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Improving your search listing on Google, Bing, etc.

Unfortunately improving your ranking on search engines is not just a process of bunging in loads of keywords. You need to understand what search engines are looking for and why they rank you the way they do.

The basics

Search engines are in the business of helping users find what they want. They look for content that is:

  • Authoratitive - produced by organisations which are trusted (this gives gloucestershire.gov.uk a head start)
  • Unique - if everyone has the same information a search engine will use other methods to decide who's is best
  • The main lesson from this is not to waste your time providing the same information that is available elsewhere, especially if they are going to outrank you (eg www.gov.uk)
  • Engaging - artificial intelligence will rate your content for language and style - sloppy or difficult language will be penalised (write in Plain English)
  • Relevant - content that relates to the subject of the search
  • make sure your page title is descriptive and says what the page is about - it is the most important piece of text on the page and should include the most important subject keywords
  • use language that will be used by the searcher - again Plain English
  • be careful to use 'normal' language not technical speech (rubbish or refuse / road or highway / pavement or footpath?)

This should be your first task - write good content that fills a need.

Tweaking with the SEO tab

Once you've produced unique, engaging, and relevant content you can tweak the hidden bits of the page (know as 'metadata') to help search engines decide whether your page is relevant, and to provide the snippet of text that they will display. You use the SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) tab which allows you to specify a description & keywords.

The SEO tab

Description

This is used by most search engines to provide the snippet of text that appears below the page link in the results.

Try to distill the main subject of your page into a short descriptive paragraph. It should be easy and if you find it isn't this may indicate that your page is complicated and unfocused.

The descrption should be at least 50 characters and no longer than 300 (most search engines will truncate long descriptions).

Keywords

This allows you to add the main keywords and terms that some users may use to find the content, even if they are not necessarily included in the page. Here is where you can include technical or jargon words that normal users wouldn't use but which some people might (eg refuse if your page is about rubbish).

Example

Search for 'gloucestershire term dates' and you will see the following listing:

Google result for 'gloucestershire term dates'

Compare this with the Umbraco page for Term Dates:

SEO tab for Term Dates

The keywords here are a bit superfluous as they appear in the text but the description is shown by Google.

Remember: search engine optimisation is best done by writing good, unique, engaging, and relevant content. If you do this you will not need to use the SEO tab to tweak the search results. that should be your aim when writing any page.

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