It is easy to get so lost in trying to optimise for the search engines that you lose sight of who will actually visit your site, react to your calls to action, and purchase your products or complete an action which you would like your website visitors to take eg sign up to a newsletter, give feedback, download a white paper, and so on.

Whilst no longer as important as they were in the search engine algorithms previously, making items on the page stand out and be easy to read for your visitors is a must to ensure that your core messages are communicated quickly and clearly. As far as the search engines go, Yahoo still gives more weight to the bold, italic, heading tags etc than the other majors, so they should not be ignored for SEO purposes.

Developing concepts or themes for a page, or coming up with metaphors to enable the site visitor to comprehend the purpose and navigation of your website, can be effectively delivered by using:

  • fonts and colours
  • highlighting specific words or phrases with bold or italics
  • bulleted lists
  • headlines
  • short sentences as per newspaper text
  • images

The reader journey through your site, as well as within a page on the site, is vitally important in leading the visitor to the information they seek and which you wish them to discover. Creating a simple reader journey can be hindered by cluttered pages, lengthy sentences, complex navigation, and a lack of prominence to the important words.

The reader journey is the path you wish for a visitor to take to your calls to action. This may be within a website or it can be within a single page, and many experiments have been carried out with eyetracking to discover just how we react to website content and the layout, images, fonts etc used.

The search engines also use the HTML tags (Eg H1, B, I, LI etc) to discover which keywords and phrases are those which the site owner or designer has deemed to require prominence and to stand out as important for the visitor. These factors do still figure in the search engine algorithms, as we have stated previously, but there are now so many different, and potentially more important factors which affect how the search engines deliver relevant results, they no longer carry the weight they used to.

However, omitting these tags because other factors may carry more weight ignores the concept of how the alogirthms work and it is better to include as many factors, used appropriately, on your website than to stop using the less effective tags at all. Particularly when the tags actually make a visit to your website more enjoyable and rewarding for the user.

Using the tags for prominence, as well as some of the tricks of the trade from the print and publishing industry, will mean that your website visitor can find the content they desire and the search engines will also regard appropriate use of such elements favourably for search engine optimisation, and hence ranking.

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About the author:

Phil Robinson is an online marketing consultant with over 17 years experience in marketing planning, internet strategy and online acquisition. In 2004, Phil founded ClickThrough, an ethical search marketing agency. He gives best practice training for businesses, runs seminars and writes books on digital marketing.