Search Engine Optimization

In order to be effective in online communications, it is essential for your target audience to be able to locate your website. Search engines are a key way for this to happen. Here are a few things you can do to optimize your site so it will appear higher in the search results:

Include a Home Page Description

On your home page, include a brief paragraph describing the purpose of your website. Be sure to include any relevant keywords in this paragraph, to help a search engine determine the key topics covered by your website. This will also help newcomers to your site by explaining at a glance what your site is all about.

Include Metadata

Be sure to include the appropriate "keywords" and "description" metatags on each page of your website. For an ANRTS website built with ExpressionEngine, doing this is as simple as filling in the "SEO Meta Keywords" and "SEO Meta Description" fields on the "Metadata" tab of any entry. The "SEO Meta Keywords" field should be a comma-separated list of words or phrases, while the "SEO Meta Description" should be a short sentence or two describing the purpose of the page.

Name Your Pages after Search Terms

When creating pages, try to make the page title as close as possible to what you'd expect a visitor to type into a search engine to reach your page. For example, if you have a page describing what crops are, name it "What are crops?". For longer titles, search engines give more weight to the first word, so consider using important keywords first (i.e. "Gardening is a great way to have fun in the sun" rather than "Have fun in the sun by gardening!").

Use Relevant Link Text

When creating links on your website, it may be tempting to use words such as "click here" as your link text. However, it's far better to use relevant terms as links, as it tells the search engines what sort of content you are linking to. For example, instead of saying "To visit Michigan State University, click here" you could say "Click here to visit Michigan State University".

Secure Links from Related Sites

The most important thing you can do to boost your site in the search engine results is to secure links from other, related websites. Consider sending an email to websites that may want to link to the information you have. Avoid "link exchange" websites, as this will degrade your status with the search engines. For a website about bugs, for example, links from a butterfly house, entomology department, apiary, insect identification site, or other related site will help search engines understand that your website is a respected source of information on insect-related topics. Be sure that the incoming links also use relevant link text (not "click here"), as discussed above.

Choosing a Domain Name

Your website address doesn't have a large effect on your position in search results, so don't worry too much about including keywords in it.  Instead, focus on coming up with a short, unique domain name that's easy to remember when you read it and easy to write down correctly when spoken aloud.  On the internet, visitors will typically reach your website by clicking on links, so think more about reading your domain name on a sign, writing it down, or telling it to someone over the telephone.  This, too, can be an important way to help ensure that people reach your website.

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