Search Engine Optimization Basics: Content

There are three key components of search engine optimization that should be considered in every search optimization effort: content, coding and external links.

This post is the first in a three part series that will examine each of these components in detail. The first and most important, content.

Optimized Content

Sometimes the end goal is lost in search engine optimization. The goal is to draw people to your site from the search engines. Optimization is only effective if people take the desired action once they reach your page.

I’ll use an example to illustrate. If you sell books on your website, the purpose of search engine optimization isn’t to get more people to visit your website, it’s to get more people to buy books on your website. Finding your site in a search engine is only the first step in the process.

This is why content is the most important factor. It impacts not only how search engines index your site but also if visitors will enjoy their visit to your site.

Step 1: Focus on the user experience

The content that you would naturally place on your site after evaluating the audience and goal(s) of your site is the best place to start. Consider mapping or outlining the general content and flow of your site to understand how a user would experience the site. Warning: this may involve soul searching and asking difficult questions.

Step2: Make a list of key words

This is where your true search engine optimization begins. In very broad terms, search engines work by reading all of the words on your site and storing those words in a database. Then, when a user types some of the words she is looking for into the search engine, it looks through its database to find the web pages that contain those same words. If you don’t have the words the user types in on your page then they will never find you (there are some exceptions to this, but it is true enough to use as a general assumption).

Your job is to think of the words or phrases that someone might type in to find your site in a search engine. Start by brainstorming all of the possible words and phrases. Once you have a fairly exhaustive list, start narrowing your list until you finalize on 10 to 15 of the best.

Step 3: Write your content

Now with the work that you’ve done in steps one and two you’re ready to start writing content. The important part of this process is to both write copy that is easily readable by visitors to your site and contains the keywords and phrases that you identified in step two.

This step also comes with a new vocabulary word, keyword density. This is the number of times one of your keywords appears on the page. For example if your bookstore page has the word “book” three times throughout your page, the keyword density for book is three.

Search engines will penalize you for having keywords too many times on a page. They assume that you’re trying to flood the page with keywords instead of providing quality content for users. A good rule of thumb is to keep your keyword density between three and six for each of the terms you’re targeting.

Stay Tuned

This ends our look at content optimization but stay tuned for part two and three when we’ll cover optimizing your code and external links.


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