Maximizing Natural Search
By engaging in solid search engine optimization strategies, you boost your site’s chances of appearing high up on the search results list. Showing up in a search results in this manner is referred to as “natural search”, because you have not purchased key words to influence your site’s chances of showing up.
So what are the strategies you can deploy to maximize your site’s chances of being found high up in a natural search?
Page titles and descriptions
According to Google, one of the best ways you can help their bots determine the relevance and content of your website is to give each and every page a unique and descriptive page title and description. Page titles and descriptions can be set in the <head> section at the top of your HTML page, as shown in below. Do not use the same title for each page.
(Note that while your page title can be more than 60 characters long, only the first 60 characters show up in Google search results.)
<html>Keywords and phrases
<title>Southern California High School Mountain Biking League</title>
<meta name=”description” content=”The Southern California High School Cycling League was organized
in 2008 to provide a well defined race season for high school (grades 9-12) student athletes and to
promote the formation of teams at public and private high schools.”>
Search engines also scan the text portion of a page to determine the page’s content. Therefore, you should research the kinds of keywords and phrases that customers use when thinking about your product and service, and sprinkle these into your site copy. Think beyond the obvious words. For example, if you sell chocolate gift baskets, users might find your site because they are searching for an “affordable gift”. It therefore makes sense to weave these types of phrases into the body copy and headlines of your page.
Search engines will also look at the frequency of keywords, or “keyword density” as it’s called. You must be careful, however, not to overdo it. Jamming a ton of keywords into your page content is known as “keyword stuffing” and is something search engine bots are watching out for. If the bots suspect your page is cheating by stuffing, the engine actually downgrades your page’s ranking.
HTML content markup
Another factor that search engines consider is the way you assign HTML tags to content. Search engine bots assume, for example, that a selection of copy marked with an <h1> tag is more important than a selection marked with <h3>. So, if you have an <h1> headline that reads “Dressage saddles for sale” and an <h3> headline that reads “Horse training,” the bots will determine that the focus of the page is more about saddles than training. Therefore if someone types in “horse training” your site will feature lower on the list than if someone typed in “dressage saddles”.
Keeping it fresh
Search engine algorithms are always trying to serve up the most recent and relevant content to users. Therefore, sites that have new content on a regular basis are thought to be more active and relevant than pages that haven’t changed much since the last time the bots crawled over them.
Image alt tags
Every graphic that you include in your page should have a descriptive alt attribute included in the <img> tag, as shown in above. Here is an opportunity for you to include more keywords, but you have to go easy. Screen readers will read the contents of alt tags aloud. If you have a lot of images with extensive alt tags, you are condemning users who rely on screen readers to sit through long vocalizations. Search engine bots will also monitor alt tags for keyword stuffing.
<img src=”images/painting_NorthShore.png” width=”932” height=”600” alt=”North Shore - original watercolor painting” />Read Next - Website Search Engine Optimization - Part 3
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