Home and Learn: Web Design Course

Search Engine Optimisation

In this section we'll take a look at what you should do to get your web site recognised by search engines. However, bear in mind that the goal of a good web page is quality. You should not be writing your articles for search engines but for people. If you care about what you're saying and care about your audience then this will be far superior to someone just trying to make a fast buck.

META tags

A category of HTML tags that you can add to the HEAD section of your web pages are META tags. META is short for METADATA, which means information about the data on your web page. An example is this:

<META NAME="description" CONTENT="Widgets for all occasions.">

This META tag has the attributes NAME and CONTENT. The NAME attribute can take a lot of values, but it is used in conjunction with the CONTENT attribute. In the example above, the CONTENT is describing what the web page is about. Because the CONTENT is a description of the page, the NAME value is "description".

Some other NAME values are:


So, for example, if you want to declare yourself to be the author of a particular piece of work you would add the following META tag:

<META NAME="Author" CONTENT="your_name_here">

But there are lots more NAME values. You can even create your own.

In the list above, the most used (and abused) is the Keywords value. Here's an example of its use:

<META NAME="Keywords" CONTENT="Red Widgets, Black Widgets, Green Widgets">

The idea here is that you provide some keywords which sum-up the contents of the page. However, the keywords NAME was abused by a lot of people trying fiddle the outcome of search engine results. They thought they could get to the top of the likes of Google and Yahoo by stuffing the CONTENT attribute with as many keywords as possible. Google will just ignore the keywords NAME now. So it's not really worth bothering with. Unless you use only a few relevant keywords.

The description NAME tag above, though, is well worth adding. Although it won't bump you up the search engine ranks, sites like Google may display your description in its search engine results. So it's worth writing a good description for the CONTENT attribute of the META tag when using NAME="description".

If you don't want search engines crawling a page then the ROBOTS value is the one to use. Like this:


The NONE value instructs reputable search engine bots to move along and not bother crawling the page.

Keywords in your page text

Search engines work by scanning the text and images on your web page. They then try to work out what the page is all about. To make sure that a search engine gets it right, you can tweak your text to remove any ambiguity. For example, suppose your page is about black widgets. If you have discussed widgets but not black widgets then a search engine won't know that this page is about a specific type of widget. So your keywords here are "black widgets". In an article that's 300 to 500 words, you should mention the phrase "black widgets" about once every 100 words. Don't overdo it, though. A search engine may penalise you for "keyword spamming" if you mention "black widgets" too much.

Keywords can also be placed in the ALT attribute for images. For example:

<IMG src="black_widget.jpg" alt="A black widget running on a Mac">

The ALT attribute above is describing what the image portrays. This not only helps a search engine to categorise your page, but it also helps those who are not able to see your image.

Try to aim your keywords not at search engines, however, but at your readers. You want people to genuinely like your article or product. They won't if you spam them to death!

A search engine will not only file away your text but also your hyperlinks, and where they are pointing to.

So another thing you can do is to include your keywords in the link to the page. For example, a hyperlink could be constructed like this:

>> See our full range of Black Widgets here <<

When a user clicks the link, they should be taken to your black widget page.

The TITLE of a web page is another place to insert your keywords. For the black widgets page itself, then, you could have this for the TITLE tag:

<TITLE>Black Widgets in all shapes and sizes</TITLE>

The TITLE, remember, will appear at the very top of the browser window. So it's an area that can be of help to your visitors, a visual clue that they are on the right page.

But don't obsess over keywords. The advice, again, is to aim your web site at people, and not at search engines.

Submitting your site to search engines

You don't really need to submit your site to a search engine anymore. They all have bots that crawl the entire internet, 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, analysing your contents. Google, it is said, will find and crawl your site in about a month, and then crawl it again every month. If you can't wait, then Google allows you to submit the first page in your site here:


To submit your site to Microsoft's Bing search engine, the page is here at the time of writing:


Yahoo's site submitting process is a little more complicated. But the page is here:


If you have an offline business, one really useful addition to your marketing is the free Google Places. This is a part of Google maps, and gets you a little pin on a map. When users click on your pin they get a popup box with the details of your business on it.

Links back to your site

One thing that search engines do count is how many other sites are linking to yours. When you are just starting out the answer will be "none". The problem is that it has become really difficult to get a link back to your site. The traditional way to get a link is to email an owner of a web site and ask if they will link to yours. Expect such emails to be deleted immediately!

You can ask for something called a reciprocal link. This is when you link to their site and they link to yours. The value of such links is debatable, and may even do more harm than good these days. Just make sure the links you do get are relevant to your own site. After all, why would you link to a shoe shop if you're selling computer components? The link would be worthless.

Getting links is very time consuming. You can make a start by typing, say, "Black Widgets" into a search engine. You then send an email to all those websites who, like your own, offer black widgets.

To save you time, type "Add your link" "Black Widgets" into a search engine (Obviously you should substitute your own keywords in place of black widgets. Add the quotes, though.) You'll then get back sites that actively encourage you to add your link to their website.

Social Media

Rather than spending all your time trying to get links from other sites it's probably better to promote your site via social media. This means sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, etc. The idea is that you create a social page on these sites and let everyone know about your site, what they can find there, and why they should bother visiting. On your website, you then add links back to your social media pages. These links are ones visitors can click on if they "Like" your site. The more "Likes" you get the more popular your site will be.

In the next part, we'll take a look at Pay Per Click advertising.

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