Search Engine Optimization Tips Using Site Content – Part 1

This article is part 1 of 2 in a series for site developers and business owners who want to increase the traffic their sites receive from search engines. The techniques described in this article are not based on the latest tricks to fool search engines, but rather on proven methods that honestly present your site in a way that is appealing to search engine spiders.

Many articles on search engine optimization (SEO) focus on ways you can fool a search engine into ranking your site higher than the competition. With dollars at stake, the temptation to employ these tricks is strong. The problem is that the search engines eventually identify and penalize you for using most spider cons.

If you think about it, what the search engines really want is the same thing your customers want: accurate selection of the best sites with content that is relevant to their search. When Google launched, it became the most popular search engine virtually overnight because they did the best job of finding relevant content. Their formula was unique and effective.

Of course, the scammers eventually figured out ways to skew Google search results. And Google responded with ways to identify and penalize those scams. This game continues today and is unlikely to ever end.

As a site owner, you have two choices: you can play the scam game and be stuck in an endless cycle of tweaking your site to use the latest tricks. Or you can make your site attractive to search engines by providing exactly what they want: good content. Good content is the ultimate spider bait, and it never goes out of style.

A critical element of ranking high in search engines is having high keyword density. A keyword is any word or phrase that relates to the subject of your page. For example, some of the keywords for this page are search engine, optimization, HTML, tags, and content. If your page contains well-written content that provides truly useful information, it will almost certainly (and naturally) have a high keyword density.

I highly recommend that you avoid the temptation of including the names of celebrities or other irrelevant words just to trap additional site hits. You will accomplish nothing but annoy the folks who are seriously looking for content relating to those keywords. Additionally, you risk being black-listed by the search engines who catch onto you.

Part 1 of this article series covers how to effectively use HTML tags and their attributes to create a web page that is interesting to both your visitors and the search engine spiders. In part 2, I’ll cover tips on creating great page content that brings your visitors back to your site as well as how to avoid HTML techniques that make it difficult for search engine spiders to crawl your site.

A Short HTML Lesson

To employ the tips described in this article, you have to be familiar with HTML, or have a visual HTML editor that also lets you see HTML tags and their attributes.

Most web page design programs give you a way to view the HTML code that they generate. The ones that are worth anything also let you edit that HTML directly. I’m going to show you specific examples of the tags that search engines love the most, so it helps if you can view the HTML code in your own pages for comparison. If your tool doesn’t directly support the tags or attributes I’m going to cover, you can manually add them yourself.

It helps if you know a few HTML page basics before I go into using specific tags. You don’t need very many tags to create a web page, but there are conventions of which you should be aware, should you need to add tags manually. Here is a sample "hello world" web page:

   <title>Hello World Page</title>
   <meta name="description" content="A simple hello world page">
   <p>Hello world!</p>

HTML tags often consist of a begin and an end tag, as you can see from the example. The end tag has the same name as the begin tag, but has a slash in front of the name (e.g. <title> and </title>). Certain tags can contain other tags, as is the case with the Html, Head, and Body tags. You can tell that the Head tag contains the Title tag, because the Title tag appears after the begin Head tag (<head>) and before the end Head tag (</head>).

Some tags have attributes. The meta tag shown above has a Name attribute and a Content attribute. Attributes provide additional instructions to your browser on how to apply the tag and the information it contains. Note that the meta tag does not require an end tag because the attributes provide all of the information needed by your browser.

All pages should have an Html tag that contains the entire page. Most pages also have a Head tag that contains information about the page itself. You put the visible content of your page into the Body tag, as I did with my "hello world" paragraph.

You will learn more about these tags as we go on.

How to Use Tags Appropriately

Many spider cons relate to the abuse or misuse of specific HTML tags. These tricks may appeal to an automated program that seeks information about your page, but they often produce messy pages that look cluttered and tasteless to a human visitor.

The fact is that it doesn’t matter how well your page ranks in the search engine if visitors can’t stand to view the page once they get to it. If you alienate your visitors, they will learn to avoid links to pages on your site, no matter how high the page ranks in the search engine results.

If you put some thought into the way you assemble the content on your page, you can improve both keyword density and readability at the same time, without resorting to methods that compromise the quality of your page. This section covers ways to do this honestly.

Hook Visitors with a Great Title

The Title tag tells your browser what to display on the title bar of the browser window. For example, you’ll notice that your browser displays the title for this article as Search Engine Optimization Tips Using Site Content – Part 1. If you are using Internet Explorer, you’ll see that text followed by a dash and the browser name.

The Title tag is located near the top of the file inside the Head tag, as I demonstrated in the "hello world" example. The Title tag for this article looks like this:

<title>Search Engine Optimization Tips Using Site Content - Part 1</title>

For search engine optimization, the title tag is important for a couple of reasons. For one thing, the search engines often use it when they display the link to your site. You want your title to clearly state the subject of your page so it catches the eye of people browsing search results. You also want the title to include the most critical keywords on your page, because those keywords can have a significant impact on how your page is ranked for relevance.

Use Meta Tags to Describe Your Page

You use meta tags to include information about the page that is not typically displayed as part of the content. The two most important tags, from a search engine perspective, are the Description and Keyword meta tags. These tags go inside the Head tag along with the Title tag:

   <title>Search Engine Optimization Tips Using Site Content - Part 1</title>
   <meta name="description" content="Proven methods to increase
    the traffic your Web site receives from people using search engines">    <meta name="keywords" content="search,engine,seo,optimization,web site,
    content,search engine optimization"> </head>

The Content attribute of the Description meta tag should contain a catchy sentence or two that describes the purpose of the page. Include as many critical keywords as you can, but make them part of a complete, grammatically-correct sentence.

Search engines often display the content of the Description meta tag in their results list under the link to your page. The better your description, the easier it is for a potential visitor to identify your page as one that contains the information they seek.

The Content attribute of the Keywords meta tag should contain a laundry list of key words and phrases that you pull from the content of your page. Include the most relevant keywords first because search engines sometimes limit how much of this tag they will read. After your most relevant keywords, include synonyms and common phrases that are also related to your content.

Search engines rely on the Keywords meta tag much less than they used to because scammers have abused it horribly over the years, but you should still include it as a hint. Who knows, search engines might eventually (and perhaps already) rate sites for honest use of content and begin to trust this tag once again.

Use Heading Tags to Introduce Content

Search engines use the headings on your page as another good source of keywords. After all, your headings should introduce all of the main topics on your page.

The key is to use the correct tags for your headings (<H1> through <H6>). You might be surprised at how many site developers just use a Paragraph tag with specific font attributes instead of the built-in heading tags. That approach makes it impossible for a search engine to identify your page headings.

In general, I recommend making the page heading an H1 tag. Every section of the page should be introduced with an H2 tag. Likewise, use an H3 tag for subsections. I don’t recommend that you go below an H3 unless you use font characteristics that make the subject hierarchy very clear. Conveying a deep subject hierarchy on a web page is difficult because you see so little of the page at one time.

Below, I’ve changed my Hello World page to include some headings and text.

   <h1>Meet James Byrd</h1>
   <p>Hello world!</p>
   <p>With this page, I sound my barbaric yawp
   from the desktops of the world.</p>    <h2>Living in North Idaho</h2>    <p>James Byrd is an Internet software developer
   who solves business problems for
   his customers from his North Idaho home.</p> </body>

You get the idea. I added an H1 tag that summarizes the subject of the entire page. I also added an H2 tag that introduces a major section of the page.

You basically just use common sense and good writing technique as you develop your page. As you write and organize the content of your page, pull the major keywords out of each section and formulate a sensible heading with them.

The page you are reading now breaks the content down into subsections, and it uses an H1 tag for the title, H2 tags for the major sections, and H3 tags for the subsections like this one on headings.

Use Alt Attributes to Describe Images

You use the Img (image) tag to display photos and other graphic images on your page. One very useful attribute of this tag that is often either ignored or abused is the Alt (alternate text) attribute. The alt attribute is intended to be the description or caption of the image. When you hover your mouse over the image, most browsers display the alternate text in a tiny popup. Browsers also typically display the alternate text in place of the image when they can’t find the source image file.

I added an image to the Hello World page to demonstrate:

   <h1>Meet James Byrd</h1>
   <p>Hello world!</p>
   <img src="images/world.jpg" alt="Space photo of planet Earth">
   <p>With this page, I sound my barbaric yawp
   from the desktops of the world.</p>    <h2>Living in North Idaho</h2>    <p>James Byrd is an Internet software developer
   who solves business problems for
   his customers from his North Idaho home.</p> </body>

Search engines use the Alt attribute as another source for keywords related to your page, which is why you often find sites that have loaded it up with all kinds of junk, rendering the attribute useless for its original purpose. This is another scammer trick that is extremely annoying to your site visitors. My recommendation is to use this attribute correctly and honestly.

As a side note, using the Alt attribute correctly makes your site more useful to people with vision disabilities. Browsing tools for the blind often read the alternate text so the disabled visitor knows what is on the page. Keep that in mind when you formulate the wording of your alternate text: you’ll find that you write better and more descriptive captions.

Avoid Keyword Spamming

Earlier in the article, I mentioned how scammers abuse tags and attributes in an effort to skew search engine results in their favor. Much of the time, this abuse takes the form of keyword spamming, also called spamdexing or keyword stuffing. The approach is to repeat all of your keywords in the text, headings, and Alt attributes on the page, thus artificially increasing the keyword density.

Search engines used to be a lot dumber about this. They would rank relevance by counting the frequency of the target keyword on the page. Now, search engines have wised-up and can tell when your keyword density is higher than it should be. Plus, they use more sophisticated ranking techniques that reduce or eliminate the effectiveness of keyword spamming.

Worst of all, keyword spamming makes your pages look awful. Visitors will see what appears to be nonsensical garbage, and they’ll hit that back key quicker than you can say "this site sucks."


This article shows you how to fine-tune your HTML so it is appealing to both search engines and human site visitors. Honest use of content and the correct use of HTML tags and attributes gives your site credibility that doesn’t suddenly stop working when the search engines change their policies. It also doesn’t get you black-listed when the search engines figure out what you are up to.

You can increase the keyword density of your pages without damaging their readability or integrity. It all starts with good content. If you do a good job of organizing and introducing your content, your page naturally acquires the characteristics that search engine spiders (and visitors) crave.