This article is an example of how to properly optimize your website’s content for ranking in search engines.
The content of the article provides a thorough overview of what is most important when optimizing articles and posts for search engines. At the same time, the article is constructed to be as SEO friendly as possible and uses itself as an example for the SEO concepts discussed.
There are many factors that contribute to successful search engine optimization (SEO) and, although some of the individual SEO techniques and concepts may seem minute, as a whole they can add up to a world of difference when it comes to making your content visible to the online community.
Important Factors of Search Engine Optimization
- Post / article title
- Article description / excerpt
- Headers (H2, H3 and H4 tags within a post)
- Image alt and title tags
- Bold terms and bulleted lists
- Keyword density
- Inbound and outbound links
1. Creating a post / article title that is optimized for search engines
The title of your article or blog post is the most important factor when trying to optimize your content for ranking at the top of search results.
The title of your post is the first thing that search engines see when indexing your content and it is the first thing that users see when deciding whether or not to click through to your website.
It is important to perform proper keyword and key phrase research prior to deciding on what the title of your post should be.
Obviously you want a title that is related to the content of your post but sometimes, small changes in the order of the words in your title or using certain synonyms can be the difference between search engine visibility and being buried by the competition.
It is important to remember that words closest to the beginning of your post title (closest to the left) will rank higher than words towards the end (farther to the right) of your title.
If you look at the title of this article, for example, “Search Engine Optimization” is listed as the first phrase in the title because I feel it is the most important phrase in regards to what this article is about.
The phrase “Example Article” is also important but not as important. If I had reversed the order of the words in the title to “Example Article – Search Engine Optimization“, I would probably rank in some searches for example articles of something other than SEO. I may rank in search results of people searching for example resumes, cover letters, newspaper articles, etc. All of these searches would have been performed by people outside of my target audience.
At the same time, because the phrase “Search Engine Optimization” would be farther to the right in my article title, I would rank in less search results related to SEO. Even if somebody is not specifically searching for an example article related to SEO, if they are searching for SEO in general, this may be an article that they would find useful. Therefore, I want SEO as the first part of my article and “Example Article” as the second part.
In many cases, it can be helpful to try and list the primary topic of your article as the first part of the title and then the secondary or sub-topic of your article as the second part of the title.
2. Optimizing the excerpt or meta description of an article for search engines
The question of whether or not a meta description is important to search engine ranking has been discussed time and time again over the years.
It is safe to say that meta descriptions don’t affect search engine ranking nearly as much as they did in the old days but they definitely still have an affect.
Google, for example, generally shows an article’s meta description right beneath the title of an article in search results. This occurrence tells us two things:
- Google’s search engine robots look at meta descriptions, index meta descriptions and, therefore, must use meta descriptions as part of their overall ranking algorithm.
- Users looking at search results in Google see your article’s meta description and, therefore, meta descriptions play a big psychological part in whether or not your article is actually clicked on.
That being said, using meta descriptions in your articles is important. You should make sure that your meta description describes the overall message of the article. It is almost important to include some keywords in the meta description but, of course, make sure that you’re not doing any keyword stuffing!
See Also: Easy SEO Tips for Your Blog
I try to make my meta descriptions short, sweet and detailed. For example, the meta description for this article is as follows:
“A search engine optimization (SEO) example article that provides a sample of how to implement the most important aspects of SEO.”
You will notice that I basically repeat the title of the article as the first part of the meta description. Although this is not always the best way to compose your descriptions, often times it is and has worked well for me thus far.
3. Taking advantage of article headers when implementing SEO strategies
Article headers are one of the most important search engine ranking factors aside from the title of an article. Headers are denoted in html by the h1, h2, h3, etc. tags and, depending on your css, show up in your article in a larger font size than the body of your content.
Headers are used to separate main ideas within an article. Using this article as an example, I used an H2 tag for the heading at the top of the article, “Important Factors of Search Engine Optimization” and then H3 tags at the top of each additional subsection. The H3 header for this section is, “Taking advantage of article headers when implementing SEO strategies“.
If I were to have an additional subtopic in this section, I would separate it by using an H4 tag.
Headers are also important to the people reading your article. They provide “scroll points” for readers of your content and make the article less daunting by breaking it up into manageable sections.
In the same way that headers allow visitors to more easily see how your content is structured, they also allow search engine robots to see the structure and hierarchy of your content. Headers are very important to having success with SEO so use them when applicable.
4. Proper configuration of image alt and title tags for SEO purposes
When you embed an image in an article or post, you have the option of providing that image with an “alt tag” and a “title tag”.
The alt tag is what will be displayed if, for some reason, your image cannot be rendered. The title tag gives search engines a basic description of what your image is because, at this point, search engines cannot yet accurately see an image and visually recognize what it is. Although I believe this will be possible in the future, right now, the only thing search engines know about your images is what the alt and title tags tell them.
It is also important that you actually name the file something that is descriptive of what the actual image is. I cannot tell you how many times I see images embedded in websites that have a file name like “0092747392.jpg“.
This is not only confusing for you as a webmaster but it is also confusing for search engines. If you take a look at the image at the top of this article you will see that is has the following characteristics:
- File Name: search-engine-optimization-example-article.jpg
- ALT Tag: Search Engine Optimization Example Article
- Title Tag: Search Engine Optimization Example Article
You may notice that the file name, alt tag and title tag for this image are basically the same. I generally tend to keep these elements the same but it may not be the case for all situations.
There is a great article on Search Engine Journal that covers everything you need to know about optimizing your images for SEO so you should definitely check it out!
5. Using boldfaced terms and bulleted lists for SEO purposes
It can be argued whether or not bold terms and items within a bulleted list are actually considered by search engines when ranking articles. Some sources say that they have a slight effect on ranking algorithms while other sources say they do not.
One thing is certain however. Using lists and bolded text definitely makes an article easier to read from a human standpoint which may help your overall retention rate.
At the same time, it is quite evident that search engines are attempting to display the most relevant search results for their human users and, even if lists and boldface terms are not currently considered in ranking algorithms, they very well may be considered in the future.
So, to be safe and to make things easier on your readers, use bold text and bulleted lists whenever it makes sense in the context of your article.
6. Making use of suggested keyword density when writing for search engines
Keyword density is a very important factor for search engine algorithms when ranking articles and posts.
In the old days, the more of a particular keyword you had on a page, the higher the page ranked – regardless of whether or not the article or post actually conveyed an idea.
Because of that, people would simply repeat the same keyword or key phrase over and over again without worrying about the context that the actual keyword was used in. This method of SEO is known as “keyword stuffing” and search engines quickly changed their algorithms to penalize keyword stuffers instead of reward them.
SEOmoz offers a tool that can be used to analyze the keyword density and overall keyword optimization on a particular article. Although this tool can be used for free as a 30 day trial, to use it indefinitely you must pay a fee.
Some experts say that a certain percentage of words within your article should consist of the keyword you’re trying to rank for. I’ve heard experts suggest different percentages from 6% up to 15%.
The most common recommendation when it comes to keyword density is to write for human readers instead of for search engine ranking algorithms. I completely agree with this idea.
As I mentioned earlier, search engines are doing their best to rank articles based on how well they solve a problem for the human reader. With that in mind, the more you write your articles for humans, the better off you will be in the long run of search engine optimization.
One strategy I try to use that works for both human and robot readers is to use synonyms as much as possible. This makes your article more interesting for humans and also allows you to rank for more keywords and key phrases in search engines.
7. Inbound and outbound links and their affect on SEO
You knew we would finally get to this topic didn’t you? This is probably the most discussed and controversial topic regarding search engine optimization.
Until very recently – and I mean in the last 12 months or so – it was always assumed that, the more links you had going to a particular article, the better off you were.
You can probably guess what happened next right? Yes, an entire economy was built off buying, selling and exchanging links.
The original purpose of ranking articles based on the amount of links leading to an article was because it could be assumed that an article with a lot of inbound links was a very valuable article to end readers.
This was the case until the link building economy exploded at which time you could buy 10,000 links to a particular article overnight. This defeated the entire purpose of ranking articles based on inbound links and search engines like Google have begun to crack down very heavily on links that are acquired in any way that is not considered organic.
So that brings us to the question, “Do you want people to link to your article?”
Of course you do!
You want people to link to your article because you are providing value and solving a problem for the end user.
If you have to pay for your links, then your content isn’t good enough and it shouldn’t be showing up in search results to begin with. The morale of the story is to let people link to you when they want to but not because you’re paying them to.
What type of links can you control then? Outbound links.
Not much discussion is given to outbound linking because it has always been assumed that outbound links don’t do anything but hurt your article’s search engine ranking. This assumption could not be more wrong!
In order to validate your article, you must provide the sources of your information. The more high quality sites that you link to, the better your article will rank.
If you are linking to affiliate sites and spam ridden sites, your ranking will probably drop.
If you are linking to scholarly, well-written, informative websites and articles, your ranking will surely not be penalized and as search engines continue to alter their algorithms, your ranking will probably continue to increase.