DIY SEO Part 3: Focusing pages on specific search terms

Yesterday I described how to make a list of key search terms, and to allocate them to pages on your website. Once this is done – and don’t be afraid to spread this job over several weeks if necessary – we need to focus the pages on those search terms. There are a number of things which we need to do here.

It’s important to understand that every web page has a “title” and a “description” which do not appear on the page (although the title will appear in the bar across the top of your browser when you look at it). These are incredibly important to the search engines, and they’re usually what the search engines display when showing your page in their results. If you want your page to appear highly in a search for its allocated search term, it’s really important to get this search term into the title and into the description. That’s why I said from the outset that you would need access to wherever these are controlled on the website. It’s going to be very different, depending on what content management system you use. Write a title of no more than about 60 characters, and a description of no more than about 150, with two things in mind: firstly, include the key search term for that page in both the title and the description, and secondly, make them work together attractively when read by humans. Think of it as an “advert” for the page, describing to search engine users why they should click on this result rather than anyone else’s. You’ve got three lines in a Google result. The first is your title, the other two your description. No amount of SEO is going to help if those three lines don’t suggest to the viewer that they should “click here”.

Most people do this as a “spreadsheet exercise”, writing the titles and descriptions into new columns on the same spreadsheet as the sitemap where they’ve put the allocated search term for each page. That way, you can also create columns which count the number of characters (use the =LEN function in Microsoft Excel, for example). The titles and descriptions can then be transferred to the web pages afterwards. Writing (or rewriting) all of the titles and descriptions on your website is a task which can be subcontracted to a good technical writer quite easily. We’ve organised this for several of our Insider Programme members (something, which, by the way, we’d love you to join!).

Next, you need to get the key search term onto the page itself. It may already be there. It’s always a good idea, if you can, to get it into the headline and into the body text. Don’t worry about “stuffing” it in loads of times, that looks as daft to modern search engines as it does to humans. But do get it onto the page at least once.

Finally, try to find other opportunities on your own website to link to that page, using the key search term as the “anchor text”. So, for example, if I’d allocated the search term “everything you need to know about online marketing” to the page on our website about our “Insider Programme”, then I’d try to put as many links as possible on my own website like this: the Insider Programme is everything you need to know about online marketing. Why does this work? Simply because it tells Google that you consider the page you’re linking to as relevant to that phrase. Links within the body text, like the one above, work best, although links within menus are an option.

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