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Search engines - getting your content found

If internet users don’t have a link to your site (sent to them in an e-mail, saved in their favourites or just posted on another site), they will almost certainly be reliant on search engines to find it. Therefore it is essential to optimise your content for search engines as you write.

The goal is to ensure that your site appears in the first page of search results - the only one that counts, as users rarely look past this page. In fact, few look past the first five results on that page.

 

Why do this?

Optimising your web pages for search engines can help your content reach many more people than it otherwise might.

If you need to reach beyond your core audience - people already familiar with your site or directed there through their work - you’ll have to design your pages so people can find them via search engines.

Search engines account for over 85% of visitors to the average web page. Not optimising for search is like sending web pages out into a vacuum - they simply will not be found by many people who might be interested in the useful services/information on EUROPA.

 
 

How to do it

What helps?

Why?

What can I do?

Using relevant keywords (for readers), especially in:

  • <title> tag
  • URL or web address
  • H1 headings
  • links / menus

(and also in the main body text)

When searching on the web, readers use the words they know best.

If your website doesn't contain these words, search engines won't bring them here.

Discover and use your readers’ keywords throughout your site and avoid jargon

Using metadescriptions

 

 

<Title> tag

To give a short description of what will be found on the website from the search engine result page.

The single most important way to tell search engines what your page is about and so get highly ranked for relevant searches.

Write a clear, compelling 150-160 character description of the site, to allow people to decide if this is what they are looking for.

 

 

How to write <title> tags

Headings (H1, H2, etc.)
(headings displayed in the body text of the web page)

Another key way to signal your page content to search engines – especially H1.

Use your key phrases in headings

Keyword density in the body text

Search engines rank your page as more relevant to a given search if keywords account for 2.5-3% of the total text.

Use your keywords often and
keep texts as short as possible - fewer words mean your keywords account for a higher share. Use keywords in titles.

Caption text and ALT tags

Search engines are blind. You have to describe your images and other media files with appropriate text.

Use relevant key phrases in caption text and ALT tags.

Keywords in the URL

Search engines look at URLs for  clues about page content.
Any words in your URL that match those used in the search are highlighted in bold in search results pages.
This may make searchers even more likely to click on your page.

If possible, use descriptive file names (i.e. real words) in URL. Drop unnecessary words such as 'and' or 'the'.
Use hyphens (not underscores) to separate words in URLs.
e.g. climate-change not climate_change or climatechange

Inbound links

The more inbound links you have from reputable/popular sites in a similar field, the higher you will be ranked by search engines.

You can create them yourself by -contacting owners of other sites and agreeing to link to each other's site.
-Adding buttons to your pages that users can use to forward links to their contacts via social media sites.
-But the best way to induce other sites to link to you spontaneously is to have good content (i.e. relevant and well-presented).

Internal links

Internal links point to other pages on your site.
By guiding visitors to these pages, they show search engines that the content there is also relevant and this increases the ranking of the page in results pages.

Link all the pages within your site (using relevant keywords).

Links containing keywords

Search engines read links more frequently than a page's body text, as they're a more concentrated indication of the content.

Always include relevant keywords in your links.

Unique content and frequent changes

The newer the better. Google likes fresh pages.

Update regularly.

Accessible content

Everybody should be able to use your site no matter what their disability or equipment.

Make your site fully accessible.
Check its accessibility with the available tools.

Site maps
Always include a comprehensive and up-to-date site map (especially if you have news content).

A site map is a representation of the site's link structure.
It allows search engines to index all the most important pages of the site easily, because they can access them from a single page.

You can submit a site map to Google.
A link to the site map should be clearly accessible from your home page at least.

Differentiating key words in the text

Search engine robots scan text to find words that describe the page's subject better than others.
You can help them by differentiating those words from the rest of the text.

Use layout techniques such as bolding and bulleting.

 
 

Do you need to register with search engines?

To be sure your sites are found quickly and efficiently, it’s best to register them with at least the leading search engines: Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft.

However, since these major engines use crawlers to find pages for their search results, if other sites link to you, they'll find you even if you're not registered with them.

Some search engines, notably Yahoo!, also operate a paid submission service that guarantees crawling for either a set fee or cost per click. Such programs usually guarantee inclusion in the database, but do not guarantee specific ranking within the search results.

Two major directories, the Yahoo Directory and the Open Directory Project, both require manual submission and human editorial review.

Google also offers Google webmaster tools, for which an XML site map feed can be created and submitted for free to ensure that all pages are found, especially pages that aren't discoverable by automatically following links.

Don't forget, also, to put your XML site map link in your robots.txt.

 
 

Guidelines and references