A Recipe for Search Engine Visibility: Part II

Dominic Taverniti - 07.13.2009

In the first installment of this recipe for improving your website's visibility with search engines, we mixed in one part effort, or your external site initiatives that drive traffic to your site.  Today we're going to add one part website structure to the begin pulling traffic in.

Quick recap: SEO (search engine optimization) has two basic components - external efforts and internal efforts.  External efforts are essentially the online subset of a traditional marketing campaign, otherwise known as SEM or search engine marketing.  Internal efforts are concerned with your website content and its structure.  In short, there's an SEO formula for attractive, high value content.


Internal SEO Efforts

Internal web page structure plays a vital role in positioning a page for search engine relevance. Regarding specialty SEO pages, it's important to remember that no single page can perform well for many keywords/key terms.

To that end, each page will be built around a single key word or term. Continuing with the example "online fundraising" key term from part one of our recipe, following are the structural page elements that need to be in place and revolving around your single keyword or term.

Keyword in the URL

  • Page name: Use the keyword or key term in the URL of the page.  For example "online-fundraising.aspx" or "online-fundraising-events.php".  In Blackbaud NetCommunity, use Friendly URLs, which in this example would look like "/online-fundraising/".  Note: For multiple words, separate with a hyphen (-) and not an underscore (_).

Keyword in the document head (page code)

  • Title tag: This title is displayed at the very top of a browser. It is also displayed as the first line of information in most search results- Keep its length between 60-90 characters (Google only reads 90 characters), include the keyword or term and put that term at or towards the front of your title.
  • Meta Description: This description is displayed in search results as the long description. Summarize the content of the page, keep it under 250 characters, and include the keyword or term.
  • Meta Keywords: The usefulness of the meta keywords is in hot debate among SEO professionals. My opinion is that while they may not have a much benefit, they surely do not have a negative impact, so go ahead and put them in.  Enter your keyword or term as well as synonyms, along with other relevant terms like organization name and geographic location. Keep it under 200 characters. Remember that both plural and singular forms aren't necessary.

Keyword in the page content

  • Headers: Think of your content flow in terms of an outline, using a main page header or title followed by subheaders or subtitles.  In html this is done with headers or Header 1, Header 2, Header 3, etc. (H1, H2, H3, etc.).

    A Header 1 (<H1>) should be at the very top of the content area, telling search engines---and humans alike---what the topic of the following page content is all about. Use your primary keyword or term in the H1 header. NOTE: Use one and only one H1 per page.

    Continue to build out the outline idea above by breaking the content of the page into subsections and giving them each a subheader that also contains the keyword or term, a synonym or related topic term. Just remember where you are in the outline format and be sure to keep the outline logic in place without skipping headers. For example a Header 2 is followed by H3 and not H4. This structure is also significant because it meets Section 508 accessibility guidelines and enables text readers to better deliver information.
  • Copy: Use your keyword or key term in the page copy (content). Consider using each the following formatting styles at least once on each page:
    • Bold (Online Fundraising)
    • Italic (Online Fundraising)
    • Hyperlink (Online Fundraising)
      • to an external, popular, relevant site - do not use "click here" use "keyword" as it appears in the natural flow of a sentence
      • link back to internal pages on your own site
    • Header - covered above
    • Image file name and image alternate text (alt text)


Site maps surface deep content pages

The significance of a site map is to make sure that pages don't get buried deep within the site where search engines assign a lesser value to the page. The idea here is that content that is three (3) or more levels deep from the home page of your site has tertiary or less value.  In search engine algorithm terms, pages one link from the home page lend more weight than one two clicks away. 

In addition to site maps, a common tactic to surface pages and sections of the site is to use footer links on the home page (and every page), making each link just one click or one level away from the root domain.


CAUTION: Write natural and completing content that your warm-blooded audience will want to read.  Work the above recommended SEO tactics into your well-written content so as not to miss out on some of the cold-blooded calculations used by search engines to decipher keyword relevance.

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