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Search engine optimisation

Search engine optimisation is the optimisation of website content and other technical aspects to ensure that a site ranks higher in the results of search engines such as Google. As a web editor, you do not have much influence on the technology, but there are points that you can consider when writing text.

Search engines such as Google index websites and thus record how many pages a website comprises. They search through all the pages of your site for links. They also determine the relevance of your page based on a number of aspects. These are the three most important: 

  • The number of links from other websites

    This determines the relative importance of a website for a search engine.
  • The accessibility of the website

    The technical side of the website must make it possible for the search engine to easily find the content and links to other pages.
  • The content of the website

    A search engine divides the text of a website into sections. It gives these sections a rating. The rating of these sections determines the position of the website in the search results.

There are other aspects too, and new ones are always being added. A website behind an https connection ranks higher than a page behind an unsecure connection. A faster load time will give a site a higher ranking in the search results, but these are matters that you as content editor have little influence on.

The most important role of a web editor is to write good content. Below are a number of tips on how to create search-engine friendly content.

Define keywords

Which keywords will people use to search for your information? Note the singular and plural forms of these words. Also think of synonyms.

Tip: Google AdWords has a Keyword Planner that you can use for inspiration. This tool will show you the number of searches for a certain keyword per month.

Use keywords in important sections of the website

Below are a number of tips for using keywords in the different sections of a website.

1. Headers and sub-headers

Include the keywords in the header of a text and make regular use of sub-headers. Search engines rank header text higher than other text. Make sure that the headers are informative and contain keywords. Sub-headers also make the text easier to read.

Tip: Words at the start of a header rank higher than words at the end.

2. Main text

Include your keywords in the main text. Alternate between the singular, plural and synonyms of the keywords. Focus on the uppermost part of the page: search engines often scan the first 250 words.

Tip: Bold words rank higher. Consider making keywords bold.

3. Lists

Search engines pay extra attention to lists, because they often provide important information. If you can convert text from a block into a list, you help visitors and search engines understand what your page is about.

Tip: Keep lists short (three to five bullets): the longer they are the lower they rank.

4. Links

Links give an idea of the context of a website. Emphasise this by using informative links. Avoid ‘click here’, using instead something like ‘more information about studying in Leiden’ as the link text.

Tip: Use as many keywords as possible in the link text.

5.  Alt-text

Search engines can’t see images. This is what the alt-text (alternative text) is for. Enter a description in the alt-text that uses your keywords. Alt-text is also important for the visually impaired or blind who use software that reads out what is on the page.

6. URL

Search engines also index the URL or web address (www.universiteitleiden.nl). Readable URLs will improve your ranking. Many modern CMS systems allow you to choose the URL of a web page. Try to incorporate the keywords here too.

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