SEO Strategies for Web Design - dummies

By Lisa Lopuck

When you use a search engine to look for websites, you’re actually searching through an index that the search engine keeps. This index is a giant database that is constantly refreshed. Search engines like Google use an army of bots (automatic search programs, also called spiders) to go out and scan the world’s web pages. The bots make a note of each site’s content (keywords) and, based on inbound and outbound links to that site, determine how important the site is relative to other similar sites. These factors determine where a website is listed in a search results page — on the first page, or pages back (where it won’t immediately catch the eye of the web-surfing user).

This detailed visual flow chart shows how the popular Google search engine works. [Credit: © P
Credit: © PPC Training, Inc.
This detailed visual flow chart shows how the popular Google search engine works.

Here’s a list of tactics to consider in your search strategy:

  • Keywords and phrases. Make a comprehensive list of all the words and phrases customers are likely to think of (such as vintage guitars) when they’re looking for a service or product like yours. Also sprinkle in specific words and phrases as well such as Pre-CBS Stratocasters that users are likely to search for. Make sure you utilize these words as much as possible throughout your website copy. If you use Google Analytics, the reports will show you what terms people searched for before clicking through to your site. This will help in your efforts to hone down the list of keywords that you integrate into your site.

  • Keyword density. Search engines will look at the frequency that your keywords and phrases occur throughout your pages and site — keyword density, in other words. The keyword density is a factor in determining a page’s relevance to a user’s search for these same terms. Be careful, however, to not overdo it. Keyword stuffing (as it’s called in the industry), the cramming of irrelevant keywords into every nook and cranny of your site, is not only not cool, but also a ploy that search engines are smart enough to sniff out — which can result in the lowering of your ranking.

  • Headline tags. Headline tags are used to structure a hierarchy within your page copy. For example, use the <h1> tag for all main top-level headlines. Use <h2> for sub headlines, and so on down the ranks to <h6> for the lowest level headline text. Search engines look at the content associated with each of these tags and assume that their level of importance corresponds to their h1-h6 tagging.

  • New content. Sites that always have fresh, new content are assumed to be more credible and relevant than stagnant sites that haven’t been touched in ages. (Keep in mind that in the high-speed online world ages can mean a day or two.)

  • Image alt tags. Every graphical image that you include in your web page can include an alt attribute inside the image tag. This is an opportunity for you to include a short, keyword-rich description. Go easy on these, however, because loading up on keywords can start Google’s alarm bells a-ringing and adversely affect your search ranking. Additionally, people with screen readers will have to sit through listening to <img alt> tags in addition to the regular content on the page. If you have a ton of text inside your <img alt> tags, the result can be a bad user experience — and no return visit.

  • Meta keywords. In addition to the meta description tag located in the <head> section of your HTML, you can add a meta keywords tag to enter a string of words and phrases that you think users will search for to find your site.

    Because these are behind-the-scenes elements that the site owners control, search engines often put a lower priority on them.