Search engine optimisation (SEO) is an extremely sophisticated art. Advising businesses on how to improve search rankings is a thriving industry. We've put together a basic guide to explain the tweaks and tricks small business owners can use with their website copy, structure and HTML to make their websites more visible on search engines.
Being smart with your keywords and phrases will help to optimise your website and allow Google, Yahoo and other search engines to recognise which search results you want it included in. Here is an introduction to writing for SEO.
1. Keyword density
Use your chosen keywords or phrases frequently in your copy - this will help search engines to work out how relevant your website is to the keywords. A word of caution, though: it's important to avoid keyword stuffing. Experts say your keyword density, or the amount of copy your keywords take up, should be around 2% - so two of every 100 words should be keywords.
2. Headings and H tags
Search engines place more emphasis on headings - the text which goes between the < H1 >, < H2 > and the < H3 > tags - and this is where you can really go to town without your copy starting to sound odd, so make sure your headings are keyword-heavy. Some experts suggest inserting extra headings into your website so you can include more keywords between header tags. This also has the extra advantage of making your website easier to scan-read.
3. Using keywords in links
Linking to other pages within your website will help to boost your rankings, as long as you use the keyword you are targeting on that page as your link text. Search engines like keywords to be near the top of the page, but links near the top of the page can be distracting to your users, so try removing their formatting to prevent readers from clicking on links before they reach the end of the page.
Making sure your website is well structured and well integrated will help the search engine to recognise your website as a relevant, reliable source of information, rather than just spam. Here's how to get to grips with the basics of optimising your website's structure.
1. Structure your website around keywords
Always try to keep to one or two keywords per page. If you have decided to target more, create separate pages for each - to use an example given to us by an expert, if you're a pet shop selling dog food, cat food and bird food, creating a landing page for each will enable you to separate your keywords. Don't forget to use keywords as close to the top of the page as possible.
2. Creating link paths
Links from one page to another help the search engine to index your website, creating 'paths' for it to follow. If you have a relatively simple website, you can link to each page of the website at the bottom, but if it's more complex, you need to work out your website's hierarchy so you link to each channel, for example, and within that to each section of the channel.
3. Creating a site map
A site map is a page containing text links to every part of your website, which is useful to both search engine bots and human visitors. The site map should have a link to every page and vice versa so the robots can work out how your website links together - but don't forget to make it easy to understand for your users.
Search engines such as Google and Yahoo use your site's HTML coding to help them decide how to rank your site. Here's how to use meta tags to boost your ranking.
1. Title tags
Title tags are often seen as the most important meta tags. The text you put between the title tags will become the clickable listing for your website on search engines, so try to make sure you've used your keyword at least once. Google will display up to 66 characters, so try to keep your title text short. Your title tags should look like this: < title >Your title text here
2. Keyword tags
While there is debate among SEO experts as to exactly how important keyword tags are after they were subject to widespread abuse in the early days of the internet, search engines still definitely place some importance on keywords, so make sure you include the tags at the top of your page. They should look like this: < meta name="keywords" content="your keyword here" / >.
3. Description tags
The text you place in the description tag will come up on most search engines as the text below the link to your page, so again, it's important you include your keywords in this. You should also ensure it has provided an accurate explanation of your website - but keep it below 160 characters, which is Google's limit. Your description tags should look like this: < meta name="description" content="Your description here." />.
4. Alt tags
This tag provides alternative text for images if they don't load, and helps visually impaired people navigating the internet using special software by providing a description of the image. Because search engines also can't 'see' the image, they use the Alt text to determine the subject of your images, and therefore your website - so try to include your keyword in Alt tags. Your Alt tags should look like this: < img src="yourimage.jpg" alt="Your alt text here" title="Your alt text here" >.