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Get to #1 on Google – part 2

In part 2 we explore how to ensure that content is doing the right job and how to promote your site to get up the rankings

Getting your content right

Once you have a sound structure in place, it’s time to focus on the content. While structure is the glue that holds a site together, content is the goodness that we visit for – it’s the reason the website exists.
Getting your content right might sound obvious, but there are intricacies in the way you write and present your content that can have a big impact on a site’s performance in the search engines.
Everyone has heard of keywords and phrases – words and sentences that we hope searchers will use to find our website – but understanding how and where to use these is essential to getting to the top.
Keywords need to be spread out over different hierarchical levels of content in your semantic structure to ensure the search engines understand your page is about the subject in question, and that you are credible. This should happen organically, as part of the process of writing, but by being aware of the need to include your primary keywords for a particular page across these levels, you can write smart content that gives the visitor the information they came for, but at the same time helps them find your website in the first place.

For example, if you’re creating a website about the health benefits of rhubarb, you might identify ‘rhubarb’ and ‘health’ as two of your primary keywords. A good way to start is by choosing a domain name that includes both words. In addition, if you have a page that’s particularly about rhubarb and health, name the page with the keywords rather than using an abstract naming convention. That is, /health-benefits-of-rhubarb/ will perform more effectively than, say, /page22/.
You also need to include your principal keywords in the title of the page, and the meta description and keyword tags. There remains some debate over the latter two tags, but it’s almost certainly the case that it doesn’t hurt to include meta tags, even if search engines no longer rely on these for primary indexing algorithms.

Once you’ve dealt with all the meta content, it’s time to look at the actual readable content. Within your semantic structure, you should include your primary keywords and/or phrases within the heading tags, although you should take care to avoid doing so in a contrived way that will only annoy visitors. If you’ve got an article about how to bake a rhubarb pie, a good title for your <h1> might be ‘How to bake a healthy rhubarb pie’. As well as the main heading for the page, you should aim to add keywords in subheadings and body content. Be careful not to overdo it though: paragraph after paragraph extolling the healthiness of rhubarb will quickly bore visitors, and might even lead to your site being flagged as spam.

Of course, on a typical website you’ll have more than just two keywords, and it’s far more likely that your website will be about the health benefits of many different fruit and vegetables rather than just one. This means that you need to ensure that your keywords are divided across different pages to accurately reflect what each page is about, while simultaneously continuing to reflect the overall theme of your website.For example, if you had another page detailing the benefits of the blueberry, you might focus on keywords around antioxidants, vitamin C, blueberries and so on. You would also want to include some keywords about health and vegetables in general terms. This page is then identified by the search engines as being specifically about blueberries, while the rhubarb page is obviously about rhubarb. This is, of course, important when a visitor arrives at your site, but it means they’ll find themselves at the content appropriate to their search from the moment they arrive, and also allows you to avoid duplication of keywords and meta tags.

Don’t duplicate

This leads us on to an important point, which is that your website needs to contain unique content to achieve the best position in the search engines. Not only should the content be fresh and engaging, but each page also needs to be unique within your site. Google and other search engines will actively penalise a site if their algorithm thinks the content is an attempt to artificially score highly in the rankings, so keep content specific and tailored to the subject at hand, and make sure you update each page regularly.
Similarly, avoid copying content from elsewhere on the web. As well as being potentially illegal (ie plagiarism), it’s also not going to help you achieve a good search engine listing. It’s always better to spend the time writing original, interesting and fresh content that will offer something new to the world.

Update frequently

One of the most important defining characteristics of a website that successfully gets to the top of the search engines – and stays there – is the freshness of the content. This means regularly updating your content to reflect the subject matter. Obviously if you’ve got an archive page about World War Two, it might be difficult to retell a story in a new way every couple of weeks, however the general principle is valid: the more frequently you update your content, the more often search engines will have to index your site, resulting in more up-to-date and effective listings.
Blogs are a great vehicle for this, and indeed one of the reasons WordPress has become such a popular content management system is this ability to push new content onto a website with ease.

Consider how your content loads

One final major consideration for the way you construct your content is how that material is loaded into the browser. Images that include words, for example, will not result in those words being searchable. This is less of an issue now that the web has several options for including rich fonts within page designs, but a surprising number of designers continue to render text as a graphic.
Similarly, some pages rely on JavaScript to load content into the page once the page has rendered in the browser. This is fine for usability (assuming the content remains accessible to users with JavaScript turned off), but not all search engines will be able to parse content that’s loaded dynamically, so consider carefully how any content loaded in this way will be reflected in your search engine results. If you’re in any doubt, include the content directly in the page rather than loading it on demand with JavaScript. This may slow down your page, which can in turn affect your ranking, but it’s often a trade-off that’s worth making if it results in the search engines recognising the content of your page more effectively.

Pictures speak a thousand words

While it’s not a good idea to render words as images, it’s well known that many visitors use search engines to find images on a particular subject. For this reason, it’s a good idea to name your images according to the content they contain – in the same way that you’ve named your HTML pages to represent the content.
This will help them appear high in the search engine image results, and might bring you extra visitors in general. If you’re concerned about image theft, you can always embed copyright information in the image files or watermark them for your peace of mind.

Top tips for generating effective keywords & metadata

Coming up with the right set of keywords and metadata for both your website in general – and for particular pages – is a crucial skill you need to master for SEO success…

Picking keywords that represent your content sounds like it should be really easy, but there’s a bit of an art to it. First of all, you need to clearly identify your target audience. These are the typical people that your website will be oriented towards and focused upon.
Once you’ve established who you’re planning to appeal towards, you can put together a list of words and phrases that you think your audience would search for when looking for your content. It’s important to be creative – don’t exclude any options at this point.
When you’ve got a page full of potential phrases and keywords, narrow down your list to three or four primary words and expressions that most accurately reflect the content. It can be worth using an online tool at this stage to check that the keywords you’ve chosen aren’t low volume (ie attract a low number of searches). Google’s AdWords Keyword Tool ( offers both a set of suggestions for keywords and rough traffic levels for each.
Finally, using these keywords you need to generate your metadata, such as the page title, meta description, meta keywords and, of course, the page content itself. Take care not to oversaturate your content with keywords though; this can do as much harm as good.

Promoting your website

Having worked through developing an effective structure and getting your content right, you’ll be ready to start promoting your website. This is a crucial stage of the journey to the top of the search engines, and builds upon all the hard work you’ve put in up to this point.
The art of promotion is a complex one to master, but there are several key strategies you can employ to help get the word out about your website and encourage new visitors to give it a chance. One of the most basic ways of doing this is to let the search engines know about your site in the first place.

Build a Google sitemap

As part of its comprehensive suite of webmaster tools, Google allows you to upload an XML sitemap that is designed to inform Google about the content and pages within your website, along with the relative importance that you (as the webmaster) place on each page. This is useful because it enables you to alert Google to new content and also place emphasis on the most important content at any given time.
This isn’t a one-off operation though – ideally you should generate a fresh sitemap and resubmit it to Google each time you make a change. By doing so frequently, you’re directly telling the search engine giant that you’ve got new content and that your website remains live, valid and actively edited.

Track down like-minded webmasters

One of the most common tricks employed by less scrupulous search engine optimisation businesses is to build a network of inbound links to your website. The idea is allegedly that if you have lots of links pointing in towards your website, then the search engines will consider your content to be verified and validated by these sites. After all, if your content isn’t any good, then why would they be linking to it?
The problem with generating links en masse in this fashion is that this dilutes the value of such links. Additionally, search engines are getting ever wiser to this trick, so they will only truly value links that originate from both a trusted website, and one which has authority in the subject area. For example, if you’re running a website about how to fix a particular model of car, a link from a spare parts manufacturer to your website will benefit your search engine ranking. A link from a website that’s all about hairdressing is far less likely to provide any material benefit – because the subjects are so blatantly unrelated.
For this reason, a slow-but-steady approach to building up your links by engaging directly with other websites that cover related subjects is generally the most effective route to take. Often you can add value to your visitors’ experience by providing a link to a website that offers related information, and by encouraging these sites to do the same for you, you will mutually benefit from the association.

Choose wisely

As we’ve already mentioned, links can do as much harm as they can good. The secret is to only build relationships with websites that offer authority in your subject area or similar ideas. Getting the entire world to link to your site won’t help you appear higher in the results for your chosen keywords, so make sure you’re very selective and deliberate in how you approach links and reciprocal agreements.
It’s well worth periodically reviewing your links and inbound links, and removing any that are no longer editorially sound – especially if a website you link to has changed its content or subject area.Promoting your website
Having worked through developing an effective structure and getting your content right, you’ll be ready to start promoting your website. This is a crucial stage of the journey to the top of the search engines, and builds upon all the hard work you’ve put in up to this point.
The art of promotion is a complex one to master, but there are several key strategies you can employ to help get the word out about your website and encourage new visitors to give it a chance. One of the most basic ways of doing this is to let the search engines know about your site in the first place.