How to boost your search results

Now that you’ve seen how search engines work, we’ll show you the most important things you can do to improve your search engine rankings.

The key techniques for boosting search results ranking

Sample showing HTML code

Example showing what a web page looks like to a search engine, showing HTML tags. Click to enlarge image.

1. Use keyword tools to test search terms

Once you’ve researched words and phrases your readers might use to find you, you should test them using one of the keyword checking tools available online. A good place to start, as we saw earlier, is the free Google AdWords Keyword Tool.

2. Use keywords in the page title and headings

There are two HTML tags that search engines rate very highly:

  • Title
  • Heading 1

One of the biggest SEO paybacks comes from adding keywords to the text inside these tags. How do you put them there?

CMS Editor

Using a CMS editor (WordPress) to create search-friendly pages (Click to enlarge image).

A web designer can add the HTML tags to the code. But a content management system (CMS) like WordPress makes it easy for users to do it as they create or edit the content.

Let’s look at how WordPress does it. Other CMS systems work similarly. WordPress automatically places the title you give the article into the HTML Title tag. And its editor includes a Paragraph style button you can use to apply the Heading 1 style tag to selected text. Click on the image to the right to see the WordPress editor with these features highlighted.

The most important tag is the Title. It’s the link you click on in the Google search results. It’s also what you see in the top bar or tab label of your web browser when you’re on the page. As well as the Heading 1 style, you might also use Heading 2, 3 and so on.

3. Add keywords in the first 50-100 words of copy

Google and other search engines place higher importance on copy that’s closer to the top of the page.

4. Use categories and tags

If you’re using a content management system like WordPress, don’t post your story until you’ve added categories and tags. These are used to classify your stories. As well as making it easier for visitors to find related stories on your site, search engines love them as keyword matches. Click on the CMS editor image (WordPress) to see them highlighted.

5. Get in-bound links from other sites

Google’s search algorithm, called Page Rank, counts the number and quality of links coming into your site from other sites. So getting more, high-quality in-bound links — that is, links from other well-ranked sites to pages on your site — is one of the best ways to improve your rankings.

Click here to see some ways to get in-bound links.
  • Add your site to public directories. There are quite a few sites that index various parts of the web so ensuring your site is known by them will help. One of the most important is the Open Directory Project (, the largest human-edited directory of the Web and one that search engines such as Google reference. Many countries also have local directories and you’ll also find specialized directories serving niches. Directories have online submission forms you can use to get your site considered.
  • Submit stories to sites. There are many sites that accept press releases. They often require registration first but submission is free and the best ones, like BusinessWire, also distribute stories to a network of other sites and media. For non-fiction, you might offer excerpts in exchange for a link back to a relevant page on your site.
  • Guest post for a blog. Some bloggers will run guest posts from other writers. These should be personalized to the blog (you can pitch the story idea before writing it). This will also be useful as part of building a relationship.
  • Distribute your links through social networks and encourage their re-posting by other users (we’ll discuss techniques in the social media sections).
  • Negotiate reciprocal links. If you have a blog, see if bloggers you like will list you on their blogroll and to do the same with their blog on your own site.
  • Testimonials. You can offer testimonials for authors, publishers, speakers, suppliers, etc. that will be linked back to your site.
  • Comment on articles on other sites with a link back to your article or site. But use with care and be respectful — don’t leave superficial, general comments just to get a link; you’ll almost certainly be rejected as a spammer.

6. Use keywords in links

Search engines follow links, whether they’re on your site or in-bound from an external site. Where you can control the text, make sure your links are rich with relevant keywords.

This should include internal links (that is, links to pages within your site). So instead of writing: ‘Click here to buy my book’, you should write: ‘Here’s where to buy The Secret Life of Spiders’.

Internal links serve another purpose: They help the search engine spiders to find important pages on your site. They’re also good for human visitors, giving them more opportunities to stay on your site and view more of its content.

7. Have lots of fresh, unique copy

Search engines like new content, and they don’t like duplicated content: They’ll mark you down if they find that a lot of your content is on, or from, other sites.

8. Optimize your website design

We’ve emphasized that SEO is about optimizing individual pages.  But there are several things affecting the overall site that will improve your search rankings.  Your web designer should ideally do these at the initial site design stage but you can add some of them later.

Click here for some site-wide optimization techniques. You might want to check this list against your own site.
  • Use a domain name which includes keywords.
  • Use search engine friendly URLs for pages. The URL is the address that appears in the browser address bar. Search engine friendly URLs use keywords, rather than obscure combinations of letters, numbers and symbols.
  • Use keyword-rich text navigation to pages within your site. If you use must use an image to link to a page, add a title and alternate text to the image tag.
  • Add a site map which provides text links to every page on your site.
  • Use keywords in the menu items and use text links rather than graphic links in menus.
  • Improve your site speed. Search engines mark you down for a slow site (as do human visitors).

Question icon

Take a recent article or promotional piece you’ve written. Choose some keywords relevant to it (you can do this by brainstorming or with the help of the Google AdWords Keyword Tool). Rewrite the article using the chosen keywords and some of the techniques described above.



Find out more about this topic on our Digital Publishing 101 useful resources site.


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