SEO Guide Part 4: Building Your Web Site and its Pages to Maximise its Visibility to the Search Engines

By mslightam, 4 October, 2011

The best content and page rank in the world won’t do you any good in the search engine rankings if your sites content can’t be read by them. Unfortunately search engines can’t find the context of your site from images, they also don’t trust the tags behind images to tell the search engines what they pertain to as they have been used in the past in Black Hat techniques. So the only way to tell a search engine what your site pertains to and what search terms you would like to be found by is text based content. This includes your web site menu which should definitely be text not image based! This is why it is vital for your web site to contain a good amount of quality text based content which contains the search engine terms you would like to be referenced for.

If you’re in doubt that what your looking at is an image or text try selecting the text with your mouse (hold down the left button and drag the cursor over the text). If you can select the text, copy it out and paste it as editable text into word or similar it’s text not an image.

Every Page on Your Web Site Should Target Key Phrase or Search Term

Every page on your web site is an opportunity to target a specific search term you would like to be found in the search engines. Again using the context of a wedding photographer based in Surrey, their main page containing examples of their wedding photography and text about how they work might target the key phrase ‘wedding photographer surrey’. It’s worth putting a location as many web users search based on the location where they are looking for the service, you’re also then only competing with the small number of web sites in that location for that subject not the greater number of sites for that subject nationwide (this can be scaled up to nationwide –worldwide – don’t worry you’ll still get found on larger area searches once you have a high enough ranking).

So it’s easy to target a page when its content is straightforward to a key phrase. However it’s also worth making your other pages which are less obviously connectable to a key phrase have one. For instance our wedding photographers contact page might target the key phrase ‘wedding photographer surrey contact details’ and their links page might target ‘wedding planning surrey’ as people won’t search for a links page but might be searching for help on wedding planning if looking for a wedding photographer. The wedding planning page could also expand into that all important resource that drives traffic and links to the site – not bad for a page which may only have brought in a little page rank through reciprocal linking and that otherwise people may never have looked at.

Building a Web Page to Target a Key Phrase or Search Term

search engine optimisation SEO elements shown on web page

SEO Elements (Click to enlarge)

It is vitally important to build the structure of your web pages to include your key phrase or search term. Although you may not have built the web site there is a good chance you can edit these elements in your web site pages yourself using a tool such as Adobe Contribute or in WordPress or a similar CMS (content management system).

The screen grab to the right shows an example of the wedding planning page of our example wedding photographers and the positioning of the elements we are about to cover.

In order for optimum visibility and ranking of the page in the search engines the context of each of the text based page elements should match up with each other and with the key phrase / search term you are targeting in the search engines. In the case of this page that is ‘wedding planning in London and the South’ – so you’re aiming that when someone searches for this in a search engine your page will come back in the results.

Title Tag & File Naming

The title tag and file name are both back end components of your web page, the site user probably won’t pay them much attention but to the search engines they are important as when they reference your site they are the first thing that tells them the context of your web page. For the file name you can make this your search term separated by underscores, so:

wedding-planning-london-south (WordPress and many modern CMS’s will set this up automatically if you have ‘SEO friendly URL’s’ enabled, we can advise you on this if you get in touch).

It is also worth naming all the files on your site including the images with descriptive names, this will then pull traffic to your site via image search engines such as Google image search. A search engine user searching for an image of samples of wedding photography at the wedding location Syon Park for instance may find one of your images if it has been named:

wedding-photography-syon-park-group-shot.jpg (gif, png etc)

When they click on your image in an image search it will then pull them into your web site.

The same is true for any resource file on your site PDF’s, Doc’s, Excel spreadsheets, Power Point presentations etc. Give them descriptive names and think what a search engine user may type in order to find them and bring them to your site.

The title tag gives the search engines the main context for the page, it’s also what comes back first and is turned into the link to your page in the search engine results. In this case it is: Wedding Planning Help in London and the South  – West London Photography. This tells the user searching and the search engines the exact context of the page and the company (West London Photography) who are providing the information. The latter company name information isn’t essential for the ranking of the page.

You can set the title tag either using a product such as Dreamweaver to edit the text in the <TITLE> page title here </TITLE> tag at the top of the page, or when using Adobe Contribute by adding it either when you create a new page from a template or by clicking on the ‘page properties’ tag at the top right of Contribute when you have copied and saved a current site page to create a new page. If using a CMS such as WordPress it may build the title tag automatically for you from the main page heading, or you can use a plugin such as All in One SEO Pack to manually add one for each page.

Menu Item Name

Your menu should be built with text, remember search engines can only read text not images. The menu item link (and other links in your site to that page) to your web page should match the other page elements targeting your search term, obviously its not always practical to use the entire search term in a menu so here it is just the most important part of the term ‘wedding planning’ the search engine should already know the context of your sites location etc from the title tag and file name.

Main Page Heading (Heading 1)

The main page heading denoted in the code by the <h1> tag is the most important text based element on the page for the search engines and carries the most weight for the pages ranking on that term, it should match your title tag and the key phrase / search term you are targeting with that page.

Instances of Key Words / Search Terms

As a rule of thumb the more instances of the key phrase or search term you are targeting used in the page the better. However the optimum percentage of how often it is used in conjunction with the rest of the pages text should be around 5 – 8%. Any more than this and the search engines will think you are trying to bolster your ranking by writing bogus copy. Obviously if you write more copy for the page it should allow you to get more instances of the phrase / term in and still be in the 5 – 8% bracket.

Sub Headings (Heading 2,3,4 etc)

You can place further importance on copy in your page using sub headings, H2, H3 (heading 2 heading 3 in Dreamweaver / Contribute / WordPress etc) each of which can target sub topics of the key phrase / search term. However if you have enough content to make a separate page for that subject targeting its own key phrase / term that should rank better in the search engines. Pages created simply to bring in traffic based on a search term / phrases are often called ‘landing pages’ in web terminology.

Meta Tags

Meta tags are tags that contain hidden text in your web page relating to their content; they used to be crucial to search engines, however due to Black Hat techniques taking advantage of them their usefulness has almost been taken away completely. However they should still be filled out correctly for optimum referencing by the search engines.

Description Meta Tag

The description meta tag contains the text that the search engines bring back under the title tag which they convert to a link to your page when it is found in a search. Here’s a sample:

<meta name=”description” content=”Wedding photography services for weddings in London and the South from West London Photography”>

So when your page is found by someone typing in ‘wedding planning London’ it would be displayed in the following manner in the search engines:

Wedding Planning Help in London and the South  – West London Photography (your page title)

Wedding photography services for weddings in London and the South from West London Photography  (your page description)

Keyword Meta Tag

The keyword meta tag contains a list of keywords you would like to be found on in the search engines, the common view is this is now almost completely redundant. However it could contain:

<meta name=”keywords” content=”wedding photography, wedding photography London, wedding photography south, wedding planning, wedding venues, west London photography, wedding photographer London contact details”>

Alt Tags for Images

The image ‘alt’ tag is a hidden tag for each image which tells the search engines context of images, it also shows the text when the image is downloading or when you roll over the image. Its importance for search engines has again been eroded considerably by Black Hat techniques however it is still good practice to have them. In contribute you can edit the alt tag text for an image by selecting the image with your left mouse button then right clicking with your mouse on it and selecting ‘image properties’ when you are editing a page.

About the Author

Matt Slightam, Creative Director at Krome Design, has over 15 years’ experience in branding, graphic design and the web design industry. His ethos is for clean, simple and concise GUI design, always with an eye towards ease of use. He has a passion for brand building and a love for illustration, as with most of the Krome Design team he also believes firmly in the importance of a nice cup of tea and a slice of cake.

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