How To Optimize Your Article For Search Engines

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Here is some information on the best way to write an Article to get the best search results.

SEO = search engine optimized, and that's what we need to do to make sure our stuff gets found. Otherwise, you might as well type it out, and then press Delete. We create first-class reviews and guides to software here, and the collected result is truly world-class. But that doesn't mean people who need the advice will be able to find it. To ensure that, we need to arrange our reviews and tutorials in a way that has been found to be successful and works in search engines and other online resources. If we do fix this, many more people will find our resources - somewhere between 50 and 80% of site traffic normally comes from search engines.

In this guide we look at all the issues, and how to fix problems and create opportunities.

 

The theory

It's pretty simple. Creating pages on TSA that will score well in search is just down to keywords,  format and links. Our aim is to have the page appear on Google page 1, in the #1 to #4 position, for the main term or theme of the page. If it doesn't do that then we have failed, since no one will find it, and there won't be any visits to the page.

This is because most traffic to the average website comes from the search engines. And around 80% of that comes from Google - mostly from the first four positions in the results. So search traffic, and especially a high position on Google, is vital. There are plenty of exceptions, mind you - but you won't go far wrong if you simply target Google. After you succeed there, you can look at other areas to target. As specific examples you would target Yahoo if you appealed to a youth or young female market, and MSN for seniors or young teens; but for our purposes it's Mr G.

Google is also the best bet if you find your user base has a high percentage of Firefox and Chrome users - and that applies here. It's because these users are commonly Google users.

The first job is to decide a theme for the page. You'll know what your page subject is - but how would someone find that page? Exactly what would they be searching for?

Normally, people type two to five word queries, in lower case, asking for information to resolve a question or to find a resource. Our best shot is to target 3- or 4-word queries with a high volume. That's because there is less competition than for one or two word queries, and a three or four-word search is likely to be very specific and we can make sure to answer that searcher's question precisely. We can give value for money. There is no mileage at all in getting people to your site on false pretences - you want to provide exactly what they need. And you want them to come to you, not your competitors. And you want them to come back.

 

Keywords - or Naming

Keywords equals keyphrases equals search terms equals searchers' queries. A keyword is actually a phrase, usually.

Although we commonly use the expression keywords or keywording, a better term in most cases would be 'naming' as it is more accurate. Naming means the way keywords are used.

Keywords are the reason visitors come to the site and to your page. If you don't include any keywords, there can't be any visitors, as there is no reason that anyone could find the page or want to visit. Keywords are basically the word or phrase that a person types into the search box on Google. If a thousand people type in <free antiviros>, spelling it wrongly as here, then that is a keyword - due to the weight of numbers. If ten thousand people type in <best free antivirus>, then that is an even better keyword, due to the greater numbers. In addition - and vitally important - you know exactly what the searcher wants, and can help them immediately and precisely.

But <antivirus> is a poor keyword, because (a) there will be a huge amount more competition for this word; and (b), we really don't know what the searcher wants at all. In many cases we probably wouldn't be able to help them, so trying to get them to the site might be a negative exercise.

So naming - the use of keywords - is important. Naming starts with the page title and heading (often the same), and continues through on-page keyword use, and backlink anchor text and so on.

 

The title

The most important factor is the title.

Never use generic words, always describe what the page is about, precisely and very briefly. Use a known format for success. Try to pick a title that also features in the page text.

Generic stuff: don't use it. This means words that describe the vague area but are not specific. Example: PC Improvement Products. Better: PC Tune-up Software (it's what someone might search for). Try not to use the word 'products' on a website as it is a zero word - a word that no one will ever be searching for, and which is clearly a lazy man's easy option.

Don't say: What We Do. That's useless; if you paint houses, say: House Painters. No one is searching for 'what we do', they are searching for painters.
And don't say: We Are Well-Known in Oregon as the Best House Painters This Side of The Rockies.

There are some title formats for an advice-type article that score well. These are (in descending order of success):
How To Reformat a Disk
Disk Reformat Guide
Disk Reformat Manual
Disk Reformat Tutorial
Disk Reformat FAQs
 
Our best title might be How To Reformat a Disk.
Why? Because that's what most people type into the search box - something like <how to reformat disk>, or <disk reformat guide>. They don't type <methods and technologies for disk transmogrification>. Make your title what most people are likely to type for a search. You can research this with keyword tools like Free Search Term Suggestion Tool.

You will find that the best keyphrase varies even when very similar subjects are checked. It also varies by country, due to the different use of English. For example a guide-type article will be successfully named Widget Tutorial for USA searchers, but this would crash in the UK as the term 'tutorial' is never used - there, you would probably use Guide. Go for max search volume, which normally means US-based terms. You can easily get the other variations into the text of the article.

 

Local variants

In the section above, the best title for a review of a guide to disk formatting is given as 'How To Reformat a Disk', followed by 'Disk Reformat Guide'. The reason for that is simply that I have tested these variants and that's the result (web analytics are the key to success in site management for improved results). But that's just for disk formatting - with another subject, the result might be different.

However on the TSA site we often use a slightly different format: 'Best Free ...........', as much of our content is software reviews. For a review of disk formatting software, we might use 'Best Free Disk Format Software', on the assumption that most searchers will type <best free disk format software>, <free disk formatting program>, etc. We don't know which is the best until it's researched. Two places to do that are keyword research tools such as KeyWordDiscovery and the Google Adwords external tool, and your site web analytics. If you can, then research the best keywords first.

Of course, you can only hit one version with the title. This presents a problem if there are many possible versions of a query. To get round this we try to slip variants in wherever possible. Use your main keyword most - but utilise variants in places. Even a misspelling or two can help, as many searches are of course spelt wrongly. Remember - we are trying to score a hit on what most people actually typed into that box - precisely. But since there are going to be variations, then we should try to pick the most likely and work with them too. Then, later, you look at your web analytics and see the result. There is no way of telling how you are doing unless you look at the stats.

 

Paragraph 1

In the first paragraph you should repeat the theme a couple of times. In the first sentence; and also somewhere else in that paragraph. You could use a variation, eg "...and our disk reformat guide will show you how...". This way, you're covering all the options.

Here is one excellent method. If the page title is Best Free Disk Format Software, then you could start your article like this:

"Advanced PC users often need to use a disk reformatting program and we have reviewed several here for ..... ...."

Note how a good variant has been used - and it has been bolded. This works.

 

Last paragraph

Repeat the main theme strongly in the very last paragraph. Use keywords. Use a misspelling or two, after introducing them as such. This is simply the equivalent of footer tags - which you can use instead if you prefer.

 

Subheadings

Use subheadings in the article. It's very good for readers as it breaks the information up into sections. Look at how this is done in magazines. And it helps us with search as you can use theme variations and topic variants. In our disk reformat article example, we might use Create two partitions as a subheading. People are likely to be searching for topics such as how to create two partitions on a disk.

 

Links - outbound

Search engines like to see links out of an article. Make sure to only link to high-quality resources. Don't ever link to bad neighbourhoods. You are judged now on the quality of your outbound links, as well as your backlinks (links coming in). If you link to the BBC, CNN, and Mother Teresa's website, that's just fine. Well, that isn't really feasible in most cases so just pick good, relevant resources.

This is all to do with relevance - a critical factor. As far as a search engine goes, this means: what search terms will this page be relevant to, and exactly how relevant is the page to those terms. One very strong guide to this, for search engines, is the pages you link out to and the pages that link in. If your page is titled House Painters, and you link to a Wikipedia article on house painting, and several house painters in other areas link to your page - it's a fair bet that your page is strongly relevant to a search for 'house painters'.

Because of this, you could put in one or two links even if you wouldn't normally do that. The Internet runs on links. The ideal link is to or from a similar site to yours, of the highest quality, with rich content in exactly the same area as yours. Unfortunately, that's a definition of your competitors' sites! So choose something similar but not competing with you. A safe bet is a Wikipedia article, or a national association's site - that sort of thing, if you really can't think of another useful resource of high quality that you like. Remember relevance. It's always best to link to a PAGE that you think relevant, not to a SITE that seems good. Linking to the front page, ie the bare domain name, is not as effective as linking to a useful page. The same applies to our own backlinks of course - we want them to point to inside pages, not the front page.

You want links to your internal pages, not your front page.

You don't have to use outbound links of course. But if you ever find that you are asking yourself the question, "Should I put in a link to this useful site or not?", then the answer is yes, do it. A couple of years back we would have been a little careful about restricting outbound links, but that has changed. There are pluses to linking out from within content pages now (though not from the front page or main landing pages).

 

Links - on-site

Links to other pages within the site help a lot, too. Link to pages that are relevant.

Always CHECK YOUR LINKS WORK. In the finished article, go through it and click the links. Check they work OK.

 

Pix

Images of any kind are real search engine food (spider food as we say). There are some vital considerations here: get the filename and the alt. text right or you're just wasting your time. If the image can have a caption and a title, then put these in and get them right too. Give an image a good, relevant filename, like disk-reformat.jpg for example; and the alt. text will be: Disk reformat picture.

You should NEVER use an underscore (like_this) for any purpose whatsoever on a website. Search engines cannot read any text linked in this way, it's gibberish to them, so you've totally lost that search-relevant opportunity.

As we're all techies here I guess I'd better explain this, as you are likely to see many examples that contradict my advice. Firstly, underscores are used on a PC to avoid filename spaces. They do not derive from website use.

Secondly, search engines can of course READ these terms but they cannot PARSE them (understand and relate them to other data) - which is the important thing. What you have done is defeat their ability to parse the term by hard-coding in an instruction to not parse it.

An underscore specifically instructs the processor function to treat the two joined words as one entity; and the term also cannot be split by secondary functions that determine the real meaning of long, joined-up terms (such as housepainter - which the SE can split into its two components) as you have, again, hard-coded in an instruction not to do so. Actually Google (the most sophisticated of the SEs) just started this year to parse some underscored terms, in a limited fashion. But it's definitely something to avoid. And also a fast test of someone's technical knowledge - if they use underscores on a website it shows straight off they know zip about the technical side of SEO.

So don't use underscores in image filenames or anywhere else - hyphens, like-this. Don't use upper case in image names or URLs, either. Here's a bad image name with a bunch of errors:
FGY3759fishing_products.jpg

Here are two versions done correctly:
fishing-rod.jpg
fgy3759-fishing-rod.jpg

 

Page URL

And then when you come to save it -- pick a good page address (ie alias). In our example, as a how-to guide for use on this site, it will be: how-to-reformat-a-disk.htm

Try to keep URLs short and relevant. Around six words or so is about the max length, and if it goes over this then cut out words such as 'a', 'the', etc.

 

Metadata

This is very important but implementing it is tricky for users on a CMS.

Metadata is 'data about data'. It's used everywhere as an invisible layer below your visible work that describes it for other users or for the machine. Examples: a Word file - contains a very large amount of metadata, often more than is on the page (never send a Word file outside your office...). An NTFS hard disk partition - contains a large metadata area on the disk that tells the machine what is where. A web page - contains metadata in the header source that tells browsers and search engines about the page.

Ideally you have a description meta tag. This is not so much for SEO but because search engines like Google often use the contents of the description meta tag for the snippet that appears in search engine results. So a persuasive description meta tag helps improve the click-through rate of your review articles and generate traffic back to our site from the SERPs (search engine result pages). An example of a persuasive meta tag would be something like:

'In our review of free backup programs we found five products that we could recommend but one product stood out from the rest in terms of performance and reliability.'

The description meta tag for articles can be accessed when editing an article by clicking on the Meta tags heading that appears on the edit page.

 

Minor issues

There are plenty of questions about stuff like singular v plural and so on, but just try and use what you think will be the most likely thing people type into the searchbox. That is always the key factor.

In a choice between lower case and upper case, use lower case, because that is almost certainly the way it will be typed into the search text box. Even capitalised words are normally typed all lower case in searches. Google distinguishes between singular and plural, and often between lower and upper case. By all means use variations of these in your article, so that all options are covered.

Of course, Google knows that Widget = widget. But if all else is equal, a search for 'widget' will be sent to a page with 'widget' on it and not to one with 'Widget'. And not to one with 'widgets'.

 

Finally

In SEO there are no solid facts or inarguable issues - everything is debated. SEO is an art with some science chucked in. Mainly it's about research, testing, and results. Especially results.

The only thing that counts is results. There are many people who will try to give you advice but from personal experience 75% is wrong, often because it is no longer valid. This is because the Net changes very fast. Any advice that was given three years ago is likely to be wrong now. If anyone attempts to give you advice, just ask, "Give me the names of 10 sites you manage that are Google #1 or #2 for their main two-word site theme." :-)

Only results count - not theory or forum advice.

You should be especially wary of following SEO advice given on SEO forums, as some - or even most of it - is wrong.

If you are interested in this subject you can run the following test procedure:
1. Write an article. Follow the formula for success given above - or use other methods. There is more than one successful method.
2. Make sure it is linked in via a menu somewhere.
3. In 16 days time, check its position on Google for the page's main term.
4. Try to improve on-page factors so that your page moves up the SERPs.
5. Get other page owners on the site to link to your page.
6. Go out and do 10 social links to the page - bookmarks, blog comments, forum posts are excellent.
7. Ask for the page to be added to the sitemap.
8. Ask if the metadata can be filled.
9. Keep tuning and testing until it's #1 :)

You might be interested to know that a good new page created on a strong site will enter Google on page 1. It will then start to slide down the positions after two weeks. For example if it first enters at #4, then after two weeks it will slide, perhaps to #8, perhaps on to page 2. This is the natural progression. To keep the page highly placed, you need to: (1) get links pointing at it; (2) tweak any other on-page or on-site factors that might help. The single most important on-page factor for the search term in question is to have that term repeated on the page several times.

Please ask questions on any points, in the Comments below.

 

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