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Managing Website Content: HTML & SEO Basics

Do you make regular updates to the written and visual content on your website? This is generally a good thing, but depending on exactly what it is that you're doing, and how you're doing it, there are some potential pitfalls.

Google loves fresh content and making additions and changes to your website content can help your site maintain its Google rankings. However, it isn't advisable to make such changes without an understanding of the basics of HTML page structure and SEO (Search Engine Optimisation).

Meta Data and Page Content

Text and images isn't all there is to a web page. If you're not familiar with HTML, you may not be aware that web pages contain hidden information that plays an important role in SEO.

At the start of every web page is a section called the "head". This is an invisible part of the page which contains (among other things) a Title and page Description. These pieces of information tell search engines (like Google) what the page is about and contribute to a page's ability to rank well in search engine results.

It's important that the written and visual material on a web page remains relevant to the page Title and Description. If you're in the habit of changing your website's written content, make sure that the new material is in keeping with what your page is about or you may unwittingly damage your page's search engine page rank.

For instance, if you have a page about Product X, changing the content on the page to information about Product Y may cause your page rank to drop. Why? Because when the search engine looks at your page, it sees a Title and Description claiming that the page is about Product X but content that is clearly about Product Y. That's a greatly simplified example, but you get the idea.

Page Headings

Most web pages have visual headings as well. Again, if you're not familiar with HTML, and especially if you use a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) or visual web page editor, you may be under the impression that headings on your page are simply text that has been stylised to be larger, bolder, a different font or colour.

At an HTML level, however, page headings play an important role in SEO. Text can be contained within a number of different HTML elements including paragraphs, spans, blockquotes, lists, or headings.

Let's take this page as an example. The primary page heading is "Managing Website Content - Some HTML & SEO Basics" and at an HTML level it looks like this:

<h1>Website Tips</h1>

The "h" in <h1> tells a search engine that this is a heading and is therefore likely to contain information regarding the content that is to follow. The "1" tells a search engine that it is the most important heading on the page.

The next heading on the page is ""Managing Website Content - Some HTML & SEO Basics"" and at an HTML level it looks like this:

<h2>Managing Website Content - Some HTML &amp; SEO Basics</h2>

Once again, a search engine will pay special attention to this piece of text because it is a heading. However, the "2" indicates that this is secondary information.

HTML headings range from h1 through to h6. There should, ideally, be only one h1 and h2 per web page. Thereafter multiple sub-headings per page are considered acceptable.

It would have been quite easy to create the same visual effect of these two headings by simply changing the font size, weight and color of a paragraph. And if you use a WYSIWYG editor to make alterations to your web pages, you might do this without a second thought, but doing so would severely limit the page's ability to rank well in search engine results.

What If a Web Page Has Already Had SEO Work Done On It?

Unless you really know what you are doing, it is not advisable to edit content on a page that has already been "SEO-ed". If the SEO provider was worth their salt, then the page title, description, headings and content should already be optimised for whatever keywords and phrases your page is targeting.

While you may think your site visitors need little extra prompting, changing your main page heading to read:

Best Prices Nationwide Call Now!

...will not enhance the performance of your page in terms of search engine ranking, especially if the heading your SEO provider carefully crafted originally read:

Original and Reproduction Vintage Auto Parts

If your web page has already been "SEO-ed" and you're paying someone to do your SEO work for you, leave it alone.

Don't Be Scared, But Do Get Educated

By all means, if you're keen to work on your own website, get stuck in! The best way to learn is often by doing, and we tend to retain information better when we revise regularly. Just be prepared to make mistakes if you're a beginner.

Working on a website is a bit like working on a car: you're unlikely to bust anything when you know what you're doing, and you'll probably be ok doing things you haven't done before as long as you do adequate research beforehand. But if you're not a trained mechanic and you attempt ALL your own car work, you will, sooner or later, find that you've done something that you're unable to fix and a visit to the local garage is in order.

Tags: headings, html, meta description, title