Content Optimization

Content Optimization 

Content optimization refers to the way in which you organize, present, and write the content for your web pages. This page does NOT discuss keyword choices, as that is a separate subject in itself, but it does cover how to USE the keywords and where to put them.

Content optimization filters through most of the page and site design. It has a range of applications which someone who is new to web design might not think of.

1. Optimizing Page Layout - The search engine reads your code from top to bottom. The way things appear on the page is not always how the search engine views it. This means your links may show up before your page topic is presented if you use tables, or if you use elements which are positioned in the code before the main text is. This page is a good example of that.

There are strategies to improve the indexing of the site, by putting descriptions up higher on the page, or by adding an empty table cell at the top of the left sidebar (to force it to read the center before it goes back over to the left side), or to use other types of elements or coding that positions the content above the navigation in the code.

On this page, I have a text string, bold and visible, in the very top of the page, and another below the header. The one above the header is the most important one, and you can tell that I have used keywords, and given the site a good general description. To further optimize that, I'll go back through the site at some point, and customize that description for each page.

2. Optimizing Titles and Headings - Titles and headings should be coded with an H1 tag, or at least in a larger text size and bolded. Some people argue over whether bolding and H1 are viewed the same or not by search engines. The point is though, to emphasize them in a way the search engine can see as being a coded emphasis.

Use your MOST important keyword for the PAGE in the content title. On this page, that means the green words, "Content Optimization". No more than 2 keyphrases in a title, or it gets too unwieldy.

Use subheadings through the page, and either bold them, or H1 tag them. This gives you the opportunity to highlight related keyphrases.

3. Optimizing Site Organization. Some people say that if you have a large site with many categories, it is better to organize your site with the categories in folders, or even subdomains if they are very large. This gives you the opportunity to focus each URL more narrowly on a category.

You'll also want to reflect your site organization in your navigation. How you set up your navigation can make a difference in search engine results.

The fastest way to get indexed is if all of the pages are linked into the home page. This site does this, and a few other sites that I have built do this too. But it is NOT appropriate for a site with more than 50 links. For larger sites, it is much better to break the topics down into logical sub-categories and then link the individual pages off the subcategory pages. Generally, a subcategory has between 3 and 50 pages, but average is about 10. Less than 3, and there is not much point giving it a separate category. More than 50, and you need either another layer of subcategories from the category page, OR, a separate category off the home page to further divide the content.

4. Optimizing Topic Organization. This does not have to do with navigation organization, but rather with how you segment your content. You can see in the navigation links on this site, that I have divided the topics into 4 broad categories, and then divided those into smaller segments. Each segment encompasses a specific sub-topic within the broad topic. Each one has a specific focus.

How you divide the topics depends largely on what the subject is! My diabetes site divides the topics by specific item that influences blood sugar control - sometimes that is a food or supplement, sometimes it is something like diet or exercise. But each item is a specific keyword that allows me to tightly focus the interest of the page.

The point in topic organization is that each page should deal with 1 topic, with a very specific focus if possible. Now sometimes you combine two items because there is not enough to justify a page for each or because the topics simply work better together - In my parenting site, I combine Tantrums, Bad Habits, and Phases all in one page, because they are interrelated, and use similar keywords and themes. But each page still needs to have its own focus and purpose. This helps search engines pick up the keywords and relevancy more easily.

Each page topic should be a logical segment, and it should be able to stand on its own - if someone lifted just that page to share with someone else, it should be self contained enough to give useful information. Each page should also related and tie in to the rest of the site in a way that encourages the use of more pages, but without compromising its value on its own for the tight topic that it addresses.

5. Optimizing Your Copy While Writing. Within the copy on each individual page, you'll want to make the purpose of the page very clear, and write in a way that draws the reader in. But you also need to use the keywords that relate to your topic. In fact, you'll want to use a variety of them, so that they appeal to the different thought processes of a range of people who will be looking for your pages.

People first! Search engines second! It is relatively simple to strike the right balance between optimization and effectiveness for people if you just write for people, and then go back and substitute a word here or there to make the keyword usage a bit better. That's all there is to it! It should still read well with all the emotional impact it originally had. People appeal will never be compromised by search engine optimization if you do it right.

Consider - to draw people in, you have to make the purpose of the page clear within the first paragraph. To get good search engine rank, you have to use your keywords within the first paragraph. Those two goals are essentially the same thing.

6. Optimizing Text Formatting.Here again, we have a tandem strategy for people and for search engines. Formatting helps to draw attention to the most important things. Done right, it will pull out your keywords for the search engines to pick up on, AND it will help to make the message more clear to your audience.

Look at this page, again. See how certain phrases are bolded. And one or two may even be bolded and a different color? Search engines detect those things, and assume that if you bolded it or changed it to draw attention to it, that it must be one of the more important elements on the page. So organize your page logically, make it easy for a person to read through and pick out the important parts, and then make sure that those important parts also reflect keyword usage that the search engines will also key in on.

7. Optimizing Image Alt Tags. Alt tags are an important part of content if your page does not have much text. Not all search engines "see" them, but some do. If your page is light on text, then make sure that any image that delivers a message has an alt tag. That means that you do not need to put alt tags on borders, horizontal rules, or other accents, but you DO need to put them on any image that is part of the content.

The same rules hold for Alt Tags that hold for Description Metatags. Use your MOST important keyword for the page, or for the section of the page. Do not use more than 2 or 3 keyphrases, or it will look like "keyword stuffing", a Black Hat SEO tactic. Keep your Alt Tags as short as reasonably possible.

An Alt Tag also shows up when an image does not, so think about what the viewer would need to see if your image did not show up. Write the tag to describe the image, or to show the text on the image.

Optimizing the content on a page is not something you need to fuss about a lot if you are writing well. Because most of the rules about it were originally devised to pinpoint meanings and relevancy in GOOD writing. Use variety, get to the point, and summarize at the end. Organize your topics logically, make your site intuitive, and half the job is done already!

Focus on people first, optimization second. The point at which the function for people diminishes because of optimization is exactly the point at which you have done too much!


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