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Web site content and search engine visibility

Keywords, labels, and visual hierarchy

Keywords and labels are at the core of search engine optimization (SEO) process. However, a web page with keyword-focused content might be boring to some site visitors, or the page's content might be popular but doesn't convert visitors into buyers. How can page content meet the business goals of search engine visibility, increased leads and prospects, and closed sales? Which leads me to this reader's question:

I know I have to use keywords on my web pages. But I also have to make sales. Do you have any general tips for writing search-engine friendly web site content without having to sacrifice conversions?

I do believe "Content is king" on a web site. But I also believe that content should be keyword focused whenever possible and that a web site should be easy to use. I always ask the following questions to online business professionals to see if they really understand search-engine friendly copywriting. You can use these questions as guidelines, as well.

Are you using words and phrases on your web pages that your target is audience is typing into search queries?

To be successful with search engine visibility, you must use words and phrases that your target audience is typing into search queries. People need to see these words: both in search engine listings and on the web page after they click on a search engine listing. This is part of information scent and validation...both which are very important to users and technology.

The words and labels on your page should communicate 'aboutness' to both users and technology...searchers and search engines. The concept of 'aboutness' applies to all types of web documents: (X)HTML pages, graphic images, videos, audio files, and other digital documents.

These keyword phrases must appear frequently and prominently on your web pages...but not so frequently that it appears to be search engine spam.

I would not begin writing web page content without first doing quality keyword research. Part 2 of Search Engine Visibility tells you how to do keyword research and how to write content for individual XHMTL tags.


How do people benefit from visiting your web site without having to spend any money?

Obtaining information is the #1 reason that people visit web sites, accounting for between 63-80% of search engine queries. If you provide information for people such as free [topic of interest ] tips, price comparisons, product evaluations, a how-to section, a glossary or dictionary, or tips for buying your product or service, you have given a benefit for visiting your site.

Obtaining information is the #1 reason that people visit web sites, accounting for between 63-80% of search engine queries.

For example, many web site owners create blogs to add keyword-focused information to their web sites. However, they make the mistake of making their blog content too self promotional. People do not read or subscribe to blogs to read self-promotional content. They want to read content that provides clear benefits, is helpful and valuable to them.

I know it might seem counterintuitive to give away information that people should pay for. After all, it takes years of education, training, and experience to acquire skills, knowledge, expertise. I am not saying that your free content or widget should be at the expense of your web site meeting business goals. However, I am saying that people do not go to web sites to read a 25-page advertisement of "look how wonderful we are." Give new users a taste of what you have to offer. Give current customers a reason to return to your site. Remember, link development is a building block of search engine optimization. People do not link to sites with substandard content.

Always try to communicate "look what we can do for you" rather than "look how wonderful we are." Potential customers will remember you because you are looking out for their best interests.


Why should people return to your web site?

Visitors don't always make impulse purchases, especially if your products cost hundreds or thousands of dollars. Often, people usually won't purchase from your site until they visit it at least 4-5 times. So always give people a reason to return to your site.

Updating product or service information, timely how-to tips, and special sales and discounts are good reasons for people to return to your site or maybe even bookmark it. You would be surprised at the number of customers who have visited your site (or read about your site in a trustworthy source.

Crawl frequency, or how often search engines re-spider your site, does not affect rankings... except in news-type search engines where freshness truly matters.

It's always a good idea to regularly update your site. Microsoft does not show the same commercial year after year after year because people will get bored with the same commercial. Nor should anyone show the exact same web content month after month after month. I believe that a site should be updated at least every 1 to 3 months, even if the changes are minimal.

Extra benefit? Search engines do learn how frequently you update your site. But there is one thing to remember about crawl frequency: it doesn't mean that your site will rank higher. In news and blog search, where the most recent information is often more valuable, crawl frequency has more impact on rankings.


When people arrive at your web site, what do you want them to do?

It's one thing to get people to come to your site. It's another thing to get them to convert.

So every page on your site, ask the question, "What do you want people to do?" Subscribe to a newsletter? Place item in a shopping cart? Pick up the phone and call? Make those calls to action obvious. I like to pre-define a primary, secondary, and third-level call to action on every page type on a site. That way, when it comes time to actually design the site, I don't have to go back and start over again, having to re-create a page design template.

Whenever it is appropriate, use keywords in your calls to action. If your target audience typed those words into a search query, they are looking for those words on your pages. Keep 'em close to your calls to action.

Additionally, provide a visual hierarchy. What do you want people to do first? That call to action should be obvious. What do you want people to do second? That call to action might be less obvious but still clear to your site visitors.

As much as technology and usability pros try to separate content and design? The best design template I select depends on the page content. I think many techie people and usability pros don't get the big picture. But I point.


What separates you from your competition?

All site visitors want to know company's unique selling proposition (USP). Therefore, try to design and market the site based on this information. All sites should have unique selling propositions.

I often hear the "best customer service" and the "lowest prices" together. From my standpoint, if you want to hire a really talented customer service staff, you have to pay them well. That will affect your overhead and, thus, your prices. Also, the lowest prices do not guarantee the best quality. So be prepared to address those issues of you have both of these unique selling propositions.

Your unique selling propositions should be obvious to your site's visitors. A focus group, or even just taking a phone survey from some of your customers, can tell you if your unique selling propostions are obvious on your web site.


Shari Thurow - photoArticle by Search Engine Visibility author Shari Thurow, Founder and SEO Director at Omni Marketing Interactive, a full-service search engine optimization (SEO), web site usability, information architecture (IA) and web design firm. Shari is also the co-author of When Search Meets Web Usability.

If you would like permission to publish this article for your online newsletter, blog, or web site, please fill out our contact form or call us at 847-426-4256.

For more information about our search engine optimization, search usability training, and site design services, please fill out our contact form or call us at 847-426-4256.

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