5 steps to a perfectly optimized web page

Article by Rob Sullivan on Sep 19, 2005

There is so much talk out there about what the ’perfect’ web page looks like. In this article we give you tips on what we consider perfectly optimized as well as tips on helping turn the page into a great conversion tool.

Step one: Know who you are targeting

As with any marketing campaign the first step in optimizing ANY web page is to know your target audience. Is your site B2B (business to business) or B2C (business to consumer). This is important because this not only affects the tone of your site, but also the keywords you chose.

It is imperative that you nail who your target is before you do anything else because if you don’t it doesn’t matter how big your site is, or how many pages you have. If you don’t write to the right crowd you aren’t going to get too much business.

The best thing is to write down who you think the target is. Be as detailed as possible. For example, your target may be a 30-45 year old female, in middle management, who drives a mini-van and takes her 3 kids to school before she goes to work. She makes $45,000 per year and has a bachelors degree in finance. This is the type of detail you need. You should be able to picture this person in your mind. Not just the abstract idea of her, but a physical look as well. the better you can picture them in your mind the more successful you will be.

Once you know who you target is the next step is choosing keywords.

Step two: Choosing the right keywords

This may be the most difficult part of your journey, especially if you don’t fit the target profile. That is, picking the keywords they will use to find your site.

You can start by using free tools like Yahoo!s keyword suggestion tool. It gives you a good place to start picking keywords.

Start with a phrase you know your site is about (i.e. if you sell widgets, then simply put "widgets" in the search box). The tool will then not only spit out other related words, but also the search volumes associated with each for the previous month.

A word of caution however: Sometimes, depending on when you use the tool, the search volumes are from a couple months ago. So if your product is seasonal based, the numbers may actually be lower or higher than represented.

Don’t be afraid to get a few hundred words to start. Remember, right now you are just gathering ideas, phrases that could drive traffic to your site. They aren’t all necessarily being used by your target customer.

You can also go to Google’s Adwords site and perform the above steps. Start with a phrase or two which describe your site or product and use Google’s suggestion tool to help expand your list.

At this point you want as many phrases on your list as possible. Don’t worry, you will cull the list pretty quickly.

Once you have a huge list of words, the next place to go is a site like Wordtracker, which has a keyword analysis tool. This tool can be used for a one time fee, or if it’s something you might want to return to you can purchase a subscription. It is a fairly simple tool to use and will give you a good idea of just how likely your site will be able to compete for a phrase.

A warning about Wordtracker: The software uses search volumes from some fairly minor sites such as Dogpile, so the estimates could be a little skewed. But again, unless you deal with an SEO firm that has their own proprietary software, this is about your best alternative.

Also remember as you are culling your words, don’t just focus on the competitive factors. These won’t account for your target audience. Therefore you need to have that picture in your mind of the target as you are selecting phrases that they might use. If you are unsure, you could always as for help from friends and family that fit the target profile.

A good rule of thumb would be to chose about one phrase per page. That doesn’t mean that you will only have one page per phrase, but it gives you a good target. So if your site is 300 pages, consider having a list of 300 phrases.

Step 3: Write your pages

Now that you have your keywords its time to write, or re-write, your content to make them more appealing to the target audience, inserting the key phrases you’ve selected whenever possible.

Keep in mind that you don’t want to over do it. Also now is a good time to ensure you have proper keyword density’s and page length.

I recommend pages that are 400-500 words long. If they are a little longer or shorter that is fine, however if they are approaching 1000 words or more you should split them up, trying to hit that 400-500 word limit.

On this 400-500 word page you should have 2 or 3 occurrences of a key phrase, and you want to limit the key phrases used to 2 or 3. In other words you could have between 4 and 9 occurrences of all your key phrases per page. This should provide you with optimal keyword density.

Above all, make sure the pages are readable. Don’t optimize for optimization’s sake. If only one key phrase applies to the page, then only use one.

Step 4: Optimize your Pages

This can be done in conjunction with the writing. In fact it should be done at then to save time. I purposely made this a separate step so that I could outline the finer points of optimization.

Provided that you are following the guidelines found in step 3, your pages should already have good keyword density, now is the time to improve that optimization by adding optimized meta tags and if appropriate, some image alt tags.

First is to write the meta description tag. While many engines will index thousands of characters in your description, I recommend no more than a couple hundred characters. That is about how long this paragraph is.

The meta description should be a readable sentence or two with the same keywords that you wrote the page for. In other words, the same phrases should appear in the meta description as the body. They should also appear as near to the front of the tag as possible however don’t sacrifice readability for this. If the tag doesn’t make sense with them at the front, then reorganize until they do make sense. Be sure to use proper punctuation as well.

Also preferred but not mandatory is a meta keywords tag. While none of the major engines use this tag, other smaller ones, and some specialty engines do use the meta keywords tag. If your target uses one of these engines then it makes sense to have that tag in place.

Also, with the keywords tag there is a lot of debate over using commas or not. Personally I do not use commas. I just combine the phrases and remove duplicate words. For example, if the page is about blue widgets, yellow widgets and red widgets then the keywords tag could be: "blue yellow red widgets."

Common sense should be used when deciding if you will use image alt tags as well. If your keywords match the image and you can make a compelling image description, then do it. Otherwise don’t.

Step 5: Write a compelling title tag

I purposely left this as a separate step from meta tags because this is the most important part of your optimization program. Again, it can be done at the same time as the previous two steps, but it’s importance can not be over-emphasized.

This is because the title tag is the tag which is displayed in the SERP (Search Engine Results Page). It is the link that people click on, and also the tag which is generally read by the visitor before they decide to visit.

Therefore, if your title tag isn’t compelling, it doesn’t matter how well optimized your page is, it may not get that click.

For this step, you need to look at your competition to determine what they are doing. Perform a search to see what is compelling about their listing? Is there one that stands out? If so what are they doing? For example, if on every other site the keyword is the first phrase on the title, then consider moving your keyword in to the second or third phrase.

This is because, as you will notice, engines like Google bold the search term in the title and snippets or description. One way to make your title stand out is to have the term in a different position than the competition. That way the bolding stands out like this:

key phrase in title tag
key phrase in title tag
title tag with key phrase
key phrase in title tag
Notice how the third one stands out from the rest?

I can not emphasize enough how important that title tag is. As I said, it is the "hook" to get visitors to your site. If the title is ineffective, then it won’t get clicked which means you don’t get the opportunity to woo that client.


As you can see, optimizing a page has less to do with optimal keyword density and more to do with knowing who it is that will be using that page.

If you don’t know who your target audience is you will never be able to properly optimize your pages. Sure you can optimize it for whatever keywords you choose, but if they aren’t the words that your customer will search for, what’s the point?

In the end, the more you know who your customer is, the better you will be in all your online ventures, from introduction of your product or service, to closing the sale. It is up to you to cater to them, and not force them into a more generic mold. This is because todays web searchers are much more savvy and willing to browse more if a site doesn’t appeal to them.

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