Optimising your website for search engines

Tips for helping your website to rank better in search engines
Submitting your website to search engines allows your pages to display in search engine result pages (SERPs). The higher your page is listed, the more traffic you are likely to get. Currently, the major search engines are Google and Bing. Yahoo uses results from Bing so you do not need to submit your website to Yahoo. There are also a lot of smaller search engines which are not used as much as the major ones. This page will go over some of the points to cover when setting up your website for best search engine placement.

Some search engines allow you to submit a site map containing all of your pages, while others like you to submit your URL and they will include your website in their index after a period of time. Some only require you to submit the base URL, such as https://www.freeclipart.com, and they will crawl each of the pages within the website. Others might want you to submit each page that you want listed. Some search engines may have other rules surrounding submission, and it usually checks to find out what these rules are so that your site is not penalised.

Before submitting your website to search engines, you should make sure that the content on your pages is optimised to help with best placement. Search engines deliver the most relevant results to searchers, so make sure your page is set up to show that the content within the page is relevant to the subject of the page. One way of guiding this is the use of meta tags. These are placed within the head of your webpage, and contain meta information about the page itself. This guides search engines as to the subject of the content within the page. If you need, a meta-tag generator can be found here

1. For best placement, ensure each of your pages have meta tags.

  • Set the meta description tag. The description tag is what generally shows up on the search page when someone conducts a search. Search engines such as Google will sometimes use this description, but they may use a snippet of text from your page if it is more relevant to the searcher. Try to include the keywords from your page in the description, and try to make sure the textual content on your pages is descriptive.
  • Set the title. Give each page on your site a title. I don't mean the one that shows on the page, I mean the one you set between the <title> tags in the head. The one at the top of the browser. If the name of your website is descriptive for your site...use that first. For example, the title for https://www.freeclipart.com/nature-graphics could be 'Free Clipart - nature graphics'. The page title adds another layer of confidence for search engines if it contains wording that matches the content on the page.
  • Consider setting the meta keyword tag. Although the keyword tag does not carry much weight (in fact none in the major search engines), there may be some minor search engines which still rely on them for categorising your page. It probably doesn't hurt to use the keyword tag - although if you are working on a SEO strategy you may be giving your competition the heads up on what keywords you are using to target particular pages. If you are using the keyword tag, it should consist of words and phrases about your page. A good way to find keywords for your site is to imagine how people will find your site. If you have a clipart site, then someone looking for clipart could type in 'clipart', 'free clipart', 'images', 'pictures', 'graphics', 'web clipart' and so on. These are your keywords. If a search engine uses the keyword tag, they may also look for the relevance of your keywords. This means they take those keywords and search through the body of your page for them. If they don't find them, they figure you're trying to pull a fast one, using keywords that aren't related to your site in order to boost your website ranking.The more repetition of keywords on your page, as well as consecutive keywords (such as 'welcome to my free clipart site) shows that your page is rich in 'keyword content'. Don't overdo it though - remember, these pages have to be readable to humans and nobody wants to read a page full of keywords.
  • Set different meta-tag content for each page. Make sure the meta description and meta title tags are crafted for each page, and matches the content within the page. This helps to really target searches, increasing the chance that your pages will rank higher for search terms.

2. Pay attention to your on-page tags.

  • Give your webpage URL a descriptive name as this provides another layer to for search engines to be sure that the page they are presenting in the search results contains the information the searcher is looking for. For example, the URL for your nature graphics page could be https://www.freeclipart.com/nature-graphics.
  • Include one <h1> (heading) tag on each page which reflects the content of the page. Cascade this down by using either one or more <h2> tags, and <h3> tags if your content allows. 
  • Set the 'alt' tag for images (<img src='pic.gif' alt='describe the picture'>). Within these 'alt' tags, try to use keywords in the description (as long as it is fitting with the picture!). Search engines read them, as so screen readers.

3. Include a statistics program on each of your pages

  • Placing a stats program on your website allows you to see the results of any optimisation. Google Analytics is a bit of a standard, delivering great insights into your website traffic such as what pages are visited, what keywords were used to find the page, and how long visitors stay on pages. 
Although this is a very brief overview of what you can do to help your website rank better in search engines, you should see some improvement in your rankings if you implement these tips.