• Search engine optimization (SEO)

Search engine optimization (SEO) is not a goal; it’s a means to a goal.

The goal is building an audience for your site. SEO helps by making your site more visible to search engines, which can help bring traffic to your site. But the best SEO scheme in the world (if anybody knew what that is) would not get you the permanent audience that you want.

So don’t be obsessed. Just be aware that SEO is a tool — an arrow in your quiver, so to speak. But if  you were to go to site >> you’d know that if the SEO of your websites isn’t properly optimised, then your business just doesn’t exist; such is the importance of good SEO.

What’s the purpose of your website? What information does it try to provide for its audience? Who is the audience? All of these are questions that you and your students should be constantly asking themselves.

SEO begins with the content on your site. That content should be

  • relevant (to your audience and to the purpose of your site)
  • interesting
  • original (what can your site provide that no other site can or will provide)
  • timely (or up-to-date)

If your content is all of these things, you have taken care of 75 percent of your SEO goals.

What about the other 25 percent?

Here are a few things you should consider:

The most important words on your site are the headlines or titles that you give to the stories or items on the pages of your site. For the most part, headlines should be simple, accurate representations of the content on the page. They should use common words that describe the article. All of the rules for good headlines that journalists have developed over the years should be applied.

Keywords are the words most relevant to the content of the page or the site. They are the words that would be the best in describing what the content is about. They are also words that people commonly use for this content. Your headlines and body copy should contain the keywords of your content. The concept of key words is closely tied to searching using search engines such as Google. When you go to Google to search, you type in a search term, which might be a set of words describing what you are trying to find. The search engine will then try to match content to your search term. You want the search engine to find your content, and it is more likely to do so if your keywords match the words in the search term.

Most content management systems, including ISONN’s JeffersonNet, allow you to list tags. Again, these are words that describe the content and tell readers what it is about. Tags help readers find information within a website, but they also can assist a search engine in identifying the content of your page or site for their users. Get your students into the habit of listing tags for their stories.

Should your site contain links that take readers to other sites? This question was hotly debated in the early days of the web. That debate is over, however, and the answer is YES! (Or, “Hell, yes!). Having good, relevant external links is one way of convincing search engines that you are a serious site interested in informing your readers and not just gathering page views. In addition, the more links you have to other sites, the more likely other sites are to link to you. If other sites are linking to your content, search engines notice and you ranking will rise.

A straightforward, logical and visible navigation scheme — or organizational scheme — for your website is another element that contributes to your SEO. Think hard about the way that your site is organized. Are readers likely to know what your navigational labels mean? Be very critical of yourself and your site in this regard.

Use subhead for stories that have any length to them, but make the subhead descriptive. Think keywords. If you know anything about HTML, you will know that <h1>, <h2>, <h3>, and so forth indicate the size of type on a page. The headlines or titles are typically <h1>. Subheads can be <h2> or <h3>. Search engines look for the words in the <h1> tag and give most weight to them. But they also look at those words in the <h2> and <h3> tags.

What doesn’t help SEO?

Design. Search engines don’t care much about how your site looks, except for the navigation aspects that we mentioned above. You want you site to look good, of course. You want it to be visible and logical to navigate. Most content management systems — if they are any good at all — will give you a good set of templates or themes to choose from and will give you some flexibility in using them. You want to make a good impression on the people who show up. Follow the guide for a GMB listing correctly.

But devoting a great deal of time and effort to designing the most beautiful site in all of the universe is, for the most part, a waste of time in building an audience.

Search engines don’t care.

Neither does your audience.

Your audience comes to your site because it is seeking information — not a wonderful aesthetic experience. So make sure your site is visible and logical. Beyond that, concentrate on creating relevant, interesting, original and timely information for the folks who show up. That’s quite a challenge, don’t you think? 

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