What Search Engines Read…

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Search engines index pages with complex algorithms that weigh a ton of different variables, both internal and external to your page. I do think it's important to recognize what key elements that Search Engines pay attention to, though. Most of them are elements that you have full control over when planning or designing your site or simply writing your page. This is regardless of whether it's a typical marketing brochure website, a blog, or any other site.

Key Elements for Search Engine Optimization

SEO Diagram of Key Elements

Before the SEO guys that read my blog tear me apart – I'll throw a disclaimer out there… this is only a portion of what a SEO expert would pay attention to when reviewing and tweaking your site. There are, of course, other factors such as meta tags, HTML placement, and site popularity. My point is simply to make the average website developer or business owner aware of some key elements that can be easily modified.

  1. The title of your pages will impact how well the page is indexed. Be sure to utilize keywords in your page title and put your blog or site's title secondary.
  2. Your domain name impacts your placement. If you want top placement for specific keywords or phrases, think about incorporating them into your domain name.
  3. Post slugs are important and can be used to leverage keywords and phrases. I try to utilize a compelling headline that attracts the reader but my post slugs are usually modified for search engines.
  4. The main heading (h1) of your page weighs heavily within the content that search engines are indexing. The hight(est) placement physically in the HTML will also impact the indexing.
  5. As with the main heading, a subheading (h2) will also impact the indexing of the page.
  6. The title of your post, or additional subheadings will impact what keywords and phrases are indexed and how well.
  7. Repeating keywords and key phrases within the content is important. These keywords and key phrases should be analyzed to see if they are keywords and key phrases that are likely searched.
  8. Complimentary keywords and key phrases will also help.
  9. Additional subheadings (h3) also help and can weigh more than other words within the page content.
  10. Utilizing phrases and keywords within an anchor tag (link), is also a great way to drive keyword and keyphrase indexing on a page. Don't waste this valuable commodity on “click here” or “link”… rather, utilize title and text to really drive the relationship between the link and the key phrases. For example, if I want my domain related to marketing and technology, I would want to be sure to use:
    <a href="http://martech.zone" title="Martech Zone">Martech Zone</a>

    instead of:

    <a href="http://martech.zone">My Blog</a>
  11. Just as with the anchor link, incorporating title tags into image links is helpful as well. Since search engines can won't index the contents of an image (yet), adding a keyword-laden title will help much more – especially if someone is simply using Google's Image Search.
  12. Image names are important. Be sure to use dashes and not underscores between the words in the image. And be sure the image name matches the image… trying to stuff keywords into an image that's not relevant could hurt more than helping.


  1. 1

    Except for the fact that if you’ve targetted the wrong key phrases to begin with, it really doesn’t matter, I think you got most of it.
    Very thorough work.

  2. 3

    Knowing SEO and explaining it in layman’s terms are two different animals. Try as I may, I get some dumbfounded looks when I try my best to explain what search engines look for, how linking is important, and why page titles matter. It is my job to express those ideas in a concise, easy-to-understand manner. This post helps me tremendously. Great job.

    • 4

      Thanks, Dan! It has been a strength for me and I continue to try to fine-tune it. I think I’m better in person, mostly because I can translate the perplexed look of the folks I’m speaking to.

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