We get these questions a lot. How do I get my nonprofit’s most important pages to show up in search results? How can I optimize a web page for search engines? To answer them in 2020, we’ve compiled a process for optimizing content for search engines.

Search engines connect people with the web page that it thinks is the best answer to what you’ve searched for. While there is a certain science behind search engine optimization (SEO) and creating a page that best answers a searched word or phrase, or a keyword, it all comes down to the content.

Does it satisfy the intent behind someone’s search for the keyword? Or, were they looking for more or different content?

Find Your Keyword

Before working through this process, you’ll need to have a keyword or keyword phrase in mind that you would like your page to show up for.

If keyword research is a bit out of your wheelhouse, consider connecting with an SEO professional or taking a leap with a scaled-down DIY approach. Put yourself in your audience’s shoes as you brainstorm keywords, and don’t forget about location-focused searches. You can also check in with your Google Search Console to see what visitors are already searching for before landing on your website.

Optimize a Web Page for Search Engines

These days, there are two pieces of search engine optimization (SEO): providing the best response to the searcher’s query and noting the keyword in specific places that search engine spiders go crawling on a page.

Create Quality Content on the Topic

Thinking about your keyword and what the person searching it is looking for, build a page that meets all of their needs and doesn’t require them to travel back to the search results page for different components of their question.

  • Does it cover all of the possibilities of the topic?
  • Does it provide resources/links for topics that it doesn’t cover in full?
  • Is your page a better answer to the query than the first three results currently showing?
  • Do those pages have something that yours does not?
  • Can it be easily scanned with headings and web-friendly content?
  • Is it at least 300 words?

Creating good content isn’t rocket science, but it does ask that you put yourself in the mindset of the reader or searcher. What are they looking for? Answer their quest for information in a clear and concise way, and you’ll be repaid for it with a higher ranking in the search results.

Optimize for Your Keyword

Run through these steps to ensure that the page content contains that specific word or phrase in all of the places that search engines look for during a crawl of your web page.

Include your keyword in the following places to get your point across to Google:

  • In the page title – The closer to the beginning of the page title that you can fit your keyword, the better.
  • In the URL – Ensure that the exact word or phrase makes it into the URL or permalink for the page.
  • In the body copy – Use the exact keyword, along with common variations of it, a few different times in the text on the page.
  • In headings – Try to work the keyword or phrase into a heading or two on the page.
  • In the meta description – Use the keyword or phrase within the meta description, or short summary of the page.

Including the keyword or keyword phrase in all of these places will increase the chances of the web page appearing in search results for that keyword. To help ensure that you’re catching these opportunities, consider using a tool like the Yoast plugin on your website.

A Note on Image Attributes

As users and search engines grow and get to know each other better, things change, including optimization best practices. Nowadays, SEO recommendations are slowly moving toward the best practices for accessible content. Previously, it was a best practice to include the keyword within image alt attributes, like the title and alt text, but that is no longer necessarily the case.

For content accessibility, you should only include image attributes for essential images, like those that add value to the content. Be sure to describe what’s happening in the image. Purely decorative images do not require alt text.

Using Alternative Keywords

As you’re writing, it’s natural to use variations of the target keyword within the copy. For example, if you’re targeting the keyword phrase “volunteer to build homes”, you might also use the phrases “volunteering to build a house” or “construction volunteer opportunities”.

Aside from being an opportunity to mix things up and avoid keyword stuffing or boring content, these alternative words can help improve your ranking in search engines and get your page included in results for related searches.

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While it’s important to take advantage of opportunities to work your keyword into various elements of the page, the quality of the content will always be the most important factor in search engine rankings. If Google sees indications that the page is not what searchers are looking for, like brief visits or few clicks from search results, your page will get pushed back in the results.

Do your best to create a page that’s best suited to the intent behind the search for your keyword, and you’ll do fine. It all comes down to understanding your audience and what they want from the page.

Have you tried to optimize a web page for search engines? Have you made it into the results yet? Any tactics or specific SEO issues that you’re wondering about? Let’s get into those in the comments below.