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Writing for search engines

Most people reach our website after typing (or speaking) a query into a search engine like Google, Yahoo or Bing.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) ensures that our website has content that people find useful and will get relevant results in search engines.

It's important to understand what people are searching for online, the answers they are seeking and the words they're using. 

Although they may seem insignificant when viewed individually, small changes to parts of our website when combined with other SEO can have a noticeable impact on user experience and performance in organic search results.

SEO best practice

  • Create compelling content that answers the searcher's query - this means understanding the words someone might use to reach our pages. These keywords should be included in the content of the page. Learn more about keyword research on the Scottish Government website.
  • Formatting the page properly using descriptive headings, bullet points, short sentences and concise paragraphs will help users find the content they want faster. It will also affect the page's ability to become a featured snippet, the "position 0" above other search results.
  • Keep your pages updated with fresh content - give existing users a reason to come back and attract new visitors.
  • Write good link text - this is the text visible inside a link and tells search engines something about the page being linked to, either internal or external. Aim for short but descriptive text, usually just a few words and avoid generic text and phrases like "page", "article", "click here" or "use this link". 
  • Heading tags - use meaningful headings to indicate important topics, and create a hierarchical structure for your content, making it easier for users to navigate through the page.
  • Image optimisation - use Alt text (alternative text) so that visually impaired users can understand what the image depicts when using a screenreader. Use a short descriptive name and avoid generic filenames like "image1.jpg".

Voice search

Searching for content using a speaker or smartphone is becoming more popular. If we're already using SEO best practices then our pages are already optimised for voice search. There are, however, some things to consider:

Users performing voice searches are often searching for a specific piece of information, so it's important to pre-emptively answer questions they may have. This may be in the form of an FAQ section. 

The way people make a voice search differs from a traditional search. People act differently when typing compared to speaking. A resident in Bellshill seeking information on when their bin will be collected might search in two contrasting ways:

  • Traditional typed keyword search: Bin collection, Bellshill
  • Natural voice search: "When is my bin emptied?"

They don't simply say keywords. They ask questions. It's therefore important to focus on conversational, natural language keyword phrases that users are most likely to ask. 

Voice search queries contain a lot of question words like how, what, when, why, where. Consider including these words when adding keywords for voice search.

Page last updated:
05 Jul 2021

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