There is no doubt that the information government organizations distribute online is important and worthwhile; not just for specialists and professionals, but also for the general public. However, many government web pages have fallen into the same trap—they provide high quality content, but face little to no visibility. Some organizations have attempted to remedy this by incorporating digital marketing in the form of social media. While this can be an effective tactic, there is another method that could broaden the reach of the information.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a term that may sound frighteningly technical to many people, but, simply put, it is a set of informal rules to optimize your website and its pages for search engines such as Google and Bing. The reason is simple: optimizing your content will aid Google and other platforms to more effectively crawl your content, helping to improve your search engine rankings. With improved search engine rankings and results, comes more web traffic and visitors to your website and its specific pages. SEO also improves the functionality of your website by improving its quality and user-friendliness, making it more enjoyable to read and easier to navigate.
So why is search engine optimization so important? For starters, the vast majority of search engine users are much more likely to click on the top 10 suggestions in the search results. With a higher position for a specific search term comes a higher degree of confidence in the website, and hence a higher likelihood the user will click on your link. Users who search for content via a search engine are also more likely to share the content across social media or their own platforms. This is an important fact to remember because the reach of your content can be further amplified and aggrandized.
When you perform a search on a commercial search engine like Google, the results that are displayed are based on complex algorithms only the company is privy to. However, there are certain steps webmasters can take to improve the chances of their content ranking higher on search engines. For example, even though their algorithms are impossible to game, there are steps authors can take to maximize their chances at a higher ranking. One of the most important factors to remember is to produce high-quality content that is:
- Consistent and easy to navigate,
- Produced by a source of authority on the subject, and
The first couple of steps above should be fairly obvious to anyone producing content. 21st Century IDEA also codifies consistency and authority as best practices. They create value for the reader. Content should come from a place of authority. This simply means that the author or organization is commonly accepted as an expert source on the subject. The third step takes a little more technical skill—but it is nothing that cannot be learned.
Setting Up Optimization
With keyword optimization, there are tools that can help you improve your keyword research, on-page optimization, as well as the off-page optimization of your site. What do I mean by keyword research? Simply put, it is the process of identifying the words and phrases you want to target in your site’s on-page SEO strategy. The first step is identifying which keywords and phrases your site visitors or potential audience are searching for, or that you are writing about. There are a number of keyword research tools you can search for that can aid you in this process.
Once you have identified the keywords that you wish to focus on, the next step is the actual on-page optimization. Again, this is a technical term that simply means producing content that will more easily be identified by search engines as the top results for the key-words you are targeting high placement for. Optimizing on-page content involves several steps, most important of which is incorporating relevant keywords into the actual content. The best tools will help you to create relevant keywords that improve your content score, giving your content the best chance to achieve a higher rank for a specific keyword or search phrase.
The last step in the process involves off-page optimization. Off-page optimization essentially involves gaining backlinks to your content. Search engines are more likely to rank a page highly if it has built backlinks to its content. Whenever possible, links to content across the organization’s website and other websites should be incorporated for maximum reach.
One of the best benefits of SEO is that it does not involve paying for ad space or costly campaigns. While organizations can still pay for advertisements, some of which are often displayed with an “Ad” tag within a given search, there are many who do not pay a dime for high rankings, simply by utilizing SEO and optimizing their content. While the process of learning SEO can be somewhat technical, there are a lot of free online tools and information that can help instruct you further on how to improve your SEO skills, and, ultimately grow the audience of your organization’s content.
Disclaimer: All references to specific brands, products, and/or companies are used only for illustrative purposes and do not imply endorsement by the U.S. federal government or any federal government agency.