Getting Found: The Developers’ Guide to Search Engine Optimization

Search Engine Optimization
SEO - search engine optimization mindmap on napkin with cup of coffee

Search Engine Optimization

Search Engine Optimization
SEO – search engine optimization mindmap on napkin with cup of coffee
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a useful skill to have to help improve your website’s visibility on search engines. It involves optimizing the design of websites to make them more search engine friendly. Search Engine Optimization involves using an organized website structure, keyword rich website content, and website format. Knowing your audience is helpful in anticipating how your viewers might search for your site using search engines like Google, Bing, or Yahoo. This information can be used to detail the content on your site to appeal to target users. Keywords that match the terminology of your website’s visitors is essential. This usually translates to using common terms unless you are targeting a purely technical audience. In the book In the Plex, Stephen Levy explains that part of Google’s search algorithm is dependent on the length of time users spend on a particular site before returning to the page of search results. Do your site a favor by accurately laying out the website structure, content, and format to provide a more beneficial experience for your website visitors.

Website Structure

Website structure encompasses file names, heading tags, meta-tags, page titles. The organization of your website structure helps search engines and users navigate your pages more easily. As a universal rule, it is also important to use only lowercase letters in your file names and meta-tags. File names that will appear as URLs, for example page1.html, should omit spaces since search engines do not expect spaces in web addresses. If it is necessary to include multiple words in the file name, they should be separated by hyphens. These file names should be short, descriptive, and specific to your website.

Heading tags come in several sizes with the H1 tag being the largest heading tag. The heading tag is also read by search engines as well as users skimming your website. Google’s Hummingbird algorithm uses the H1 tag to gather more accurate search results related to the user’s interest based on keywords from their search.

Meta-tags incorporate meta description tags and meta keyword tags. Some search engines like Google display the meta description tags for websites with the search results. Other search engines like Yahoo use meta keyword tags in the ranking process for webpages. Meta description tags should be limited to 150 characters per page. The description for each page should be unique and keyword rich. Meta keyword tags should contain all relevant keywords, like synonyms, that visitors may use to search for your webpage. Image 1 highlights an example of the meta description tag in HTML.

Meta Description Tag

Image 1. Meta Description Tag

The page title, the name of the page displayed in the browser window, should be concise and fewer than 60 characters. The page title should be specific, unique, and relevant to the webpage content. It is also helpful to list the <title> tag as the first element within the <head> portion of your HTML code. Image 2 illustrates how to complete SEO page settings on Wix, a website building and hosting tool. The SEO page settings cover the page title, the page description (meta description tag), and the keywords (meta keyword tag). These techniques make it easier for search engines to readily locate a specific page within your website.

SEO Page Settings

Image 2. SEO Page Settings

Website Content

Website content includes everything directly on the webpage from text to images to on the webpage. Webpage content is directed towards the target audience using language that they would understand and be familiar with. Keyword rich and specific content will inform users of appropriate sections of the webpage to navigate. Internal links (links from one webpage to another webpage within the same website) and external links (links from one webpage to a different website) should be clearly labeled and briefly indicate to the user what information they will find on the link. Attached files on your site should be labeled to clearly reflect a summary of the contents. If your site contains graphics, labeling captions appropriately or designating alternate text (shown in Image 3), will allow them to be easily detected and displayed on the search engine’s image results page. Having a content strategy in mind along with the intention of creating a positive user experience will result in a successful website.

Alternate Text for Images

Image 3. Alternate Text for Images

The HTML code below explains how to add the image source (img src) and the alternative text (alt). The image source is the name of the image given when it was saved to the root directory while the alternative text is the text the user would see if they hover the cursor above the image. Search engines can use the alternative text to locate your image and report it in the image search results.

Website Format

Minimalist formatted websites are a new trend that not only guides your reader for easy navigation on the webpage but also aids the search engine in locating information throughout the website. Adding anchors to your webpage allows users to jump from the top header to the exact section in which they are interested. Furthermore, adding social media links to your website increases popularity and visibility.

Social Media Links

Image 4. Social Media Links

Monitoring and maintaining up to date content encourages you to keep your webpage’s ranking at the top of search engines’ results pages. As your webpage content changes so should the elements of your website structure. Even though the SEO has been completed for your website, it can take weeks or months for your website to register in a search engine’s results. Adding your website to open directories such as and, or bookmark sites such as DIGG and Slashdot can increase your site’s rankings. Finally, promoting your website through other outlets such as blogs, Google AdWords, or links on other websites can improve site traffic in the long term.

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