Optimizing Your Web Content for Search Visibility

Internet search engines like Google or Bing use an automated process to find and follow web links and to analyze and index web page content for topical relevance. These automated search programs are collectively called "web spiders" or "web crawlers."

This emphasis on links and pages is crucial to understanding how web search works: crawlers can only find your pages if they have links to follow to find them, and search engines do not rank whole web sites—they rank the popularity and content relevance of individual web pages. Therefore each page of your site needs to be optimized for search and well-linked to other pages, because from a search engine's point of view, each web page stands alone.

Editing your web page content for search visibility

Think about the keywords and important phrases you might use to find your own web pages, and make a list of those words and phrases. Then go through each major page of your site and look at the page titles, content headers, and page text to see if your title and headers accurately reflect the content and major themes of each page.

Focus on your page title, major text titles, and keywords within your text, and make sure they match each other. 

  1. Page titles: Titles are the most important element in page topic relevance. Titles also have another important role on the Web: The page title becomes the text of bookmarks that readers make.
  2. Major headings at the top of the page (<h1>, <h2>, and so on). Ideally the same keywords should appear in both your page title and the text of your major headings.
  3. The first several content paragraphs of the page, particularly if you are using the same keywords that appear in your page title and major headings.
  4. The text of links to other pages: Linked text tells a search engine that the linked words are important. Avoid using a generic phrase such as "click here" as link text, because it provides the reader with little information about the destination content, and tells the search engine nothing about the information on either the current or linked page.
  5. The alternate ("alt") text for images on the page: Accurate, carefully-crafted alternate text for images is essential if you want your images to appear in image search results such as Google Images and Yahoo! Images.
  6. The HTML file name itself is also scanned by the search engine. If you create HTML files yourself, always try to use plain language, and use hyphens to separate words in the file name, ideally containing one of your chosen topic keywords. For example: The content of a file called "web-search-optimization.html" is plain to both readers and search engines.

The text within these kinds of files are scanned and indexed by general Internet search engines:

  • Web pages created within YaleSite and SimpleSite system
  • HTML files (.htm, .html)
  • Plain text files (.txt)
  • Microsoft Office files (Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files)
  • Adobe Acrobat files