While we’ll never know the exact formula that Google uses to search pages (that’s top secret,) we do have a pretty good idea of what Google looks for and what we can do make sure our web content is found.

Whether your page ranks number 1 or number 314 in the search results depends on how relevant your content is and how well you optimize your page.


Keywords are crucial. Before you begin writing your content, develop a list of important keywords that your audience will use to search for your page. It’s a good idea to gather colleagues and team members to help you brainstorm keywords as well. Think of synonyms to your top keywords – for example, Arenas and skating rinks. Also think of derivatives of your keywords – e.g., skate, skating, skater, skates.

Perform keyword research. Free keyword tools will tell you how popular your search term is, and they will list related search terms that you may also want to use. Try these keyword tools:

The main keyword(s) should appear at the front of the title and within the first 150 characters of the body content, then be repeated a few times in the rest of the page. Other keywords (including synonyms) should appear throughout the rest of the content, with the important ones in headlines, bolded for emphasis or placed at the beginning of sections.

Important keywords should appear naturally about three times on the page. Content should flow and make sense to human readers – don’t pack your page with keywords just for the sake of getting picked up by search engines.


The main content of the page needs to be at the top of the page. Content at the top of the page is rated most important by search engines (and humans.) This content should contain your main keywords and should provide a concise and informative description of the page.

The first 150 characters of the page could become the default description of the page or the meta data description. Therefore, it’s especially crucial for the first few sentence of the page to be concise and informative. Ask yourself: what message is this page conveying? It should be summed up here. The page should be divided into descriptive headlines followed by short sections of content.


Keywords come first. Search engines read titles and headlines the same way we do – the first word in the title or headline is given the most weight, followed by the second, third and so on. Therefore, it’s a good idea to put your major keywords at the beginning of the headline if you can. For example:

NO: “Why do we need bylaws?” (why is deemed the most important word in the title)
YES: “Bylaws – Why are they necessary?”

Be specific and never duplicate headings or titles. For example:

NO: “Rates” or “Frequently asked questions.”
YES: “Public skating fees” or “Assessment FAQs”


Links are crucial, so use them when it’s appropriate. Each page should have several relevant links embedded in the body of the page, as well as two or three “related” links (“you might also be interested in … ”) that are added in the metadata edit panel.

Link text should contain important and descriptive keywords. These keywords must indicate the topic of the destination page. For example:

BAD: “For a list of fitness classes offered at the Southland Leisure Centre, click here.” (Never, ever use “click here” as link text.)
BETTER: “You may be interested in finding out more about fitness classes at the Southland Leisure Centre.”

Broken links can hurt your search engine ranking. It’s important to check your links often (both internal and external) to make sure they’re current.


Use language that your audience will understand. Avoid “Cityspeak” like acronyms and business unit terminology. Use language that citizens and human readers and will understand and use.

Language should be powerful and direct. Be concise, and avoid sayings and slang – they may not have any meaning for search engines.


Image alt attributes help your search engine ranking. Alt attributes (“Alt Text”) should provide a useful description of what is in the photo, including related keywords if appropriate. For example: “Ice skating at Bowness Park.”

Image names are equally important. Images should have descriptive titles with keywords, followed by the width (in pixels.) Break up each work in the title with a dash (-). For example:

NO: “Pool_5.jpg” or worse – “img512235.jpg”
BETTER: “Beltline-pool-diving-board-425.jpg”

Video and audio files also need meaningful descriptions and keywords.


Don’t forget to check your work. Spelling errors and broken links can hurt search engine rankings – particularly if you miss-spell important keywords. It also makes the site will look sloppy and unprofessional.

Don’t forget that you’re writing for human readers, not search engines. Search engines may penalize content that has too many repeated keywords, links, etc.

Don’t mislead readers by using popular keywords that don’t apply to your content. For example, don’t try to attract visitors using “free” as a keyword if you don’t actually offer any free services or products.

Don’t duplicate content, pages, titles or headlines. Duplicate content can be penalized by search engines. And don’t ever copy and paste text from another website into your website unless it’s for an exceptional reason and you have express permission from the content author to do so.


Try searching for your keywords. Does your page come up? If not, there could be several reasons:

• The keyword is not actually on your page. Or maybe it’s misspelled. Maybe it’s used but it’s buried at the bottom of the page, and has been overlooked. If it’s an important keyword, it should be at the top of the page.

• Your page has linking issues. Check that incoming and outgoing links to your page are working – broken links can affect your page being crawled.

• Your page has been penalized for bad practices, such as overuse of keywords or misleading content.

• Other related or similar pages rank more highly than yours. Google will rank pages based on relevance – if your page is most relevant to the search term and is fully optimized but has a low ranking in search results

• Your content has not yet been crawled. Please allow around 24 hours – month for your page to be crawled by all search engines.

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