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Web Site Search Engine Optimization

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Traffic is the life blood of the Web, and the big search engines are a, the, major source of traffic.

The big three search engines are Google, Yahoo! and MSN, with Google being dominant.

The aim of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is to adjust a site to get it to appear as highly as possible in the search engine rankings, ie as near as possible to the top of results list displayed for a given search. Ideally, a site should appear on the first page of displayed results (in the first 10) as few searchers bother to go to second and subsequent result pages.

Keyword selection

The first, and arguably most important step in optimisation is to decide which keywords to target.

Consider multi-word key terms consisting of 2 to 4 words. Be specific. Single words are likely to have too much competition and may be too unfocused.

Brainstorm your site and its concept. Put yourself in the shoes of a typical visitor you’d like to attract. What key terms might they type into a search box to find your site?

Research the demand for each of your candidate key terms. There’s no pint getting a top rank for something that nobody searches for. For an indication of search term demand See Google AdWords Keyword Tool.

Also check Google (or your chosen search engine) to see how many existing sites appear for each or your candidate key terms. The greater the number of existing sites, the harder it will be to get a top ranking. But look also at the quality of competitor sites. Many sites don’t use SEO techniques, so a little work in this area can yield impressive results.

It is advisable to use different key terms for each section, or even page, of your site. The Web is non-linear and visitors should be encouraged to enter at any page. Be sure to design a good navigation system and ensure every page links to your home page, current section home, and to each of your major sections. A site search box also adds value and can be provided free by Google’s AdSense program.

One primary key term should be chosen for each page, though a number of secondary phrases may also be targeted.

Where should key terms go?

Search engines give particular emphasis to key terms appearing within the <TITLE> and header <H1>, <H2>,… tags. Some sources also claim extra weight is given to body text shown in bold.

Meta tags appearing in the pages <HEAD> section are also significant. Some engines display the contents of the meta description tag on their results page, so it may help a potential visitor decide whether to click. The meat keywords tag isn’t used by all engines, but is still worth including for those that do.

Use key terms liberally, but naturally, in the page body text.

Learn from the competition

Study the highest ranking sites for your chosen key terms. See how they have used the terms.

Check the keyword density. Keyword density equals the number of times the search term appears on the page divided by the total number of words. The most successful sites will give an indication of the optimum keyword density for a particular engine. Too low a keyword density and the engine may not rank you highly for that phrase. Too high may appear as “keyword stuffing” (an attempt to cheat the engine by using a phrase an unnatural number of times. Note that keyword density is only one of many factors involved in determining ranking.


Keep experimenting. Make small incremental changes to just a portion of your site, and observe the changes in the rankings before rolling them out further or trying other changes.

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