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In this course, search engine optimization (SEO) expert Peter Kent walks step-by-step through the process of reviewing the content and markup of an existing web site to improve its ranking in search engine results. This course offers a consultant's take on how to analyze each component—from keywords to content to code—and determine what improvements are necessary to become more visible to search engines like Yahoo!, Bing, and Google.
This course was updated on 10/12/2012.
Search engines need content, and that means text. This is a real frustration to many people, but it's a fact that search engines have a bias for text. You might have the world's best widget site, but if you don't have any text on your site, you probably won't rank well. It's true that the search engines also give a lot of weight to links from other sites pointing to your site. And in some cases, that can overcome a lack of text. We'll look at that in a later video. But if you're in a competitive business, if a lot of other sites are competing for the keywords you are after, then you need to do everything you can to compete, and that really means you really do need text.
We saw in an earlier video the problems with Flash, PDF, and images. Again, none of these things are bad things, but you must understand that if you use them as a substitute for text, you're hurting your search engine optimization. You have to give the search engines something to work with, something to index, and that means readable text-- not in images, not in PDF files, not in Flash, not in Word documents--text inside your HTML files. But there is more to it than that. The text must be the right kind, and must be formatted probably.
The first thing to remember is simple. Think keywords. Most sites are full of wasted opportunities, places where good keywords could have been used, but instead they turn up missing. Why have a heading that says Information when you can have a heading that says Information About Our Olive Oils? Don't say News, say Olive Oil News. Everyone who creates content for your web site must understand the keywords you're interested in. One trick is to print a page of keywords and pin it on the wall behind your computer monitor.
Glancing up now and then reminds you the golden rule, 'think keywords'. When you create headings, ask yourself, can I put keywords in here? When writing body text make sure you include keywords. Now, I do recognize that there is a balance here, that you can put so many keywords in, it really starts to sound clumsy, but it's rare to find a site that doesn't have plenty of keyword opportunities that can't add many, many more keywords without going too far. I'm sometimes asked what keyword density is necessary.
There are tools designed to measure a page's keyword density, telling you what percentage of the words on the page are made up with your keywords. People often worry that their site will be penalized by the search engines if they use too high a density. Search for the term 'keyword density' if you're interested in playing with these tools, but personally, I don't believe in them. My rule is simple. If it's sounds clumsy, you've gone too far. If it doesn't, you'll be okay with the search engines, and it'll sound okay to people reading the page. One of the best places to put keywords is in the h tags, h1 tags, heading tags.
These tell the search engines that the text is important. After all, you don't put irrelevant or incidental terms in headings, so the search engines have every reason to think headings contain significant terms. It's common these days for designers to format headings using CSS rather than H tags. Sometimes I run into designer who simply don't want to believe that it makes any difference to them. To them I say, Google says use h tags. I also often see lower-level h tags being used. The primary heading on the page may be formatted as an h2 or h3 tag for some reason.
I recommend that you use h1 tags for the primary heading and then h2s, possibly h3s, for lower-level headings. You can always use your style sheets to make the headings look any way you want to, of course. You'll want the keywords scattered within in the body text, too. Let's say you're optimizing a page for the phrase Olive Oil Face Cream. You'll want the phrase in the headings of course, but you'll also want to make sure the words appear in the body text a number of times. Don't just write 'our wonderful cream'; write 'a wonderful olive oil face cream'. You may also want, here and there, to stress the keywords in some way, include them in bulleted items, bold-text them, use the strong tag, italicize them.
Another place you can put keywords is the image alt attribute. For instance, if you have a picture of a pot of olive oil face cream, put the words 'olive oil face cream' into the image's alt attribute. As for the page's title tags, don't simply use the same tag over and over, make sure each one is different. By the way, you might also want to consider using keywords in image file names, and even image directory names, just as you do with page names. When I'm optimizing the page for a particular keyword phrase, I like to see the term perhaps 15 times or more, scattered throughout the page.
Of course, it depends how much content is on the page, and again, if it sounds clumsy, you've gone too far. A quick word of caution: don't stuff keywords. That is, don't throw dozens or hundreds of keywords into a component hoping to somehow scam search engines. It's likely to have the opposite effect and make the search engines ignore the component, or even the page. For instance, this tag is okay, but this is a problem. Page content then is all about keywords, getting enough keywords into our pages and in the right places to attract the attention of the search engines, but not to the degree that you annoy them.
So once again, when you're building page content, don't forget, it's all about keywords.
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