Using SEO: Tell Google What Your Website Is About

Having your website show up in search engines is an important way to get people to visit it.

In my first post about search engine optimization, also known as SEO, we discussed the basic mechanics of search engines such as Google. Then, we went over concepts for gaining visibility on them. One of these was content optimization, which was compared to placing a sign on our website for search engines to see and read.

Now let’s dig deeper into this.

Optimizing the content on your website – like text, titles, and headings – is key for ranking effectively in search engines. While you can show up in Google just by having some strong links to your site, it may not show up for relevant search queries. This is where well-designed content can help.

Keywords and Phrases

Optimization starts by deciding what your website is about. To think of it another way, what queries do you want your website to show up for in search engines?

In our last discussion on SEO, we used the example of building a website for a national park. Our park had specific attractions including mountains and waterfalls. These are solid keywords to get started with. Though, we have to wonder about how they fit with what people are actually searching for in Google.

Thankfully, there are tools to assist with this. The Google Adwords Keyword Tool is a great one. We’ll go into it in detail in the future. For now, simply visit the Keyword Tool and type in a few words or phrases. You can try “national park with mountains” and “national park with waterfalls.” Google will then report back to us how many people are searching for each of these every month.

In this case, the results are a little discouraging. It looks like no one is searching for them. However, if we scroll down the page we can see most people are using the plural of park – parks. So, if we redo our search as “national parks with mountains” and “national parks with waterfalls,” we get a hit.

While “national parks with mountains” still returns nothing, the phrase “national parks with waterfalls” gets around 1,000 people searching for it every month. Let’s optimize for this phrase so these people can find our website.

URL Design

After picking some keywords, it’s time to create a file name for the page we are optimizing. This is displayed in the URL that the user types into the top of their web browser. Search engines also look at URLs for clues to understand what sites and pages are about. Because of this, we will want to include our keywords in it.

For example, if our website is, we could name a page on our site national-parks-with-mountains.html. The full URL would then be

Notice how the file name uses dashes between each keyword. This makes it easier to read for both search engines and people. In fact, this URL will be displayed with your website when people are viewing in Google on the search engine results page, also known as the SERP.

Title and Description

Having created a page with the above name, you can begin editing the content on it. Before moving forward, it is important that you have some basic knowledge of HTML. Both the title tag and description meta data are stored in the head of an HTML file. If you need to brush up, the tutorials on W3Schools are a great refresher.

Along with the file name, search engines also analyze the title and description of your page. The SERP will display these too, so it is critical that we weave our keywords into both.

For example, we could create the title “National Parks With Waterfalls – My National Park.” Google will only display about 70 characters in the title, so it is important to keep our keywords toward the beginning of it just in case it gets cut.

The description is limited to around 140 characters, giving us a little more to work with. We can add in some extra words or phrases and create, “Visit National Parks with Waterfalls. My National Park is known for its towering waterfalls, mountains, and other scenic areas. Learn More.”

With the extra space, we are able to mention the keyword “waterfalls” a several times for emphasis. Here is what the whole thing will look like in Google:

Main Content

After completing our page title and description, we can begin writing the copy on each page in an SEO friendly way. To do this, we simply write about our national park, it’s location, the main attractions, and anything else we might want to tell people about it. However, we will want to keep a few things in mind as we go.

Once again, it’s important to weave the phrase “national parks with mountains” into the copy. This needs to be done accurately, though in a natural way so it doesn’t sound awkward. We can also add in a few variations of the phrase and use synonyms. Just like people, Google is aware that many words have similar meanings.

Be sure to avoid repeating the exact phrase over and over again. Search engines look for a keyword density of about 2-5% per page. If we use our keywords too little, Google won’t be able to determine what our page is about. If we use them too much, we run the risk of having our site flagged as spam. This is definitely something to avoid as it can cause a website to be dropped from the SERP entirely.

Headings and Content Position

Image Courtesy of Agreene12

Search engines also look at where we use keywords in our copy. Pages that have all their keywords at the bottom may be seen as less relevant, since content further down the page is less visible. This makes it necessary to deploy keywords throughout the entire page, especially toward the top.

Section headings, like those that use the H1 through H6 tags, should also be optimized. These HTML specified headings are usually larger and bolder, making them stand out to people and search engines. They are another great location to add in some of our keywords.

Final Thoughts

There are literally hundreds of changes that you can make on your website to help with SEO.  As search engines continue to improve, the theory behind these changes evolves too.

That said, the techniques that we’ve discussed in this post are the big ones. In other words, with these in place and a few good links, you will be able to tell Google exactly what your site is about and have it engage the people searching for it.


    1. Actually, I think you are seeing custom Google results. When I look, the Wikipedia page for Hagenbuch is number 2.
      What’s interesting is that Google will give you personalized results based upon what you visit on the web. It’s kind of creepy in a way and can confuse those of us that practice SEO. What you can do to give you “real” results is disable the Web History under the Google Search Settings. It’s the gear shaped icon in the upper right corner.

      1. That’s a great video with a really powerful idea. I might have to write something about it. Julie and I were grappling with that a bit in the comments below. Google was serving us different things, and I completely agree that there is a real ethical problem with that. It also makes it really tough to be sure, as an SEO, what people are seeing!

        1. I thought it was really interesting. Very clear which is always nice. This reminded me what we were talking about with FB–they show you what they _think_ you want to see based on complex algorithms applied to your previous posts/interests (which is the frustrating part, right?). The implications when google do it are much larger and problematic, of course. I commonly wonder what results I am _not_ seeing when I do a google search.

          And about algorithms. Another TED talk. Also interesting and unsettling:

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