The first step in your SEO campaign is the proper selection of customer-oriented keyword phrases. See the article Selecting Keyword Phrases for more information on this topic. The second step is Choosing Web Pages for Optimization. The third step is the development of keyword-rich, focused content.
Content is the most important ingredient in your quest for favorable rankings. Search engines love information-rich web pages. Content is spider food and search engines eat it up and reward sites with good informational content. How would a search engine spider recognize informational content from garbage? Well, technically they don’t know the difference, but they can recognize keyword-rich content. Your human site visitors, on the other hand, can immediately recognize garbage, so it behooves you to develop content that appeals to both types of visitors.
The content of each page in your web site should concentrate on a theme. A theme is a focus on one to three keyword phrases. In a small web site each page would typically have a different theme, but you can have pages that are a variation (bright red flowers versus deep red flowers) or a continuation of a theme (chapter 1, chapter 2, etc.). The only issue to avoid is the exact duplication of content found on another page, because both pages could be labeled as mirror pages, which sometimes results in penalties being applied. My personal preference is to keep the theme as focused as is possible, so I generally narrow a page’s theme to one or two keyword phrases. A page’s content needs to integrate the theme and provide enough detail to be viewed as informational or instructional.
How much content do I need?
There is no hard-fast rule, because pages with very little content sometimes rank well, and pages with thousands of words sometimes rank equally well. The general rule for content is to provide at least 250 to 400 words. If a page is not ranking well with search engines, it does sometimes help to boost the amount of content and focus the content more on the theme for the page.
An easy method for determining the number of words on a Web page is:
- display the page in a browser.
- select the browser’s Edit menu.
- select Select All. Your page content will be highlighted.
- right-click on the highlighted content.
- select Copy.
- paste the content into a blank Microsoft Word document.
- select the File menu in Word.
- select Properties.
- the Statistics tab in the Properties dialog box will show you the word count for the page.
A page is not limited to 400 words of content, but content must be crafted so that you do not bore your human audience. You need to effectively communicate to a user who might be quickly scanning a web page. Put the most effective text and targeted keywords up front, and the elaboration later. Build on your keyword theme, but don’t add unnecessary text just for the sake of adding length, or you will bore your audience.
Always try to put your targeted keyword phrases in the page title and in the first sentence in the first paragraph. If keyword phrases can effectively be used several times in the first paragraph, that’s a plus. One common formula is to try develop a keyword density of 3% to 7% per page. Keyword density is the percentage of times any word in a keyword phrase appears on a page relative to the total number of words on a page. If your page content contains 100 words and any words in your targeted keyword phrases appear a total of five times, you will have a keyword density of 5% for that phrase. It helps if the full keyword phrase in appears once or twice.
Building Informational content
A problem sometimes arises where a page has a product theme, but only includes a brief description of the product’s features. For some products, one way to boost informational content is to include a detailed description, and perhaps some images, of the manufacturing process. Include a rich mix of manufacturing jargon that describes the process in an interesting way. There are many
technically-oriented users that enjoy reading this type of detail, and your page will likely pick up some additional search engine listings for the manufacturing terms you use. A variation on this could be a description of the numerous uses for a product or testimonials from satisfied customers that describe their experiences. Use your imagination, but keep both your audience and the search engine spiders in mind.
Things to avoid
Some people believe that the more times you use a phrase on a web page, the more effective it becomes. Some engage in tactics that hide multiple uses of keywords on a page. There are many ways to hide keywords behind images and colors and other areas of a Web page where users cannot see them, but search engines can. These tricks did work a few years ago, but today are considered to be "spam" by the search engines. While tricks of this nature can sometimes achieve some short-term gains, once a search engine discovers the trick, the offending page or the entire site could be penalized or removed from a search engine database. That’s a big price to pay for a possible short-term gain. We do not recommend the use any method intended to fool a search engine spider.
Excessive use of keywords can also have a negative impact. Avoid placing multiple uses of a keyword phrase next to each other. “auto parts, auto parts, auto parts” does not improve your ranking for the “auto parts” keyword phrase. This technique may be identified as “keyword stuffing”, which is another violation that could result in a spam penalty.
Text in images is invisible to most search engines. Don’t load your Web pages with images containing text. Web pages need textual content. Web designers love to create beautiful home pages with all the text embedded in images. At one time there were few options available for mixing text and images. Today, there are better ways to do this though the use of Cascading styles sheet (CSS).