrase at least once within your body text. If this is proving difficult to do in a way that seems natural, an effective option is to bold the summary mentioned above.
  5. 8.
    Where you can, include hyperlinks to other relevant internal pages on your website. Include your key phrases in the anchor text of these hyperlinks, varying the text slightly for each link to a particular page. If you find it difficult to do this, one easy way is to include a section near the bottom of your web page that directs your readers to other relevant sections of your website.
  6. 9.
    For each image on your page, include your key phrases in each image's alt attribute. The words contained in the alt attribute show up in some browsers whenever your visitor mouses over the image. They are also displayed in the place of images for those browsers that show text only. Even though the words included in the alt attribute count for the search engines, make sure that the words also make sense to your visitor.
  7. 10.
    Now take those keywords and phrases that you identified earlier as being relevant to your subject but not as important as your primary key phrases. Where you can and where it seems natural, add these words and phrases to your body text. Doing this will attract traffic for search terms that you would not have otherwise had, and for no extra cost.
  8. 11.
    Pay close attention to the number of words appearing on your page. Optimally, your page will have somewhere between 300 and 1,300 words. Use your word processor's word count feature to count the number of words. Too few words and there will not be sufficient opportunity to repeat your key phrases. Too many words and your visitors will feel overwhelmed and search engines will end up not storing (caching) your entire page. For web readers, keep your sentences short and use bulleted points to list items.
  9. 12.
    Proof read your text and then proof read it again. Use automated spell and grammar checkers to their full extent. Any errors on your page will show your site as lacking in professionalism and will cost you.
  10. 13.
    Now look over your web page for readability. Get your friends, family or colleagues to read your page and provide you with feedback. You will need to balance readability with search engine optimization. The best copy is one that reads naturally whilst containing all the elements of good optimization.

That handles all of the visible on-page factors that your readers will see. Now let's move on to the invisible factors contained in your web page's metadata within the <head> tags.

Invisible Page Factors

  1. 14.
    Your <title> tag is the most important tag behind the scenes. Include your one or two most important key phrases in your Title tag. Avoid minor words, such as "a", "the", "in", and so on. And move your most important key phrase to the beginning. This means not putting your business name at the beginning, unless your business name is already a household name. Your Title tag will need to be somewhere between five and eight words in length.
  2. 15.
    Next, add your key phrases to the <description> meta tag. Once again, put your most important key phrases to the beginning. And do not pad out your Description meta tag with useless words. The search engines measure the frequency (how many times it occurs) and the weight (how close it is to the beginning) of the keywords in your head tags. Putting in extraneous words only serves to dilute the importance of your key phrases. Keep your Description tag to around 15 to 20 words.
  3. 16.
    Many search engines today do not use the <keywords> tag. However, for the little effort it takes to populate this tag, it is well worth the effort. As you read through your web page, simply copy and paste each key phrase you identify into the keywords tag. Separate each key phrase with a comma and a space. Do not repeat singular and plural forms of words. You may include within the keywords tag common misspellings of your keywords, however, the benefit of doing this is controversial. Keep the number of words within your keywords tag to fewer than 50.
  4. 17.
    Make sure that the Title tag and Description and Keyword meta tags are different for each page of your website, otherwise some pages will be marked as "duplicate content" and not returned in the search results.

Now just follow the same basic rules and guidelines discussed above to optimize the other pages of your website.

Copyright © Leslie Allan

About the Author
Leslie Allan

Leslie Allan is Managing Director of Business Performance Pty Ltd; a management consulting firm specializing in people and process capability. He has been assisting organizations for over 20 years, contributing in various roles as project manager, consultant and trainer for organizations large and small. For help with optimizing your web pages, contact Leslie at office@businessperform.com

Leslie Recommends
Managing Change in the Workplace

For practical help with your change program, check out Leslie's resource kit, Managing Change in the Workplace. His comprehensive guide is intended for everyone expected to lead, manage and implement change. Visit the Managing Change in the Workplace information portal to find out how to download the free Introductory Chapter and start using this practical change management guide and workbook today.

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