Introduction to Search Engine Optimisation
However good your copywriting, a web page is only useful if people find it. This simple introduction explains the basics of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). Remember, this is a basic introduction and not a replacement for getting a professional to work for you. It’s intended for those who add news and information pages to their websites or blogs and want them to attract more web traffic.
Finding Web Pages and Getting Higher up Search Results
- People find web pages in 2 ways:
- from a link in a site, because of a good menu structure
- from typing something in a search box
- most searches are done on google (so focus on that first)
- google’s aim is to have one perfect answer to every search, not millions
- a page should relate to one subject – if you want to cover a lot in a summary, then each term referred to justifies its own page rather than a paragraph later in the same page
- in the above case, the ‘detail’ page has a link to the main one. A search finds the detail (which is google’s job), your links provide the context (the author’s job)
- google makes an index of a page based on the following, in order:
- page title (any reasonable content system allows you to specify this separately from the page name)
- page description – this does not appear on the page when displayed, it is the 160-character description you see in the results of a search
- page keywords – the most important words the author thinks people will type in a search box, in order to find your content
- content or web copy
- the first thing you need to do is decide what people will type in the search box, in order to find what you have written (see paragraph below)
- then write a page description and title, using these key words
- then write the headings – use the key words and not more creative headlines
- finally, write the copy
Searches and keywords
When someone types a word or phrase into a search box, this is called a keyword or key phrase. The author’s job is to anticipate what people will search for – remembering that by definition they are looking for information, therefore they may not use jargon or know technical terms.
Google has a tool to help you here https://adwords.google.com/o/Targeting/Explorer?__c=3524867104&__u=8379521344&ideaRequestType=KEYWORD_IDEAS (if the link fails, find it by searching for “adwords keywords”).
How it works
- you type in what you think people will search for in the ‘word or phrase’ box (i.e. your draft keywords) and click on ‘search’
- the screen will show the phrases google will look for in its index, in order of relevance, in a few columns
- the competition column indicates how many other sites are trying to get found – high competition means a load of search results
- the ‘local monthly searches’ column indicates how many searches with this phrase take place each month, in your country
The list will indicate what google interprets from your keyword, and how people would typically search. This is the most important part of writing a web page because it helps you decide on the most common, not the most precise searches. You can only educate people by starting where they do, so the fact that people may search in an imprecise way is your job to cope with!
A Worked Example
I entered ‘asbestos guidance’ in the search box.
- it has low competition and about 390 searches in the uk each month
- the most relevant phrase was ‘asbestos awareness’, getting 9,900 searches
- clicking on the top of the ‘local monthly searches’ column sorts it in order – the most searched for, relevant phrases are about health and safety – the first ones about asbestos then follow
From the 2 minutes spent on this keyword, I would be using the keywords ‘about asbestos, what is asbestos, asbestos removal, health and safety and asbestos survey’, all of which attract many more searches than the title I had in mind, asbestos guidance.
Conclusion to Copywriting for the Web
How ever well-written, a web page is useless until people find it. By considering what people will search for in general, you will be able to help google offer your page high up in a search. You then write your page taking the key words people understand, and educating them to the overall level of understanding that you want to deliver.
Expecting people to search for your jargon from the start is a guaranteed way of communicating with nobody.
Making the copy both engaging and attractive to a search engine is another skill, not part of this article.
Enjoy your writing.