This is the second article in our SEO series, which discusses the use of marketing and web design processes to optimize your WebPlus website for search engines. In this article we cover fine-tuning your keywords before you start, writing copy for your site, and how to format your text to improve search engine visibility. If you haven’t already, read our introduction to SEO to learn the first steps you need to take.
Research to finalise your keywords
You should get your keywords finalized before you write your site, or before you modify an existing site for SEO marketing purposes. Building on the many thoughts and plans discussed in our first SEO article, you can solidify your choices with some research. Google have some great tools to help with keyword analysis, but other search engines and SEO companies have similar offerings. Google encourages people to use their pay-per-click advertising services with free tools that can help you choose keywords to use in your site (or also in paid adverts). One example is the Keyword Tool.
If you start with a popular term that matches your products, services, your information, locale, group or club, the keyword tool will show you what search terms are associated with it. Above and beyond acting like a thesaurus, this will show realistic values for popularity amongst searchers and advertisers.
Using keywords in body text
Use your chosen keywords in your site to make them an integral part of what it is you have to say. Let your normal copywriting and your list of keywords work together like rum and coke, Fred and Ginger, so your style remains fluid for visitors but also helps search engines understand your site.
Your body text should not repeat keywords and phrases often, certainly avoiding using strings of keywords. If your text reads poorly and you’ve only used keywords to attract visitors rather than supply good information, your site will likely be penalised with lower ranking. Keep keyword usage below 5% of your copy, preferably closer to 1%. Text towards the top of your page can be considered more important than that further down. Make sure you focus on clear copywriting with a purpose that at least delivers what customers what customers would expect from your page, with the most useful information (related to your main marketing keywords) first. Try placing keywords within sentences near the start of your first paragraph, again somewhere in the middle of the page, and perhaps a third time towards the end if summarising your page.
Make sure the content is useful and original, not copied and pasted from other sites unless absolutely necessary: search engines index the date and time that content is first scanned, giving added weight to the originator’s site as their content crops up later elsewhere, in turn devaluing the site containing copied text. Proofread your site, spell check it, run through a grammar checker, check for correct use of upper case letters, apostrophes and homophones, and get other people to proof your copy too. Mistakes can sometimes alter the meaning, which would affect SEO, but more importantly they’ll just make you look bad. If it doesn’t detract from the look of your page, apply Strong or Emphasis text styles to keywords for added weight.
“Don’t be evil”
Avoid obvious “black hat” techniques like making lists of keywords somewhere on your page, perhaps hiding them from visitors by making them the same colour as the background. Search engines are always updating the intelligence of their automated site scanners (robots or bots) to help ensure that underhand tricks do not work in promoting a site. It’s their job to make sure that when a visitor searches for a site, the results are relevant to their needs. Your content should be good quality to keep visitors on your site so they don’t quickly return to their search results page for a better site (which will count against you).
Use keywords and key phrases in headings
In addition to the words you can see, search engine bots also scan your site’s underlying HTML code and can give weight to more important text styles, such as headings, so give priority to keywords when choosing the words and phrases for all your section headings while still being true to the purpose of each section. WebPlus generates all the HTML code for you, but you have an easy way to manage styles within WebPlus without any need to use or learn HTML coding.
Heading 1, Heading 2, and Heading 3 styles will appear as <H1>, <H2> and <H3> tags in the exported HTML code of your website, with Heading 1 being the largest and/or boldest, i.e. the most important.
Using Headings styles
With a text object selected, use the Styles tab to apply these heading styles. You can use the Style Palette to change how they look, or apply the style, modify its look to your taste, then choose Update Text Style from the Text menu. Updating a style affects all objects using it – that gives you a quick way to modify the look of lots of text objects in one go.
You can also apply <H1>, <H2> and <H3> tags to existing styles using the Paragraph dialog’s HTML section, but restrict this to just headings, not body text.
Keep text as text
Avoid using graphical styles for your headings if you want them to remain easily searchable. <H1>, <H2> and <H3> styles are for heading text only, not banners or graphical text. If your text has special effects applied it could be exported as a picture to maintain its look, but will no longer be a searchable heading.
The spice must flow!
In order to stay ahead of the crowd and keep your site refreshed by search engine bots, you should keep the good working coming, don’t leave your site static forever.
A blog is one way to keep adding fresh and useful content on a regular basis. You can achieve this by using the blog feature in WebPlus, by adding fresh content to pages and archiving older copy on another page, or by adding another blog to your site and including it within your site navigation (see Offsite links in Help for more info, but ideally all your content should be hosted with your site).
This gives you good opportunity to use keywords in context, without cheating, while providing useful information to your visitors and staying fresh with current trends. You should aim to improve your site for your customers or visitors, not just search engines, but bear search engines in mind when choosing your wording. Remember not to repeat yourself or your keywords for the sake of it, search engine bots are always getting smarter!
Monitor your ranking
We’ve mentioned a few times in this series of articles that Google and other search engines will update the intelligence of their ranking system to try and give web users the sites most relevant to their search terms, and these updates can down-rank incorrect use of SEO methods. If your site content is desireable, you are using keywords in a sensible way, and you’ve followed other SEO guidelines throughout our articles, your site’s popularity should grow. However, in trying to prevent people from bending the rules, search engines like Google can change their ranking system at any time and this can also adversely affect legitimate businesses and organizations. Monitor your ranking regularly, consider reading about recent changes from the likes of Google themselves or popular SEO forums, and if necessary adapt your keyword usage.
Read our next SEO article that discusses naming your site and pages, part of our series of articles that will help improve your search engine ranking. Subscribe to our blog for regular updates or visit www.serif.com/blog/tag/seo/ to see all related content.