Optimizing Content to Improve Search Engine Positioning
By Andy Beal
Include your targeted search terms
So many times, I have seen web sites that fail to mention any of the search terms they are trying to achieve rankings for. They'll have lots of graphics and may also have good levels of text on the page, yet the company still fails to include the exact phrase that is important to them. For example, if you're trying to achieve rankings for the term "desktop computer supplies," make sure your content has that exact phrase present in it. It is of little benefit to say something along the lines of, "The best selection of accessories for your home computer" when trying to target "desktop computer supplies." While you may pick up points for having text that is on the same theme, you won't achieve your best search engine rankings unless you include liberal occurrences of the exact phrase you are trying to target.
Checking keyword density
Your next question is likely to be "How often should I mention each search term?" A well- optimized page should include at least 250 words of text. Within that text, aim to achieve between 5-15% frequency for the term you are trying to target. Not sure how to calculate search term frequency? Check out www.searchengineworld.com/cgi-bin/kwda.cgi, a great little tool that will show you the keyword density of each one, two and three-word phrases on any page within your web site. Make sure that you place your most important search terms in text located towards the top of your page and also try not to target more than 5 phrases within any block of text (the more phrases you try to target, the more text you need to achieve a high frequency).
Also look for opportunities to make links out of search terms located within your page text. In the example of "desktop computer supplies," consider making one of the occurrences of this phrase a hyperlink to the most relevant page within your website; it will give you a little push in your ranking efforts.
The impact of keyword proximity
If you're unable to include the exact phrase within your page text, which can often happen when the targeted search term is not used in the course of normal syntax, try at least to keep the words within close proximity. For example, you could use "Discounted supplies for desktop computers." While it is not as valuable as including the exact phrase, it at least contains the targeted words, albeit in a different order. The search engines, while preferring to display pages that match search terms exactly, have shown propensity to display web pages that have the targeted words within close proximity, if not the exact order they were searched.
Search terms should be pervasive
While the paragraphs of text within your web page offer the best opportunity to include search terms, make sure you don't miss the many other opportunities scattered among your content. For example, look at the text contained within the headings of each page and make sure they contain the most relevant search term for your content. Also, consider the navigation menu that you use and look for instances where you can include a relevant search term. How about the text you use under each product description? I've seen websites where the most dominant two-word phrase on a product page was "Sale Price." Ouch!
As you can see, the text you use on each page is vitally important when trying to achieve better search engine positioning. However, adding keywords to your content is not enough to get your web site to the coveted "#1" position. There are many other factors that need to be considered, including many that don't involve the content on the page, but as we are looking at the page content, here are a few quick tips:
- Don't bury your keyword-rich content at the bottom of the page. The search engines consider where the text is located on a page when determining your site's relevancy. Google will believe that text pushed to the bottom of your site, in a small font, can't be that relevant to your business.
- Don't overdo things. While having no search terms in your text is disastrous, having too many could have an equally negative impact. Stick to your 5-15% frequency.
- Remember the user experience. While your SEO efforts will help improve your search engine rankings, don't sacrifice the usability of your web site. Ensure that it is easy to navigate and that all of your keyword-rich text still makes sense to the average visitor.
- Add one or two targeted search terms to the ALT attribute of any image that links to another page within your website. Search engines have shown they consider ALT attribute text when the image contains a link to another page.
- Don't go overboard with the use of "H1" tags or bolded text. While they can help improve your search engine positioning, less is more.
Walk before you run
Hopefully, the above advice will assist you in modifying your most important pages to increase search engine visibility. When you feel you have made all the basic changes to the text of your site, you'll find many articles that discuss fine-tuning your page layout and content. Search engine optimization is a continued process and you'll no doubt drive yourself crazy if you try to optimize every single aspect of your web site. Simply remember to keep your site relevant and make sure you have covered all the basics before advancing to more complex techniques.
About the Author: Andy Beal is Vice President of Search Marketing for KeywordRanking.com and ProRanking.com, global leaders in professional search engine marketing. Highly respected as a source of search engine marketing advice, Andy has had articles published around the world and is a repeat speaker at Danny Sullivan's Search Engine Strategies conferences. Clients include Alaska Air, Peopleclick, Jos. A. Bank and NBC.
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