Steps to using the correct search terms in your web site

Submitted by Jason Hoffman | Category: Web Services | Published on Jan 23, 2007
Essential things that you should do to build in search terms in a web site

It's one thing designing a great looking web site. It's another thing actually getting users to find it. If you have the money, and if it's really important for your site to be No.1 in Google, then consider paying a search engine optimisation expert to get your web site found. It might cost you a small fortune though. However, the following are simple things that anyone can build into a web site to ensure it gets the best possible visibility. It's not an exhaustive list, but it's what we do when we're building our websites.


The following are pretty basic design points:

  • It goes without saying that the web site should be built using CSS
  • Create a logical structure with half dozen main navigation entry points which sit on every page rather than having all of your pages linked through your home page. Also stay clear of dropdown menus - they are not good for accessibility.
Make a list of your search terms

Draw up a list of the search terms that you would use if you were searching for the services that your website offers. For example, if you were looking for a back catalogue of Beatles CDs, the following are search terms that you might use: "The Beatle's"; "Beatles back catalogue"; "Beatles CDs";" cheap CDs"; "1960s music".

List your search terms on paper.

Review the top 5 returned web sites

Try these search terms in a couple of different search engines. Look at the websites that are returned in the top five results, and systematically go through them, looking at their source code and copying their keywords (used in their title, description and keywords tags) to your list.

What terms does your competition use?

Look at your competitors' websites. The top five websites you looked at above probably won't be your main competitors - so check out who the competition are (i.e. the local shops, niche markets etc). Look at their source code to find out what terms they use, and add them to your list.

Keyword checks

Now comes the important bit.

Take your list of search terms, and run them through Overture's keyword selector tool. This tool will list the number of times that that search term has been used in the last month, and will allow you to refine your search terms by comparing them with the most used, similar terms.

As an example from our own site, our original search term of "web design" was used in 331396 searches. However, a much better term is "web design and development", as it was searched for 1503062 times!

Go through your list and modify your terms so that you are using the ones that are most likely to be used in a search.


There are three sections to add your keywords to in the head code.

  • The title tag: Your most important keyword should appear in the line of text that appears in the blue space right at the top of your browser window. This is the title tag. For Arkose this is "internet web design and development", so our title is "Arkose Design - - Edinburgh & Fife - internet web site design and development"
  • The description tag: This tag describes what this page is about. We've repeated the most important search term "Web Design and Development" plus added five more important search terms. " - Index Page Detailing Arkose Design's Web Design and Development Services Including Web Hosting, Web site Redesign, SEO and Brand Development"
  • The keywords tag: This is where you add more of your keywords. Don't use this space to stack it with every conceivable keyword or phrase related to your topic. Repeat the terms used in the title and descriptions tags and add selected phrases that will be used in searches. Don't add mis-spellings, and don't add keywords that aren't repeated in your content. Since the content is different from page to page, the search terms used in the keyword tag will be different on each page

Now work your keywords into your content. Ensure that your most important search terms are incorporated at least a couple of times, but make sure that keywords are used in logical places - such as page headers, section sub-headings or in the text. Lastly, use proper sentence structure rather than random words.

H1, H2 and H3 tags

Use h1, h2 and h3 tags throughout the site to highlight the content that follows and build in keywords to these tags. Look at our index page for an example of this.

A links

Incorporate your key search terms into internal links. Links that are made up of keywords rather than "click here" are more effective, plus they'll make the web site more accessible. Again, look at the Arkose home page.


Finally, here are some resources that you might find useful:

  • Bruce Clay - A great place to go for advice on all things to do with search engine optimisation (and more)
  • Overture's keyword selector tool - Test your key words here
  • Site Point Forum - A useful resource this one. Sign up for free and get access to numerous experts for advice, share information, ask questions and generally immerse yourself in all aspects of web design

And that is, basically, that. Happy building.

Jason Hoffman is a partner in Arkose Design, a web design company based in Fife, Scotland.


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